This is the story of how we welcomed our daughter, Emerson, into the world. It’s a beautiful story, but also a bit graphic. You’ll also need to know that my husband and I prepared for our birthing time with Hypnobabies, so some of the terminology we use is a bit different than what you might normally hear: Birthing Time = Labor ; Pressure Wave, Birthing Wave = Contraction; Transformation = Transition.
In Hypnobabies, we practice visualizing our birthing time and teach ourselves to expect a calm, peaceful birthing. In all of my practicing, I saw myself baking cupcakes for the nurses during my early birthing time, and then moving quietly throughout the house as my active birthing time progresses. I saw myself quietly shifting positions from the bathtub to the birthing ball, and from the bed to my husband’s arms. I imagined arriving at the hospital and convincing the nurses I was actually in labor, and having them find that I was already 8 to 9 cm dilated. I imagined myself breathing and “ahhhing” my baby out with just a few quick pushes. I also imagined myself using our self-hypnosis techniques with mastery and confidence.
Here’s how it really happened:
On May 31st, my husband and I drove up to the Mt. Sneffels wilderness (one of our favorite spots) and hiked around for awhile taking pictures of butterflies and my large full-term belly. With our car parked next to the river, we plugged in our “Fear Clearing” track and listened to it together. I sent my fears downstream with the snow melt. It was perfect.
Later that evening, Brad and I watched a movie together, cuddled on the couch, and decided to finally put ourselves to bed at around 11:30 after I said something along the lines of, “I really should make sure I’m getting enough sleep these next few days so that we can be sure I am rested when my birthing time begins.” So we went to bed.
At 1:00 am, I woke up and went to the restroom and discovered, with certainty and joy, that I was shedding my mucous plug or experiencing “the bloody show.” I was thrilled. When I stood up from the toilet I also noticed that I was feeling what I identified at the time as “cramping.” This made me smile. I went back to bed and hovered over my husband with ear to ear grin: “Brad, I just lost my mucous plug. Go back to sleep.”
As I was lying in bed, I realized that my “cramping” was coming at fairly regular intervals. This is when I got really excited. About an hour later I grabbed my phone in case I wanted to time them and sent a quick text-message to our Doula (who was also our Hypnobabies Instructor). Sleep was futile. At about 3:00 am I rolled over and asked Brad if he was awake. He offered a very quick and alert response, “Of course I am.” So we both got up, repacked our birthing bags, put away the clean laundry, made the guest bed up for my mom (who would be staying with our dogs), and made sure we were ready for what was coming. I also began timing my pressure waves to find that they were about 7 minutes apart and over a minute long. At this point, it was very clear that there would be no early birthing time of making cupcakes and taking a stroll with my husband. It was also becoming very clear that I needed to start using my Hypnobabies techniques.
Over the next few hours, my pressure waves became longer, closer together, and certainly more intense. With each wave, I used my “finger-drop” technique or “release” cue to go immediately into a deep relaxation. I listened to my Birthing Day Affirmations and Easy First Stage tracks, eventually just listening to the affirmations over again. At some point, I had a pretty forceful bout of vomiting and diarrhea and it really hit me that I was going to meet my little girl soon. This was it. The time had come. I had Brad call the midwifes and let them know that would be there eventually and to gently remind them that we were using Hypnobabies and to please review our birth plan.
We were instructed to head to the hospital when my pressure waves were 5 minutes apart for over an hour. By the time he called, we had already met these criteria, but decided to stay home a little longer. Brad and I waited until they were about 4 minutes apart. And really, I would have loved to have stayed at home longer, but I was anxious to see our Doula who was thankfully already in Montrose. (Montrose is about 30 minutes away from our rural town, and about 60 minutes away from where our Doula lives). Although my pressure waves were still very comfortable, I was ready and looking forward to her support. So at 12 pm on June 1st, we left home for the hospital. I was certain that I would be meeting our little girl very soon.
