Baby boy Otis Marshall was born last Tuesday at 8:34pm, during an England world cup match much to Tom's annoyance. It was nothing like I expected but also everything I wanted. It's positive and not gory at all, so if you're interested click read more to find out how it happened and scroll right to the end for photos..
So a little background first: the birth of Ozzy in 2016 was far from what I wanted. It was scary, over medicalised and quite traumatic for us. As relieved as we were that Ozzy and I came out of it relatively unscathed (bruised, cut and stitched but healthy) I put my feelings about it to one side as much as I could and focused on having a wonderful son.
I always knew that when the second time came about something would need to be different. I needed to do everything I could this time to ensure a safe and calm delivery. I decided I had 2 options:
I knew that option 2 didn't guarantee everything would go 'to plan', but we researched hypnobirthing and did 2 online courses. The Yes Mum Birth Project and The Positive Birth Company Digital Pack. This isn't a review of either of them but I will say that they were both fantastic. After starting both courses we were sure that this was the route we wanted to take. I was really nervous to go down the natural birth route, but I knew that I wanted to give it a shot. The most important thing for me was remaining positive and calm during pregnancy and labour, and this was the way to do it.
We went through both courses twice just to be extra prepared, and we practiced the affirmations and breathing techniques. Tom read the scripts to me, I listened to the mp3s every night, I stuck affirmation cards up around the house. I did everything in the hopes that it would sink in subconsciously. I felt really confident and really ready.
My due date came and went which wasn't unusual because it's just a rough date and Ozzy was born 4 days past my 'due date'. I accepted a stretch and sweep when I was 5 days overdue (if you don't know what that is then count yourself lucky. It's a small procedure done at a midwife appointment to try and encourage labour to start). Over the weekend I had a few signs that something might be changing, and by Monday afternoon when I was 9 days past my due date, the cramps started. They were gentle and I could talk through them, I even made tea that night and Tom and I sat and chatted through the evening. As we were going to bed they started to become more uncomfortable and even though Tom drifted off, I couldn't sleep. They were still really irregular but as I bounced on the birthing ball and listened to music they got to 4 minutes apart. I slept for an hour but woke again and felt like I needed support. I woke Tom up, we had a little chat and cuddle and eventually at about 6am we decided to call my mum over for Ozzy so she could be in the house with him and take him to nursery that morning. I wanted to go into the birth centre just to see what was happening, and while there was no traffic.
Despite my birth preferences saying no routine exams (to see how dilated your cervix is as an indication of how the labour is progressing) I wanted one at this point to see if this was really labour or whether I needed to psych myself up for a few more days of these pains. I remember as we left saying to mum I was sure we would be back home soon, there was no way today was the day and her saying 'these are contractions, you're definitely in labour, go!'
The midwife said I was 1 or 2cm dilated which I found really disheartening (you need to get to 10cm) as I had been that already at my sweep 4 days ago, but I was now fully effaced (this is when your cervix has gone from thick to thin) and she was able to touch the babies head! She noticed from feeling my bump that they seemed like quite powerful contractions. She said to stay if we wanted to, but I felt like they were slowing down there so we decided to go home for a few hours. We probably should have stayed as the car journey was very uncomfortable, but deep down I think I knew I needed to see Ozzy one more time before he became a big brother.
We got back and I used the tens machine while Tom tidied the house. He collected Ozzy from nursery and even seeing him for just 10 minutes when they got home gave me the boost I needed. I had to go upstairs to be on my own after a while, so I said a proper goodbye to him and went to focus on my breathing while Tom called my parents over.
As soon as they left the tens machine wasn’t helping as much anymore and I felt like I needed to settle down somewhere, so we went in to the birth centre again.It was an awful journey because of the heavy traffic and bumpy roads, and my contractions were much harder to breath through due to being sat in the car. We got there at 3pm and after asking for another exam I was now 3cm. The midwife said the head had moved down really low and she wasn’t letting us go home. She said often second labours take a while to get going but once you hit 4cm (which is considered established labour) they can progress very quickly. She was right!
I had a bit of a wobble at this point because I had been having pains/contractions for 24hrs (although slowly and gently at first) and was worried it would be days more and I just didn't have the energy for that. I had some gas and air to calm myself down, and got in the pool to try and relax. I was expecting instant relief from the pool and was gutted to find that if anything it made the contractions more painful.
At about 5pm I got out the pool because I couldn’t find a comfortable position and wanted to lie down (despite continually demanding to do my upright positions earlier to help the baby move down) and found I was now 4cm (Again I had asked for an examination because I was desperate to know if I was making progress). I laid down for a while on the bed and I asked for a pethidine injection because I
knew my body needed a little rest. This helped me to zone out for for about an hour and both mentally and physically recharge. After this hour my waters broke I could feel lots of pressure in my bum, I was fully dilated!
Breathing the baby down and then 'pushing' felt like it took a while, and looking back it was about 2.5 hours overall. He was in a back to back position (he was facing my tummy rather than my back) and he was turning around to face the other way (which is the optimal position) as he came down apparently so it took a lot of work and energy and concentration to move him down with each contractions. I felt that I was making progress but it was slow. I couldn’t manage to do my calm relaxed breathing with the gas and air mouthpiece in, so I stopped using it and instead Tom just helped me to breath in and out and kept counting the breaths and repeating the hypnobirthing affirmations to me. This was more helpful than anything else had been and kept me focused.
