On the 24th of July, around 2pm, J and I settled together in bed to watch a film after 4 days avoiding one another due to him having tonsillitis – as a teacher, he had his last day of school on Friday, had been unwell all weekend and picked up some antibiotics on the Monday from the doctors; which was not the most positive start to our 6 weeks of summer together. However, after spending three days wondering around the flat alone whilst he slept, by midday Tuesday he was no longer contagious and my neediness was growing, so I curled up next to him in bed for a good cuddle, which (for anyone who did hypnobirthing, you’ll know the importance) must have got some serious oxytocin flowing!
By 4:30pm, I had what I thought were poorly tummy cramps but (here’s the start of lots of TMI) couldn’t pass anything so began timing them out of curiosity. Which is when we realised, shit, these are contractions – by this point they were already 3-6 mins apart and ranging from 20-50 seconds. As I was 39+1 weeks pregnant, neither of us were expecting this to happen so soon, especially after everyone kept saying “the first baby is always late” and I had no pre-labour signs prior to my first contractions. We waited 45 mins before calling the MLU and they advised me to take a bath to try get my contractions more regular, however after only 30 mins in the bath, the intensity and pressure was too much for me to take so I got myself back out the bath and onto my birth ball with my TENS machine.
The contractions kept a similar pattern still but ramped up massively in intensity – I would be perfectly fine between contractions but as soon as I felt one start, I’d shout J, who was busy packing the last of our hospital bags and he’d hold me whilst I swayed, unable to talk through them anymore. By 7pm, everything in me just knew I needed to start heading to our midwife led unit which was 30 minutes away. J called them and they were still reluctant for me to come in, as they felt it was too early into my labour as my contractions hadn’t progressed to every 3 minutes for 1 minute in duration, but we decided to head up anyway. In the car I used “up breathing”, boost setting constantly on the TENS machine (my holy grail for labour) and hypnobirthing tracks to remain calm whilst we traveled up there. I distinctly remember sitting on the car park outside our flats with J asking me if I’d prefer the radio, hypnobirthing music or George Ezra whilst we drove – the first time during my labour when I really wanted to tell him to F off haha, lucky for him I still couldn’t talk during my contractions so he went for the default, hypnobirthing.
Once there I had a contraction in the car park and foyer of the hospital which was an ace spectacle for those wondering around hospital at 7:30pm. We were shown to a suite in the MLU without a birth pool (which frustrated me – did they not believe I was in established labour?!) and examined at 3cm. The midwife kept pushing for a wee sample so I waddled to the loo and saw I’d a bloody show (ooh more TMI) – terrifying after 9 period free months if I’m honest, but she reassured me it was fine. Following our midwives advice, I reluctantly removed my TENS machine and I had an amazing aromatherapy massage with lavender oil. J was the dream birth partner, curled next to me on the bed, saying some positive affirmations for me whilst we breathed through every contraction together. I managed this until 9pm when I was reminded that we were still in the early stages of labour. I was given two codeine tablets and began telling the midwife my contractions were too intense and if they were correct in telling me I could have many more hours ahead of me then I need a C Section asap as I couldn’t cope (lol drama queen). She hurried away, as she must have realised I’d reached the “transitional” phase of labour, to discuss our options with other midwives. We were still waiting on my blood test to confirm a high iron count before being allowed in a birth pool suite at this point but after some discussion between midwives, we were told we could move into our suite room and were then told my iron was 110, perfect!
The pool was quickly ran whilst I waddled down the corridor, past a couple being shown around the centre and then realised I must have looked like a hot mess; my unwashed hair shoved up in a bun and my huge bump squished into a night dress, barefoot and groaning with every contraction. When I got to the room, hypnobirthing music was playing in the background and battery powered tea lights lit our room – if my contractions weren’t so intense, I’d have loved taking in how gorgeous they’d made the room for me. I had no time for room sprays, prepping my hair for the afterbirth photos, pain-relieving essential oils or even changing into my bikini and by 9:15 I was in the pool.
The moment my body sank into the pool, the intensity went; all the discomfort and frustration I’d felt in the first room washed away and the following contractions caused my waters to immediately break. J was still moving our bags from the first room to our birth suite and as he finished the third trip (I packed a lot for the birth haha) I started saying I had the urge to push. I did panic, as did J I think, as I was only 3cm an hour or so prior to this but my midwife told me to calmly follow my body’s instructions. I followed the midwives instructions carefully, whilst J kept giving my sips of lucazade and mimicking the breathing technique to help me. It’s these moments I remember most vividly as he hadn’t watched many of the hypnobirthing videos I used to prepare myself for birth, yet he seemed to pick up the technique the midwives were advising me to use and was rubbing my back whilst showing me how to breathe; really focusing on J calmed me down and made it easier to control every breathe. My contractions never really became “on top” of each other and I can remember sitting up, chatting between them before feeling one build, getting back on all fours and pushing.
At 10:35pm, with only 6 hours of labour, 3 of which were in the MLU, Penelope Lavender was born. J scooped her up out the water for our first cuddle together and cut her cord. P was then whisked away to be measured and have skin to skin with J, whilst I was examined; I’d managed to birth our 8lb 3oz baby on only two codiene tablets and only sustained grazes … how?!
All three of us then spent many blissful hours having cuddles, feeding P and we remained in our birth suite until 3pm the next day. I spent most the night utterly exhausted but sat staring at P; a mixture of total awe that I created someone so beautiful but also utter terror to leave her without any eyes watching. Whereas J managed to sleep for about 6 hours still recovering from tonsillitis haha.
The midwives kept talking about how perfect, calm and “textbook” our birth was, especially as a young first time mom. J and I felt so proud to bring Penelope into the world so positively, especially as I was so terrified of birth in early pregnancy. I still can’t believe the birth went totally to plan as we wanted it.
Even though we expected to have more time to prepare/ramp up for the birth, the hypnobirthing taught us enough to have an incredibly calm delivery in the few hours we were in our suite.
We both feel so lucky to have had such an amazingly positive experience, especially knowing how unexpected births can be. And would both recommend hypnobirthing to anyone and everyone, whether it be your first baby or your fourth, the techniques and experiences it can give you are invaluable.
Thank you for reading my birth story!
Eleanor Jasmin, J and Penelope x