Cassie’s Birth of Aster
Aster’s Birth Story
Why I chose Hypnobabies
When I first became pregnant I was terrified of the actual birthing part. I had watched Hollywood’s version of birth for far too long and the images of sheer terror in these mothers had imprinted itself in my brain. I had the impression that you lose all control due to the excruciating amount of pain BUT it would be completely worth it because it would be the most amazing day of your life and the pain would be such a small price to pay… blah blah blah.
Well, I wasn’t thrilled at my options.
On the one hand I really wanted to experience a natural birth because of the uniqueness of an experience that only women can share in, but I really wasn’t interested in the amount of pain I perceived as inevitable. The other option was to receive an epidural to help numb the pain but be unable to be fully in tune with my body and experience the process. It was at that point that I began looking into my childbirth options.
I remembered when my best friend had her baby at a birthing center the year before that I had seen a brochure for hypnobirthing. It sounded very strange to me and, of course, I said, “I’d be willing to try anything if it meant I could avoid the pain!” It was an ignorant statement said with images of being completely unconscious and under someone else’s ‘control’ flickering through my brain. Well, by the time I was a couple months pregnant and researching different childbirth preparation courses I decided to look into different types of hypnobirthing. I came across Hypnobabies and decided to read some of the birth stories and watch the birth videos on YouTube. I tried desperately to search for negative reviews in Google’s search engine. I only came across positive birth experiences and the women seemed so happy with the program. Many of them even had pain free births! I decided to put all of my effort into it and my husband, Peter, was happy to be my birth partner and become very involved as well. I didn’t want to participate in something that sounded so far-fetched without giving it my all.
There weren’t any local classes offered at the time so I ordered the home study program. I have the type of personality that I knew would work well to invest a lot of time and energy into this program on my own; I’m definitely not a procrastinator and started the program early at 26 weeks. What I immediately realized was that Hypnobabies is all about listening to your body, relaxing, embracing change, releasing fears, and enjoying every moment of your pregnancy for what it is. There’s a Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations CD that I listened to every day and it made me feel so powerful and grateful to be experiencing what I was going through. It also helped me love all the changes that were occurring in my body. There are several other CDs that you cycle through and practice, like ‘Your Special Place Imagery and Relaxation,’ ‘Easy, Comfortable Childbirth,’ and ‘Fear Clearing Session’. The most important part of Hypnobabies was to practice the different “switches,” like a mental light switch. When you “switch off” you go completely limp and relax every muscle in your body and think about moving mental anesthesia to different parts of your body that need it. When you are in “center switch” you are still deeply relaxed but are able to move around, talk, and function as normal. In the “on position” you are fully conscious and in your normal state. They urge you to practice these switches so that when your birthing time comes you can fully participate in them without thinking about it.
Hypnobabies also uses different vocabulary than your typical childbirth course because they are trying to change the way your mind perceives childbirth. Instead of laboring, you’re birthing; contractions are pressure waves; there is no false labor, only practice birthing/pressure waves; due dates are guess dates because the baby picks his/her birthday... Initially, I thought it seemed a little corny and, at first, I especially hated asking people to use this terminology around me if they would be speaking of birthing for any length of time. Hypnobabies also has you create a bubble of peace and that really put me over the edge. The idea behind the peace bubble was that everything good and supportive of me and my birthing choices were in the bubble with me and anything negative bounced off the bubble. I was surprised at how helpful it was once I got past how bizarre it sounded. And one of the most important messages Hypnobabies reiterates is that whatever birth experience you have is the perfect one for you. So it’s great to plan and visualize what your birth will be like but if you end up needing a c-section or and emergency transfer, that may very well be what was perfect for you; it’s important to be flexible with something so out of your control.
Early Birthing Time
Let’s fast forward to my birthing time. On July 6th I was completely unaware that my early pressure waves had begun; the ones I experienced were stronger and a little different than Braxton Hicks had been but I still felt like I was having Braxton Hicks in addition to these new ones. I didn’t think anything of it and would simply adjust the way I sat or breathe a little more deeply when they occurred. I experienced them periodically throughout the day and while we were out at dinner with my husband, my in-laws, and their friends. That evening around 12 p.m. I told my husband that I thought the pressure waves might actually be the real thing but I wasn’t sure because I was actually enjoying how powerful and strong they were. We went to bed excited but with little expectation.
