A letter to all the doubters, believe me you can have a great birth, and HypnoBirthing is one of the keys…
I’d just like start off by personally thanking Michelle for all her help and support along my pregnancy journey and for giving both my husband and I the skills to have such a better birth experience.
This was my 2nd pregnancy and I was not looking forward to it at all. Everything was unplanned and a bit of a shock at the start and after my first traumatic pregnancy I had a lot of unresolved anxiety going in and was desperate to escape the past of my first birth experience.
With my first, I was uneducated enough about the process of it all, and just ‘trusted’ what the doctors told me to do, and followed whatever was asked of me. I didn’t know I had options, or could move around and do things my way. I didn’t even understand when they say ‘listen to your body’, what that even meant. I was a new mum, I was anxious and I was told that my baby would have to be delivered early cause he was too big (macrosomia), his movements were slowing and was running out of amniotic fluid. I was still given a choice but was told if I waited too long I’d run the risk of my 1st boy being stillborn. So you could understand I was naturally freaked out and followed exactly what was asked of me because I didn’t want anything horrible to happen. I was only 38 weeks pregnant and didn’t even have many Braxton pains yet, and my boy was in a posterior position. My body just simply wasn’t ready and he hadn’t even turned yet to an anterior position.
I had several stretches and sweeps done to help speed things along; they did 2 injections of the prostin gel (one over night and one early morning) and still nothing, aside from the fake prostin contractions you get. I had my waters broken and the synctocin drip added. I won’t go into the details of what happened as I don’t need to scare you and I understand now that mine is not a common case of where I was just rushed for no serious medical reason aside from what I was told which now I understand is more policy than procedure. Let’s just say without the meds (as I supposedly had no time) and only a bit of gas, it was a horrid but very rapid birth as my body responded too well, and I’d prefer not to ever go through that process again. Even though my birth involved a high level of intervention, episiotomy and eventually had to have him vacuumed (kiwi cup) out, my boy was born healthy, and he had plenty of fluid around him and was only 8.4pound (3.74kg). So nothing close to the 10 pound baby they were originally worried about. So the stats were out and nothing was said further about it, and I was free to go home with my little boy, sore but at least it was over.
I love my little boy deeply, but the birth and the first 6 weeks of his life were a series of moments between a baby who would constantly scream, medical appointments and misinformation from a lot of professional people who all couldn’t agree on what to do leaving me confused, lost and overwhelmed. Eventually I was diagnosed with PTSD-PND. Nobody spotted that I had a low milk supply and my poor boy was hungry. I did everything right, sought out help and was still healing. I didn’t trust in my own skills and didn’t follow my own instincts. The day I started standing up for myself, getting my boy on formula, and seeking help from a pyschologist and other mums out there to form a village of my own, was the start of me getting better.
So skip 3 years down that track, and I am a very happy and have the most gorgeous little boy, but was in no hurry to rush back into that process. He was my entire world and although we had a rocky start, I love him more than anything else i could imagine, why would I want to disrupt our perfect little bond.
The reason why I briefly touch on my first traumatic birth is for the 2nd birth, as it speaks paramounts to Michelle’s training and guidance. My story isn’t the perfect one I was seeking, where you can just be zen like and breathe the baby out like I see in numerous stories and videos. There are many, many women who have pain free, very calm births and I was determined to be one of them. But alas I didn’t quite achieve that status, although I do think I found my own path and my own calmer birth even with the obstacles in the way, and thats mainly due to mindset and what I learnt from this course, which I think will help some other parents out there, should their pregnancies and births not go 100% to plan that you can actually do it, and you can have it your way if you follow the training that Michelle gives you and adapt it to your situation.
Michelle isn’t just a HypnoBirthing educator. I love the fact that she was well researched across several fields, is a mum herself, and a doula and has her own experiences to touch on as well. I was sceptical going in, cause I’d tried meditation and mindfulness, and with my over active mind, and being a scientist for a profession, I’m more logical and rarely able to just chill. So I wasn’t sure that it was for me. But I had a friend do Calm Birth and another try HypnoBirthing and they both experienced great births, and I wanted to be like them. So I started researching around and found several out there, but I like the fact that Michelle’s classes weren’t just 1 session or a class crammed into a weekend, and she offered an info session so I could check it out so I thought hey it cant hep to check it out.
