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My own positive HypnoBirthing c-section birth story

It was four years ago yesterday that my little son, Forest, was born into this world. Four years! Where did that time go?

As I'm sitting here remembering those first special moments of Forest's life, I thought I would share with you his birth story. The ups and downs, the highs the lows, and the things I would go back and change.

OK, go grab a cuppa. This is a long one!

Dad looking at his pregnant wife's bump
Me, Nik and the bump on the due date

We were planning a home birth. You wouldn't believe the amount of people that told me we were crazy for having a home birth! Even one of my managers at work, kept telling me that it was impossible to have a home birth. He said that they all end up in hospital. He was a lawyer, not an obstetrician or midwife. Back in 2012, I hadn't actually met anyone who had had a home birth. But I just knew deep down that I wanted to be in my own home, my private space, my cosy familiar surroundings.

So Nik and I got all prepared. The midwife came to check out our house to make sure it was ok to birth in. She left the laughing gas (gas & air pain relief) bottle in our garage, ready for the birth. It seemed really strange to see it sitting there in the corner of the garage. I'm sure Nik was tempted!

We made sure the house was full of yummy snacks and drinks. We had our birth pool set up in our garden room. We got towels and sheets all ready. We also had a hospital bag ready, just in case we ended up being transferred. I practiced my breathing techniques, and listened to the hypnosis from our HypnoBirthing course with the lovely Gilly, our educator.

I would sit in the baby room, listening to my positive birth affirmations. Watching the trees through the window, with the autumn leaves swaying, and hearing the woodpecker, I felt ready. I felt confident. I couldn't wait for the day to come!

But we had to wait a while. As the due date approached, Nik started massaging my feet every evening, hoping to stimulate the pressure points that might start birth. I bounced on the exercise ball, and we went for long walks in the forest.

Around 39 weeks the midwife came over to our house and grabbed her diary out of her back and said "right, let's look at when we can book you in for an induction". Um, excuse me? Luckily the HypnoBirthing training that we did helped me and Nik to make and informed decision, and we decide that there was no rush. I was fine, our baby was doing well, why hurry? The midwife listened to us, and she put her diary back in her bag.

Pregnant with baby bump on due date
I loved my bump

We were 5 days over my due date, and the midwife mentioned having a "sweep". A sweep (also known as 'stretch and sweep') is a membrane sweep, where the midwife will put her fingers inside the cervix and sweep around between the membranes and the cervix, with the intention of stimulating it to get surges to start. We politely declined as we really wanted our birth to start on it's own, when my body and baby were both ready. Afterall, 75% of first time mums, go into labour at 41 weeks and 2 days. I knew there was no hurry.

So Nik and I tried some of the natural ways to start birth...relaxation, affirmations, hypnosis, walking, foot massage. I felt great and didn't feel like we wanted to rush things.

birth pool
The birth pool was all set up and ready

That evening, we decided to go to the cinema and then for a curry. We both absolutely LOVE hot, spicy food, but for some strange reason, during this pregnancy, my tongue just couldn't handle anything spicy. But I had heard that spicy food could stimulate the digestive system and help labour start. I was determined! So I ordered the hottest, spiciest curry that my mouth could tolerate and I literally inhaled it, as I swallowed each mouthful without it touching my tongue. We had a lovely evening together, talking about our future with our baby, our plans and dreams..... excited that our baby would soon be here.

We went to bed around 11pm and at 2am I felt a few twinges in my stomach. It felt a little bit like I had a dodgy belly from all that curry, so I rolled out of bed and padded my way to the bathroom. False alarm, no upset stomach. So I got back into bed, snuggled up and went back to sleep. Then I woke a bit later to some more cramps, these ones were coming in a regular pattern and then I realised that AH HA! these might actually be SURGES! yippppeee! I was so excited!

Nik and I spent the morning having breakfast and making the last preparations. My surges were getting a little stronger and I felt like I needed to breathe through the surges. Each time a surge started, I would close my eyes and relax my whole body, I asked every muscle to relax, and do the surge breathing that I had been practising for weeks.

