The Birth of Joshua

This was our first pregnancy and we enjoyed a very straightforward 40 weeks without any complications. We starting practising our hypnobirth techniques from week 31 and alongside NCT classes we felt very prepared both mentally and physically for the arrival of our son.

Having been convinced that our baby boy would arrive early, my husband Dave made our guess date really special by treating me to some beautiful flowers and a relaxing dinner date at our favourite local restaurant. Joshua Harry eventually entered the world 8 days later on the morning of Sunday 14th October, having avoided my birthday by 2 days. (I was determined to not be in labour or share my birthday!) 

Joshua arrived after a 5 day latent labour. Through attending the group hypnobirth classes, we were prepared for the possibility of a long latent stage and used our hypnobirth techniques and birth knowledge to navigate this time peacefully.

I woke up up at 5am on the Tuesday before the birth with what felt like intense period pains. I got up, had a bowl of cereal and tried moving around into different positions to get comfortable. I also used my breathing techniques. After 3 hours the sensations slowed down and I was able to carry on with my day following a couple of hours nap. We had a routine midwifes appointment that afternoon so decided to wait and see what the day would hold.

We had spent the weekend before working through the BRAIN model to decide whether we would accept a stretch and sweep. After much thinking through and soul searching we decided to go for it mainly because our preference was to avoid induction. When we arrived at our appointment, I shared the details of our morning and our midwife noticed that I was having mild contractions by feeling my bump. I felt relieved knowing what the sensations were! Our midwife attempted a stretch and sweep but had reservations about the position and size of the baby. She sent us down to the day unit at Barnsley for a scan. We went back home, packed the hospital bags in the car and drove the 25 minutes to Barnsley. I remember swaying around the waiting room as it was more comfortable than sitting although the surges were mild and irregular at this stage. The scan showed that our baby was a good size (our midwife was nervous throughout our pregnancy that our baby was on the big side) and in a good position. The hospital midwife examined me and confirmed that I was 1cm dilated and was able to do the stretch and sweep. Off we headed home and waited to see what might happen.

Back home, my surges became more intense but I was able to talk through our hairdresser cutting Dave’s hair and watch that nights episode of bake off. Around 11pm the surges became stronger. We both felt calm and at peace working through the feelings with lots of breathing, birth scripts and thinking about happy memories. We were in hysterical laughter because we couldn’t get to the end our 3 minute wedding video without having a surge. I told myself that we might be meeting our son by lunchtime the following day. Dave had been subtly timing my surges and by 2am they were regular and 3 or 4 in every ten minutes. He rang the hospital and noting this was my first pregnancy we agreed to wait another hour before going in. I started to feel tired and tried to rest on the sofa by curling over the end. I stood up after 20 minutes and my surges stopped! They got going again around 6am and then stopped again. We decided to get some rest and slept for a couple of hours.

Later that morning (Wednesday) I woke up to my mucus plug having come away. I was so pleased to have something to show for the last nights efforts! Over the day my surges came and went with no clear pattern. I watched lots of episodes of Gavin and Stacey to keep me distracted and found walking the most effective way to get comfortable stopping each time I had a surge and leaning on Dave whilst breathing through. I found being outside calming and energising. I was able to sleep well on the Wednesday night. By Thursday lunchtime my surges had completely stopped. We decided to ring my midwife who asked me to call the hospital. The hospital listened to my history but weren’t concerned enough to see me. We agreed to see our midwife for another stretch and sweep on Friday. We made a decision to try and have a normal day, Dave worked from home to stay close and I pottered about the house tidying, baking and went for another walk.

Friday was my birthday and we were keen to have a relaxing day together. I had a lovely, long bath, opened my presents and we headed off to Yorkshire Sculpture Park (where we got married) for lunch and an autumnal walk in an attempt to get the oxytocin going again. We were worried that we had used all our relaxing material up earlier in the week! Low and behold my surges started again at lunchtime. We walked for 90 minutes or so and I was able to keep moving by using the trusty breathing techniques. I felt them increase in intensity in the car journey to the midwife. I had agreed to another stretch and sweep on the condition that it was the last appointment of the day to enable us to enjoy ourselves. I was so relieved when our midwife told us that I was 3 to 4 cm dilated and that I had some great signs of progression to show for the efforts of the last few days. She told us that my waters were bulging, my cervix was thin and that we would have a baby by the end of the weekend. I walked out with a huge smile on my face and excited for what the next few days had in store.

