My Birth account By Rebecca Rowley @beaubaby_uk
In the months leading up to the birth of my first born child you could say I was highly anxious (those close to me and especially work colleagues might say obsessively so!) Working as a Paediatric Nurse for many years I have had the privilege to nurse many children, some unfortunately poorly from traumatic birth. This was the main reason behind my anxieties. Never having given birth before I seemed too focused on what could go wrong rather than embracing the millions of children born perfectly well and healthy, and not only that but all adults born perfectly well and healthy - as they too were once children.
Looking back on my pregnancy, I feel fortunate that the 9 months went well. After suffering all day nausea for the first 14 weeks and then a bout of low blood pressure, which I was ordered by the Dr to take bed rest, by week 18 I truly never felt better. Pleasingly so, this feeling lasted the rest of my pregnancy – to the point where I would often wake up forgetting I was pregnant!
From week 19 I started pregnancy yoga every Thursday. Never having attended yoga before, I had an urge that some form of exercise throughout pregnancy, that was good for the body and mind, would be beneficial. Around the same time I also attended aqua natal (run by a community midwife) every Friday. I thoroughly enjoyed both activities, although completely different, they focused on similar techniques all geared around maintaining a healthy pregnancy as well as practices for birth i.e.; breathing and relaxation. Latterly, once I started my maternity leave I attended every week a ‘bumps & babies’ coffee morning – this was more for the ‘mind’ - as the delicious cakes on offer were definitely not for the ‘body’!
Ever the pessimist my curiosities about labour and birth were growing. I attended a six week NCT antenatal course with my husband – which was most interesting, but on reflection found myself challenging the tutor about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘buts’ at each session and didn’t really address all my anxieties. I had read a couple of pregnancy books over the months as well as searching for information on the internet, again all fascinating stuff but I still did not really feel ease about my impending birth.
As the weeks went by my anxieties were still high. My best friend had previously given birth to her first born 18 months ago and had attended a hypnobirthing course with her husband. Her younger sister gave birth to her first born weeks earlier to me and she too underwent the same course. With both giving glowing accounts of their births and both being such close friends to me, I began to think there could be some mileage in it. After all, not really knowing why I felt so negative about giving birth, what had I got to lose?
The hypnobirthing course put such a positive spin on labour and birth, it instantly had me hungry for more. I could feel my negativeness lifting and my anxieties towards labour and birth began to fade away. The sessions of hypnotherapy were unbelievable. Having had hypnotherapy previously, at a younger age for troublesome warts on my knees, which was a huge success, I was most keen to work with this alternative therapy as naturally I was still nervous about the unknown.
If any family member was to describe me – time keeping is a skill I doubt they would use! Therefore it was hardly surprising my due date came and went! The day before I gave birth I had started to feel a little low almost despondent that baby was now a week late. Earlier that day I had been trying to go about my daily business, but that afternoon felt shattered and wanted to have a little rest and go to sleep – I had my second sweep but still nothing! My cleaner looked almost disgusted and insisted that this baby needs movement, stating “it’s way too comfy, forget having a sleep and go for a walk over an uneven path to try and get things moving”. With her having six children of her own I thought there might be a bit of truth in what she was saying. So I set off and chose to walk on the beach and over the sand dunes. Swigging a bottle of fresh pineapple juice I went up and over through the wild sand grasses, huffing and puffing, I knew I looked like a mountain goat but I just didn’t care.
At 18:00hrs that evening I went to the toilet and taken by surprise, some of my mucus plug had come away. Knowing that this could mean labour was imminent I was also aware it may not. Settling down to watch tv I had a sensation in the lower part of my stomach almost like a flutter. As I continued to watch tv to my amazement, this sensation seemed to come every 10 minutes. Trying to not draw too much attention to what I was experiencing, the sensation continued for the next few hours and my husband and I decided to have an early night.
