Journey Ahead: The Hypnobirthing Doula

"After a mostly uneventful pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes at 28 weeks pregnant and then had regular growth scans.

As this was an IVF pregnancy and our whole journey has been highly medicalised I was hoping for baby to make its own way into the world with limited intervention."

Louise, who had gestational diabetes, is sitting crosslegged holding her baby, scrunching her nose against his.

Baby consistently measured on the 90th-97th percentile. There was a fair amount of pressure to be induced at 40 weeks due to it being a “big” baby, despite diet controlled gestational diabetes and having never had one blood glucose spike.

Thanks to the hypnobirthing techniques, resources and support and knowledge from Hannah I felt I made informed decisions. I felt comfortable in my decision to decline the induction and initial sweeps. I also discussed this with my community midwife who was fully supportive of my decision and justification. This said, I had agreed to a review with our consultant at 40+2.

Spontaneous labour begins!

Thankfully baby was keen to do things his own way. At 39+4 I had a very light bloody show in the morning, followed by some cramps/twinges in the eve.

Contractions started regularly about 4am the next morning (15/20 mins apart). As they got more intense I used hypnobirthing techniques and listened to the positive affirmations on headphones. I started bouncing on my birthing ball and then walked a lot whilst using my tens machine. My husband was timing them, but waited to call the hospital until I told him I was ready. When it was time, he was very keen to get moving, as by that point they were every 4 minutes and about a minute long. Triage suggested we head in once they were 3 minutes apart, which happened quite quickly after the call so we headed to the hospital. I knelt on the backseat to travel to hospital, holding the head rests, as I was unable to sit comfortably.

By 11am we were at the hospital and I agreed to an initial examination. I was keen to keep these to a minimum as I knew they would interrupt my flow, but my husband and I discussed it together. I found it very uncomfortable and asked her to stop which she did. Fortunately she had been able to confirm that I was 5cm dilated. That gave me a boost that we were moving in the right direction, and we went straight to the birthing suite.

Midwife-led team support

The midwife-led team were fantastic. My husband gave them our preferences sheet. I felt April (midwife) really took the time to digest and had it propped up on her station throughout. She was hands off and spent very limited time in the room apart from general obs. She left me to labour comfortably and somewhat unobserved, even when she popped in and out.

I walked around the suite with my tens machine and gas & air with my eyes shut for a couple of hours. Then I used a stack of pillows on the bed to lean over in some bizarre positions. Things like one legged squats etc, circling my hips, bumping the pillow stack with one hip for a while then the other as baby steadily moved down. At no point did I consciously decide to do these things. I followed my instincts and fully allowed my body to do whatever it needed to do. April could clearly see what was happening. She would place pillows close to me if she felt I might need them. This allowed me to just keep focusing on the surges.

Pushing urges start to flow...

It was about 4pm when I got my first push surge. I declared I was ready to get in the pool! It took me hours to decide because I was worried about taking off the tens machine and the transition to water. The midwife supported me by giving me the option to warm it up if I was ready. It was at that point my instinct took over and I knew where I wanted to be.

In the end, the pool felt amazing. I was worried it would be too cool but it helped relieve the pressure a lot. At some point I had to get out and try use the toilet, as the team were worried that my bladder was in the way. As I was supported to the bathroom, I used gas and air through the surges. I simply could not go, so I was given the option to have a catheter fitted.

Everything was explained and I was given time to decide. In the end it was a quick decision as I wanted to get back in the water ASAP. I requested I be propped up on the edge of the bed as I could not lie on my back during the surges. The process was relatively quick and straightforward, and the team fully supported my requests.

I got back into the water and continued for a while. However the care team couldn’t see babies head even though I was having some push surges. They were worried about me exhausting myself. They started talking about wanting to examine me before the shift change at 8pm. The care team presented this to us with risks and benefits clearly stated, and also reminded us of the option to wait a little longer.

Making decisions as a team

They then left the room to give us time to discuss this as a couple – all as per the requests in my birth preferences. We chose to wait a little longer. We agreed if nothing progressed I would have an exam, if I could avoid being on my back. I think the discussion gave me a kick up the bum! I wanted to avoid getting out for an exam. Despite what they were saying my body was urging me to push. I was focusing on down breathing!

They also suggested I check myself and could definitely feel some resistance. At around 8pm (4 or so hours in the water) the midwives changed shift. A new midwife, Jane, offered to do an exam in the water which I felt super relaxed about.

Thankfully she felt baby’s head. She said I was ready to go and gave me a few top tips for the final stage. It then took about an hour to get baby round the ‘U bend’ on all fours in the pool! The baby arrived with eyes open in the water at 21:17 on 12th August. My husband was able to tell me that our long awaited baby was a little boy!

I was able to lift him out of the water to my chest. Once he was airside he took a couple of minutes to catch his breath.

Everything after that moment is a complete oxytocin high. We were fortunate enough to spend the next few ‘golden’ hours together as a family in the suite. There was no rush to move to the ward. We also discovered he was 7lb8oz and on the 55th percentile, so not the giant baby we had been predicted.

Reflecting on the experience...

The whole day is a complete blur, with no concept of time. When they told me his time of birth I thought it was a mistake as I was sure it was only late afternoon not after 9pm. By using hypnobirthing techniques throughout the day I was able to remain calm and in the zone.

My husband was also able to follow my lead and let me labour in the way I needed to. He made sure I was aware of the decisions we needed to make, and kept me hydrated, but could also recognise that I wanted to be left alone and would ask if I needed his support. Once I was in the pool he was on hand with gas and air, as well as holding my hand and keeping a cold flannel on my forehead.

I am so fortunate and grateful to have had a labour and birth that went according to my ‘plan’. This is despite me saying throughout pregnancy that in the end I would, of course, do what was right for baby. Fortunately babies heartbeat/obs remained consistent throughout everything, so there was never a moment of worrying about him being in distress. I think must have a huge impact and I feel very fortunate. I also had an amazing birthing partner and care team around me on the day, as well as the support from Hannah during the lead up.


Using hypnobirthing

I had listened to the hypnobirthing playlist to fall asleep during my pregnancy. On the day I realised I wanted the positive affirmations on constant repeat from the regular contractions at home until the moment he was born. I also had the cards around the house until we left for hospital, which my husband collected to bring with us.

These became my mantra throughout pregnancy. I think they also allowed me to listen to my body and my instincts, not only during labour, but also in the weeks leading up to it.

Before pregnancy I was someone who could hardly watch One Born Every Minute and could only think about labour as a means to end. After deciding to do the course with Hannah, our perspective completely changed and I can honestly say that it has had the biggest impact on my journey to becoming a mother. Our son was brought into the world in the most magical way. Both myself and my husband are eternally grateful for the knowledge and tools, which empowered us to make the right decisions along the way.

*Stories and image shared with permission. Thank you to Louise for sharing her story.