So I took my hubby along to an info session, and ignored the family who thought I was crazy, wasting my money and once again over researching stuff. I mentioned it was important to me to at least give it a shot. Lets just say I was actually impressed, and more so was my hubby who is never phased by anything. It wasn’t just classes on meditating (cause Michelle is right, the name really doesn’t do them any favors), and there was soo much information in 1 session that gave me a sense of control and calm I couldn’t help but wonder what the course would be like and Michelle was so lovely and supportive, no matter what your views or past experiences like that she was willing to work with you. So we signed up right there and then and I can assure you, it may feel like a big step or a lot of money but it was the best investment we made.
The course not only covered breathing and mindfulness which is what you’d expect, but a real detailed education on how the body works, what hospitals do and their policies. What options you have, and all sorts of things (which I won’t elaborate on as that’s for the class 😉 ) and what i found the most important skill gained from Michelle’s class wasn’t for the mums but for the dads. This course gave my husband the skills and a sense of purpose in the room. As I mentioned before this is my 2nd time round and not once did I come across nurses, or doctors or educators who also focused in on the fathers, they are so important in the pregnancy and birthing process and for me this is what made it. My hubby in the end pretty much became my midwife and it was a complete contrast to the first experience where he sat frozen by my side. This time round he was there taking charge and being there for both my baby and myself, and we learnt this all in Michelles classes.
So a touch to our story and why we weren’t the ‘zen’ couple. We had an unusual start, as we were not trying, I was on the pill and still medicated with anti-anxiety meds. So when our little boy came along we were not expecting it or were ready. I also was diagnosed at the start with hyperemesis gravidium (HG), and feeling like it was going to be a horrid process again. So I got off all the meds and followed up with the pysch. Skip forward to when I started the classes and I was doing much better by that stage and not soo ill all the time. The hospital medical team had me as a potentially high risk case due to my previous PTSD-PND and I was being monitored for the size of baby as once again they thought he was going to be big due to the size of my belly, but I mentioned last time round the figures were well off so I wasn’t too concerned, but they wanted to monitor me just in case. I didn’t get the same doctor or midwife once and it was just a constant circus of new faces as last time round I was private and got the same doc, this time round I was public.
The reason why I shared this info is because of my change in mindset over the next few weeks during Michelle’s classes. I measure well on my pysch reports enough that I didn’t need to be medicated and I was doing my mindfulness exercises and convincing myself that it’s a different hospital and different birth and I was already ‘pre-stretched’ so I’d be fine. But I still was scoring high enough to warrant some concern to be monitored.
After the 5 week course all the midwives and pyschs kept reporting how odd I was, and I thought it was a bit strange because I felt great and they were telling me that was it though. The pysch mentioned that normally as mums get closer to their due date that the anxiety builds but I was progressively improving as the date got nearer and actually starting to look forward to the birth because I could finally cuddle my new little boy. I mentioned proudly that my husband and I were undertaking a HypnoBirthing course course and the pysch was both surprised and impressed cause the results were showing on my chart that I didn’t need to be monitored any more and I was downgraded to a low risk case. The pysch still wanted to keep me in the system just in case, so they reduced the check ups but I’d still be required to check in in case something changed. So already before I even birthed just having the skills and education was a big help to me and it was showing.
Come the 38 week mark however that’s when things went a tad a pear shaped. It was Christmas, I didn’t want to land on Christmas Day, when I was supposedly due. All the midwives were convinced I’d be early cause of my first, and then we had a number of issues with the house that needed attention seriously, many grumpy people around me, especially from wrapping up work, bushfires were threatening not only my friends on the front line where I was meant to be (but couldn’t go cause I was pregnant), but also in our suburb. My local GP left, my pysch went on holidays and most of my known midwives by the stage had all gone for Christmas break. My 3yr old was playing up and stress was building, and I was starting to feel uncertain. I was uncomfortable, couldn’t sleep from the sheer size of me and I didn’t feel like i was anywhere close.
So I maintained my music videos, did my mindfulness and tried to calm the outside would like I was taught. Dave supported me and helped give me back massages, and even went to my myotherapist with me one time to learn where to press to help with my aches and pains to help relieve tension through my hips. Although Michelle’s hip squeezes were still my favourite 😀
Come the 40 week mark there was still nothing and the midwives were talking about induction. So I remember my training, and asked them to follow my birth plan and hold out as long as possible as I wanted to go naturally like all the other mums I’ve seen and heard about. As long as there was no medical issue I was happy to wait. What was great was Michelle actually checked in on me through a number of texts which to me were a god-send, because I was starting to doubt myself and I really appreciated her taking time out to send me some words of encouragement and also give me some more info on HypnoBirthing with an induction. Just in case it landed that way.
