Rachel's home birth story in her own words:
This was our second pregnancy and after hearing the experiences of others, we really wanted to give hypnobirthing a try this time. By chance we heard of a short intro session being held on a local social media group by Nicola, so we tuned in and after the session both our minds were made- we really wanted to better prepare for birth this time.
Pregnancy as a whole the second time around had been a bit of a challenge for us; mostly because I experienced severe morning sickness for the majority of it, but we found that through having a hypnobirthing course we found new tools that could help begin to manage this better in the lead up to birth.
Following our course with Nicola we regularly practiced relaxation techniques, created our own affirmations and built a few birth plans, with homebirth being plan ‘A’. We were excited for the prospect of a home birth and the logistics suited our circumstances well, too, with a five year old to think about. Previously I had been induced for our eldest following an episode of reduced movements on due date. The process was extremely intense and until the active labour phase, had been uncomfortable and not hugely positive which we didn’t want to have again.
From 36 weeks I began having regular bursts of Braxton hicks and we prepared for a potential early arrival so we were rather surprised to reach due date with no sign of baby! During those weeks we really focussed on getting baby into a good position and generating as much oxytocin as possible!
My husband Andrew was my birth partner, so we spent evenings listening to affirmation tracks, guided confidence building and fear releasing tracks, and lots of massage (not going to lie, I’ll miss the abundance of massages!). My husband also ran what we nicknamed ‘oxytocin baths’ whenever I had evenings of intense braxton hicks or was feeling anxious- these were just a usual bath but with low level lighting, gentle relaxation music, candles and lavender scented body wash- they were bliss!
Once I was on maternity leave from 38 weeks, I made sure I was walking (waddling/swaggering) each day to keep active and encourage baby to stay head down and well positioned. I also swapped the sofa for the birth ball most nights as I couldn’t recline without baby trying to fidget her way through my stomach.
From 31 weeks we were under additional scans and monitoring for baby’s growth due to our eldest being born ‘small for gestational age’ -this was news to us as no one had mentioned this when she was born! All our scans were showing a good predicted growth velocity for this baby until a scan on due date. I was alone for the scan anticipating all would be fine but following it, instead of being spoken to by a midwife at the hospital, I was taken to speak with one of the antenatal doctors. The scan had showed that baby had grown since the last one at 38 weeks, but not by as much as they would have anticipated. At this point I realised I would need to bring in the BRAIN tool, as the next discussion focussed on the homebirth plan I had kept in my notes, and how they felt I should be booked in for an induction.
“The decision will be yours, but we need to think why are we still pregnant when we don’t need to be” was the statement that made my alarm bells ring. I was the pregnant one here, not them! I wobbled here and definitely snotty-cried but I stuck to my guns. I asked for the procedure and timelines to be explained and requested time to discuss things with my husband, making it clear I would not be making any decisions now, which they respected and let me return home.
After a lot of tears, later that day I spoke with our wonderful community midwife and we discussed the possibilities and avenues we could explore. She was an advocate for us, as well as offering factual advice. We decided that the next day (40+1) she would do a membrane sweep to assess where my cervix was, and if anything was showing signs of getting ready for labour. Initially I had planned to decline sweeps but this felt like the right option to help us make an informed choice about whether to then consent to an induction.
The next day I was out and about with my mum and my daughter, and I had 2/3 hours of quite strong tightening and sensations in my pelvis making us wonder if nature might have been trying to say something. My husband and I saw our midwife later that afternoon and she looked through the information given on the previous day’s scan; to her the information showed a currently healthy baby, with normal fluids and good placenta blood flow so we knew that along with the steady consistency of baby’s movements the risk level of putting off an induction was ok.
She performed the sweep as gently as possible, encouraging me to practice my hypnobirthing breathing as she did so. She happily explained each step she was doing, and her findings as she did it, too. It turned out that I was already 2cm dilated, and she felt baby’s head as they were very low in my pelvis. So the decision was made to not accept the induction and to wait and see what happened over the week- potentially arranging another sweep at the weekend if we felt it was necessary. She let the doctors know our findings, and my husband and I went home feeling on top of the world that we might still get our homebirth so long as baby stayed moving. We knew that if baby’s movements changed, we would most likely then be on the induction plan for the safety and well-being of baby and were at peace with this.
Over the following days I began to lose my mucus plug and each evening I would have lots of intense tightenings across my bump, but each night I would go to bed and all would fizzle out again. By the afternoon of day 40 +5 I was beginning to doubt myself and was worried we had made the wrong decision. We spent the day out as a family, and after zero surges at all throughout the day I was frustrated and took myself off for a waddle around our village with my ‘confidence’ music playlist (by this point it really was a full on waddle!) and came home feeling more peaceful- “whatever happens I know we can make the best of it” I thought to myself.
