It has taken the advent of our second child to finally bring me to put down on paper the beautiful story of Julia’s birth. Of course this is a day that I’ve played over and over again in my mind for nearly two years now, an event that always brings a smile to my hea
I believe my experience with Julia’s birth was special for the many reasons any birth is, but also because of the way John and I prepared for our baby’s birth, both physically and mentally. My motivation for a natural childbirth was to maintain that I was giving birth and not that my baby was “being delivered.” I felt that medical intervention was to be used if there were any problems with mother or baby, but not to unnecessarily expedite delivery.
We attended Carolyn’s hypnobirthing classes during the third trimester, which made the final stages of pregnancy more relaxing and comfortable. Both John and I enjoyed learning the different techniques, bonding together and the in-class relaxation sessions.
It was hard to find the time to practice together at home and I ended up listening to the tapes by myself during the day. On the weekend we would run through an exercise but I did worry that we were not doing enough preparation. But in my heart I knew two things, John would always be there for me and help any way needed, and we were both committed to our birth plan. We believed visualization and relaxation would work for us.
Julia’s birth came gradually. Over the course of several days I had contractions for several hours at a time, only to have them subside altogether. These hours made for good practice; I listened to the tapes and practiced balloon breathing to work through the contractions. After nearly a week of these “contraction sessions” it became a regular part of the day and I started to wonder, “would it ever really amount to real labor?”
July 5th started out like the last few days had. In the evening John timed the contractions, we watched a movie and around 10pm the contractions subsided and we went to bed.
I slept very deeply until I was awakened by a contraction at 1am. Then came another, and another and these were much stronger and closer together than any I had experienced in the past. While we got ready to leave for the hospital I used balloon breathing (this helps soooo much because the breathing pushes your stomach out and you really can’t feel the contraction any more!) while squatting to relieve back pressure. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to sit in the car for 45 minutes, I wouldn’t be able to play a relaxation tape because John would hear it too and he had to drive! Then I remembered the Birth Affirmations tape, one I hadn’t really used yet. It was the perfect solution. It put me in the right frame of mind without affecting John! By the time we reach my parents house thirty minutes later to drop off our puppy, I was deeply focused. Later my dad told me he didn’t bother coming over to me or talking to me because he could see I was intently focused and he didn’t want to interrupt.
By 3:30am we arrived at the hospital where we met up with our Doula and signed in. I remember the nurses at the nursing station being all chatty with me, and I thought to myself “they probably think I am just starting labor, most first time moms get to the hospital very early on in labor!” When I stopped en route to the birthing room I think they realized I might be further along than they thought. Sure enough, I was already 8cm dilated.
Laying in bed was very uncomfortable for me and I spent most of my labor either squatting or sitting backwards on the toilet (someone can still massage your back this way, while the open seat relieves pressure.) I found this tiny little blue flower in the wallpaper pattern to focus on. I used balloon breathing while the CD “Musical Massage” played on repeat in the background and this is how I let the contractions bring my baby down. John and my Doula tirelessly massaged my back for hours further relaxing me. I honestly don’t remember feeling the contractions but I do remember that I kept repeating to myself “loose, limp and relaxed”, and “let your body do what it knows how to do”.
There were a couple of occasions where the doctors recommend action different than I had in my birth plan. Both times I felt clam and relaxed enough to carefully think the proposed action over, and reach a decision that worked for all of us, especially Julia! Never once did I feel that anyone was forcing me into unwanted action, instead all the staff was very supportive of my wishes.
Once my water broke everything changed, all of a sudden I had to push! It was like stepping out of a forest into a brightly-lit clearing. Suddenly everything was in very sharp detail. This took me by surprise; it was surreal how the pushing overtook my body with such immense force. I had to shift my focus and change what I had been doing. I took long, deep breaths, and as I blew them out I visualized my baby slowly descending through the birth canal. This in combination with perineal massage allowed a gentle birth and I avoided the dreaded episiotomy or tear!
Once the Doctor delivered Julia’s head she had John and me to reach down and help deliver the rest of her body. Julia was very healthy and my dream of instant skin to skin contact became reality as she was immediately placed on my stomach. It was such a beautiful experience, I felt really in tune with my body and very relaxed, Julia was very alert and all of us could simply enjoy the moment. I wasn’t tired or in any pain, there was nothing to distract me from this precious beginning with Julia.
HypnoBirthing, or the use of relaxation and visualization techniques, during pregnancy and labor empowered me to maintain direction over my daughters birth. It also helped me to be flexible enough to change my birth plan as conditions warranted. I strongly believe that had my physical delivery been any different, say a cesarean section, I would still have felt it a success because of HypnoBirthing. Relaxation and visualizations can make just about any birth a positive and successful one. I look forward to using these same techniques throughout this pregnancy and delivery.