Come the 41 week mark, once again movements started to reduce but I still didn’t seem ready so I tried more of my Spinning Babies exercises to get into a good position, tried acupressure and acupuncture to encourage natural induction, and did a lot of mindfulness about the birth. Trying to envisage my healthy baby boy coming to me, but alas still nothing.
Unfortunately the day I was dreading had come, the 41 weeks plus 3 days. Which meant hospital policy threatened to take over as much as I did not want it to. But as much as I didn’t want that path I was also tired and remember the training that we also have to accept our path and work with it.
I was nervous, a bit shaky, cause it meant to even though we had tried our best to go naturally I once again would have to face induction and was fearful that my past would catch up to me. But this time was different. The midwives respected my birth plan, and kept me informed all the way with why they needed to do each step. They allowed me time to think about everything, and gave me the chance to try one thing at a time rather than just rushing all the procedures together. My husband did not let go of my hand through each step, got me to focus and breath and all I remember through each step I went though that I couldn’t even see any of the midwives most of the time cause he was the only thing I could see in front of me and he was ok, and I was going to be ok cause he had me, and I wasn’t alone, we were a team.
I had a stretch and sweep done and then was given a day to wait and see if that triggered anything before the balloon catheter was added the next day. The nurses gave me an additional two days of waiting slowly to see if things would start before conceding to the induction day so I ended up being 41 weeks plus 5 days, before I submitted to the fact he was just too comfy.
Induction day was a whirlwind of emotions, but I remember to stand up for myself and ask for things I wanted. Which was a good lesson Michelle taught as it meant that I landed on a really good OB who was just lovely. She actually had done HypnoBirthing herself and was really supportive and helped work as a team with me. She managed the number of people in the room to a minimum and took charge of me even though I wasn’t part of her team for patients. I am really grateful to that OB for stepping in. She also helped my hubby do many things for me so she wasn’t in the way and followed my plan perfectly. Once she had my waters broken we waited over 2 hours to see if anything would start without requiring the hormone drip, which was against the midwives advice but luckily she overruled them to give me some space and updated my hubby with whatever she thought was required rather than giving me too much info. Exactly the type of person Michelle tells you to look for. She and my hubby commented about my pictures and affirmations around the room, explained the places the pictures were of and my hubby just took my mind off things as it was a busy hospital so we waiting just the two of us, and tried to pass the time. My hubby mindful to keep me calm and often showing me funny videos to make me laugh.
Once again after 2 hours nothing really started apart from minor cramping, even with my waters broken so we had to start on the drip. We both laughed that he was really comfy in there and might just need an extra nudge. The OB mentioned she’d start off really slow due to how fast I responded last time to the drip and we’d just take it gradually. Much to her surprise like last time I responded quickly. Contractions started within 4 minutes and it was show time. This is where my hubby really shone! I actually feel like he helped birth my boy as well this time round. I was determined to not be on my back after the previous experience and try for an active birth. So he had the fitball ready to go, plenty of water bottles ready to keep me hydrated, the bed up to lean against and even though I was unfortunately hooked up to a ctg, and a drip on a stand he helped hold me and stayed by my side as I paced back and forward not quite comfortable enough to be in any position for long.
Every time I had a contraction he caught me or hugged me and held me up. He kept telling me that he was proud of me and reminding me why were here and that I’ll see our baby soon, that we have this, it’s just going to be a little while longer and I’m already progressing quickly. It helped a great deal hearing everything come from my hubby, I almost forgot the other midwives in the room. They were helping but my mind was having trouble concentrating as much as I tried to go inwards and think of calm places, everything was just coming on sooo strong. But this time round I didn’t feel scared, just uncomfortable.
Michelle mentioned something early on that helped click in my mind personally a great deal about pain responses and marathons. She mentioned the difference between serious trauma pain and exercise like pain. The differences between the para-sympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. How if you were in a car accident or something horrid, and your seriously injured you feel scared and it hurts like hell, and you need to get hep. But if you were to rock climb for the first time, you’d be in pain but it wouldn’t be that god awful I need help pain. It’s a serious gym work out can I push trough one more rep or hold on for 1 more minute sort of pain. And that’s what I eventually got stuck in my head. My hubby and I were running our marathon, and I just had to pace myself, it hurts but we could do it.
