My amazing birth experience
I read this story in the food court of Casuarina today and had a little cry. It is just so beautiful and positive and the photos, divine!!
Chantelle worked really hard to have the amazing birth that she was able to achieve, what an amazing hypnobirthing super star!!
Enjoy.... N x
I first heard about Hypnobirthing on a podcast from Alexx Stuart’s ‘Low Tox Life’ and remember thinking to myself that you’d have to be so brave to even consider a drug-free birth, that it was reserved for only the few who have a high tolerance to pain and meditation. I didn’t think much more of it until a couple of months later when I attended a Pregnancy Seminar by Darwin Naturopathics. Here I learnt a whole lot about nutrition in pregnancy, which was my focus learning area at the time, and heard from guest presenter Nicole from Mind, Bump and Birth. Here was the idea of hypnobirthing again, presented by someone with such enthusiasm and passion for the topic. Over the next few days, I found myself thinking about it more and more and saying to friends and family that it’s something I’d consider as I felt I could do it. I figured that since I practiced relaxation meditation to fall asleep often (catching zzz’s within a couple of minutes before the track finished) and knew how the mind can influence pain tolerance, the very least I could do is look into it more.
What I didn’t know is that the course would cover this and so much more. It gave me a really good understanding of what to expect from labour, what to expect from my body and how to influence my mindset. I listened to either ‘Surge of the Sea’ or ‘Affirmations for a Positive Birth’ Hypnobirthing tracks from 25 weeks almost every night. For me, these tracks were great but only a small part of what made me feel empowered in the lead up to my birth. I really valued understanding the different stages of labour, and how our bodies are designed to give birth naturally, for example, what hormones your body produce and what artificial hormones and interventions do to block that. And also how your partner can support you during the birth (my hubby was a rockstar).
Throughout pregnancy, I really wanted to make sure I played an active role in the health of my baby in my bump, during labour and postpartum. I did spend a bit of money, but to me, there’s few better things to spend money on. There’s such a great network of people here in Darwin that helped me on my pregnancy journey. Here’s a run-down of who I saw and when:
5 weeks: Appointment with my brilliant GP Dr Roxane Craig
7 weeks: Nutritionist appointment with Jacqui from Healing Foods Nutrition
10 weeks+: Obstetrician appointments with Jenny Mitchell
12 weeks: Pregnancy Seminar by Darwin Naturopathics
15 weeks+: Semi private and ongoing group reformer Pilates classes with Deborah at Encore Pilates
23 weeks: Hypnobirthing Course with Nicole from Mind, Bump and Body
31 weeks: The Fourth Trimester one-on-one with Amanda from The Perinatal Space
I wouldn’t have had the birth I did without attending the Hypnobirthing Australia class with Nicole. She is genuinely passionate about being helping parents to be and it’s nice that she’s a midwife so can give even more insights into birth here in Darwin. She was there for me before and after the course, talking me through any concerns I had around what control I would have over my birth experience within the private hospital system. So without further adieu, here’s what my labour looked like!
Let me start by admitting we’re one of the crazy couples who decided it would be a good idea to move house just a couple of weeks before my due date. Turns out, we unpacked with a week and a half to spare. I had finished work with a week to spare and in that time, I’d FaceTimed the family, caught up with friends, gone shopping for maternity clothes, baked muffins, brewed iced tea, folded nappies and was just starting to get bored being at home.
I’d had such a cruisy pregnancy - no morning sickness, just an aversion to toothpaste in the first 12 weeks and a need to eat, eat, eat, including weird childhood combinations such as vinegar on pizza (don’t mock it until you try it!), anything else acidic and also bananas, so many bananas. Since around week 35 I’d been waiting and waiting on Braxton-Hicks so I could better practice Hypnobirthing breathing techniques. I hated not knowing what they felt like (am also one of those people who has never had period pain). In hindsight, perhaps I did get them but had been mistaking them for our little girl doing a big stretch!
It all started at 38+5 weeks when I woke up at the leisurely hour of 9am on Saturday morning to a leaking sensation. Suddenly bright-eyed, recalling Nic saying that waters breaking feel like an uncontrollable wee, I went to the bathroom and managed to catch the mucus plug. Walking down the hallway, I felt a little more seep out with each step. It was the strangest and funniest sensation not being able to control it. I was laughing to my husband, Tristan, saying I’m leaking and it won’t stop. It happened around 6 times over 20 minutes, so I phoned the maternity ward at Darwin Private Hospital and gave them an update “I have clear fluid coming out, I think it’s my waters but I don’t have any surges”. They suggested I pop in to the ward so they could take a look. I told Tristan and we agreed it didn’t seem urgent that we go in but we start getting ready. He took that as a cue to unpack the dishwasher, put some washing on and have a nice long shower. Meantime, I’m thinking, okay maybe this is too leisurely, let’s get a move on already! So hospital bag in tow (just in case), we make our way in to the ward. After some fetal monitoring, my Obstetrician Jenny Mitchell arrived to confirm that yes, it was definitely my waters and that I was 1cm dilated and the cervix had not started thinning. The monitor was recording surges, but I just couldn’t feel them. She suggested that I go home for 24 hours to see if labour progressed, and come back in the morning.