Almost immediately I noticed them getting stronger and occurring with more regularity but I was so sleepy and felt like I was in a dreamlike state that I still didn’t think anything of it. When each one occurred I would close my eyes and breathe deeply and relax my body. I visualized a deep, undulating sound as I gently body surfed up and down over continuous waves (I assume that I visualized this because I had called contractions ‘pressure waves’ for so long). Each wave grew stronger and then gradually weaker and they only lasted about a minute each it seemed. After each one I would smile, just like the program had taught me to, because they were bringing my baby that much closer to meeting me. That’s when I finally remembered that Braxton Hicks go away when you lay down and true pressure waves do not. I didn’t see the point in waking Peter up so I continued to experience them consistently until 2:30ish in the morning. The only pregnancy symptom I have had has been severe heartburn throughout the entire pregnancy and it struck at that time. I didn’t want to get up and find my Tums so I woke Peter up and calmly explained that I was having real pressure waves but, unfortunately, my heartburn was acting up and asked him to please get my Tums. He asked me a few questions and as I was explaining how I was feeling and what the pressure waves were like, I felt a ‘pop’ at 2:47 a.m. and said, “Well, I think my water just broke. I’ll go use the restroom and check it out while you get the Tums.” Sure enough, I was leaking a little bit. I threw a pad on and laid back down to continue my pressure waves.
I threw up the first time about 3:30 a.m. but wasn’t too concerned. I had an upset stomach and was using the restroom quite often after the waves but I vaguely remembered that being common when your birthing time is imminent. Then I noticed that while deep breathing through pressure waves I felt like I was going to throw up. Sure enough, I did and it seemed like I threw up with every pressure wave that was exceptionally strong. I was slightly discouraged because all of my practicing had been built upon deep breathing and it seemed as though I wouldn’t be able to do that. But I quickly figured out a way to breathe a bit more shallowly and didn’t seem to throw up quite as often as I felt my body wanted to. Peter timed the waves until 4:18 a.m.; some were 3 minutes apart, others 9 minutes so we decided to get some sleep. We fell asleep for about 4 hours and I woke up long enough to breathe through the waves before I fell back to sleep. I listened to the ‘Birth-Day Affirmations’ while I was sleeping. Throughout the rest of the morning I listened to different CDs, depending on which one I felt would be the most useful at that moment in time.
I continued to have pressure waves all morning and Peter kept me well hydrated and occasionally timed them. When the pressure waves were getting more frequent Peter drew me a warm bath and I hung out in there for a long time while I listened to my CDs and focused on relaxing and breathing deeply. In between checking on me and timing the pressure waves, Peter gathered our last minute supplies for the birth bag so that it would be ready to go by the time I was. While I was in the tub there were times when the pressure waves became much stronger and I had him stay to support my body so that I could be completely limp during them.
Eventually I decided I’d be more comfortable lying back down in bed so I headed over there and continued to have much stronger pressure waves. At this point I began low moaning for the duration of each pressure wave. I’m not sure when it was that I informed Peter the moaning was not from pain but that I was doing what my body was telling me to do and that it felt good to make these noises; I think that helped him relax. I began feeling ‘pushy’ around 11:30 a.m. and had two or three involuntary pushes. I asked Peter to call the midwife because I thought it might be time to go in. The pressure waves were coming 3-5 minutes apart and because they had been so strong for awhile, the midwife told Peter to have us head down. He got the car packed and brought several pillows so that I could prop myself up comfortably during the ride. This allowed me to go limp during the pressure waves while in the car. We left around 12:15 p.m. and Peter did a wonderful job driving calmly (even if he wasn’t feeling very calm!) while I kept my eyes shut and continued to listen to my CDs with my headphones on and moaned deeply with the pressure waves. On the drive I threw up into the wastebasket that Peter had so wisely packed. Peter has since told me that some of the waves came two minutes apart, which made him nervous that we would be birthing roadside. I guess I had a break for about 7 minutes and he hoped we’d have enough time to get to the birth center.
The birth center is about 45 minutes away from our house and we arrived just after 1 p.m. I waited until one pressure wave had passed before I got out of the car. I made it to the bench outside of the birthing center and asked Peter if we could sit down for another pressure wave before we headed upstairs. When we got upstairs I laid down in the room I knew I would be birthing in while Peter went to find someone since everyone was having their lunch break out on the balcony.
Breathing Baby Out
Laura, a midwife in training, came in to do a vaginal exam. I asked her how long those take and she said about a minute. I told her to wait since another pressure wave was coming on. When I ‘came up’ from it I told her she should probably get in there quick before the baby came. She laughed and apparently thought I was at about 4 cm since I was in such a good mood and joking around with her. While she was doing the exam she said, “I can’t find the cervix.” I naively asked, “Where did it go?” She said, “That means you’re at 10 cm…” I responded, “Well, that’s good, right?” She asked the midwife, Tracy, if she could check to make sure she wasn’t wrong and I told them that didn’t seem necessary because I didn’t have trouble believing I was that close.
