Our daughter Lyra Bluebell Bridie, was born on the 20th September 2010. I had prepared for her birth with the same determination as a marathon runner. Quite early on I decided I would like a home birth. My female doctor tried to terrify me out of this idea with sad stories and tales of ‘untried’ pelvis’. I came away from my appointment with her scared witless and the whole idea of home birth went out the window. But gradually as my pregnancy developed the idea started nagging away at me again. My instinct, my gut feeling, was to have my baby at home. It is unusual for women to have their first pregnancy at home, but I was healthy and it had nothing to do with me being ‘brave’ or stupid either for that matter. It was just the way I knew I had to birth my baby.
We had started seeing Maureen Duffy for hypnobirthing. Maureen had been recommended to us by some friends of ours. This would be a great space and opportunity for us to talk out any fears or phobias we had about the birth. I had had quite bad periods of anxiety in the past and I was worried that I would ‘lose it’ and not be able to focus on my breath during the labour. Maureen listened and quietly supported me during my first session with her. I left feeling even more confident in my own abilities to labour at home. I felt a good connection with her, I could spot a fellow white witch, a strong feminine spirit which was just what I needed at that time.
So our first meeting with her went very well. We watched videos and couldn’t quite believe our eyes at these women whose babies just slid quietly out of the womb with no hard pushing or screaming. It felt like I had always known there was another way, deep down inside I knew how to have my baby, the memory was in my bones. Hypnobirthing just seemed to confirm this, it was like a friend saying ‘yes, go on, your instincts are just right’ After our first session I had pretty much decided on a home birth and after a couple of subsequent horrible trips up to the hospital my resolve hardened. I could do this, I was not afraid, I was strong but I knew I was going to have to work hard and inform myself every step of the way.
My pregnancy was relatively easy, It was summer and the sun was shining. I could go out walking and swimming and my body felt healthy and supple. I kept really active, doing lots of prenatal yoga with the wonderful Betty O’Toole. I started to really enjoy myself, I listened to my hypnobirthing CDs most nights which almost instantly sent me off into a deep relaxed sleep. I found the birth affirmations incredibly helpful, I really truly believed in Marie Mongan’s statements. I learnt to trust my body and my baby and gave myself over to them. They both knew exactly what to do. Maureen’s advice was to remove myself from any situation involving negative birth stories or horror stories (usually told with relish by other mothers, WHY? I soon found out that there wasn’t much sisterhood surrounding birth).
As soon as I changed my approach, I started to meet women who shared their positive experiences. A really good example of you get back what you put out there. We both found our mornings with Maureen to be incredibly helpful and healing. We came away tired but full of confidence that we were on the right path. She gently guided us through, letting us discover and discard for ourselves.
I went into labour on the 20th September, around midnight. I had been having niggly back pains for a week or so and knew that our baby was going to make an early appearance. A couple of days beforehand, I had gone walking with the dogs. I love walking and really think that it helped jostle the baby into a good position, keep my blood pressure low, prevented swelling. As I was walking along, talking to my baby, saying affirmations out loud. I had the most amazing sensation that with every step I took, roots were growing down into the earth. I felt strong and incredibly earthed. This was a really powerful experience for me, I knew then that my feet were firmly on the ground and any fears I had about spiralling out of control during the birth were gone.
For the first few hours of my labour I was incredibly sick, now I know that hypnobirthing mothers aren’t supposed to be sick but my God I was ill! My body completely purged itself and in a way this helped me through the early stages as it was distracting me from the contractions. When I was empty and no longer felt sick I decided it was time to try my TENS machine. We kept upstairs dark and warm and I found a position on the floor that worked for me. I kept moving, adjusting myself instinctively finding the best way for me and my baby. Chris was downstairs filling the birth pool and I was in labourland.
By this point I felt I needed some female support. My contractions were coming thick and fast, they were very strong but I knew this was for the best as they would be good and efficient. Elke arrived with her assistant Jerrilyn just as I was in the middle of a particularly powerful contraction, and waited until it had passed before checking how dilated I was. I felt reassured by Elke’s presence and was even happier when she informed me I was 6-7 cm dilated. This was a real boost to me as I knew I was making good progress. I surfed each contraction like a wave and moved freely, swayed my hips and gently nudged my baby down.
They helped me make my way downstairs as I felt like getting in the birthing pool. We had arranged the pool and a mattress in the conservatory, a glass room that was usually home to our dogs! For some reason it was the only room in the house where I felt like birthing my baby. I could see out easily and could even go outside if I felt like it. Maureen had told me beforehand to find my labour space, as an animal would prepare their special space.
I managed to climb into the birth pool and for a few minutes the warm water was completely blissful, unfortunately that feeling didn’t last very long. My contractions were still very intense and the water wasn’t giving me the pain relief I was expecting. It was still hurting but now I was wet as well! I was only in the pool for about 30 minutes before I wanted to get out and feel my feet back on dry land. In retrospect I think I was in transition as I entered the pool, maybe if I’d have got in a bit earlier I would have felt more benefit.
Elke had brought a wooden birthing stool with her that I must confess having looked at previously with scornful horror. Little did I know then how helpful I would find it. I continued to change position frequently, my eyes were shut tightly the whole time, I was extremely focused and didn’t want to be distracted. Chris tried a few gentle prompts and affirmations but I soon made it clear to him that I felt no need for them. Any outside conversation would have brought me out of myself, and I was doing very well where I was. The only sounds made were a few gentle moans, deep from within, my midwives joined me in this ancient labour song and that was very comforting. I felt extremely well supported and loved during the labour, all I needed was a strong hand to hold and the occasional word of encouragement (and the odd swig of Lucozade Sport!)
The whole birth lasted 12 hours and at 12.00pm exactly our daughter Lyra was born weighing 6lbs 10oz. She was born in her own time, gently and quietly with no medical intervention or medication. My midwives said it was one of the most beautiful gentle births they had ever attended. It was the most powerful step into the unknown I have ever taken, but I knew what I had to do and so did Lyra. Hypnobirthing certainly helped enormously in strengthening my beliefs and removed the traces of fear and expectation I had previously held. The midwives said it was as if I had gone to another place entirely, a place where my body knew just how to move, a slight adjustment here and there, and a deep listening to an old and very wise wisdom that every woman carries within her.
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