I’m so grateful to have done most of my labouring at home.

This was my first pregnancy and I absolutely loved being pregnant. I had a few minor complications including low lying placenta and my baby being in a breech position for a while, along with the challenges of being pregnant during the Covid-19 pandemic, but overall it was quite an easy pregnancy. I had my antenatal care through the Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) at my local public hospital. Due to Covid-19 a lot of my appointments were replaced with phone calls and my husband wasn’t allowed at most of my scans which was really difficult, especially as this was our first baby.

We completed the Hypnobirthing Australia™ program through The Birth Space and chose the do the online course followed by a private session with Renee – This suited our circumstances at the time but if I could do it again I would definitely do the whole course face-to-face with Renee. We found the course aligned really well with our existing beliefs and preferences for birth. Renee was so supportive and provided lots of helpful information, advice and guidance during our session and throughout the remainder of my pregnancy (and still to this day!).

In the days leading up to the birth I was having lots of braxton hicks and feeling generally uncomfortable. I remember telling my husband Trent that I was just going to rest for a few days because I felt like labour would start if I did too much.

A bit of a side story - My birthday is the first day of Autumn and Trent’s is the first day of Winter. We got married on the first day of Summer and since then it’s been an ongoing joke that we need to have a baby on the first day of Spring. Well after months of trying to conceive we ended up falling pregnant with an estimated due date of 5th September, and so the joke continued that this baby had to be born on the first day or Spring/September (spoiler - she actually was!).

On 31st August I had my weekly midwife appointment (I was 39+2) and as I scheduled my appointment for the following week I remember thinking I wasn’t going to need that appointment anyway, I felt sure I would have my baby before then. That afternoon I spent some time on the fitball and expressed colostrum which I had been doing daily since around 36 weeks. When Trent got home from work we took the dog for a walk and walked up a big hill, joking that this could bring on labour. When we got home we tested out the TENS machine and made some changes to our birth plan after some discussions I’d had with the midwife that morning.

All evening I had braxton hicks but they felt slightly different and I was having a lot of cramping. Around 10.30pm we were just drifting off to sleep and I noticed the cramping was becoming more consistent. I was laying there thinking it was my mind playing tricks on me, there was no way I was actually going into labour yet, then suddenly I started to feel a trickle of fluid. I jumped out of bed and my waters released. So many people told me that your waters rarely break ‘like in the movies’ but mine sure did! I woke Trent up and just stood in our bathroom laughing in disbelief that I was actually going into labour and the baby was probably going to be born on 1st September. I remember saying “this can’t actually be happening”.

We called the hospital and they asked me to come in to be examined. We went in around midnight and they monitored bub’s heart rate then cleared me to return home around 2am. By that stage I was having more regular cramping. We went back to bed and I slept for a little while until the cramping was consistently waking me up. By sunrise I was out in the living room having regular surges around 6-7 minutes apart. I continued to labour at home throughout the morning, switching between resting on the couch and using the fitball/shower/walking around to help things progress. Around midday I started using the TENS machine as the surges became more intense. Trent encouraged me to start the hypnobirthing tracks a few times throughout the day but I was really enjoying our own playlist and didn’t want to change from it.

Around 2.30pm we decided to call the hospital as I was becoming more vocal with my surges and starting to feel some pressure. The midwife heard me have a few surges and agreed we should come in. I waited for a surge to pass then got straight in the car hoping I would only have one or two during the drive to the hospital (less than 10 minutes drive) but somehow an electrical cord in our garage got hooked around the car tyre and Trent had to sort that out while I continued to labour in the car, thinking seriously what are the chances of this happening right now?!

I had two or three more surges in the car which were not at all as bad as I expected. I had another whilst waddling towards the entrance to the hospital, and I’m sure lots of people were staring but I was still so focused that I didn’t notice much else around me. We then rushed to the elevator and made it to the maternity ward before the next contraction. I was still wearing the TENS machine and feeling really calm and excited. I was taken to a birth suite and agreed to an examination but did not want to know my progress. The midwife told Trent outside the room and I saw his face light up as he walked back in so I knew I was quite far along. The midwife told me I would be staying in the birth suite as I was ‘closer to the end than the beginning’. I later found out I was already 8cm at this stage, so my instinct to head to the hospital was perfectly timed!

I’m so grateful to have done most of my labouring in the comfort of my home.

The midwife knew my birth preferences and immediately dimmed the lights and kept the environment quiet and calm.

