The Birth of Orla
First of all I should start by saying that when I found out I was pregnant, I was quite keen for every method of pain relief, I thought I wanted a hospital birth and had even thought about an elective C-section to keep everything the same ‘down there’! Fast forward nine months and what a different mindset we both had, and that’s all thanks to Hypnobirthing and Abby’s course. I truly feel we had the best first time birth experience possible.
We were extremely lucky to conceive very quickly, but this also meant I didn’t have much time to get my head around the thought of having a baby and being pregnant. I also suffered really badly with sickness and nausea for the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, so to say I didn’t enjoy the start of my pregnancy journey is an understatement. However by the time we started Abby’s Hypnobirthing course my nausea had subsided, I could feel baby kicking (the best feeling ever), and I loved my baby bump. I remember how much she would kick during Abby’s sessions which was when I felt at my most relaxed and calm.
After the first session I was hooked! I looked forward to going to Abby’s house for some relaxation time and saw it as a time to connect with my baby and husband. I saw it as an excuse to look after myself better. I lit scented candles, listened to my affirmations and by the time I was on maternity leave (1 month before my due date because of a house and re-location move) I was having a daily bath, watching or reading a positive birth story a day and practicing my relaxation techniques. I attended Abby’s monthly coffee mornings and listened to the many positive birth stories. I was now confident that I wanted a home birth, hopefully in a birth pool. Oddly by the end of our Hypnobirthing course we had decided in a dream world I would give birth to our first baby in a birth center, and if we were lucky enough to have a second, I would have it at home. Eventually I realised that this was a silly rationale as every time I envisaged giving birth it was in our living room surrounded by candles, with my affirmations playing and surrounded by my relaxation scents. I also liked the idea of having our 2 pugs Doris and Mildred around, so there was less of a shock of us coming home with a baby, and more that they would be part of the experience. After all they do help to release oxytocin for me. Lastly my husband got us a refresher Hypnobirthing session with Abby in our home nearer to my due date, which helped me to further envisage it as my birth environment.
My due date came and went and other than one false alarm of contractions starting that soon went away after having a bath, I’d had no signs of baby coming. I’d been told I was having ‘big baby’ from my check-up measurements and was told she was over 8lbs at my 36 week appointment. I made the decision to have a stretch and sweep on my due date after my midwife assured me she had never accidently burst a woman’s waters. Two days later my contractions started again. I woke up at 6am with regular contractions and both me and my husband were excited. Later that morning he rang the midwives to tell them we may be asking them to come out to us later on. They suggested I go for a bath. My contractions carried on through the day but were manageable and I was more excited than anything. We kept busy, I did some DIY around the house, decorated our Christmas tree and I was excited to be able have the glow of the Christmas lights lit as I gave birth. We took our dogs for a walk knowing this might be the last time we walked them as a ‘2’.
I ate some nice food to ensure I had enough energy for when the time came, and by 9pm I was having 3 contractions lasting a minute each every 10 minutes so we called for the midwives.
Two lovely midwives arrived at our house, looked over our birth plan and were completely on board with what we were hoping for. Our birth plan was very much like the handout Abby uses in her class. By this point I was using a TENS machine whilst bent over my birth ball. Our living room was exactly the birth environment I’d hoped for. I felt like I was in the zone. I was barely aware of what was going on around me and felt like I was almost in a meditative state. As my contractions came I would hold the hand of my husband and my midwife looking for reassurance from them that I could do this. I remember my dogs being the most chilled out I had ever seen them and occasionally coming over to check on me. We nicknamed them ‘Doris the Doula’ and ‘Mildred the Midwife’. I was unaware of how long I had been laboring but our 2 midwives took it in turns to go and have a nap in our spare bedroom. I opted for examinations and was told I was dilated enough to go in the birth pool, although I have no idea at what time this was. My husband filled up the birth pool and I felt reluctant to get in and give up using my TENS machine as I felt to be managing my contractions well with it, but I had pictured my birth in the pool and felt determined to at least give it a go. As soon as I got in the warm water I felt a wave of relaxation. My contractions carried on and still my waters didn’t break. My midwives asked me to stand up and swing against my husband to let gravity do its job but still they did not break. Eventually my 2 midwives had to leave and change shift.
Another midwife arrived, and then a further 2. I was sad to have not given birth with the support of my original 2 midwives but it is amazing how quickly they build up a rapport with you and gain your trust. I still didn’t know what time it was but could see daylight poking through the cracks of the curtains. My midwives were concerned that I would be getting tired and asked to break my waters for me. I didn’t feel tired. I felt like I was on a mission and that my body was doing what it needed to do. But I briefly got out of the water to have my waters broken. I was apprehensive but it didn’t hurt at all. I then got back in the birth pool and tried a few different positions. My midwife told me our baby would be here very soon. I remember her asking me what colour hair I thought she would have. I told her I thought she would be bald like me and my sisters. She told me I was wrong and that she could see a lot of dark hair. This spurred me on! The midwife asked me to start pushing when I felt my next contraction because baby’s heart rate had slowed but I was determined to keep breathing her down, as we’d discussed in hypnobirthing. I hadn’t gotten that far to start pushing now. So I listened to my body and breathed. The midwifes thought she was back to back which explains the pain in my lower back but eventually Orla’s head came out, and with the next surge her little body. We caught her in the water and as soon as I saw her I knew she wasn’t a big baby.
I held her to my chest with my husband’s arms around me. She looked back at us and was perfectly calm and alert. I couldn’t quite believe I had done it. We enjoyed this moment for a while, my husband cut the cord and then took her for some skin to skin while I birthed the placenta in the pool. I was examined and told I had no tears and no need for stitches. I don’t know if this was because I had done the occasional perineal massage or from breathing my baby down but either way I was thrilled. From contractions starting at 6am on the Saturday, she didn’t arrive until 1:05pm on the Sunday.
The whole thing was magical. I felt an enormous sense of achievement. Like I was invincible and could do anything. She was 7.1lbs and perfect in every way. The midwives helped to clear up and were soon gone. As I looked at this tiny perfect little girl I remembered how women at Abby’s coffee mornings would tell me they wish they could give birth again and again and how much of an enjoyable experience it had been. I believed that they had had a positive birth but I couldn’t imagine wanting to do it all over again…until now. I can honestly say it was the single most empowering thing I have ever done and I can’t wait to do it again. I have never been more proud of my body, or more in love with my husband and the little thing we made together. Sometimes I look over at that corner of our living room where the birth pool was and still can’t quite believe that that is where we did it all.
Lauren and Colin, Hartshead