I was pregnant and due to give birth in the midst of a global pandemic. Everything was uncertain and highly stressful. Midwife and Antenatal NCT appointments were cancelled and the prospect of giving birth on my own was slowly becoming a potential reality. Despite all of this, I was determined to have a positive birth experience. Our daughter’s birth although challenging was also magnificent and transformational. I am definitely not the same woman I was before I gave birth. Let me share our story…
It was a warm sunny day on the 9th of June and I had come home after a long walk with my husband Tom; I was one week ‘overdue’, feeling heavy and keen to get the show on the road. The week following my due date was the most bizarre of my life. It felt like my whole world stopped. Every night I would go to bed anticipating labour but instead I would wake up to more messages, “have you popped yet” or “do we have a baby?”. In the end I sent a blanket message kindly telling everyone to give us some space and reminding them the baby will come when the baby is ready. I needed to tell myself this too as I was becoming impatient, searching ‘how to induce labour naturally’ all day. Strange how one can patiently wait for 9 months only to become frantic during those last days – I definitely made it to the 20th page on Google!
After the walk we got home and flopped ourselves on the sofa and I secretly prayed it would not happen that evening as I could feel my body aching. A few minutes later, I felt a wave go across my stomach. The feeling was unrecognisable. I did not experience any Braxton Hicks during pregnancy and had never felt a sensation like this before. I knew straight away it was the start of labour. Suddenly, I felt wide awake. This was the moment we had been waiting for. I turned to my husband and said, “I have just felt something. I think it is happening”. His face beamed but being the practical one he started listing out all of the things we needed to do - check that the hospital bag was packed, get the snacks and cold items from the fridge and set up the bedroom for labour. We were so giddy and excited. Finally, we were about to meet our baby girl. The feeling is indescribable.
I insisted we should remain calm and carry on as normal for as long as possible. I knew early labour could last a long time so I did not want to peak too early and use all of my energy. We started watching a cooking program to take our minds off it and a few minutes later I felt another wave. It was not a painful feeling but rather an energy that would inevitably build; a feeling that would bring our baby into this world. I decided to embrace the sensation and make friends with it. As time passed and the contractions built in intensity, I decided it was time to go upstairs and get in the zone. I wanted to be in a dark quiet room. Tom made a little bowl of sweets for me and put them upstairs. The pain intensified and so I got in the shower and started stomping my feet and watching the water splash against my toes - this really helped distract my mind away from the pain and I loved the warm water on my body. I was also using a lot of sound to help release the tension, lots of deep, “aaaaaahhhhhhhh” sounds each time the contraction would come. I felt so in touch with my primal self.
In the moments between contractions I would pause and breathe, collecting myself and preparing for the next one. I can't remember exactly what was going through my mind at the time, but I was fully focused on the present moment. Looking back I think this really helped me because I was only focused on getting through the next contraction and I wasn't thinking too much about how long my labour was or how far along I was. I became familiar with the ‘build and peak’ pattern of each contraction and it comforted me to know when it was at its most painful it would inevitably start to dissipate.
Early on it became clear to me that although I had my husband's support, this was very much my experience on a physical level and nobody apart from me would be able to do this. I also felt intuitively that having Tom near me, counting my breathing was not right, it was too distracting. I needed to focus and find my inner strength. I did not even need to explain this to Tom, after 11 years together he knows me well enough to know what I need without words. He quietly made himself comfortable in bed. I took this as a sign of his belief in me.
To manage the pain, I was in the shower for a while stomping and smacking my palms against the sides before getting out and leaning over the birth ball whilst rocking back and forth. I had the duvet over my head and body as I leaned over the birth ball. I remained naked so I could easily get back into the shower when I needed to. This helped me to be vulnerable. Stripped bare, the state I needed to be in to birth my child.
