Steph, Matt and Bobbie's Big Birthing Decision -
First Time Mum
Hypnobirthing – not just for use in the midwife led unit!
Disclaimer – I am not trying to influence anyone’s decision with my story but just tell you my journey
and how I used hypnobirthing throughout.
My partner and I heard about hypnobirthing through a friend and I was sold when the friend explained
how she was so calm throughout the labour, she felt empowered, in the zone and even ‘enjoyed’ her
labour. So we signed up to hypnobirthing with Joey and looked forward to learning new skills to apply to
the magical, exciting experience of pregnancy and labour.
We were taken with hypnobirthing straight away, finding that our sleep improved drastically following
listening to ‘colour and calmness’ and the ‘magic carpet. What we liked best about hypnobirthing was the fact that it gave Matt, my birth partner a role in the process. During the course, we even discussed ‘orgasmic births’ and I was thinking great – I would like one of those please!!
Following completion of the course in July, we carried on through pregnancy without any hiccups and attended the NCT course in September.
During the NCT course we spent a little time discussing c sections. Whilst I did pay attention throughout I thought to myself ‘this will never happen to me’ after all I was convinced I would be having this beautiful natural birth on the midwife led unit using the hypnobirthing skills we had been introduced to and practiced.
From week 32 of my pregnancy at every appointment I went to, I was told that the baby was engaged ‘head down’. This was great! I was so pleased. I had spent time on my exercise ball, I had a picture up on the fridge of the head engaged in the usual position for birth which I used to recite whilst getting the milk out of the fridge, so of course the head was engaged!
At week 38 I went along to my routine appointment and the midwife checked my stomach as usual and confirmed again that the head was down and engaged. My bump hadn’t grown since the last appointment so as a matter of precaution I was sent for a growth scan two days later.
The sonographer checked the baby and was happy which was a great relief however what came next was a great shock – the baby was breech! Turns out she was fully engaged but with her bum and not her head!! I couldn’t believe it. I had spent time on the birth ball, walking everywhere and looking at my usual position for birth image every day so how could this happen? I had experienced my first pregnancy curveball.
I was so committed to the natural birth that I had dreamt of that I was completely against the idea of a c section. So I had a few options to try - an ECV, which is a procedure to try and turn the baby through manipulation of the bump and acupuncture (which I had the whole way through pregnancy and found really useful, particularly for managing anxiety) and delivering the baby breech.
I booked myself in for an ECV and saw this as an opportunity to utilise the skills I had developed through hypnobirthing. We found specific hypnobirthing relaxation tracks to turn breech babies so listened to these every night. This made me really relaxed and positive.
During the procedure I told the doctors and midwives that I was practising hypnobirthing and asked for the lights to be dimmed. I listened to ‘colour and calmness’ during the procedure and my partner stroked my arms, another technique we learned through hypnobirthing. This allowed me to focus on being calm and I was able to be as relaxed as possible during the procedure. Unfortunately the process didn’t work. However the doctor commented on how calm I was and how I must have a high pain threshold. I put this down to practising hypnobirthing and taking control of the environment and the room. The dimmed lighting made it feel calm and the track gave me focus and escapism from the procedure.
Unfortunately the procedure was unsuccessful however as soon as she said it didn’t work I immediately asked if I could come back again for them to try again. Whilst it was uncomfortable I knew I had a tools in my toolbox to be able to deal with the discomfort. Another ECV was my main hope of the natural birth I so desperately wanted.
Desperate to turn the baby, I then had acupuncture to try and turn the baby, however at 38.5 weeks the treatment is less likely to work, which it didn’t.
4 days later (and now 5 days before my due date) the procedure was repeated and again it was unsuccessful, however at no point was nervous or anxious because I knew I could handle it with the hypnobirthing skills and techniques.
I then had to make the hardest decision of my life. Do I try and deliver the baby naturally or have a c section?
Part of me really wanted to deliver breech. Firstly because I couldn’t let go of the idea of the perfect natural delivery I wanted and secondly because I wanted to help increase the skills of midwives in delivering breech. Because of the medicalisation of child birth in our culture more and more babies are delivered by c section and this in turn is de skilling our midwives in being able to deliver breech. I wanted to help keep these skills alive.
At this stage I wanted to deliver breech. I found the doctors and midwives at St Michael’s to be really supportive of this decision. They explained the risks of delivering breech and c sections in a natural way and answered the questions I had. I didn’t feel at any stage as though they were telling me what I should do. At the time I found this hard because making such a big decision is difficult however now on reflection I am so pleased I was given the space to come to my own informed decision.