22:10hrs I settled into bed I felt a ‘pop’ inside me, querying whether this was my waters breaking I got out of bed and to my disappointment there was only a trickle of fluid – not quite the ‘gush’ I was expecting. I went to the toilet and a further large blood stained mucus plug came away. Ever so slightly alarmed at this point my memory seemed to go into a blank and I couldn’t quite remember from antenatal whether I was meant to call the hospital? I decided I would telephone and too my great delight was greeted on the other end of the telephone by a very understanding midwife. She suggested that with me not being in any discomfort I monitor the situation and call them back in the next hour.
I had had my hospital bag packed for a couple of weeks but purposefully never packed baby’s bag as I had felt determined that when I go into labour I want a few things still to do to keep me occupied, calm, controlled and not panicked. However earlier that day I’d had a feeling that really I should pack baby’s bag – a real urge to get fully organised. By 22:30hrs that call to the hospital came a lot sooner than expected. Suddenly within the space of 20 minutes the 10 minute sensation I was feeling, turned into every 3 minutes and my query of wondering what a contraction felt like was definitely not a query anymore! There was no mistaking these must be them – now an uncomfortable sensation that seemed to come and go in a wave motion. On calling the hospital back I was most pleased when they said for me to come in so they could assess me. This really was what I wanted to hear as never experiencing labour before I felt I needed the reassurance so I could focus on getting in my hypnobirthing ‘zone’.
Agreeing with my husband to take up the offer of where I was up too with contractions I gathered my belongings and headed downstairs. Excited and nervous at the same time I was keen to get to hospital asap – mainly as I had hoped I was having ‘good’ contractions rather than ‘lousy’ contractions as I had prepared for with my hypnobirthing. Waiting to get into the car I couldn’t help but wonder what was holding my husband up. Casually he appeared from the bedroom asking me ‘does this outfit look ok for the photographs once baby is born?’ Not exactly what a woman in early labour wants to hear when trying to get in the ‘zone’ and remain focused!!
I arrived at hospital at 23:00hrs and was promptly examined by the midwife. I was delighted to be told that I was 2 ½ /nearly 3cm dilated – the confirmation I needed that the contractions I had been having were indeed ‘good’ contractions and not ‘lousy’. At this stage I did feel quite uncomfortable but slightly relieved as I knew this was no dress rehearsal – sooner rather than later our baby would be born! I found I was very restless with every position on the bed - I was given two paracetamol to take the edge off the contractions, and found the most comfortable position to rest was sat on the toilet!
By 02:00hrs I felt the contractions really quite strong, thick and fast and wanted to know if I was allowed any gas and air. I was told by the midwife I was not due to be reassessed for another hour and I had to be at least 4cm to start on gas and air – but offered me the birthing bath as an in between substitute. I felt annoyed that I wasn’t allowed to be reassessed as I was desperate for an update of my progress. Fairly sure I was doing ‘good’ contractions, I still wanted to make sure. Not really in the mood to challenge the midwife I took up the offer of the birthing bath and tried getting back into ‘the zone’.
Being in the birthing bath was relaxing, but half an hour later at 02:30hrs I really wanted some stronger pain relief and an update of reassurance that I was still working with ‘good’ contractions. Not quite due a reassessment the midwife did agree to have a look at me. Frustratingly I had to get out the bath for this and onto the bed but too my relief and delight I was 6cm! Not only did this mean I could now have gas and air but all the techniques I had been using from my hypnotherapy and what I practiced had in fact been working.
I can honestly say the following 2 ½ hrs really were the most enjoyable experience for me throughout my labour. From 6cm to eventually being fully dilated I felt I mastered the technique of my breathing and with the help of the gas and air, I remained in my hypnobirthing ‘zone’, I fully utilised the breathing techniques and I kept calm and controlled in between each contraction making the experience most relaxing. I got into a rhythm of counting out loud with each contraction and once at the peak, counting back down again. This was something my husband could feel involved in as each time he took over the counting for me. This helped me remained focused – that was until he nodded off on the huge bean bag next to the bath!
Being in the birthing bath helped, not only was the water soothing and made me feel weightless, but with each contraction I pushed with my feet on the side of the bath to relieve the strong sensation – I also found as I was counting I banged my hand on the side of the bath on each count, as if visualising baby moving downwards. I vividly remember that although the contractions must have been getting thicker, stronger and faster – they didn’t feel anywhere near that. I honestly didn’t feel a thing, to the point where I was chatting to the midwife in between each contraction about the current changes in the NHS! I was so determined to stay calm and focused I kept stressing to my husband that although I probably didn’t look like it, I was so aware of what was happening and I really felt in control.