I absolutely LOVE a hot bath. Nik filled the bath for me (warm) and I relaxed in there for a while. Actually, I was in there for hours! It was so nice! I had the bath full right up, lovely and warm and I laid flat so I could get my head under the water. The surge breathing was fantastic. Breathing up and into my tummy with every surge. I wasn't feeling any pain at all. Just tightening. As the surge came, I visualised myself and Nik swimming in the ocean, with our faces in the water watching the fish, and with each surge of the wave, we would be taken out, carried out gently and back again. It was really relaxing and hypnotic. I felt like I was in deep relaxation, listening to my body.

Eventually I got out of the bath and we ate some snacks. We started to time the surges. I was writing down each time a surge came on and when it stopped. Nik told me to stop and let him time, as he could see that it was bringing my focus outward which wasn't helping my relaxation.

We soon realised that it was probably time to call the midwife. The midwife arrived and Nik gave her some copies of our birth plan. I was bouncing on my ball in the living room. She asked me if she could check my cervix and so I laid down on the sofa. I found it super uncomfortable during the check but the midwife confirmed that my cervix was 4cm dilated.

The midwife stayed with us, doing her paperwork at the table and drinking tea and munching on biscuits. She could see that Nik was being a supportive partner and she left us to it. Nik was doing lots of light touch massage, while I relaxed on the sofa or bounced up and down on the exercise ball. The light touch massage was really helping my body to produce more endorphins. I listened to Marie Mongan's soothing voice on the Rainbow Relaxation hypnosis audio. Nik and I spent hours relaxing through surges. He was just amazing reading hypnosis scripts to me and massaging me. He even kept the midwives refreshed and well-fed with tea and cakes.

After a while the midwife left and changed shifts with another midwife. The midwife asked if she could check my cervix and she said I was at 6cm. I was so relieved. By this point I had been having surges for about 20 hours and hadn't slept. She said things were slowing down, so we decided to go for a walk. We had a lovely park right outside our front door, so Nik and I left the house and went for a wander. Each time a surge came, I would drape my arms over Niks shoulders and relax into him and breathe into my stomach, turning inwards, blocking everything out around me. I didn't care that people could see me. I felt like it was just me and Nik.

My lower back started to ache with every surge. I would move my hips from side to side swaying. This seemed to help relax my lower back. When we got back home, I leaned over the ball and swayed. The lower back pain was getting really intense. I mentioned it to the midwife but she didn't give me an advice or help to ease it.

After a few hours, Nik filled the birth pool and I jumped in. It was so relaxing and peaceful. It eased my lower back and I felt comfortable and started to feel confident again. I was there, floating around in the pool for around an hour or so. I needed a wee, so I got out and our midwife suggested we go upstairs and have a little sleep. Nik and I crept upstairs, stopping along the way for a surge, and climbed into our warm bed and cuddled up. I drifted off into sleep. It was a short nap but it helped us feel connected.

The midwife said goodbye and went off shift, and a new midwife came. I got back into the pool as the lower back pain was worse. It helped a lot. Some time later, I went upstairs to use the toilet. As I stood up to wipe myself, I felt water leaking down my legs. I called Nik and the midwife. The midwife said it looks like my membranes had released (my waters broke) and she asked me to step into the empty bath, so she could check the colour of the fluid against the white bath. I climbed in and more fluid came out and we noticed the fluid had a tinge of brown and green, a sure sign of meconium being present. The midwife checked the baby's heart rate and everything was fine but she said that I needed to be transferred to hospital, so they can monitor the baby more, as meconium can be a sign of distress.

It was 38 hours since the surges had started. I was tired, but I felt like I wanted to stay at home. I didn't want to go to hospital. I kept asking the midwife to check the fluid again "are you sure it's green?". I didn't believe her.