The most effective tool for managing the pain was using sound. I always thought I would be calm and serene and hopefully ‘breathe my baby out’ but this honestly felt so counter intuitive. I needed to vocalise and be one decibel higher than the pain. For me the sensation was unlike anything I have ever experienced, there is so much power and force behind each contraction and I think seeing the ‘pain’ as powerful really helped me to take charge of my labour. The pain was coming from within me, and therefore could never be stronger than me.
It got to around 5:00 am (labour started at 7:00 pm) I had been awake all night labouring and I started to feel as though I wanted to give up. I distinctly remember the contractions becoming so powerful that I started to tremble. It was like my body was being taken over by an overwhelming force. I remember feeling tearful like I had nothing left to give. I then said to Tom that he should call the triage as I could feel it was time. Tom called triage and the receptionist asked to speak to me, as he passed the phone a contraction came in and I couldn't speak. I had to vocalise the pain. Although this was the first time we had spoken to triage after hearing me, the midwife then advised us to come in straight away.
Tom called a black cab and I was on all fours vocalising the pain as we sped down to the Whittington Hospital, I felt so free and uninhibited. In my dazed state I just remember the cabbie saying, “don’t worry darlin! We’re nearly there”. We finally got to the hospital and I limped to the reception desk and started giving them my details. The next contraction came in and I had a powerful urge to push. The midwife could hear from the sounds I was making that I was wanting to push. She then said, “excuse me lady are you pushing?!”, to which I said, “Yes!! I can’t help it”. She then rushed me into a room to assess me. She propped me up on the bed and after checking my cervix she looked up at the other midwife who was positioned behind my head – even through her masked face, I could make out a surprised look in her eyes. “She’s fully dilated, get her to the birth centre now”. At that point I heard Tom burst into tears outside.
I felt exhilarated as I knew this meant the next step was pushing the baby out and we were even closer to meeting our daughter. The midwife wheeled me over to the birth centre whilst singing, “we’re going to have a baby!”. We were so exhausted but the adrenaline and excitement kept us both going. We got into the room and I said I wanted some gas and air. After taking a few hits I started to feel really spaced out and high and started singing a remixed version of Bob Marley Three Little Birds! Tom and the midwife were both cracking up. At this point I did not have a care in the world, we were in safe hands and were about to meet our daughter.
I decided then the gas and air was more of a distraction than a help so I put it to one side and got back in the zone. I had my birth audio track on in the background and could make out the words "You are Mother. You are Creator” with an OOMMM sound in the background. These words were incredibly helpful. I was pushing for around an hour and half, using all of my might whilst holding on to my husband's shoulders. I remember him saying, “you're doing so well”, his voice was shaky with excitement as we were nearing the end. The midwife had mostly taken a back seat during my labour as she could see I was in the zone and did not want to interrupt me, but after an hour and a half of pushing she then suggested I change position and move to the birth stool.
Once I moved position and was jolted out of my zone it finally dawned on me. I am not letting go. I have held my baby close for 9 months and it was time to let go. I needed to open my heart and soul in order to birth my child. It was not a conscious thought but rather a feeling of knowing what I needed to do. It was at that moment where I truly let go with every ounce of my being.
Juniper was then born at 9:45 am. They lifted her up and into my arms. I held her close and in that moment time stopped. She looked up at me with her big inquisitive eyes.
The process of birth bought me back to my most primitive self. I tapped into a power I did not know existed. Watching our baby come into this world, along with the bodily mess, was something that will never ever leave me. It was not the perfect picture we are sold, but rather a beautifully awkward moment. Two human beings meeting for the first time. I can't say I felt the rush of love that everyone talks about but what I did feel was a sense of wonder.
The birth of Juniper changed my life in so many ways, after that moment I knew that I was embarking on a different path, I had to spread this positive information about birth. I retrained to become a Hypnobirthing instructor and now spend most of my time educating and helping women about birth. If you would like to speak with me or learn more about the Hypnobirthing courses I offer then please do drop me an email. I teach online and in-person courses, I also offer bespoke Power Hour sessions tailored to suit your needs. I look forward to hearing from you.
Love & light, Poppy