Henry Elliot Hayden
Born: 29th April 2019
Weight: 7lb 13oz
'Our birth was long and was not pain free, but it was serene and beautiful. I felt in control for almost the entire time and well equipped with tools to keep me focused and calm'
I loved being pregnant and found the whole journey amazing; I loved feeling my bump and watching my body change and adapt in many ways. This was our first pregnancy and our ‘due date’ was 25th April. Up until this week we had done a vast amount of Hypnobirthing practice at home. My husband Mark would record the hypnobirthing scripts on my phone with relaxing music playing in the background which was great because I had them accessible to listen to whenever I wanted. I found it much more relaxing and normal to listen to the scripts and affirmations with Mark’s voice, rather than on a download track. I also found that pregnancy yoga once a week really complimented my hypnobirthing practice with the breathing and relaxation, but also to stretch and find positions that helped me to feel open and comfortable.
Throughout the last week of April I had been feeling twinges, period pains and even had the odd series of random surges here and there. Every time I thought, this could be it, try not to get excited, I’d time the feelings I was having (sometimes for hours) and then they would fade away. I found this quite disheartening. By the Friday my due date had passed and I decided to take on a new tact; to live life as normal, get out and do things. When Mark arrived home from work I asked him whether he’d like to get out for a drink. I got dressed up and done my hair. We went to West Malling, I had a posh mock-tail and whilst sitting at the bar I starting having surges. We had a reasonable night’s sleep that night and by 7am the Saturday morning I definitely felt that these surges were different to those I had felt in the week. At 11am we decided to pop to Tesco’s. Mark did the recycling and got the car cleaned in the car park while I pushed the trolley round the shop, stopping for each surge and counting them as they came. I noticed that I was having one surge in every 5 minutes and thought, I think this is really it this time!
We spent the rest of the day doing bits and bobs, popping to my mums for lunch, doing relaxation exercises and had a friend pop in for a cup of tea. By the evening we decided to call the birth centre, the surges were still not strong but we thought they might like to know that we were in the latent phase and might be coming in at some point. The midwife told us to just get a normal night’s rest and try to relax as much as possible.
The next 24 hours were the most challenging for me. We went to bed as usual, I put “My Best Friend’s Wedding” on the iPad to watch with my headphones on, but within half an hour had to jump up with a surge. Mark woke from his sleep and said he couldn’t leave me alone like this, so, ignoring our training and the midwife’s advice we stayed up together watching funny movies and discussing how this is really happening now!! By 3am and two films down we called the midwife again, she was quite stern and stressed that we really must get some rest. Mark made us a bed up together on the sofa and caught some sleep while I concentrated on my breathing and shut my eyes. I dozed between surges for a few hours.
On the Sunday morning the surges had ramped up a gear and I felt it was time that I needed the Tens machine. My surges were powerful by this point, but still inconsistent, so I knew I wasn’t in established labour yet. We stayed positive and did relaxation scripts and massage to calm ourselves. I enjoyed using the Tens machine as I felt it gave me an element of control over my surges. For me, the hardest part of labour was wondering when should I go in to the birth centre? We had been told so many times not to arrive too early in the process as it can be disheartening, but I also thought it was disheartening to have been experiencing surges for so long but not yet be even deemed as ‘in established labour’ yet. The latent phase is tough. This is something that I don’t think I was warned about enough.
At 11am we called in again and the midwife said she could hear I was progressing and suggested a light stroll to bring along the surges a little. We walked to our local M&S garage, slowly, stopping about every few minutes for a surge. Each time I would just hold on to Mark’s shoulders and breath the surge away. I was staying positive and kept reminding myself that with each surge I am closer to meeting my baby. It’s hard to keep the excitement in check too! I really think this walk helped us. By 3pm we had called the birth centre again and they invited us in. There was a comedic half hour while I stood in the kitchen breathing through surges whilst Mark did laps of the house to load the car! I sat in the back of the car with my eyes shut and headphones on. I listened to my ‘meadow script’ and breathed through my surges. When we arrived, the midwife observed my surges, which had predictably slowed down slightly, and gave me the news that she still didn’t believe I was in established labour. This was disheartening. She offered us a vaginal examination which I was hesitant about accepting. Mark was worried that if I wasn’t very dilated that I would find it mentally quite a challenge to continue. We discussed and agreed after weighing it all up that it was more important that we knew where was at, so I could be aware and make choices for the next steps. I was 3cm, phew! The baby was very low, yes! And the cervix was very thin, thank goodness!