Nik and I were disappointed that our home birth wasn't going to happen, but we decided to go to the hospital, and follow the midwife's advice. The midwife called an ambulance. The ambulance arrived with it's blue lights flashing. As I walked out of the house and into the ambulance I was thinking "why on earth do they need the blue lights?" This wasn't an emergency, I was fine and baby wasn't in danger. It seemed a bit overkill. On the way to the hospital, I didn't want to lay down on the gurney. I wanted to sit up, but the paramedic told me to lay down for safety. He kept asking me if I wanted gas and air (laughing gas) for the pain. He said "everyone has it - go on love, give it a try". I told him I didn't need it, I was comfortable, I didn't need any pain relief. He didn't believe me.

Once at hospital, I found it more difficult to stay in my happy place. I started to feel scared and nervous. I knew the stress hormones were starting to kick in. Suddenly I was rushed into a birthing room and another midwife came in. She was one of the first midwives in our home the day before, so I knew her. She said that I should consider having an epidural so I can sleep. I told her that apart from the back pain, I was feeling ok and didn't need pain relief. She seemed to be pushing me into having it, and said that I might lose the chance to have it, if I wait until later. She started to irritate me. It was like she wasn't listening to me. She left the room and Nik cuddled me and massaged me. We went to the toilet and moved around.

Another midwife came in and put me on the CTG monitor. Baby was doing fine. She gave me a vaginal exam and said that it would be best to start me on the syntocin drip, to speed up labour, as I hadn't dilated since arriving. Nik and I asked about the pros and cons of syntocin. We decided to go ahead.

At this point, I really felt like things were moving quickly, and people were rushing around me and decision making was hard. I felt like we weren't being given time to make decisions. The surges became stronger with the syntocin and the midwife suggested an epidural. I said yes, as I knew that the syntocin would make the surges more intense. The epidural was placed. Nik was standing in front of me holding my hands. He said later that at this point he came over all dizzy and faint. I know he was going through alot.

The doctor came in and introduced herself. She said that she would like to attach a little clip to baby's head to monitor more closely. I was wondering why, as the CTG hadn't shown any problems with his heart rate. I remember cuddling Nik and crying, I didn't want any more intervention. I didn't know at the time what the 'little clip' really was. Of course, now I know that it's not a little clip, and it's actually a little screw that's placed into the scalp of the baby's head. It's called a fetal scalp monitor. The doctor didn't tell us about any risks, and we didn't ask any more questions as we were both so upset. The doctor then said she would like to take a little blood from the baby's head, to monitor even more closely.

By this time, I was confined to the bed, linked up to machines, and had had a cathatar placed to collect my urine. I was feeling good though, I felt sad as I seemed to be having all the intervention that I wanted to avoid.

It was confirmed that baby needed to come out now as there was signs of distress, as our baby wasn't tolerating the strong surges I was having. A C-section was needed. Nik asked lots of questions....why was this required, what if we waited a while, what alternatives are there......but we agreed to go ahead with the c-section.

It was then that Nik and I had very mixed emotions. Happy as our baby would soon be here, but sad that our natural vaginal birth wasn't going to happen. It was really difficult to make the decision, but after making informed decisions, we knew that at this point, it was the best thing.

Nik got prepped in his scrubs and I was taken into surgery. He later told me that he was crying uncontrollably. What a rollercoaster ride of emotions after 52 hour of labour!

The theatre room was bright and white. The medical staff were all friendly and joking and it was a lovely warm atmosphere. They asked if I had any preferences, a birth plan. I told them that I had one but it didn't include anything about c-sections.

I was prepped for the surgery and I had a spinal (or maybe it was a top up of epidural, I have no idea), the screen was placed and Nik moved into position near my head.

Nik was whispering to me and was guiding me into some deep breathing. I remembered all my positive affirmations. I felt calm, and I felt really positive. I was finally ready to meet my baby and I was at peace with the birth we were having.

Forest was born!!

The surgeon lifted Forest into the air and all we could see was this little baby, with huge balls (enlarged testicles because of the hormones from my body) and covered in meconium! What a sight! I couldn't stop laughing! Nik was laughing. We couldn't help it! It was the happiest moment in my life.