Remember anyone can do anything for a minute. So I wasn’t scared, I knew I was tough, I didn’t have to wait any more he was coming and every time it got too intense that I had to open my eyes all I could see were my pictures and affirmations or my hubbys green eyes in front of me. So I laboured over a fit ball, over the bed, around the room until I couldn’t walk any more, where my hubby just held my hands over the bed, and reminded me to breathe every time I forgot, and encouraged me along even though I was crushing his hands, and telling me how proud he was that I was doing this, even without my tens machine (which had to be taken away unfortunately). And during transition when I felt like I needed some gas at least, both the midwives and my hubby were telling me how close I was , that I had this and I’m going to do it with no meds, that I was so close to the finish line and I’ll be holding my boy.
I didn’t want to hurt him at first but they oddly were like feel how close he was, and I could feel his head and it was a surreal experience. I couldn’t breathe well anymore cause my j breathing worked for me only to a count of 12 maximum that I could push out but they wanted me to hold on which was talking me to around the count of 17 or 18. (tip don’t force you body like that you’ll pop your ribs when you breathe out too hard). But I could feel him he was soo close, my marathon was almost over and my hubby was with me right there. It hurt like hell, but I was determined not to stop, my boy was here and I wanted him out in my arms.
When he came out, unlike the first time where I was glad it was over and just wanted to go away and leave the room and be alone, I was pleased we made it. I surprised myself, I was like one of those mums I’d seen in the class videos, wasn’t super elated but I was so in control I knew what to do, I was his mum and he was safe with me. I picked him up made sure I didn’t trip on the cord and carried him to the bed and climbed on. My boy did the breast crawl and started feeding straight away. It was so strange, surreal, yet good. I was exhausted but all I could think of was my boy and say its ok mummy’s here and I have you. I was so different in my mindset from the first time round of feeling like i was tortured to this time feeling like I’d just run the longest race I have done or conquered the biggest mountain and I did it. I was exhausted but I conquered it, and we were together.
During the 3rd stage contractions my hubby was at the ready by my side as always and was ready to do skin to skin whilst I delivered the placenta and got stitched up and even my hubby was completely calm and happy and just a natural. All the midwives kept commenting what an amazing team we were and how in sync we were without little guy. We were the fastest labour on the ward that day (everything within 3 hours from when the drip started, 1 hr 38 mins from active dilated birth), and did it our way. Despite the obstacles, the induction required, we were now a family of four, and complete 😀
The nurses (both pysch and midwives) still wanted to check up on me because I was injured during labour (injury to ribs) and bubs is tongue tied, but aside from that and fatigue was in good spirits and I didn’t think I needed to stay in once I could walk again unassisted. They were all expecting my PND to come back and rear its ugly head especially since I had to go the induction path. But I am ok 😀 I just trust in myself and in my hubby and that we as a team and a family have everything we need.
I actually mentioned to to the main pysch that in a way although it was a harder path than I would have chosen it was good that I had to undergo induction again. As it meant to I had a comparison between my first and second pregnancy journeys. Given I do have more understanding and knowledge 2nd time round cause every mum 2nd time round is a bit more prepared. But it also showed me how much we had come as a family together this time round, how much we incorporated what we learnt in our classes and were able to apply them even though it wasn’t quite going to plan, we still stuck mainly to our birth plan, still had an active birth, still had it completely drug free (and without the use of even my tens machine), and how well we were working together as a family unit, as long as we communicated and supported each other.
I feel like i can finally close the door on my past experience, that it was just a unusually horrible birth not cause the doctors pushed me that way, but cause I was soo uneducated and didn’t advocate for what I wanted. Didn’t realise before that I had options, that hospital policy gets in the way if you don’t know and just agree with everything that it might not always be the easiest path. And that you don’t have to do this alone. Everyone is so focused on the mum and joking about how they’re going to punish their partners, that they really don’t have a big part in the journey. But this time round I feel even closer to my hubby, and proud of what a wonderful dad he is. I already was proud of him and thought he was a great dad, but what we have learnt together through our course and our journey is how we work as a team, that not everything is going to be smooth sailing and we’re fighters and as long as we have each other’s backs we have this. Even past birth into the future, these skills are being useful when were tired and fatigued and battling toddler demands in combo with baby demands and the occasional forceful visitor, we just stand our ground and do what’s right for our family and our way. Its just left us as a much more relaxed and supported family unit and it all turned around when we signed up to this course.
So my tip is take a big breath, you don’t know what’s coming. Be educated, forewarned is forearmed, and work as a team with your partner. It doesn’t matter what life throws at you, together you totally have this!