Sally’s First Birth: Water Birth at a Birth Center. Stayed calm and focused even with intense back labor.

December 13, 2011

“The point of HypnoBirthing is NOT to birth without pain. The point is to birth with LOVE and CONFIDENCE, without FEAR, without unnecessary INTERVENTION, and with a supportive team who shares your birth vision. THAT is the definition of a successful hypnobirth.” ~Laura Curtis HBCE

On Tuesday, June 21st at 6:30 am, I woke up with contractions that didn’t feel like Braxton-Hicks, but were not intense or painful. I could sense that today would be the big day and that our little girl would be in our arms soon. In case things picked up quickly, Tyron packed our birthing center bags. I started timing contractions but unfortunately they were really sporadic, under a minute long, and even stopped at some point around 11 am. At 11:30 am, after feeling frustrated with the stop in progression, we decided to go for a walk to try to jumpstart things. After the walk, I got on my birth ball and bounced vigorously while doing nipple stimulation with a personal massager. Boy did it jumpstart things!!

By 12:30 pm I was having strong and somewhat intense contractions about 4 minutes apart and over a minute in length. Unfortunately, I was also starting to have slight back labor so I got off the birth ball and instead lay on the couch on my left side. Contractions continued for about an hour before we called Laura Curtis (our doula & who we took hypnobirthing classes from). Laura came to the apartment around 2 pm and helped me labor for an hour by helping me focus on being relaxed and comfortable. During that time, the contractions slowed to 6-7 minutes apart but were still over a minute long- which was a good sign. At 3 pm, after no changes in contractions, Laura said she was going to leave for an hour. This would give us time to see if things picked up without having someone over my shoulder. I continued to lay on the couch on my left side and use my hypnobirthing breathing technique through each contraction. When Laura came back at 4 pm, the intensity of contractions had picked up but they were still 6 minutes apart. Laura had gone and bought peanuts and had me eat a few handfuls for energy. She also mixed up some red raspberry leaf tea (note: red raspberry leaf tea is really nasty, but tastes much better cold!) and had me take big sips. She stressed how important it is to stay hydrated and to eat to stay fueled. Laura explained that since things hadn’t progressed for a couple of hours, that it was possible that contractions could taper off and not pick up again until the next day. I told myself that I was going to have the baby- that there was no prolonging the event. I was already overdue and would not go another day! I mentally couldn’t handle going through the night and into the next day.

Laura suggested that we order some pizza, watch a movie, and just relax. So after she left, we tried just that. We ordered a pepperoni pizza from Domino’s and started watching ‘Better off Ted’ episodes on Netflix. I was still having intense contractions, but was able to get down 2 pieces of pizza. I tried laying down on the couch and watching the show, but I was only able to get through the first 5 minutes before we had to shut it off because things had picked up and I needed to focus on laboring.

Labor had become intense and the back labor was incredibly painful. By 6 pm, contractions were 5 minutes apart and still over a minute long. I tried laboring with Tyron, but soon found myself tired and crying. Tyron called the oncall midwife at Bella Natal (Sarah) and let her know that contractions were 5 minutes apart and over a minute long. Tyron also called Laura back and let her know things were picking up and that I was in a lot of pain with the back labor. Laura came back to the apartment around 6:45 pm. With the bad back labor, we assumed that the baby was in a posterior position. Laura felt around and the baby felt like she was anterior and in a great position. We hypothesized that the baby’s head could be pushing into my back at a weird angle and so I got in the Polar Bear position while Laura did robozo to try to better position the baby. After a while, my neck started aching, so I got on all fours with my head in Tyron’s lap as he rubbed my neck. Laura applied pressure & heat to my back. They would then switch so the person applying pressure to my back would get a break. During this, I did surge breathing and tried to focus on getting through each surge which Laura gently talked me through; with my birth color being red, she told me to focus on the color getting deeper when the contraction was intense and when it would hit its peak she’d tell me to let it go pink and finally white until it was gone. I also focused on breathing in red mist & sending it to my lower back for relief. It was amazing how much more calm, relaxed, and able I was to deal with the painful back labor. It was still painful, but manageable. I truly believe that without Laura there helping me visualize and manage each surge, I would have lost focus and my plan for a natural birth would have crumbled. What a great decision it was to have help from a doula- I’d recommend it to everyone!