As 05:00hrs arrived I had an almighty sensation lower down in my bottom I wanted to push. I was fretting slightly as I knew that if I was fully dilated I would have to get out the bath to be examined to make sure. Then once out the bath if I was ready for action, I’d have to get ready to push on the bed - both I did not want to do. My midwife had been monitoring baby throughout by placing a mirror in the water to see, to my delight she said if that’s how I felt I should go with it. I remember then saying ‘but I had decided prior I did not want to give birth in the water’. The midwife instantly put me at ease saying I could do whatever I liked and within a split second my hypnotherapy sessions kicked straight back in as I started to focus on trusting my own body in what it was saying and that baby was safe. Although initially averse to giving birth in the water something inside was saying it was ok to do so – so I followed my instinct.
Up until this point, looking back, I don’t think I really prepared myself for the pushing. If I’m being honest I found this the most difficult – completely different to my experience with the contractions. I am not quite sure if I came out of ‘the zone’ but I felt every bit of the stinging sensation. I also remember slightly losing trust in myself. It felt baby was taking two steps forward and one step back and I could feel that deep inside. I started losing faith that I couldn’t do this anymore. At this point my husband picked up on my feelings and helped my get back in ‘the zone’. Together with his encouragement and the support from the midwife I felt an almighty urge of inner strength – almost like the bell being rung as you enter the final lap of the 1500m on sports day. I knew this was it, the end was imminent and I would be holding our baby in my arms in no time.
At this stage being knelt in the birthing bath was the most comfortable of positions for me. 05:44hrs and our beautiful baby boy was born – Ralph John James Rowley, 8lb 3oz with thick black spiky hair! Perfect in every way – no words could really describe the love we instantly had towards him and the incredible journey Ralph and I had just been on together. For once in my life I was completely speechless! What made it utterly more mind blowing was I got to ‘deliver him myself’ so to speak. As he made his entrance into this world in the water, he floated up to the surface, at which point the midwife supported me in catching him and I brought him straight out of the water and onto my chest – an unbelievable experience I will never forget.
As I sit back and reflect on the whole labour and birth, for the human body to have the instinct to go through such a vigorous process, I find truly and utterly amazing. Hearing numerous ‘tales of woe’ and ‘nightmare experiences’ from friends and colleagues prior and never having gone through the experience myself – the biggest support model I could ever have been introduced to was hypnobirthing.
The two main things that stand out for me throughout the whole process was firstly being fully dilated and remember thinking these contractions don’t feel anywhere near like the discomfort of the contractions I had upon arriving at hospital and once I knew I was having ‘good’ contractions settling into the zone. Secondly the trust I had in myself as well as that of others around me definitely took me by surprise. This mainly dawned on me as the congratulation cards came flooding in – most writing “congratulations on your safe arrival”. Looking back on how I was feeling before, compared to where my feelings ended up, the transformation was unbelievable and for that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful.
As I recall my journey, excitingly telling all that has the patience to listen, they all look at me in disbelief when I tell them it was the most amazing experience I have ever encountered – I honestly loved every minute (even the pushing!) and if I could do it all again tomorrow I would. Writing this 3hree weeks later and I am still on an almighty high. I often find myself going into ‘my hypnobirthing zone’ after breastfeeding in the middle of the night trying to go back to sleep – only the journey I now recall in my memory is the journey of my labour and birth. I am immensely proud.
Everyone tells you having a baby changes your life – it does in every which possible and amazing way. However never in my life would I have thought it would be my inspiration behind the birth of my business! Having had such an amazing birth and together with my years of experience as a Paediatric Nurse, BEAU BABY was created - Lancashire’s bespoke Pregnancy & Birth Company. From conception through to postnatally – specialising in Fertility Massage Therapy, Pregnancy Relaxation, Hypnobirthing & Postnatal Support. Being able to support many mummies & daddies-to-be is the most rewarding job.