I wanted to share with you my positive birth story. I think it is so important for pregnant women to read more positive experiences instead of negative ones in order to prepared them for labour and birth. It was only when I started reading more about hypnobirthing and birth options early in my pregnancy that I considered the possibility of having a natural birth with no epidural. I wanted to fully experience everything, every movement, every contraction. I wanted to be able to move freely as I didn’t imagine myself giving birth laying on my back. When I told my husband that I wanted to go to the birth center and try without epidural, he sort of laughed a bit and couldn’t believe what I was saying. I guess he actually didn’t believe that I could do it and the truth is that neither could I.
Although the thought of not being able to do it haunted me slightly, I still decided that I really wanted to try for a natural birth and so I prepared my body and mind for it. Yes, my mind. I truly believe that it is a lot to do with how strong you are mentally and how focused you can be and stay during labour. Our bodies were made to do this! Of course complications happen and things don’t always go as expected but our bodies were created to give birth naturally. The contractions can be painful, but it is a pain that your body was made for. So for the last few months I focused on watching positive birth stories, mostly of experiences similar to what I wanted mine to be – without epidural, natural and using some hypnobirthing techniques. I find that this helped me massively to prepare for labour. I also listened to a lot of positive affirmations, decided that I wanted to create a playlist of happy songs to play during labour so I could focus on singing along instead of focusing on the pain and practiced some breathing techniques as much as I could. I read the book “Your Body, Your Birth” by Hollie de Cruz and that was the base of a lot of the things I used and helped me during pregnancy and labour itself.
Now, onto the birth..
Monday, 6th of April 2020 – 38 weeks and 5 days
Contractions started. I was having Braxton Hicks (false labour pains) for a week and I also had them on Sunday evening but these were different. They felt real even though I had no idea what real contractions were suppose to feel like. The contractions were very mild and irregular so I knew labour wasn’t established and I was suppose to stay at home. They felt like period cramps but slightly worse. So I had a bath, tried to relax and waited to see what was going to happen.
These contractions carried on throughout the night not letting me sleep properly and on Tuesday they were still going. Same intensity and still irregular. I decided to use the TENS machine and that really helped managing the discomfort of the contractions. I kept it on at all times from this day onwards.
Wednesday, 8th of April 2020 – 39 weeks
39 weeks. This was the day were the contractions started to get stronger. Keep in mind that I was having contractions since Monday, day and night, although very irregular. I wasn’t sleeping at all and around 4pm I was exhausted. I gave in and rang Maternity Day Unit who gave me an appointment for 7pm. At this stage I was already having contractions 4-6 minutes apart. I knew it was still early but I couldn’t really handle it anymore so off I went at 7pm. The lovely midwife examined me – baby was happy and I was only 3 cm dilated. My cervix was very thin which is what they wanted but I needed to dilate more. So, as I expected, it was a bit too early to be admitted and she advised me to go home and come back when the contractions were 3 minutes apart. The midwife actually said she would be very surprised if I didn’t have the baby that night. You can imagine how excited I was. I went home feeling very positive and excited to come back very soon to have this baby.
Around 10pm the contractions felt a lot stronger and more regular. I was exhausted so I followed my instincts and told my husband that we had to ring delivery suite. I thought that I had dilated a bit more so hopefully things were starting to happen. They advised me to go in to be checked. At 11pm we were there, they put me in a room on delivery suite and after waiting for an hour, I was examined. I was told that the baby was head down but she couldn’t really tell the exact position. She also told me that I was still only 3cm dilated. I felt so, so frustrated! I just wanted to have this baby so I could get rid of the pain and have some rest.
The midwife noticed how exhausted I was so she gave me the option of staying in with some pain relief so I could have some sleep and hopefully by the morning things would have progressed. I had some paracetamol and codeine that didn’t do a thing and so they offered me pethidine. I accepted and it was a gift from heaven!!! In 15 minutes I was pain free and I slept for 2 hours straight until I felt the contractions coming back again.
Thursday, 9th of April 2020 – 39 weeks and 1 day
I woke up at 5am feeling strong again and ready to have this baby. The nurses swapped shifts and I saw another one at 8am who asked me about my pain and contractions. She asked if they were more intense than before having the medication to which I said no as I felt they were the same. The contractions were, for me, regular but still 4-5 minutes apart. I was getting through those contractions using the Freya app, breathing and with the TENS machine. Because I was managing well, she said she was happy for me to go home. I asked if I was going to be examined again as I wasn’t examined since 11pm hoping that MAYBE I had dilated further but she said that there was no need because if my contractions were still the same intensity as before, this was likely to be false labour and so I could go home and wait.
As you can imagine, I felt even more frustrated. I was managing well at the hospital but I was so scared to go home and I just didn’t really think this was false labour at all.. but at the end of the day, she is the midwife and she knows better so we went home hoping to get some sleep. The words “false labour” really hit me and made me loose that focus that is so important. Also, from that moment the contractions eased off and I was having them only every 20 minutes.
We got home by 9am and at 11am I was awake, feeling the contractions again. I said to myself: this can’t be false labour, I have to listen to my body and trust my instincts. I went downstairs so I could let my husband sleep and was just breathing through every contraction, still with the TENS machine on. This was already the 4th day going through it all, I was drained but I still managed to hang on until 3pm. By then, the contractions felt a lot stronger and were 3-4 minutes apart. I was just crying because I was just exhausted and I said to my husband “we have to go, I can’t cope anymore”. So we rang Maternity Day Unit and they said for me to go there at 6pm but if I really couldn’t wait until then, to just ring delivery suite. I honestly thought I could wait until 6pm but by 4h30pm I really couldn’t do it. I started to feel the urge to push, it felt all a bit strange and so we rang delivery suite and we went straight away.