Around 7:45 pm, I was still managing the back labor but it was on the brink of excruciating so we decided to change positions. Laura had me put my back to the wall against a heating pad and slightly bend my knees. Then when a surge came, I tilted my pelvis forward and lifted (literally) my belly with my hands. We hoped this would help get the baby’s head away from my back. I found slight relief doing this- enough to not crumble to pieces. Surges started to pick up and at 8:20 pm we called the midwife to let her we’d be in around 9 pm. However, the surges quickly jumped from 5 minutes apart to only 2 minutes apart! Around 8:30 pm, we decided we needed to go sooner than expected so Tyron packed the car and we drove to the birthing center with Laura following behind us. We arrived before 9 pm and I continued to do belly lifts on a heating pad against the wall while the birthing tub was filled. The midwife let us know that I would need to be dilated to at least 5 centimeters before they’d let me into the tub. They gave me a vaginal exam and I remember asking everyone where I was at- I had my heart set on getting in a nice warm tub. They told me that I was dilated to a 7- so much excitement & relief to hear this!

I got my swimming top on and got in the tub with Tyron and Laura sitting on the outside of the tub helping me labor. From 9:20-10:20 pm, I labored in the tub with my birthing affirmations CD on while I rocked around. My surges were getting more intense and, unfortunately, the back pain was also getting more excruciating. The surges started to come almost on top of each other and at some point, Tyron sat behind me on the rim of the tub and used his entire body to apply counter pressure on my back. I was on my knees, leaning against the rim of the tub. My knees ached and so we put wash clothes under them. I didn’t think about putting more warm water in the tub or turning the jets on- I was 100% focused on each and every surge and breathing through them. What ran through my head was the thought that I may have to deal with this awful back labor and intense surges for hours. I did not want labor to stall so I was determined to stay focused- listening to Laura and letting my body stay as relaxed as possible. My mind felt like it was racing around, flirting at times with panic. My calm & surge breathing techniques kept my body steady and calm and helped ease my mind.

At 10:20 pm, I hit transition. My body started to shake and it took over completely. Laura assured me that this was a great sign because it meant that the baby would be here soon. I started to feel the urge to push with each surge and instead of breathing my baby down or having smooth & relaxed pushes, my body had me doing hard, uncontrollable pushes. The only thing I could do was let it happen. Instead of tensing up and fighting the pushing urges and foreign feelings of the baby moving through the birthing path, I made a conscious effort to breath through the pushes, to keep vocalizations to lower pitched moans, and to rest my jaw against the side of tub in order to keep it relaxed and opened instead of clenched and closed. And I did feel like I became very vocal- to me it seemed like yelling, but Tyron said that it was very controlled and not panicked or nearly as loud as I thought it was.

Laura stroked my hair and encouraged me- which I found incredibly helpful. During this, I felt the baby move down but after a few pushes she was still in the birthing canal. My midwife wanted to do a vaginal exam to make sure the cervix was completely open. As she attempted the exam, she felt the baby’s head starting to move through the opening. I felt a burning sensation as she was crowning and I felt her head and then body emerge. Such relief to be done with labor and such excitement to have her here!! The midwife passed the baby through my legs and I reached down and brought her out of the water and held her against my chest. I cried as I held, kissed, and talked to her. Little Auralia was wide eyed, alert, and didn’t cry. She was absolutely beautiful- no odd newborn look, no cone shaped head, and a great complexion. There was instant love, instant bonding.

While I leaned back and held Auralia, my midwife tried jiggling the cord to tease the placenta out. After a couple of pushes nothing happened. They had me stand up and I was finally able to push the placenta out. There was no pain involved, it just felt like pushing squishy jello out. Tyron cut the cord and then took Auralia while I was helped out of tub and cleaned up by the midwives.

I had two minor internal tears, which took two stitches for the one and three for the other. My membranes stayed intact until just before Auralia was born (I thought she might be born with the water sac still intact around her!) We were then able to hold Auralia for the first time.

So after months of replaying it in my head over and over, I’ve realized that it was successful and a wonderful experience. I will choose natural birth & hypnobirthing again. At 20 weeks during my pregnancy, I realized that birthing in a hospital with an OBGYN wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t take long to find hypnobirthing and feel like it was exactly what I was to do. I soaked up the classes and the book and the scripts and felt at ease about a natural birth.

Were there moments where I doubted? Yes! But there were so many more moments when I felt empowered and like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do. I knew it was best for me & my baby and I wanted my husband to be there and very involved. And that’s exactly how it was- he was my rock and my doula & midwife supported ALL of my decisions. I listened to my body and did what felt natural instead of being told to lay down and when to push. It was an unmedicated birth with no medical interventions, there were no complications, and Auralia and I were healthy. It was successful!

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