By the time we were checked in through admissions and arrived at the Family Center, the nurses hooked me up to the monitors to get a good baseline and ensure I was in labor. I was excited when the nurse said the contractions were 3 minutes apart and thought to myself, “We’re so close.” And then there was the vaginal exam…
I was ready for her to say 8 cm just like I had visualized. Instead, what I heard was, “Just a dimple or about 1 cm.” Sigh. I can’t remember how we spent the next hour, but when they checked again, our nurse said that I was 2 cm and they would officially admit me. (I secretly think that I was likely still at a 1, but that she was kind enough to give me the extra centimeter for the sake of admission and to keep my spirits up.) I really didn’t have time to think about it or let it discourage me as I really needed all of my focus to continue practicing my Hypnobabies techniques.
After listening to the hypnosis tracks, practicing the scripts with my husband, and listening to the Joyful Affirmations every day, my subconscious must really have accepted that each 20 minutes will only feel like 5 minutes, as the next 6-7 hours are really a blur to me—the things that stand out are those that I didn’t expect to be a part of my birthing time. My husband and Doula are likely to have different accounts of this time period, but this is what I remember:
First, I didn’t expect the intense nausea and vomiting. I knew that nausea was common during labor, but I wasn’t prepared for how much of a role it would play during my birthing time. It was as though my transformation stage was lasting hours (which I later learned it really was). After every pressure wave, I would have an overwhelming surge of nausea followed by a spell of deep retching. In hindsight, I think this alone was my biggest challenge during my birthing time. One, because it was exhausting. And two, because it made it much more difficult for me to keep focus on using my Hypnobabies techniques.
Although there are many videos of Hypnobabies births were the mamas are blissfully quiet, the program certainly does not discourage vocalizing and is clear to note that noise does NOT equal pain. Well, I made A LOT of noise and I can tell you this is quite true. I recall chanting the cues, and even “orange, orange, orange,” as I pictured my hypno-anesthesia moving throughout my cervix and abdomen. I am an extremely competitive person by nature, so I would be lying if I said I didn’t want my birthing time to be anything less than the blissfully quiet, modest, relaxed women in the Hypnobabies videos. In spite of myself, that really wasn’t how my birthing time was meant to be. As it turned out, I spent the majority of my birthing time completely naked, dripping blood and god knows what other bodily fluids wherever I was, and being VERY vocal.
And in truth, despite priding myself in how much I had practiced and despite thinking I would be a self-hypnosis master during my birthing time, I had some difficulty staying in hypnosis and really needed my Doula and my husband’s help to keep relaxed. I remember thinking to myself that I was completely relaxed, until my Doula would put her hand on my shoulder and say “Relax” or “Release” and then I would truly feel my body go limp and loose.
I remember looking up at my Doula and trying to explain that my pressure waves were piggy-backing on one another. (In other words, when one was ending and I thought I’d have a moment of reprieve, another peak would suddenly rush up on me and I’d have two contractions together). Thank the good lord that she was there, because whatever she said was encouraging and empowering. There were a few moments during this time when I felt defeating thoughts creep into my head. I recall repeating (out loud of course), “Bubble of peace.” And on several occasions I reminded myself that all I needed to do was to “choose” to continue using my Hypnobabies techniques. It worked, with a few adaptations here and there.
After spending what was probably a long time in bed just breathing through my pressure waves and vomiting into a seemingly endless supply of towels, I was ready to try a different position and my Doula suggested the tub. Yes, the tub!! She drew a bath for me (equipped with tea-light candles and everything) and left Brad and I alone for some time together. I’m not sure if this is when my transformation came to an end, or if the water offered the soothing affect we were looking for, but I finally felt like I had regained control of my birthing time. Although I was still a little nauseous, I had stopped retching with each wave. While in the tub, I tried various positions throughout my pressure waves and felt myself relaxing with each one—it was enjoyable.
After getting out of the tub, it was evident that my birthing time was finally progressing in the right direction. I remember not wanting to put back on clothes. Again, this surprised me since I’m not typically comfortable just “letting it all hang out.” I had brought a cotton skirt and a loose t-shirt to change into and remain modest, but the idea of anything touching my skin just seemed insane. An honestly, the thought that anyone would be judging me for an unshaved bikini line and dimpled thighs was absolutely absurd (Incidentally, I think the fact that there was no room for vanity during my birthing time had a significant contribution to making the experience more wonderful and indirectly made me less insecure than I have ever been in my life).