There was no pushing needed for this stage, I just breathed as my body instinctively brought baby down a little more with each contraction. I wasn't consciously doing anything, my body was and I just had to go with it.
Eventually during one contraction the midwife said she could see a tiny bit of his head which she encouraged me to feel (wonderful and gross all at the same time), and she said she was going to warm up the pool and make me get back into it because she knew it's what I wanted. I am so thankful for this and that she took our birth preferences seriously as I had honestly forgotten about the pool despite writing on the birth plan how important it was that I tried to give birth in there. Tom and the midwife helped me to get over to the pool and climb in (walking was very tricky while a head was about to come out of me!) and it was an instant relief this time, the kind I had expected when I got into the pool the first time. It felt wonderful. After about 4 contractions his head was out and at this point I knew it was going to happen just like I wanted, so I suddenly had a boost and didn't feel like I needed to make the loud weird birthing noises anymore (if you know, you know). On the next contraction I must admit I did actively push rather than just breath because I wanted my baby to be here, and suddenly there he was. 8:34pm. The cord was around his neck 3 times we learnt, but his heart rate had stayed perfectly calm the entire time (it was being checked every 15 minutes or less). We were told the reason Ozzy's heart rate plummeted last time and caused an emergency was because he was wrapped up in the cord twice. So to hear that the same had happened this time but baby had remained perfectly calm was amazing. The midwife told me to get my hands ready, untangled him and pushed him through my legs and I brought him up to the surface myself. I stayed sat in the pool for about 30 minutes. I sat staring at his face for so long, in shock that he was actually here in my arms. He didn't cry at first, but he was breathing. He was just very calm and chilled and I was encouraged to talk to him and blow on his face to wake him up a little. Being able to hold him immediately, have skin to skin, let his cord stay attached and have nobody else interfere or touch him was a dream come true. Tom remembered to take some photos straight away, and I had a look to see whether he was a boy or a girl, and told Tom myself we had a little boy.
I started to get chilly in the pool and I wanted to get out so I could feed him, so they cut the cord as it had stopped pulsating now (so all the blood had been transferred back to him from my placenta) and Tom cuddled him while I got out the pool. I delivered the placenta myself this time which was much easier than I expected (I think I expected it to feel like pushing out another baby but in reality I hardly noticed it). They checked I was ok and didn't need any stitches (and than goodness this time I didn't), and I got settled in bed where we had cuddles for about an hour, and had a go at breastfeeding which took a little while but he did latch in the end (I was thrilled because it took Ozzy 2 days to be able to latch and feed from me). The midwife weighed him; he was 8lb 8.5oz!. We were brought the famous tea and toast which is the best tea and toast you will ever have, and they followed this up with a curry each too. We were both starving as we'd missed tea time.
It turned out that I had lost a lot of blood so they asked me to stay in overnight and have bloods taken at 4am just to check my iron levels. Amazingly the midwife set us up in a little room on the birth centre so we didnt have to go up to the noisy postnatal ward at the hospital. They even had a floor bed for Tom which he promptly fell asleep in. I was able to have a lovely long shower in the ensuite while Otis slept in his hospital cot, and we had a lovely night. My bloods came back fine and Otis weed and pooed several times so we decided he was feeding well and we were happy to go home at 10am after a cooked breakfast each.
The whole thing felt really calm and controlled which was lovely, and between pushes/contractions it was just quiet in the room and it was all very hands off. I felt like Tom and I were doing our own thing and there was a midwife there if we needed her. In reality I'm sure she was very busy but I hardly noticed her. They asked if I was happy to have a student as she desperately wanted to assist in a waterbirth. I’m so glad I said yes and she was able to. My birth plan said no additional people but with the lights down low and the quiet atmosphere it was really intimate.
I will be forever grateful to the midwife for making me get back into the pool at the end. She really respected our birth plan and did everything she could to make sure we got the birth we wanted. I can honestly say that this birth has made me feel at peace with what happened the first time.
I went into hypnobirthing thinking it would mean a pain free, dare I say 'easy' birth. I now understand that actually the most important and realistic thing that hypnobirthing did for me was enable me to stay calm as I felt my body take over, and find the mental strength to get through it. No it wasn't easy by any means. It was tough, it was intense, at times it was painful. In a way the physical sensations were the same as they were last time, even worse perhaps as the pushing was 2.5 hours rather than about 15 minutes (last time was an instrumental delivery so I never really did the pushing myself).
But this time it was never scary. I never panicked. Tom never panicked or worried. It felt instinctive and I trusted that my body was doing the right thing. It was loud but it was gentle, which is not something I ever really believed birth could be.
Otis swimming up to my arms in the water was the single best moment of my life so far (sorry Ozzy!). I am a little bit in awe of what I accomplished, and as much as I really really don't want to go through pregnancy all over again for a third time - that feeling as I sat in the water holding my baby is almost enough to make me want to go through it all again.
If you have any questions about hypnobirthing then please get in touch and I can point you in lots of directions for advice, online courses, classes and positive stories like mine.