On a side note, Hypnobabies encourages you to have a birthing day project for your early birthing time and they suggest making a sweet treat for whoever will be attending the birth. I apologized to everyone for not making cookies or brownies for them since I hadn’t realized I was in my birthing time and that just made them laugh. Poor Peter wanted 5 minutes to eat some of his protein bar, go to the bathroom, and get his swim trunks on since we were going to be in the water tub and I told him, “Baby’s waiting on you!” I had another pressure wave and the midwives rubbed my back while he was gone.
When he got back we both got in the water tub and he massaged my lower back during all of my pressure waves. In between we were joking around with the midwives and one another. I was still feeling great and totally relaxed between them. These pressure waves felt so much more powerful that my moaning almost felt like a low roar bellowing up from somewhere so deep inside me that I don’t think I could ever imitate it again without being in my actual birthing time. I’ve learned that those noises are fairly common with hypnobirths and have been compared to a weight lifter or martial artist. You don’t see a weight lifter or martial artist quietly lifting heavy weights or breaking through bricks without noise- there is an enormous amount of energy behind the groans you hear them make. It felt the same for me, very powerful.
Hypnobabies had prepared me for the ‘breathing baby out’ phase as a two steps forward, one step back process. That’s exactly what it felt like- it was a great practice in patience. The midwives put a mirror below where my labia was parting so that I could see her hair floating in the water and see where to touch the top of her head- her hair was so soft! The amount of hair confirmed a reason for the severe heartburn. I breathed baby out for an hour and a half or two hours and the only complaint I had during it was that my heartburn was making me throw up a little in my mouth during my low moaning. Tracy got a bowl and told me I could spit into it but the first time I did it bounced back and hit me in the face. I commented, “Well, that didn’t work out so well.”
Throughout the whole time we were in the tub I’d ask Peter if he was having fun or how he was doing and his response was always some version of, “Time of my life, baby.” When he asked me how I was doing my responses varied from how much fun I was having, that the baby and I made a great team, or what a good birth partner Peter was being.
During the birthing stage and anytime the pressure waves were more intense I used the “peace” cue. This meant I exhaled deeply as I said, “Peeeeeaaaace” and imagined breathing mental anesthesia to wherever I felt my body needed it. It was probably the most useful cue that I employed and really allowed me to focus on something. I had a little trouble maintaining relaxation once she was crowning and Peter repeated some of the relaxation cues, which helped me immensely. I was leaned forward over the tub’s edge and Peter was behind me the whole time. As she was coming out Pete was updating me on how far she was and I heard him say, “She has your nose! Thank God!” He caught her and the midwives helped pull her up between my legs and laid her in my arms. Pete was crying and I was just staring at her in awe when Pete asked, “Is it a boy or girl?” Laura told us she hadn’t seen yet and then checked- it was a girl! We said, “Hello, Aster!” After 9 months of not knowing who this little person was that grew inside me, it was amazing to finally meet her.
The news of Aster’s birth spread like wildfire throughout the birth center. At our checkups since the birth we’ve been told by midwives, even those not in attendance, how impressed they were. One midwife told me I birthed like a second time mom, only better. Another said that she knew I would do well since I had practiced religiously. The ones who attended the birth laughed about how silly Peter and I were during my birthing time, and especially how I apologized for not baking them cookies (although we remedied this later by bringing the attendees aster flowers to remember our little Aster). Laura informed us that on their student blog everyone was talking about different births they’d witnessed and she told them, “I got to see a pain-free birth; it was incredible!”
You won’t ever hear me say that Hypnobabies is the only or best childbirth course. I feel like this is one of those decisions that is very personal and each woman needs to pick what will make her the most comfortable. This was perfect for me. But the only reason it worked as well as it did was because I practiced. I’m sure the same would be true for other childbirth courses if they were practiced as much. A runner doesn’t show up at a marathon never having run a day in his/her life and expect to be successful. Birthing is a tremendous event and requires a lot of time and energy. I was pleased that my training paid off. Mostly, what I learned from this experience is that birth doesn’t have to be an out-of-control event and I was surprised to find it could actually be comfortable, enjoyable, and even fun.
tags: natural birth, hypnobabies, hypnobirth, pain free childbirth, freebirth, free birth, birth stories, positive birth stories, won't scare pregnant wome birth stories, water birth stories, water birth, birth stories with pictures