My husband tells me that I pushed for two and half hours. I’m not entirely sure I believe him. I recall standing next to the bed and feeling the “involuntary pushes.” Somewhere around that time, my bag of waters also broke, but it wasn’t until after the delivery that we were certain of this fact as only a small amount released. The rest gushed out with Emerson’s earthside arrival. Anyway, this phase of my birthing time passed quickly for me, and I can say sincerely that while it was not necessarily pain free, it was at times extremely enjoyable. The pushing felt good and purposeful. The biggest challenge for me was at the end of each pressure wave when I tried to reign-in the pushing to conserve my strength. I pushed standing next to the bed, on all fours using the birthing ball, and eventually on my side with my husband holding my upper leg. I’m not sure how it would have progressed if my birthing time was attended by an OB, but our midwife was comfortable allowing me to direct my pushing entirely. In fact, I think I only realized that my midwife was even in the room when she encouraged me to change my position slightly so that my pushing would be more productive. Of course, it helped to have my Doula as a coach and cheerleader.
When it was clear than Emerson was ready to emerge, my midwife positioned herself for the final pushes. When the head began to crown, she held my wrist and helped me to feel her head. (I didn’t have the heart to tell anyone that I couldn’t feel it, as I had lost all feeling in my hands due to CTS). After awhile of the 2 steps forward 1 step back progress, it became evident that Emerson’s had positioned her fist next to her ear. This didn’t even register to me as a challenge at the time, only later when I thought about. So, the next few pushes felt the best and with a rush of amniotic fluid and a head to toe and deeply concentrated sensation that was like a climax or a high, Emerson made her entrance.
I did it. She was here. And I was instantly in love.
Her cord was a little short, so as she lay upon my stomach, head between my breasts, my husband and I dried her off with our own blankets while her umbilical cord remained unclamped. I noticed immediately how calm she was—and while it’s hard to explain, I also sensed that she wasn’t afraid. Of course, the nursed want to hear her cry, and she gave into them a little bit, but mostly remained very calm. Not only did the midwife and nurses allow the cord to stop pulsing, but I think my husband actually asked several minutes later, reminding them that we had yet to clamp or cut.
Although I had hoped that breastfeeding and our initial latch would be completely instinctual, I was overwhelmed when I realized that my breasts were about twice the size of her little head. Fortunately, my Doula helped us get a very strong latch almost immediately after trying. (While I can confidently say that I had no fear about giving birth, I was extremely anxious and worried that I would fail at breastfeeding).
We had requested that we have two uninterrupted hours of skin to skin contact before removing Emerson from my chest. In reality, they left us alone for nearly two and a half hours, only interrupting us to let us know that they needed to switch out the beds. Our intent was not to bathe Emerson at all, but after a HUGE meconium blow out that covered both me and her, my husband escorted her to the nursery to get a bath while I made my way to the shower. During this time, she weighed in at 6lbs 12oz, and 19.5 inches long. They swapped the beds and it was no time at all before we were back together, chest to chest. All newborn procedures (Vitamin K and PKU) were put off until right before we left the hospital.
At about 2:30 am, we placed our Hypnobabies “Relaxation Music” on repeat and settled in, my husband falling asleep immediately and deeply. I might have closed my eyes for a couple minutes, but I was still humming from my birthing time. I carried Emerson to the nursery to feed so her crying wouldn’t wake my husband, and spent some time chatting with the nurses. When it was all over, I had managed maybe an hour of sleep before we started packing up our bags to head for home. At 17 hours old, we loaded Emerson in her car seat and made our way home. I would spend several days “processing” my birthing time, replaying each magical moment in my head over, and over, and over again.
Never before have I experienced such a wonderful, intense, and joyful journey. Days later when a friend asked how it went I said, “I can’t wait to do it again.” Because Brad and I had prepared with Hypnobabies, and because we had decided we could benefit from the presence of a Doula, I had accomplished the natural and peaceful birthing I had set out to achieve. Again, I wasn’t the still, quiet, and graceful mamas from the Hypnobabies videos. And while I cannot claim that it was pain free, it was a challenge that I was prepared to meet without fear. For me childbirth was tantamount to nothing—truly the most beautiful, raw, pure, and serene joy I have ever felt. It left me with a confidence and self respect that I had never felt before. And yes, I cannot wait to do it again.