My youngest child was just born this past week. As a matter of fact, TODAY she is 1 week old. My middle child is 13 months old. And this is the first time I have penned either of their birth stories. My Hypnobabies instructor has been asking me for my birth story from Leo (my middle child) since he was born and I never wrote it down. Maybe its because I was busy, tired, overwhelmed… I don’t know. But after Athena’s birth I think I figured out emotionally why it was so hard for me to write. Mostly because it wasn’t what I imagined a hypnobirth to be like. I’d never had one, so I didn’t really know what to expect. But after experiencing Athenas birth… a much more mentally present birth… I kinda get it.
Our first born was a hospital birth. By no means was it a bad experience, but I did end up with some interventions that were not in my plan, and I believe would have been completely avoidable had we birthed outside the hospital. I labored for 37 hours with him, had Pitocin and also an epidural. When we got pregnant with Leo we decided to have a homebirth. At that point I had been active in the local natural birthing community, had many friends who had homebirthed and had made friends with a local midwife whose personality I felt was a perfect fit. But I won’t lie, there was still an element of fear there. All the what if’s swirling in my head.
My midwife suggested Hypnobabies with Julie Byers to help ease any fears and prepare us for homebirthing. I was a bit hesitant… I mean, we’ve had a baby before. Why should I need to take a childbirth class. But in shear trust and submission, we signed up. Jimmy and I, both being very social people, really enjoyed the class. We loved making friends with other parents and soon to be parents, some of which we still talk to very regularly. We DID learn A LOT… despite the fact that we had “done this before”. I mean, after one baby, you’re a pro, right? We also learned a lot about our previous birth. Things we could have identified differently, treated differently etc. It was very eye-opening. But we felt ready for Leo to be born after classes were over. I had my scripts, my finger drop technique… all of it… And when I went into labor with Leo… I didn’t use any of it. For a few months I chalked it up to “well maybe Hypnobabies wasn’t for us.”
Leo’s birth was fast and furious… and in comparison to many stories and my own experiences… It was easy. My water broke with him around 3am on a Tuesday morning. I was 10 days overdue and had *gasp* taken 2 doses of castor oil the night before in complete desperation to bring my baby earthside. Immediately after my water broke, contractions came on fast and furious. I labored in my bathtub for about an hour before I moved to the bed. I labored there, quite peacefully for about an hour. However, my birth team knew that I needed to get up if I was going to bring this baby here. So after walking around for about an hour… and contractions growing more and more intense, I hit transition. I remember that moment. I remember the shaking. I remember feeling like I needed to push as I leaned over my hall bathroom sink, but not allowing myself to engage because there is NO WAY that after only 4 hours Im ready to have a baby. I remember Carrie, my midwife checking me to make sure I was ready to get into the birth pool as they were filling it and her telling the assistant to stop filling the tub, that I was going to have the baby on the bed. I remember all of that. I even remember saying some not-so-nice things to the midwife when she was trying to reposition me. But Leo came out, like a lion… fast and furious… and absolutely perfect. I felt so empowered. I felt AMAZING. I did it!!! I had my homebirth. All my fears of being transported, or something going wrong… all for nothing. We had a wonderful, healthy, successful homebirth.
Fast forward… 4 months after Leo was born we found out we were SURPRISE pregnant again. This time with a baby girl. We of course planned a homebirth but I thought nothing of Hypnobabies. I didn’t pull out my books, I didn’t read my scripts nor did I listen to any tracts. I got through Leos birth with no real use of any of that, so this wouldn’t be any different. I mean, I know I retained a lot subconsciously from the class, and that would be enough to get me through. Again on a Tuesday morning, at about 1am I started having contractions. They were quite manageable. Or, I was able to manage them quite well… Take your pick on which one applies. For about 6 hours I wasn’t even sure if I was really in labor. I was able to focus through contractions. I used my meditative breathing techniques that many years of Yoga has taught me. And I emotionally engaged with each pressure wave. I spoke to my baby… I spoke to the pressure wave. I spoke to myself. I remember with each pressure wave telling myself “this is not pain, this is the sensation that comes before you get to meet your baby girl”. Hokey right… but it worked. It worked really well. Even after being up all night long I felt great. Even after having contractions every 3-5 minutes for 6ish hours, I felt great.
My birth team arrived sometime close to 6 or 7am. Honestly I cannot remember. Immediately upon their arrival (and encouragement from my amazing Doula to sit on the birth ball) things picked up FAST.
Knowing I wasn’t able to make it into the birth pool with Leo, the midwife assistant was on a mission to make sure the pool was ready for me this time. And it was, just in the nick of time. Even as my pressure waves grew stronger and stronger I felt like I was able to stay emotionally engaged and use the tools that I had learned somewhere (hello Hypnobabies) to ride each wave without wanting to give up. I kept speaking to my baby, speaking to my body… sometimes even outloud (hello crazy person).
I was able to use techniques to keep my body loose and open. I was able to get into the pool for about 15 minutes before Athena was ready to join us in the world. And as fast and furious as Leo came into the world… Athena would not allow her brother to beat her in that record. In one glorious push, that child shot her entire body… head, shoulder, knees and toes, into existence.
Now, looking back and comparing the two births I can see where I had a good physical experience with both of them… but was able to emotionally process through Athena’s birth much better. I don’t know if it was fear, the unknown of my first homebirth, or just the sheer speed of Leo’s birth that made it hard for me to emotionally connect with that process. But in hindsight I can see the difference. The tools I learned in Hypnobabies and the support of my birth team made this birthing experience by far my favorite out of each of my births. It feels weird to be able to say I “enjoyed” labor and delivery… as many women complain of it… but with the proper tools and education, it’s possible.