I switched between walking around and being on the bed. I was still really happy with my own music and the TENS machine. I honestly forgot all about the hypnobirthing tracks, and I didn’t want to take the TENS machine off so didn’t end up using the shower or birth pool as I originally planned. I was calm and comfortable and that was all that mattered to me. Trent was so helpful controlling the TENS for me, bringing me cold towels and reminding me to focus on my breathing. I was visualising each surge as a wave that would build up and once it got to the strongest point I knew it was about to ease back down. This made my surges feel so much more manageable as I felt like I only really had to get through the first half then just relax out the other side. Some of my favourite affirmations were “I can do anything for one minute” and “my surges cannot be stronger than me because they are me”.

I listened to my body and started to push when I felt the urge. I had been waiting for the surges to become unbearable or to experience transition like many women describe but this never happened for me, I felt calm and in control the whole time. After over an hour of pushing in lots of different positions and obstetrician was called and I agreed to be examined again. I was told that my baby had turned posterior and I had a band of tissue/muscle holding baby back (apparently the downside of having a strong pelvic floor!) so they wanted to do an episiotomy. Suddenly the lights were switched on and the room became a lot more noisy with conversations about my progress. We declined the episiotomy and continued to advocate for why we didn’t want this kind of intervention. I wasn’t tearing and bub wasn’t distressed so we didn’t agree that it was necessary. We were sticking to the “but what if we do nothing” approach when it came to intervention, and there were no specific risks involved with me continuing naturally so that’s what I wanted to do.

Trent was getting very frustrated by the obstetrician and a different midwife coming in and completely changing the vibe. It was definitely impacting on me too as I started to feel like maybe I couldn’t push this baby out without intervention.

Trent was definitely my rock in this moment, supporting me and advocating for our wishes. This is why it’s so important for birth partners to be educated too!

The obstetrician examined me again and then held my perineum while I pushed a few more times and at 8.40pm (after more than two hours of pushing) our baby girl flew into the world happy and healthy. I am so glad I didn’t agree to the episiotomy because in the end I walked away with just a small graze and no stitches at all. I truly believe that although intervention may have helped to speed things up, my body actually needed that time to gradually stretch and avoid tearing, so speeding up the process would not have created better outcomes for anyone except the medical staff.

We hadn’t found out the gender during pregnancy but thought we were having a boy so I was in complete shock when Trent announced we had a girl! Our daughter Nora was placed straight on my chest where she stayed for about an hour. Her heart rate had been fine throughout the whole labour and she was so calm when she was born, she didn’t even cry, just laid peacefully on my chest and stared at us with her beautiful wide eyes. One of the midwives told me that babies are often calm at birth when mothers are calm during labour, so hypnobirthing supports a more positive experience for bubs too!

Delayed cord clamping was very important to us, so Nora was still attached for around 40 minutes until we could see that the cord was completely white, then the midwife clamped it and Trent cut it.

I chose to have a physiological 3rd stage, which the hospital had previously made me sign a waiver for as it is against policy despite being a natural process. Nora was still so content on my chest but the midwife suggested I stand up to see if gravity might help my placenta along, so Trent took Nora for some skin to skin and I got up off the bed. After some standing, walking and sitting on the toilet my placenta still wasn’t coming out. As it had been over an hour and I was losing a lot of blood I consented to a syntocinon injection. A midwife gave me the injection and was still rubbing my leg when my placenta came out on it’s own, then a while later the syntocinon kicked in and I had to deal with induced contractions for no reason which was frustrating. I wish I declined the injection and let my body continue with the process naturally, but I think I was so exhausted by this point and just eager to get cleaned up and cuddle my baby.

A lovely midwife helped me shower, brought me some food and took us to the ward just after midnight. I remember still feeling so calm and being in disbelief that I had just given birth.

After always hearing how difficult, scary and painful childbirth is supposed to be, I just remember laying there thinking it was nothing like that at all.

We spent the night in hospital and after some check-ups the next day we were discharged around 2pm. The hospital did offer for me to stay another night but I was eager to get home and start our life as a family of three. I remember walking out of hospital feeling this huge sense of pride for what I had just achieved.

I want to highlight the fact that although I intended on using the Hypnobirthing tracks and having a water birth, when the time came I didn’t want to do any of these things! I just let my body and my baby guide the way and even gave birth laying on my back which I had said I never wanted to do. This is the beauty of Hypnobirthing – It gives you the tools to feel empowered and in control so you can really relax into the experience and embrace whatever path your birth takes. I think it’s so important to go with what feels right in the moment and not put any pressure on yourself to stick to a plan or fulfil your birth preferences or expectations. Instead, just embrace the process and do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. My first birth was so empowering and I really hope my story is a reminder to trust your body and be guided by your instincts. Our bodies are built for birth and it can (and should) be such a positive experience.

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Renee Bradfield, Perth WA

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