So we go home and refer back to our Hypnobirthing folio for natural ways to progress labour, message Nic and madly research Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM), a topic I had skipped over. I made a batch of iced raspberry leaf tea, went for a walk, relaxed and tried some acupressure. I was focusing really hard on trying to feel surges, saying “I think that was one”. Had a great night’s sleep, hardly interrupted. Chatting through the timing of my waters breaking, we pondered if the spicy curry and intimacy had had anything to do with bringing on labour!
The next morning, we woke up and went for a walk around our neighbourhood. It was lightly drizzling rain and we were greeted with a stunning rainbow with lightning show. What a nice way to start the day of our baby’s birth!
We then made our way in to the hospital, and I had another examination which indicated I was still only 1cm dilated. With a risk of infection with premature rupture of membranes (PROM), my obstetrician started getting an oxytocin drip ready straight away. I started to get a little upset, because it all suddenly felt rushed and I didn’t know what that meant. Would I be hooked up to a machine and not be able to move during labour? How would this impact me? Are there any alternatives to this form of augmentation? I had so many questions, but none at the same time. I was advised it was really important to move things along after 24 hours of waters breaking, and that I’d be able to move around easily with the drip and that it wouldn’t stop me from getting into the shower or the bath.
So the drip went in at 9.30am, and there was plenty of waiting around for it to kick-in. They started on low levels of oxytocin, adjusting it every half hour depending on how I was going. Meantime, I messaged my friend Michelle who had offered to be there at the birth - a lovely friend, homebirth mumma of two, committee member of Darwin Homebirth Group and first year midwifery student - she was the complete package! She and Tristan worked together perfectly to preempt my needs, offer position change advice, emotional support and comfort.
For relaxation and pain relief, I started off with walks around the ward, calming music, a Tens Machine (hitting the boost button for each surge) and sitting on a birth ball. Time was such a blur, I have no recollection of when things started changing. All I know is that there was plenty of chit chat and fun to be had in the early stages and that when Tristan came back into the room after getting some lunch he said I was a completely different person. I had gone into my zone, and limited responses to one or two word answers and was breathing deeply through my surges.
However, I found that when I moved position, especially after laying on the bed for intermittent monitoring, I’d break out in a hot sweat, feel nauseous and vomit. And I really started hating having to get intermittent monitoring as I couldn’t move around and I couldn’t control the surges as near as much, they just felt so much more intensified. After some time, the morning midwife, Joy, asked if I’d like to try the shower, to which I excitedly agreed to (hello hot water!). I think it was at this point that Michelle switched out our new-age chill playlist for some truly relaxing meditative music and put some clary sage (courtesy of Nic) into the diffuser.
Four hours in, my OB came and did another examination, I was 3-4cm. With my oxytocin levels being consistently adjusted, at one point I felt that I was just getting surge after surge without enough of a break in between. Still relatively early on into my 12 hour labour, it was at this point that I had my first and only “I can’t do this” moment. My midwife, Emma, calmed me and offered support, and hesitantly asked if I wanted pethidine. My response was “probably not”, followed by “what is it again?” because I couldn’t actually remember if it was something like panadol. Once she started explaining, I remembered that this drug crosses the placenta and is definitely not something I wanted. She said she really didn’t think I needed it because I was doing such a good job without any pain relief so far.
So I kept on with the tens machine, and Tristan got our heat pack out which was the holy grail for a big portion of the day. He and Michelle were running to reheat it in the microwave between surges (basically burning their hands), with me saying, “where’s the heat pack?” everytime it was taken away.
Eventually I got back in the shower for consistent heat and it felt amazing. I let the shower fill the bath and would sit and lean over the edge for what must have been hours. It was so comfortable and relaxing and it was here I vividly remember focusing on my breathing, relaxing my jaw, visualising each surge and channeling affirmations. I always thought affirmations wouldn’t work for me (to be honest, I always found them corny), but subconsciously they were there helping me through. The ones that entered my head were “I’m focused on a calm, easy birth”, “you can do anything for just one minute”, “breathe through each surge” “I allow my body to fully relax and deepen” “I trust my body to do what it was designed to do” and “each surge brings my baby closer to me”.
Michelle and/or Tristan were always with me, preempting my needs with soft touch massage, cool face washer, support and encouragement. Each surge I had was quiet, calm and focused.
At one point, I was so relaxed in the bath that I really need to poop. I whispered that to Tristan and he asked if I wanted help getting out and going to the toilet. I calmly and happily replied, “nope, I’m doing it right here!”. He started laughing and I told him not to so he had to go out of the room to control himself and had Michelle take his place. Her response was pure excitement knowing that it meant that my baby was starting to move into position. I remember her whispering in my ear at this point saying “now’s the time to visualise your cervix opening”, which I found really helpful. All the while my midwife scooped up the poop like it was no big deal. It’s funny how self-consciousness just goes right out the window and anything goes during labour!
