When I became pregnant with my second baby, I was prepared to feel really anxious ahead of labour. After my first low risk pregnancy resulted in quite an unexpectedly traumatic delivery and a very sick baby, I experienced some postnatal depression and anxiety surrounding the experience.
In labour I was informed that I had a temperature and it happened that my waters had already ruptured, much to the surprise of my husband and I.
Our daughter Rosalie had an elevated heart rate throughout labour and was born with trial forceps in theatre. She struggled to breathe and was taken to the neonatal ward.
She had a pneumothorax on one lung, Pneumonia on the other lung, a broken clavicle and after 24 hours, her swabs came back positive for Group B Strep, an infection that is life-threatening for babies if not treated promptly and can cause permanent neurological damage.
We were shocked and horrified. Thankfully the consultants and staff were fantastic and saved Rosalie’s life. We spent a week in the hospital, with Rosalie in neonatal and then we were discharged with a fully recovered, healthy baby. She is now 2 1/2.
The postnatal depression hit about five months down the line; I had so much guilt about Rosalie getting sick and I was terrified about things happening to her. I received a course of CBT and felt much better.
After a few months or so my husband and I became pregnant again and initially I was thrilled. But after the morning sickness kicked in, I started to feel extremely low again; I was feeling very lonely and fearful of terrible things happening to the family, especially Rosalie and I struggled to sleep.
I talked to my midwife and GP and got on the waiting list for some more support. In the meantime, I took a hypnobirthing course with Siobhan and found that not only was it incredibly informative about the physiology of labour and extremely helpful in terms of practical and holistic tools to use in labour to induce and cultivate a calming atmosphere, but that it was also a hugely positive experience in itself. It gave me a positive focus and became a light in the dark. I threw myself into the practice of hypnobirthing; the breathing, the positive affirmations and the relaxations and allowed myself to be comforted by the fact that I was actively working to create a positive and rewarding experience for my baby, for myself and my husband.
Due to our daughter having Group B Strep, the recommendation was that I receive intravenous antibiotics in labour just in case. At first, this gave me comfort to know that we would be protected, but after having taken the hypnobirthing course I was keen to ask questions and to be fully informed about my options. I then thought to ask about testing for Group B Strep and if it would be possible to have a water birth in the birthing centre if I didn’t wish to receive the antibiotics (of course, providing that all was well with the baby and I). This was agreed by the birth centre matron and my midwife supported our choice.
I also chose to take a test for Group B Strep at week 38. Much to our surprise the test showed that I was once again carrying Group B Strep (which my midwife was surprised about due to the transient nature of it). Our plans changed again and I agreed to accept the antibiotics in labour to protect our baby.
As my waters ruptured without my being aware of it during the first pregnancy, I had been using Amniosense pads, which detect amniotic fluid, during the last few days leading up to labour.
It was on the Thursday morning (the day before I gave birth) that I noticed a very slight colour change in the pad. At first I thought I was imagining it, the colour change was so imperceptible. As the day went on the patch grew ever so slightly, but the colour was still so faint I was doubting its existence. By the evening I was a little anxious, I showed my husband and we agreed to call the triage at the hospital. The midwife who answered advised me to put in another pad, go to bed and call again in the morning.
When I woke on Friday morning, the pad was similarly coloured. The midwife we spoke to in the morning advised that it was likely to be urine as the pad detects changes in PH levels, but that they would check me over just in case.
My husband took me in and they put me on a monitor to check baby and tested for the amniotic fluid. Much to our astonishment, it was in fact my waters which had ruptured, once again, as they had in my first pregnancy, and only a slight trickle had occurred. Thanks to the pads we had picked up on it but by the time we were in hospital it had already been 24 hours and with the risk of Group B Strep, the midwife wanted to get right on with an induction to reduce the risk to baby. I burst into tears instantly, overwhelmed with fear for my baby with the Group B Strep and shock that the same thing had occurred as it had with Rosalie.
I pulled myself together and my husband and I were moved to the labour ward where he left me to go home to get our bags. Meanwhile a midwife advised me that due to the circumstances and risks to baby, a water birth would no longer be possible.
I was keen that the midwives would still pay attention to and honour the wishes in our birth plan to have a mobile labour and for lights to be dimmed, voices kept low and for any necessary discussion to go through my husband so that I might stay focused on my hypnobirthing.
As soon as my husband returned we set about making the room more comfortable with battery operated tea lights, fairy lights and relaxation tracks.
At one point during the Friday afternoon, a midwife came by to rupture the front of my waters which hadn’t yet gone. I was also given the first of several courses of antibiotics to protect the baby against Group B Strep. It was then around 6:30pm on Friday evening that I was eventually induced.
After a minute or so I could feel the surges start up. I had been experiencing some irregular tightenings up until then but nothing significant. It was challenging to remain mobile whilst attached to the drip for the antibiotics and the synthetic oxytocin but with the help of my husband, I managed to utilise the tools that I had learnt in my hypnobirthing course.
We had fairy lights and battery operated tea lights around the room and I used the birthing ball and the bed to get into some upright and forward positions. I found the relaxation tracks and the positive affirmations to be really helpful and crucially the breathing techniques I had learnt kept me focused and calm throughout.
When the surges began to feel really intense, I felt myself begin to get a little shaky so I made use of the gas and air to refocus myself. After a few more minutes I began to feel like I needed to have a poo and then blood and fluid started to trickle out from between my legs.
After my midwife checked me and confirmed that I was 9 1/2cm dilated, I followed my body’s lead and began to breathe downwards.
My midwife encouraged me to change positions and eventually to lie on my back because she felt that this position was helping me.
Tim said he could see the head and then I felt an intense sensation – it felt as if I was about to split apart – and I knew his head was crowning. Next thing I knew his head was out and one final breath down and our baby was born.
Gabriel Arnold William Diamond entered the world at 11:24pm on Friday 25th August 2017 at 8lb 2oz.
It was an amazing experience to feel and breathe through every moment of labour with our son. It felt very different to my experience with Rosalie. When she was born – due to the infection and the temperature, we later learned that – the surges weren’t lasting long enough and her heart rate was high, and consequently Rosalie was delivered in theatre with forceps.
It was wonderful when our son arrived after such a positive birth experience and I pulled him up onto my tummy. He found my nipple himself and started nursing within minutes. It was such a special moment and a memory that I will treasure.
I know that the experience wouldn’t have been as positive had I not utilised the hypnobirthing techniques I learnt with Siobhan, especially considering the unique and potentially troubling circumstances surrounding the events that preceded labour.
Siobhan Miller of The Positive Birth Company offers hypnobirthing courses in Devon and London as well as retreats and placenta encapsulation services.