When we got there I was seen by the same nurse that discharged me in the morning. She asked me if I wanted her to examine me to which I said yes because I just needed to know were we where at. When she examined she was surprised to how thin my cervix was but I was still only 4cm dilated (at a push). She also told me that it seemed that my baby was back to back (posterior presentation), that he needed to turn and that was the reason why I probably wasn’t dilating as expected. So she suggested to do a sweep – this is where the midwife uses a finger to make a circular/sweeping movement around our cervix to hopefully trigger natural labour. I was up for anything at this point. The sweep was really uncomfortable and slightly painful. My contractions intensified after that so I was in a lot of discomfort. After this, she asked me if I wanted to go home and wait as it could take 24h to go into active labour after the sweep but I was so exhausted that I said that I would prefer to be admitted even if it was just to get some painkillers and rest. So on Thursday evening at 7pm I went to the Maternity Ward. I had some paracetamol and codeine to see if it would help with the pain but it didn’t. I couldn’t have pethidine until 9pm and so the midwife ran a bath for me to help me relax and to help me with the pain. The contractions were every 3 minutes and I was really in pain but could still walk and do my things. So I got in the bath around 8h45pm. Being in the bad really helped with the pain and to relax. I was so tired that I fell asleep whilst in there . I woke up with another contraction and as I leaned forward to get in a sitting position to get through this contraction, my waters broke!!! YAY!! I was so happy. I immediately called the nurse and got out of the bath. She asked me to get in bed and she examined me quickly. I was still only 4cm dilated but the baby was really low. The contractions got stronger and more regular almost immediately after and I rang my husband to come straight away. I just knew this was it. At 9h30pm I was transferred to the delivery suite.
It is happening…
We quickly packed all my stuff and went down to the delivery suite were I was suppose to stay. All my pregnancy I was aiming to go to the birth center but at this stage I just couldn’t care less. Yet, like an angel from the sky, my midwife Lucy walked in and said they had a nicer and bigger room at the birth centre and she took me there. The room was lovely. As we got there she looked at me and said: Lisa, here you really have to push your baby out. There’s no epidural. Unless you get to a point where you can’t do it anymore and we transfer you to the delivery suite. I nodded in agreement, I knew I could do it. I always wanted this option and it was going to happen. I immediately just asked for the gas & air as I couldn’t do it anymore without any sort of pain killer and what a relieve that was! I was so high it was hilarious.
I quickly grabbed the birth ball and used it to sit on, doing circular motions with my hips and breathing that gas & air as the contraction was starting. My husband arrived at 9h45pm, sat behind me and was just massaging my back to help me relax and distract from the contractions. He put my labour playlist initially but then changed just to a The Beatles playlist on Spotify. It was great! I was singing, he was singing and so was Lucy. And then a contraction would start again and I would focus on breathing in that gas & air. I was going to play some positive affirmations using the Freya app to help me focus and get through it but my amazing midwife Lucy did that for me. Her words were so empowering! She kept telling me that I could do it, how strong I was and all those positive affirmations you are suppose to listen to. We did this until around midnight. It was now Friday, the 10th of April and we were about to meet our baby.
My midwife examined once again and realised that I was only 5cm dilated – this wasn’t good as you’re expected to dilate a little bit quicker after your waters break but that wasn’t happening with me because of the position of the baby. I only found out about this in the end, after delivering our boy. Lucy kept this to herself as she knew it would completely knock me out and I would just give up and ask for epidural (I think she was absolutely right). Instead, she just said that we had to do something to help me progress a bit quicker and adjust the baby’s position but to do so she was going to ask me something almost impossible to do. I was focused and determined so I said: whatever you ask me to do, I will do.
Lucy asked me to get through the contractions without pushing or moving at all and she would have to put me in different positions to help the baby rotate. I just said ok, let’s do it and so we did. Although I as only 5cm dilated I was already feeling the urge to push because the baby was so low but the fact that he was back to back wasn’t letting me progress as expected (check this image to understand what I mean – the anterior position is the ideal). So she turned me on my left side, adjusted my spine, my hips, my legs and I stayed in that position for maybe 30 minutes. Then same on the right side. All whilst I was having contractions so often that we couldn’t even time them anymore. This was bloody hard and I honestly don’t know how I did it. Every time I had a contraction I just tried to visualise my baby. Anything to keep me focused really. My husband was incredible – he made sure I was perfectly still, pinning me down whenever I had the urge to move. It is really difficult not to move when all your uterus is contracting and your body is telling you to push. But we did it.
Eventually, our baby was in the anterior position and I was allowed to push. First on the bed on my back, then we walked to the toilet so that gravity would help with everything and again back to bed to push this baby out! Lucy asked me how I wanted to have my baby and I was so surprised that I was given that option – I always thought you would just stay on your back and push the baby out but Lucy gave me a choice. I never thought about it and so I really had no idea but I just said that I wanted to hold him straight away. I always knew I wasn’t going to deliver this baby laying on my back, that was never how I envisioned it. I ended up delivering our boy in all fours and I asked for her to hand him straight to me so I could hold him and clean him myself and so after pushing for a while, I had Matias in my arms at 2:49am, born at 39 weeks and 2 days. He was so tiny and frail, weighing 2,870kg.
It was a very long process but such a beautiful one and I am so proud of going through it all! I still can’t believe I did it but I know that if it wasn’t for my husband’s support and my midwife’s determination, everything could have been so different!