Leading up to 4pm, it was time for intermittent monitoring again as my OB was due back shortly. At this point, I was 4-5cm dilated, not that I recall this. Afterwards, I hopped straight back into the shower and bath. It was here that I overheard Tristan and my midwife whispering about what the next steps were likely to be and what our options were if my OB wanted to intervene. I had no idea why there were talking about that because I knew things were progressing, so I channeled my bubble of comfort and refocused inwards, tuning them out. It was imperative that Tristan was my advocate during labour. I knew I could put all my trust in him as we had done the Hypnobirthing course together and shared the same values. He was able to confidently have these discussions with the midwife and was focused on strategies to buy time or ask for alternatives should the need for intervention arise. And as it turns out if I didn’t start progressing faster, my OB would have been suggesting a C-section. Thank goodness I didn’t hear that as it would have made me stressed and upset which I imagine would have affected my progress.
In the bath and shower I could definitely feel my surges intensifying but enjoyed breathing through them. I’m pretty sure my midwife let Tristan time my surges rather than hooking me up to the monitor. I definitely felt that my cervix was opening, and found leaning back on one arm the most comfortable position in the bath for this.
Around 7.30pm, my midwife gave me that apologetic look and said we had to hook me up to get monitored as my OB was schedule to arrive soon. I quietly waited for my surge to finish and laid on the bed. It was here that I felt my surges completely weaken from the intensity I’d had in the bath. The stats wouldn't have looked good. But right before she took it off, I got one strong one. Turns out, that was the calm before the storm! As I stood up I was hit with an almighty surge and instinctively faced Tristan and gripped his shoulders and for the first time started vocalising each surge. Michelle applied inward pressure to my hips which felt amazing. My midwife returned after hearing this change in my behaviour and asked if I was making this noise because I felt like I wanted to push. I said I wasn’t too sure, maybe. Turns out this was transition! It was at this point that my OB came into the ward, heard me from down the hallway and knew something was happening. She got me back on the bed and did an examination and told me I was 10cm, fully dilated! Talk about timing. The biggest smile came over my face, knowing that we’d be meeting out little girl soon and thinking holy crap, I did it! I was so proud of myself.
My OB had me lie back and encouraged me to push with each surge, reminding me to breath down not out, which was helpful as I had forgotten to. Michelle whispered in my ear saying if I didn't want to be coached, I could try going on all fours and instinctively work with my body. I gave it a whirl, but was surprised when my surges lost intensity. After a few surges, we decided that I’d go back to laying back position with my feet on the hips of my OB and midwife (or whoever happened to be standing there). Tristan and Michelle were by my side offering support, encouragement and a cool face washer. In between surges, I could chat and laugh with everyone. It was strange how aware of the room I had become. When I felt a surge coming back on, I’d say “okay, here we go” and everyone would get in position again. At one point when pushing my OB said “I know it’s burning but keep going”. After the third time she said that I replied, “it’s actually not burning, it doesn’t hurt”. In all honesty, the surges in the lead up were stronger and this surprised me, it was a walk in the park by comparison. Baby’s heartbeat was monitored after each surge, and was cool as a cucumber each time. My OB showed me the baby’s head crowning in the mirror and I could see a full head of hair. With each push, I could see and hear my husband just in awe of the process which got me even more excited. I do wish that I’d had another look in the mirror or over my belly when her head came out, but I was so focused on breathing down I missed that opportunity.
So after an hour of pushing, it was time for a shift change and my lovely midwife Emma said her goodbyes as Lyndsey entered. Well, she missed out on the birth my a matter of minutes, in fact she was still in the building when our baby arrived! After 12 hours almost to the minute from when my labour was augmented, we welcomed Olivia Lee Scott into the world smoothly and was put on my chest for beautiful skin to skin time and to meet her mummy, daddy and Michelle. After 45 minutes of giving her lots of love and cuddles, we decided to FaceTime both our parents in Queensland to share the good news that we’d hid from them! It was beautiful to be able to let them meet her and share that special moment.
The placenta came out 4 minutes after she arrived. Recovery was seamless. There were no tears so I was up and about walking and showering straight away without an issue. I do wish I could have had a full body massage scheduled after that marathon though!
Having the oxytocin augmentation wasn’t an issue in the end. I was able to move around fine, and it was nice being able to go for a lovely morning walk, slowly make our way to the hospital and have access to a big bath and nice space to labour in. I absolutely loved the private hospital midwives during labour and postpartum care, and found my OB super helpful during delivery. Having the support of my husband and good friend throughout my whole labour was invaluable, and I’m so proud and thankful to both of them. Next time (if there’s a next time), I’d be curious to see what natural labour progression would feel like, pending it all going smoothly, and have uncoached second stage of labour, letting my instincts take over. But I’m happy with the way things went and have a beautiful enjoyable experience to reflect back on.