The Birth of Evelyn
Before I get into the actual story, it is worth noting that I believe hypnobirthing principles played a large part in the date on which I started in labour – Evie was 10 days late. I think many women are hoping for an early baby, but I had been lucky enough to have a very comfortable pregnancy, and we had moved house later than planned, had a huge renovation project, and were behind schedule, so I actually wanted maximum time to get extra bits finished – I knew that as soon as the baby arrived it would be very difficult to find time or inclination for DIY! This was coupled with the fact that my Mum and sisters were going to be out of the country for a week, just after the due date – so the baby (we didn’t know what gender beforehand) needed to be either a bit early, or late. Before Mum went away, she said to me ‘I think I could bear it if you had the baby on Thursday, then it would only be a day until we got back’.
I got home from playing bridge late on Wednesday night, and whilst I was out discovered that my lovely husband, Dan, had tiled the entrance hall floor. I think my subconscious looked at that, and thought ‘enough of the house is finished, and Mum said Thursday’ and relaxed! I started in early labour around 1am Thursday…
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions sometimes, and also needing the loo in the night sometimes, for several weeks. So when it first began, I think at first I wasn’t aware, and then I wasn’t sure of, what was happening – assuming it was a combination of those things. However, after a couple of hours of getting up regularly because I was uncomfortable, I began to twig… This was discomfort at regular intervals, could this be it?!
Even when I realised, I decided not to wake Dan. The discomfort was minimal at that point, I knew it would probably be a while until labour started in earnest, and I thought I would rather he was well rested ready for the next day. I used my hypnobirthing up-breathing techniques, imagined being on the lovely beach we had holidayed on earlier in the year, and managed to get some broken sleep between surges until about 8am, by which time they were around 10 minutes apart.
When Dan woke up, planning to go to work, I told him he should call in and let them know he wasn’t coming, I was in labour! He was a wonderful birth partner, and immediately took on all the thinking and organising as Abby had taught us. He brought me breakfast in bed, and got his notes out on what to do next. He telephoned the hospital to let them know, and held as much of the conversation as he could for me – although they did insist on speaking to me briefly. They were happy that all was well, and said to stay put and call in when the contractions were a couple of minutes apart.
We basically had a really pleasant day on the Thursday – we closed the curtains and made the house cosy and private. We had breakfast, and chatted about the day to come, pausing for surges every now and then – which I could still talk through at that point. Dan ran me a (warm, not hot!) bath with some frankincense oil, candles all around the bathroom. He settled me in with the book I was reading, and playlist that we had set up with some hypnobirthing meditation tracks and some relaxing music, including some familiar tracks from the yogalates class I go to regularly. The bath felt lovely, we kept topping up the warm water, Dan kept bringing me cool water with ice to drink, and words of encouragement. Dan took care of ‘last minute’ bag packing and calling the people we wanted to know when labour started, while I enjoyed the bath and focussed my energy on managing the sensations. They were getting steadily more intense, but still manageable with the breathing techniques – I didn’t take any paracetamol until I was setting off to hospital later on.
When I had got out of the bath (after at least a couple of hours!) and was dressed, we had some lunch (I can’t remember what, maybe granola, yogurt and fruit, maybe crumpets…we kept snacking all day as well!) and played a couple of games of Yahtzee, as I sat on the birthing ball / kept trying different positions to see what felt most comfortable (I mostly found that standing or kneeling leaning forwards helped). When I got so that I was being interrupted too often (about every 5min) and not able to concentrate on the game, we started watching Fawlty Towers instead. Comedy was a good distraction, and hours passed like minutes, we nearly watched the whole lot!
It must have been about 6pm when Dan went to the kitchen for some more drinks. He asked me what I’d like, and I requested water with ice again – but this time, I said, could I be fancy and have some of the lemon I’d chopped and put in the freezer? He brought me the drink and went back to get his own. I took a sip, then inspected it properly, and realised that the yellow bits floating in it weren’t lemon… it made me snigger to realise that he’d accidentally given me frozen pumpkin – and laugh out loud when I told him and his response was ‘don’t you want it then?’! It surely is not a coincidence that as I laughed out loud, my waters broke….
Luckily I was sitting on a towel, and the ‘waters breaking’ wasn’t the dramatic event you see in soap operas, it was more of a trickle. I checked that it was clear, but we telephoned the hospital again, and they said we should head in to be checked out. My surges were around 5 minutes apart, and they said there was no urgency, they were pretty busy and we should give it an hour or so to quieten down. We went through making sure the bags were packed, watched some more Fawlty Towers, then set off, arriving at the birth centre at Calderdale Hospital at about 8:30pm.
I was checked out by David, the male midwife, who was lovely, and understood all about hypnobirthing. Dan made sure he had a copy of our birth preferences, and David suggested that as he had checked my pad and the waters were clear, he was happy not to inspect me unless I wanted, which I was pleased about. We spent some time there monitoring timings of the surges, then he suggested we go home and wait in comfort there, as they were still about 5 minutes apart and we live close to the hospital. He also advised that we get a pineapple, he was a strong advocate that it makes a difference in speeding up later labour. We decided to try it, as we didn’t want to have to have the conversation about induction – David had said that they would want to induce me if I wasn’t in established labour in 12 hours (he also said that he thought that was unlikely, and that he would be prepared to support me in choosing not to be induced at that point if I still felt that way).