My surges ramped up as soon as we got home. Around midnight I started to play some relaxing piano music on loop and lay on the bed as my surges washed over me. I really called on my breathing and kept repeating one of my favourite affirmations, my surges cannot be stronger than me because they are me. They continued into Saturday and by this point I was unable to sit down comfortably. On reflection I also noticed that I had a natural clear out on Saturday morning.

Dave suggested I gave my TENS machine a go. I found it a real source of strength and I felt in control every time I pressed the surge button. We went for an early evening walk. I was hopeful that my waters would break soon as my surges had become much more regular. I could only walk a few paces before having a surge and only managed to walk down the road. I felt energised though by the walk and being outside in nature. When we got back I sipped on a glass of water and leaning over the sideboard ‘settled down’ to watch strictly. I wasn’t able to concentrate on my favourite TV show and all of a sudden I felt my waters go. The biggest wave of relief washed over me and I cried floods of tears of happiness as I knew it couldn’t be long until we got to meet our son. We called the hospital who has asked us to come in. I stopped to have a shower, we packed the car (again!) and off we headed to Barnsley.

On getting out the car the rest of my waters broke. It was an interesting experience waddling through A&E on a Saturday night! On arrival to triage I showed the on duty midwife my pad and she noticed that there was some meconium on it. I was taken straight through to a the birth centre and settled in to my room. I was very happy to see a birthing pool and this was something were were keen to use in our birth preferences. However due to the meconium, we weren’t able to use it. I didn’t worry though as our birth preferences were just that and not a plan. I was hooked up to a 2 monitors for around 3 hours to observe my heart beat and Joshua’s. Our midwife noticed I was dehydrated so I was given a drip and blood samples were eventually taken after many attempts! After 3 hours we had a change of midwife and she read our birth preferences. We found her calm and reassuring. Around 2.30am the duty consultant came to see me and told me I looked tired. I was a little taken a back as I felt that I was doing well. However this was a real turning point for us. We accepted that our birthing priority was the safe arrival of our son. Our midwife explained that the blood sample came back and showed that either me or Joshua had an infection. Combined with the meconium (there really was a lot of it!) in my waters, Joshua being back to back and the length of my latent labour the team were treating my labour as high risk and as I was not reaching established labour I was on track for a caesarean. The consultant asked us to consider an epidural something we had made clear in our birth preferences that we didn’t want. We spent an hour weighing it up again using the Brain model and asking lots of questions. My biggest concern was the lack of control, however I decided to accept it, our rationale being that if I did need a section, this would make it easier.

The anaesthetist arrived quickly and immediately left the room. He came back in an explained that he thought he had the wrong room as I looked so calm standing up and swaying through my surges! After 3 (!!!) attempts, some serious breathing techniques and some gas and air (I found it tricky to get into the right position due to where Joshua was lying) we were ready to see what happened next. It turned out to be absolutely the right decision for us. I was examined about 90 minutes after and it turned out my body had done into established labour! The epidural had the effect of relaxing my body and progressing everything along.

By 6am I was fully dilated. The midwife had noticed however that every time I had a surge, Joshua’s heart rate decreased out of the normal range. The team decided to attempt to monitor Joshua by placing an internal monitor on his head and taking some blood samples from his head to understand whether he had sufficient oxygen levels. This was easier said than done as my waters were still going and Joshua’s very full head of hair was getting in the way! We could tell that the team were getting frustrated and we encouraged them to keep going.

At one point they were unhappy with the level of risk and decided that it was time for a section. However somebody else on the labour suite needed it more so we were asked to wait. In this time they managed to get the blood samples they needed and they were happy with Joshua’s oxygen levels. Persistence paid off.

We agreed to give my body some rest before the pushing stage, allow the morning shift change and to give the team chance to look after some other Mums who needed support. I took the opportunity to have some gas and air for a couple of hours to chill out! After a top up of my epidural we agreed to start pushing at 11am. At 11.14 our beautiful baby boy was placed in my arms following the help of a forceps and an episiotomy to help bring Joshua round from back to back. Thank goodness for the epidural! We agreed that it was best to have the injection to help the placenta to come along as the team were keen to monitor Joshua. It came quickly and then I was very sick after not being allowed to eat (due to the potential for a c section). Holding my son in my arms was the most amazing feeling and we were so happy that he and arrived safely. We were both admitted for the next day and a half for monitoring and neither of us had an infection, result!

What could have been a challenging experience was a really positive one for both of us thanks to the tools, knowledge and confidence that hypnobirthing equipped us with as a couple. We felt empowered and calm in the run up to and the birth and the birth itself and are loving being parents to our beautiful baby boy.

Fran and Dave, Huddersfield