They gave Forest a little clean up and he was placed on my chest while I was being stitched back up. I couldn't stop laughing and the surgeon told me to be quiet as it was making his stitching all wonky! I was also shivering uncontrollably. They placed a warming blanket over my chest which helped. Nik took Forest in his arms.

Dad holding his newborn baby after a c-section birth
Nik holding Forest while I was being stitched back up

Wow! A baby boy! What a surprised. We were in love!

After I was stitched up, Nik went up to the ward and I went into recovery for a while, with Forest curled up by my side. I can't remember how long it was, but I was desperate to get back up to the ward to see Nik.

For the rest of the day, Forest and I enjoyed lots of skin-to-skin and he latched onto my breast.

Nik had some skin-to-skin time with Forest and fell asleep with him. Watching my husband (my best friend) cuddled up with my little newborn baby son, was really truly something that I will never forget. That moment of bonding. So beautiful.

Woman having skin-to-skin cuddles with newborn baby after c-section birth
Just back from recovery, having skin-to-skin

I couldn't wait to get out of bed and walk around, once the anesthetic had worn off. The nurses told me I should rest. But once I could start to feel my legs and move them, I wanted the catheter out and I wanted to walk to the toilet. The nurses weren't so sure, but I told them I felt great and needed to move. I got out of bed and walked to the toilet. I felt really good with no pain. Looking back, I think I had a really smoothe recovery.

We stayed in hospital for a couple of days and had family visiting which was lovely. Forest had been on and off with the feeding. Some feeds he would latch, others he wouldn't. The nurses helped me.

mum with newborn baby having skin-to-skin
Two day after birth, still at the hospital

We finally got home and nested in together. Our breastfeeding journey was bumpy, but we made it work and I ended up breastfeeding Forest until he was 13 months old. It wasn't easy those first couple of months. But it was an amazing feeling being a family of four.

What would I have changed?

A c-section wasn't our planned birth. There was a lot of medical intervention. It was longer than we had hoped too, 52 hours! But I look back and think of it as a really positive birth.

I didn't for the first few months!

To be honest, after Forest's birth, I had a lot of questions that I wanted answered. I spoke to my midwife at one of my postnatal appointments, but I still didn't get the answers.

During those first few months I cried. I think I was grieving for the homebirth I didn't have. I longed for the vaginal birth I had hoped for. I cried for the many interventions that I felt could have been avoided. It took me a while to be at peace.

After Forest's birth, I certified as a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator and then suddenly I realised what was missing in my preparations for Forest's birth. I wish I had made a seperate birth plan especially for a c-section. This would have given me and Nik the push to look into all the options available to us. I wish that I would have know that I could have had the screen lowered during the c-section, so I could have watched Forest being born. I wish I had known that I could have had immediate skin-to-skin with Forest after birth. That's one thing I would have changed. Planning and preparation for a c-section. My HypnoBirthing course that I took when pregnant didn't include any information about c-sections, neither did the midwife childbirth classes. I was not prepared.

I also realised that there was a lot of holes in my knowledge and education about the possible interventions, the risks and benefits of each one.

Apparently Forest's head was asynclitic (tilted towards his shoulder), his head was still high in my pelvis, and he was back-to-back. I wish I had known this at the time, and how to help him move into a more optimal position. I wish the midwives gave me some advice and tips on how to do this.

But I can honestly say that 52 hours from start to finish, it was unbelievable how the HypnoBirthing techniques carried me through. How my positive mindset helped me feel strong and capable and powerful, whatever turn the birth was going to take.

At times I was so relaxed and focussed inwards that I even slept through surges! Nik was amazing. He and I worked together as a team. We made informed decisions along the way (and there were times when those decisions were led by the doctor, and it felt like we were being coaxed). We had some wonderful midwives supporting us, and some great doctors and nurses in the operating theatre. I felt relaxed and calm, even through surgery.

We had a really positive birth experience.

Since then I've learned A LOT!

I wanted to help other parents achieve a positive birth experience, no matter what turn their birth may take. This is why I became a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator and Birth Doula.

Do check out my other blog post about Daisy's VBAC birth!

Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Love, Miranda x

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