I saw my OBGYN the day prior to my guess date (July 29th), but was disappointed that I was just 1cm opened and 80% thinned. Still the doctor predicted our baby would come within the week. I had had practice surges consistently throughout my pregnancy and they increased in length and frequency (every 5-8 minutes, lasting approximately 40 seconds each) for about a week before I delivered; this made me think I was going to go into active labour earlier than I did. Then on August 2nd, just after midnight, I began to feel my surges intensifying - they were accompanied by a dull lower back ache. I went to bed and slept until 2am when I couldn’t sleep any longer. Since this was my first baby, and I was using the Hypnobirthing method, I was thinking that the baby might be born fast – therefore we chose to go to the hospital.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we were directed to the assessment unit where we met with a nurse and OBGYN resident who let me know that I was 3cms dilated. My contractions were somewhat intense and they were just 2-3 minutes apart, but I was still very calm and comfortable. The nurse and doctor advised that I go home as they felt I wasn’t far enough along and that it would be a while. I was hesitant as I really wanted to stay and to get settled into my room and to begin using my relaxation techniques and a hot bath. Upon urging from the nurse I went home and back to sleep. I was told to come back when the contractions became more intense or when my water breaks. At about 6am I awoke in my bed to a pop and a gush of water being released – my husband and I returned to the hospital. My surges were increasingly intense and I was leaking water continuously. The OBGYN resident looked at my cervix and told me that I was still about 4cms dilated, however she said they weren’t sure that my water had actually broken (the nurse didn’t get a very good sample of my amniotic fluid). I explained to them that I was 100% sure that it had since liters of water had released and moderate amounts continued to flow out with every surge. They were reluctant to admit me but finally agreed to send me to the labour and delivery ward.
Once in labour and delivery (around 6:45am), I asked about a bath, but it wasn’t ready yet, so I jumped into the shower. The shower was amazing and I was very happy being in there (the only downside was that I wasn’t able to listen to my CDs). My contractions continued regularly and were on average 2 minutes apart, lasting 45 -60 seconds each, which was the case for my whole labour. The nurse had my birth plan and acknowledged my wish for a natural labour. She came in about every 30 minutes or so to take the fetal heart rate, but that was about all I really saw of her until I was close to pushing. For the most part, my husband and I laboured alone in the shower and that was fine with us.
I was coping very well with my surges, although I had significant back labour. I sat in the shower on a ball for the first hour (which required some balance!), then switched to sitting on the shower stool so that my husband could massage my back. He sat next to my shower for 5+ hours massaging my back vigorously during each surge (applying ‘counterpressure’) and holding the showerhead against my lowerback. My husband and I definitely laboured together – a deep bonding experience for us. (Note: I tried the tub later too, but I found the shower much better as the water could be hotter on my back without me overheating, which sitting in the tub did.)
Around 9:30 am my nurse came to the shower and said to me “Brandy, this is the thing…. We don’t think you are in labour and I would advise that you go home until you are”. I was pretty shocked since I knew what I was experiencing and I was sure I was in full, active labour. I explained that I was definitely in active labour (i.e. contractions 2 minutes apart, waters released, and 4 cms dilated) and asked what her definition of active labour was. She answered back that “women in labour for their first time look a lot different than you do – they are not this composed, they are in more pain”. I explained that my Hypnobirthing techniques and the hot shower were likely reasons for my ‘composure’ and that I didn’t want to break my concentration by leaving. The nurse responded, “well, don’t you have a shower at home?”. I didn’t want to argue with my caregiver, so I calmly asserted that I was in fact in labour and was not going to leave. She then told me that if I stayed too long that they would have to intervene and then I wouldn’t be able to have the natural birth I was wanting. I was very surprised since it hadn’t even been that long since I arrived. I told her that I wanted to be assessed by the doctor, then we would talk more. The doctor came in shortly after and I was about 5cms dilated – she confirmed that I was in ‘active’’ labour, even if I was dilating somewhat slowly.
Later, but not until I was about 7cms dilated (around 11:30am), the doctor realized that our baby was head-down, but facing the wrong way (posterior). At this time the baby was also only at the -2 station – my doctor told me later that most women won’t even go into labour until they are at 0. These were the reasons for the intense back labour and my slow dilation. I was a little unnerved by this news as the nurse said it would make the delivery a little more difficult. Then I remembered the ‘polar bear technique’ that we had learned in class and wanted to try it. I sat in this position for about 30 minutes on the floor of the shower and voila – the baby turned! We were all so impressed that this had worked.
Around 2pm the nurse checked my cervix and I was 9+cms dilated. I then started to have the urge to breathe the baby down, but she said that I had to wait or I would tear my cervix. I was a little stressed as I really wanted to try. She then offered to stretch my cervix the remaining ½-1 cm to allow me to push (she said my cervix was stretchy so this could work). We waited for the next surge, when she reached up and tried to stretch my cervix – it resulted in intense pain and I immediately told her to stop. I retreated to the shower and waited for the OBGYN resident to return. She came to my room around 3pm and said I was good-to-go.
Unfortunately my nurse was not as supportive as I would have liked – she kept saying that if I were to breathe the baby down, then “we will likely be here for 2 hours or more”. I told her that I knew I wouldn’t take that long and then leaned over the back of the bed (it was raised up), and breathed my baby down for about 10-15 minutes. The nurse was amazed when she checked and said - “he is right there! In a couple of pushes you could be done!”. I can’t really recall why, but they talked me into sitting down on the bed and doing the final “pushes” (I think it was because the doctor felt she could receive the baby more easily). When they instructed me to push, I did, but I wish I would have breathed the baby down the whole time as it felt strange and uncomfortable when I pushed, but quite nice when I just breathed him down. My surges slowed to about one every 5 minutes, which was nice to have a break. I must say that this part was the most intense, unique experience of my life. As I have read elsewhere, when I started to push it was like a reflex that took over my whole body – my voice lowered to a low moaning, almost growling, sound. I pushed through four more surges and then at 3:45pm out came our son Tristan!
He was 9 pounds and 4 ounces and 22 ¾” long, which was a big surprise (no pun intended) since my doctor predicted he would be around 6 pounds! He also had his hand up next to his head which was another reason for the challenging delivery. He was immediately placed on my stomach and was very alert, not crying, and quit any fussing as soon as he heard my voice. We cuddled and just stared at each other for about an hour – I thank Hypnobirthing for all of the after-birth care suggestions (no eye ointment, skin-to-skin contact, immediate breastfeeding, holding off on the weighing etc.) as I feel it made such an impact on our bonding. Afterwards, on the postpartum ward, several nurses commented on “how well mom and baby have bonded already”. In addition, Tristan’s heart rate did not change at all during the whole birth, which I credit to our focus on breathing deeply throughout. Despite the challenges posed by our less-than-supportive nurse and Tristan’s large size and awkward birthing position, it was truly an amazing experience and I know it would not have been nearly as positive without the skills I learned through Hypnobirthing and from Marie. My great hope, which we did achieve in the end, was to deliver a healthy baby, 100% naturally without any medical intervention.
Written by Brandy, September 2008