I went home and researched delivering breech babies and this gave me more information to help me make my decision. Then I returned to the positive birth statements, also stuck up on my fridge. I had been reading these most days however I found revisiting them when I needed to make a big decision a totally different experience.
POSITIVE BIRTH STATEMENTS
I see my baby’s birth as natural, healthy, swift and easy
This one really helped me with my decision. If I was to try and deliver breech, yes it would be natural, however it could not be healthy for my baby and was highly unlikely to be swift or easy. When weighing these up 3 out of 4 supported a c-section delivery.
I choose the best possible caregivers for me and my baby
This one struck me. Before I found out the baby was breech I would read this one and it wouldn’t mean too much to me. However now, I knew if I was to deliver breech I might not have the best possible caregiver. I was told that there would always be someone on shift who was trained in delivering breech but they might not have actually delivered breech before. Whereas if I chose a c section, the doctors and midwifes carry out c sections on a daily basis, they are trained, skilled and have vast experience and therefore I would be choosing the best possible caregivers.
I approach my baby’s birth with optimism and confidence
Before we found out that Bobbie was breech, I felt really confident about giving birth. I would even go as far as saying I was looking forward to giving birth naturally, with Matt, using the skills we had learnt and developed through hypnobirthing. However now, I was not feeling confidence or optimistic even with the hypnobirthing skills. I knew they could only get me so far. However being the hands of the doctors having a c section, whilst not what I wanted – I did have confidence in the procedure as I knew it was safest for me and my baby.
Joey had also recommended an independent midwife called Sue Learner. I called Sue and explained to her that I was keen to have a natural birth and talked through options for how this could work. Sue explained that she could coach us in delivering breech however she was not an expert. She recommended someone who she knew who specialised in breech vaginal delivery however she charged £5000 to work with us to deliver – which was a little bit out of our price range!!
Sue said two things to me which helped in the decision process. She said that I need to have confidence in the midwives and doctors and have reassurance from St Michaels in advance. She also recommended not delivering breech lying on my back. I had been told by the consultant at St Michaels that I would need to deliver on my back so the doctors could monitor closely. This wasn’t the birth that I had imagined.
My Mum, partner and partners Mum all wanted me to have a c section and whilst they weren’t pressurising me at all, I knew I had to think it all through for myself and then make a decision.
Taking all of this into account, I decided to have a planned c section. Whilst this was the hardest decision I have ever made I felt confident. Using the positive birth statements allowed me to feel confident. At no stage did I ever feel St Michaels were telling me what to do which I really appreciate. I have heard other Mums saying ‘the doctors told me I had to do this…’ I knew from hypnobirthing that this shouldn’t be the way, that it is your decision and your body and your baby. So I was really pleased that I didn’t have to exercise my assertive skills and that St Michaels provided me with information and then allowed me to make the decision.
Interestingly the doctor was Egyptian and she was explaining that in Egypt many women give birth naturally to breech babies as the women there have more babies and don’t want to be limited by c section. Therefore the doctors are a lot more equip to deliver breech.
So my c section was booked in for 2 days later (it felt so strange because we chose her birthday essentially when booking the section in.) I revisited my birth preference and went back through to see what could still apply. We listened the hypnobirthing mp3’s each night which really helped me sleep and get some good rest in before the baby arrived!
On the day of Bobbie’s birth, we arrived at St Michaels nice and early in the morning. Everything was so calm and I felt confident in the process and the care and support I was receiving. Again reflecting back this reflected the positive birth statements and what I wanted from the birth.
We explained that we were doing hypnobirthing and asked for the lights to be dimmed in the room as lighting is really important for more. Matt set up hypnobirthing music in the theatre which really helped with the atmosphere. As Bobbie was born she was put on my chest and started to root straight away which I was so happy about. The midwife supported me to get Bobbie to latch which was great. The midwife said this is quite unusual to happen.
The doctors commented afterwards how much they enjoyed the atmosphere in theatre with the lights dimmed and the hypnobirthing music playing.
We also requested to see the placenta and the midwife brought this through to us in the recovery room for us to look at. She asked if we wanted to take a picture – however we were happy just having a look!
So whilst this was not the birth we planned it makes me think of a phrase that Joey has mentioned ‘positive, not perfect,’ I would describe my birth as positive. I felt confident going in, I felt safe and supported and in the end it was swift, easy and a calm entrance into the world for baby Bobbie.