That evening we put our daughter to bed and settled down for the evening with a funny film. At about 8:30pm I noticed surges were starting up again but with a little more intensity and lower down in my back than before. I was convinced nothing would come of it but decided to make it into a practice run and asked my husband to unpack and set up the tens machine, whilst I created a little nest in our living room. I rested on my birth ball on all fours as that is where my body felt most comfortable, and is pretty much where I stayed all night!
Within an hour, surges were every 4/5 minutes and I had the tens machine on a low level while I focussed my breathing. This was definitely ‘it’ and at 10pm we called our maternity triage line to give them the heads up. At this point I was able to talk in between surges but they took every ounce of my concentration, and our conversation with the midwife on the triage line was regularly interrupted by me deep breathing! They advised us to monitor over the next hour, and they would let the community team know once things escalated.
Over the course of the next hour, surges grew in intensity very quickly, and were soon every 3/4 minutes. By this point my husband had worked around me to prepare the space where I had chosen to nest in our living room. He set up our LED candles, keeping the light low, and brought down towels and a flannel with lavender on for me to smell. At 11pm we agreed to call back the triage line and advise that I was definitely in labour- I couldn’t speak at all during this conversation but the midwife on the line paid close attention to the noises and breathing sounds I made, and said she would ask the community team to visit. We soon after received a call from the on-call midwife to let us know she was on her way and she asked my husband if I felt I needed any pain management, to which he suggested gas & air as per my wishes.
Whilst she was on her way, my husband gently massaged my lower back and put on some gentle spa music- I hadn’t even noticed that the film had finished!
The on call midwife, Naomi, arrived at around 11:35pm and immediately got into hypno-mode, speaking in hushed tones as she prepared herself - she brought me the gas & air and before even reading my plan she advised that she wouldn’t do any examinations on me as my body knew exactly what it was doing- this really boosted me as I was beginning to feel the need to push!
She gently took a check on baby’s heart rate using a Doppler with my consent, and liaised with my husband on how things had been going to this point. My husband and I stayed in my nest with me rocking on all fours with the birth ball whilst surges increased in intensity again, and at about 11:50pm my waters broke with gusto!
Naomi checked the waters and gently spoke to me about what was to come; encouraging me to let my body do what is natural and reassuring me that we would likely be meeting our baby very soon!
At midnight, the second midwife, Sandy, arrived, just as the strongest surges were happening and I was starting to push. I kept my breathing at the fore of my mind as my husband hovered with a sick bucket just in case, and I worked with my body to push. After quickly briefing Sandy, Naomi sat alongside me and my husband as she also massaged my back and spoke positivity over us. I could feel baby’s head crowning, and Naomi advised that as soon as baby arrived, she would pass them through my legs and up to me- I knew then we were almost there!
With a couple of pushes our baby’s head was out and my body was incredible as our baby girl manoeuvred out into the world at 00:10am! My husband, Naomi and I all held her as we welcomed her, but despite trying to cry on her exit (that was a bizarre feeling!) she didn’t start crying as quickly as expected so Naomi swiftly asked Andrew to cut the cord and she took baby to the resuscitation station they had set up- where baby promptly erupted into wails! I had hoped for optimal cord clamping but I knew in that instant she needed a bit more help. Baby was then returned to me and we had the most wonderful skin to skin time until it was time to deliver the placenta - I chose for this to be managed and planned for the injection.
Baby Olivia at 1 hour old
My husband Andrew then got to have glorious cuddles and whilst baby was weighed and checked, my minimal tear was stitched. All still in the same nesting spot I had instinctively chosen. Our midwives stayed for about an hour and a half after Olivia arrived, and made sure I was comfortable, as well as watching for her latching on within the first hour.
Looking at the spot in the lounge now, you would never know a baby was born there! (shower curtains are genius if a little slippery!) but it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Throughout labour I felt so calm and in control thanks to the hypnobirthing techniques we had used. It turned out that Naomi was an unofficial champion for hypno home births and she was such a positive element in our labour.
After a round of toast, an amazing shower and some giggles, Andrew helped Olivia and I to bed- our own soft, snuggly bed with no hospital-like beeping monitors or bright lights, and a few hours later our first daughter came into our room to be greeted with the surprise of her sister being there to meet her! We will never forget her face full of excitement and happiness at seeing her new baby sister who she had patiently been waiting for. She helped us to choose the name Olivia and immediately then decided it was breakfast time!
Time for some birthday cake with big sister and proud Daddy Andrew
The following days were so relaxed; and Olivia had a very relaxed temperament too. (I’m pleased to say that she has continued to be a chilled, smiley baby which we definitely think is linked to her entry into the world and first days with us). Hypnobirthing wasn’t just about the birth for us, it has supported our journey into the fourth trimester too.
We feel so lucky to have been able to avoid an unnecessary induction and experience the labour we hoped for - a labour filled with positivity, trust and peace. We are so grateful for the community midwife team in our area who advocate for hypnobirthing, home birthing and informed decision making - and listening to us every step of the way.