The midwife advised that I should go home and “even if we just drive home, have a bath and a bowl of pasta and drive back, that could be all you need to pass a few hours and gain a few cm’s”. We did just that. I had my bath and some pasta and even had a nap between surges, until I had an overwhelming urge to stand up. Mark gave me a light back massage and my waters broke, phew! From this point on my birth experience was beautiful and calm! It was 6pm, we went back to the birth centre (again with headphones and relaxation tapes on, eyes shut), I was 5cm dilated on arrival and they got me in the pool. The pool was so relaxing. I had my own safe space to stretch and move in, with Mark by my side the whole time. He decorated the room with artificial candles and played his audio through our boom box. We arrived just before a shift change and so were introduced to our lovely midwife, Marie, who would deliver our baby.
Marie sat quietly in the corner and just wrote notes in with a spot light. She popped in and out providing cups of tea and bowls of cereal and just let us do our thing. Mark had the gas and air in one hand and with the other would feed me drinks and snacks. I was in a complete world of my own and just enjoyed the calm.
This went on for hours but is all a bit of a blur. I remember Marie saying to me at one point, you will meet you baby soon! I didn’t know whether she meant soon, in the next hour, or soon, within the next 6 hours. But either way we just kept going, moving around the pool, breathing the gas and air and passing by each surge at a time. I really enjoyed occasionally catching the affirmations playing in the background reminding me, my body was made to do this, it was so empowering.
It wasn’t completely straightforward from here on, I was very tired. And even though mentally I was fit and ready, my body didn’t have the fuel it needed to progress the labour, the days of latent phase were catching up with us. At around 11pm Marie brought me a cup of honey tea which had worked well earlier in the evening to boost things along. I got all excited and downed it, which was a mistake. I was very sick, all over myself and the pool and needed to get out and have a shower. Now even more drained, Mark was holding me up in the shower and breathing through each surge with me. The positive thing about this was that the gravity really boosted my surges. Marie brought me some Clary Sage aromatherapy oil on a small ball of cotton wool and suggested I sniff it. With each sniff the surges strengthened as I waited for the pool to refill.
Each time Marie checked the baby’s heart rate she said what a wonderfully calm baby we had in there. I returned to the pool and began experiencing expulsive surges. My instinctive self really took over here as I mooed through each surge and rested in between. I thoroughly enjoyed this stage of the labour as I was able to take back control, I could physically feel the progress and started to see my baby’s hair drifting in the water. It was so empowering.
Henry was born at 3:40am on the Monday morning, in the water and placed straight onto my chest. He didn’t cry as he came out, he was so calm and it was the most overwhelming feeling and such a beautiful moment. I’ve never felt anything so soft, he smelt so sweet, it was sensory overload. After a cuddle Marie asked us if we’d like to see whether he was a boy or a girl, we had forgotten to look! After a while Mark cut his cord and I got out of the pool to deliver the placenta. Marie suggested that I have an actively managed third stage as I was so exhausted by this point and she wasn’t sure I had the energy for a physiological delivery, to which I agreed. Henry was placed back into my arms and latched on immediately, it was amazing.
Our birth was long and was not pain free, but it was serene and beautiful. I felt in control for almost the entire time and well equipped with tools to keep me focussed and calm. I truly believe that if I had not practiced Hypnobirthing I would have lost control during the latent phase and ended up requiring medical assistance to deliver Henry, outside of the water, which was everything that I didn’t want. I’m so grateful to have been able to experience the birth of my first child like this.
Since birth Henry has been a calm and content baby and always slept and fed very well.