Sitting in Tesco car park, breathing through surges, whilst Dan went in to get a pineapple, was a bizarre experience. He very quickly reappeared with the fruit, and something for dinner, and we headed home – it was probably about 9:30pm by now.
Dan prepared the pineapple as I got comfortable in the lounge with Fawlty Towers again, and gave it to me to eat as he prepared dinner. I don’t know whether it was anything to do with the pineapple, but I never got around to eating the dinner, because fairly quickly I felt my fore waters break – and this time it was with a dramatic gush! I raced upstairs with my towel, trying not to get it on the new carpet… and once in the bathroom I realised that this time, the liquid was not clear. (Poor) Dan came to verify my assessment, and we agreed that we thought there was meconium in it – he phoned the hospital and they told us to come straight in to the maternity assessment centre (MAC).
My biggest wobble was in the car on the way to the MAC, worrying that I couldn’t feel much movement (I hadn’t felt that much all day, but hadn’t been worried before, it didn’t feel particularly unusual for our baby’s patterns) and there might be a problem because of the meconium, but Dan was a brilliant birth partner and helped to keep me calm, reminding me to think of the beach I had been visualising, and using the breathing techniques Abby had taught us and I had been practising.
I was sick almost as soon as we arrived. Once they had dealt with that, the kind nurses strapped me up to a monitor, and reassured me that the baby was still moving. Dan asked them if I could get up and move around rather than lying on the bed where they had put me (it was much less comfortable there when the surges came!) and they agreed as long as I didn’t move too much and disturb the equipment.
It was around 11pm by this time – which I know because I went for a birth debrief afterwards. That was really interesting, and anybody can request one. I would have been wrong about the times things happened, especially from about 8pm onwards, time flew! The MAC said I had to stay there now, which was a little disappointing because it meant I couldn’t have a pool. I hadn’t decided whether I wanted a water birth, but I did want to use the pool really for managing surges. They also said if I hadn’t started in established labour in 2 hours they would want to induce me (contractions around 4 or 5 minutes apart now – I think they had been closer when I was at home, but slowed down again a bit with the 2nd journey to hospital) and this time the way they said it, it felt much less like a choice.
The nurses did say I could have my own room on the labour ward, and that I could still be active but we would need to be monitored. Dan requested a birth ball for me, which they brought with us as they wheeled me on a bed down the corridor – slowly and quietly so as not to wake other hospital residents. My labour so far had largely been quiet, using the hypnobirthing techniques I was still feeling pretty calm, and I didn’t even think to ask for gas and air until after we got up to the room and I was being sick again.
I think partly because I was relatively calm and quiet, they hadn’t realised how far on I was. The midwife said she would really like to examine me because of the meconium, and I agreed this time – she was surprised that I was 8cm dilated, and also to see that she didn’t think the baby was head down! We were in disbelief at first, everyone who had felt the bump for weeks had said it was in the perfect position…including David earlier that evening, and it couldn’t have turned without me knowing about it, we had been worrying that the baby wasn’t moving enough! The midwife called for the doctor to check, and things started to get hectic – I was very glad to have Dan beside me, reminding me about breathing / visualising the beach, because the surges were now coming thick and fast, and they had me lying down since the first inspection (which I now know was to try and slow things down, but it was certainly more uncomfortable – at this point I would call it painful!) The doctor inspected me, and said ‘yes the baby is breech, and you are 9cm dilated’! At that point I was still assuming I would be giving birth naturally, but it would just be more difficult. However, a quick ultrasound confirmed that the baby had one foot down and one foot up (a ‘footling’!) and the surgeon (which is what the doctor turned out to be) said that it wasn’t safe to give birth and we needed an emergency caesarean.
Dan and I were both in shock rather, this wasn’t what we thought was going to happen at all. I was immensely glad of my hypnobirthing techniques for staying calm as I had to remain lying down and lots of people in scrubs appeared, telling me things, asking me to sign other things…and I was glad that I knew Dan was able to listen and understand for me, I wasn’t in a fit state! They took me down the corridor again, but it was a noisy run this time, not the sedate stroll of previously.
Evelyn Florence was born by emergency c-section at 1:32am on 1st September, weighing 7 pounds exactly. The team at Calderdale were wonderful, and tried to keep as much to our hypnobirthing plan as they could, given the circumstances. They had read that we wanted Dan to reveal the gender and cut the cord (which he did, and they used our cord tie). Dan held my hand as they lifted Evie above the screen, and asked ‘what is it?’… To which I replied ‘It’s a baby!’ ‘No, what is it?’ they said again… ‘It’s our baby?’ I replied. ‘It’s a girl!!’ said Dan – and we all laughed as I finally understood the question. As I said – I’m glad Dan was such a good birthing partner and able to think and communicate for me throughout, I clearly wasn’t in my usual frame of mind!
All’s well that ends well, we are happy and healthy. I feel incredibly grateful for the wonderful NHS, NCT, and especially the hypnobirthing course, which meant that we had a good and memorable experience through the day in labour, and coped well when things didn’t go as we had hoped. Last but not least of course, my wonderful birth partner Dan. Bringing Evelyn safely into the world was a real team effort, thank you all!
Amanda and Dan, Halifax