Cat: Our Stories
The Homebirth Hypnobirth of Ella
Born: 1 February, 2015
Weight: 4.2 kg (9lb2oz)
Phil and I attended Hypnobirthing classes with Cindy Fenn from Big Hearted Birth in November 2014. I was 28 weeks pregnant when we commenced classes. The Hypnobirthing classes were an amazing education and we learned so much about the practice of using visualisations and nasal breathing techniques in the lead-up to and throughout labour. It was a wonderful amount of information that we were given and the knowledge really empowered us to make our own decisions and design our birth plan.
In the lead-up to our birth, we practiced and used the following hypnobirth tools:
- Affirmations (stuck to the glass shower wall and read daily)
- Relaxation and surge breathing and breathing down
- Fear release and facial relaxation
- Listened to CD’s (mostly Tranquil Waters, which we also used while doing perineal massage)
At my 39 week appointment with the public hospital midwife I was told that there had been a change in hospital policy and that all pregnant women over age 42 need to wear constant monitoring upon admission. That meant that I was unable to have our planned water birth. I was shocked to think they could make such a big change to my birth plan at 39 weeks!! It felt like age discrimination.
I came out from that appointment quite shocked and disempowered and rang my acupuncturist (Karen Pohlner) to get her opinion. I had an appointment with her the next day and she suggested 2 options to me: Option 1 – organise a meeting with the Director of Obstetrics at hospital; or Option 2 – have a water birth at home, for which she recommended hiring Martina Görner from Ten Moons midwifery. I liked the idea of having a homebirth and rang Phil, who responded positively and agreed straight away.
With all the knowledge gained from our Hypnobirth course, I don’t know why we didn’t consider having a homebirth earlier!
Also interesting to note was that all my anxiety around the labour immediately lifted, like a weight off my shoulders, which made me realise that my anxiety was around potential hospital intervention and not to do with giving birth.
As I was already 39 weeks pregnant, we met with our midwife the following day. The transition of care was seamless and all scenarios were explained to us thoroughly. Phil set up the birth pool in our lounge room and now it was just a matter of waiting for action to happen.
The Big Day – Hypnobirthing Ella At Home
I sprang out of bed when my waters broke at 5.20am and they gushed! I remembered having an earlier conversation with my midwife about what to do if my waters break. She told me to have something to eat and go back to bed and sleep, so I did just that.
I started having surges around 9am. I was recording the surges on my mobile phone app, which required me to record the intensity of the surges. I wasn’t sure what to enter because I didn’t know how strong it was going to get! We established that if I make a noise/moan during the surge then it would be recorded as a very strong one. Otherwise if I just breathe though the surge that means it was either mild or strong. At this stage Phil was rushing to finish filling the pool, as he’d half-filled it the day prior (as well as taking photos of my belly)… I think he must’ve known!!
I was trying to focus on the surge breathing learnt at Hypnobirthing class and was wearing a TENS machine for a little while in the early stage of labour, but soon took this off as I found it distracting more than helpful. By now Phil had closed all the blinds in the house and was covering the sky lights. I had planned to have calm music playing and have Phil reading me the Hypnobirthing affirmations, but I was so sensitive to noise that I wore earplugs and focussed on my breathing instead.
I found I didn’t want any external “distractions” and focused completely internally throughout the 12-hour labour, only opening my eyes a handful of times in the space of 10+ hours.
I remember being in the bathroom (at about the half-way mark) and getting to the point where I couldn’t record my surges in the mobile app anymore because they were too intense, and a short time after this I vomited, which relieved the intensity for a bit. At this time Phil rang our midwife and she suggested I enter the birth pool. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of doing that earlier!
I went into the birth pool, and remember our baby feeling quite buoyant in my tummy, which was a strange feeling after being used to the gravitational pull when squatting on the bathroom floor. It just didn’t feel right and the water wasn’t warm enough and I found it hard to relax. Perhaps I was thinking that labour would be a little less intense in the water, but that wasn’t the case at all. I gave it a good try and stayed in the pool for a couple of hours, but then decided to come back out after I vomited again. I remember grabbing Phil’s hand and telling him that I can’t do this anymore. He said “you can do it and you are doing it”. In my mind I was thinking “please let this be transition, as I haven’t got the energy to do this much longer!” I felt like I needed to open my bowels and remembered Cindy saying that this is a sure sign of the commencement of the final stage of labour. At this point Phil called our midwife Martina, and asked her and Karen to attend.
Phil helped me to the toilet and I sat there for a while having my surges and breathing down. Martina and Karen arrived, and our other midwife Jacqui soon after. I went from sitting on the toilet to resting on the Swiss ball on all fours, still breathing down and visualising her moving down, and occasionally squeezing Phil’s hand quite hard! Karen gave me THE BEST acupressure massage, as my lower back and hips were exhausted and I remember thinking “how the hell am I gonna push a baby out?!!” She also gave me some Chinese herbs to take the edge off. I never knew that five adults and a Swiss ball could fit in our bathroom, but we all did!
I remember feeling our baby’s head start to move down through my cervix and it was THE MOST incredible feeling! I imagined my cervix opening like a lotus flower, and it suddenly occurred to me that this work hadn’t been for nothing: we were going somewhere and she is actually going to come out!
I asked my midwife how much longer to go, at which point she joked “sometime in the next couple of hours!!” But not long after that she suggested I remove my earplugs as it was time to give birth. My 2nd midwife suggested I touch my baby’s head as it was starting to crown. As I did this, I asked whether the squishy feeling skin was my labia or her head, and when told it was her head I replied “that’s disgusting!” Ha ha! I’ve definitely never felt skin so soft and squishy before! I was gently J breathing her head out and only pushing very gently when my midwife said, so as not to tear. The birth of her head was a wonderful moment because I felt that getting her head out was the biggest hurdle! I was so excited I asked my midwife to take a picture and this is now permanently engrained in my memory!
My midwife asked Phil to get ready to catch and at 9.12pm Ella Jane was born! Phil passed her through to me and I kept saying “She’s real! She’s real!!” Phil admitted later that Ella was quite slippery so he put her down on the towels pretty quick, before then passing her to me.
Ella only cried very briefly and once I held her in my arms she stopped. She went on the breast straight away and we had skin to skin contact for nearly 1.5 hours! Phil clamped her cord once the blood had drained from it.
The placenta came away naturally 10 minutes after birth. My midwife checked me and there was no tearing, despite pushing out a 4.2kg baby! The perineal massage must have helped heaps
Our midwives stayed with us for a few more hours while I showered and Phil had skin-to-skin, then we weighed, checked and dressed Ella. It was soooo lovely to go to sleep in our own bed!
I always intuitively felt that once I got through labour and birth that everything else would flow naturally, but breastfeeding was tricky! I didn’t realise how many intricacies there were to good attachment! I wanted to breastfeed Ella and give her immune system a good start in life, so I didn’t want to give up and supplement with formula. After using a nipple guard, visiting two different breastfeeding clinics (run by Council), and some advice from a maternal health nurse, at 4 weeks I was finally pain-free and comfortable with breastfeeding! I can honestly say that it was totally worth persevering as it’s the most rewarding experience to know you’re sustaining your baby’s life. Ella’s now 7+ months old and I’m still breastfeeding her.
We’re so grateful for everything that’s happened with us throughout pregnancy, labour and motherhood and I’m at peace knowing it’s happened naturally. I’m confident we achieved this largely due to our knowledge gained from Cindy during the Hypnobirthing course and from having a midwife and support team who fully support natural birthing.
Narelle, Phil and Ella