Prior to becoming pregnant I held a deep fear that I would not be able to handle the pain of natural child birth. I simultaneously held a deep desire to bring my child into the world in a peaceful and healthful way; the way nature intended. Being a redhead, research indicates that we have a lower pain threshold and I had never been seriously ill, broken a bone, or required stitches…so how could I even begin to imagine how I would manage what I had heard was equivalent to the pain of fracturing 20 bones at the same time?
Once I became pregnant, initially I put the labour and birth part out of my mind and focused on my pregnancy, however I knew that I needed to tackle my fears if I was to achieve the birth I desired, and I was now on a ticking timeline. The first big game-changer for me was attending Jenny Blyth’s “Amazing Spaces” birth workshop when I was about 16 weeks pregnant. Jenny was my sister-in-law Tara’s midwife who delivered her son’s (Noah) breech birth at home, and she has a number of published books. I remember being almost sick to my stomach nervous at the beginning of the workshop knowing that for the first time in my pregnancy I was going to start thinking about the reality of labour and birth. At the end of the class however I felt the complete opposite; I was empowered with knowledge of the birthing process and understood how my body was designed for this exact purpose.
The second game-changer was a few months later when my midwife at RBWH recommended me to Trish Cumming, a HypnoBirthing Doula. I knew that I wanted the support of a doula for my pregnancy and labour, however I had no idea what HypnoBirthing was. After meeting with Trish and learning more, I was confident she would be the right support person for us, and felt a natural attraction to the HypnoBirthing method and school of thought. Zach and I signed up for Trish’s 5-week HypnoBirthing course, and began daily relaxation practices.
I have always believed strongly in the power of mind-set, and with my newfound knowledge of how both my mind and body are designed to work in harmony during labour and birth, I finally felt empowered to surrender my body over to my deep instincts, confident that this would allow me to achieve the natural and fearless birth experience I so desired.
This is the story of how I achieved just that; an empowering and pain-free birth, a life experience that I truly treasure, and a magical beginning for our beautiful son Jaxon, despite encountering a few challenging circumstances throughout labour.
August 1, 2016
Today I had my 39 week midwife appointment. I mentioned how itchy I’ve been for the last week and a half, and was immediately referred for a blood test to check my liver function as the itching could be a symptom of a serious pregnancy disease called Cholestasis (which it seems my mother also had for the last 2 weeks she was pregnant with me, and all of her pregnancy with Juliana…although the doctors didn’t know what it was at that time so she just called it “the itchies”). I’ve also been asked to fast for 10 hrs tonight prior to another blood test at the hospital at 7:30am tomorrow morning, right after picking up my parents from the International Airport as they are arriving tomorrow morning!! Busy but exciting day ahead!
On the drive home I was thinking about the discussion I had with Martha, my midwife, about the potential of being diagnosed with Cholestasis. When I asked what the treatment would be if my tests came back positive, she responded “…delivery is the only treatment”. I probed a bit further and she said that the doctor would want to induce me ASAP if the test came back positive, to which I asked “…so does that mean I should bring a packed bag with me tomorrow”? She was a bit shady on her response, and mentioned that it was quite a serious condition for the baby.
After pulling into the driveway at home, I came to the conclusion that I was not looking forward to my discussion with Martha and/or the doctor about my potential induction tomorrow morning. Months of HypnoBirthing training have prepared me to handle unexpected changes to my birth plan, but I have also been looking forward to an intervention-free birth, and being able to fully embrace my body’s natural instincts and take advantage of the abundant pain relief hormones released during spontaneous labour and natural birth.
Sitting in the driveway, I said out loud to my belly and baby, “Let’s not have to have this discussion tomorrow Jaxon. It’s OK for you to come out now if you’re ready. I’m ready when you are”. I went inside to the bathroom and immediately noticed that my uterine seal (mucous plug) had started to release!!! I was amazed, and could not believe that my baby and body had heard me and responded so quickly! A giant smile of excitement grew across my face as I realised how close I was to meeting my beautiful baby. Joy was bursting from me as I snapped a few pics of my big round belly in the bathroom mirror, knowing that these would be some of the final photos. I called Zach and Trish, my doula, to let them know how my appointment had gone and also to spill the beans about my mucous plug releasing. I relaxed for the rest of the evening and wondered what would happen overnight as I dutifully began my fast around 9pm.
August 2, 2016
At 2am I woke up to go to the bathroom and noticed some very slight cramps similar to mild period pains. I wasn’t sure if I was imagining this or if they were real surges (I had never had any practice surges (Braxton Hicks) so I wasn’t sure what to expect at all), so I decided to test out my contraction timer to see if I could pick up any regularity to what I was experiencing. In the beginning I couldn’t really tell when they were starting or ending, but within the hour I was experiencing surges every 3 – 5 minutes.
Around 4am I felt a warm gush while lying on the bed and was sure that this was the real deal. I decided to call Martha to let her know, and check if I should continue to labour at home and abandon my scheduled blood test. She requested that I come in for the blood test to take advantage of my overnight fasting, as it would make a difference to how my labour was “handled”. Zach and I finished packing our last minute items for the hospital, and called Andrea around 6am to ask if she could pick my parents up from the airport. We headed off to the hospital around 7am, just in time for peak hour traffic into the city…
Despite travelling through rush hour, the trip to the hospital was not nearly as difficult as I was expecting comfort-wise. I sat in the back seat (with no seatbelt), leaning onto the installed car seat supported by 2 pillows whilst listening to our HypnoBirthing Rainbow Relaxation track on repeat, and focused on big belly breaths through surges. Zach calmly drove through the traffic as I received a voicemail from some stranger my parents had recruited at the airport to let me know they were sitting in a café waiting for me, which I then relayed onto Andrea who was on the way to get them. Somewhere along the drive Zach I and realised that it was his late father’s birthday, which immediately brought me emotional tears of joy/sadness/amazement that our son would likely share Howard’s birthday.
I walked into the hospital supported by Zach, pausing every few minutes to calmly breathe through my surges. Martha had cleared her schedule and welcomed me into the Birth Centre, and Trish met us there. It was there where my blood test was taken and I was informed that there was meconium traces in my broken waters, as well as that my blood test from the previous day indicated Cholestasis as suspected (to be confirmed with the blood test from that morning). Due to these special circumstances, I would not be able to labour in the ‘Birth Centre’ and would need to be transferred to ‘Birth Suite’ care, with continuous monitoring of myself and my baby and the support of medical staff. This unfortunately meant that the water birth I was so looking forward to was no longer an option, which I had to quickly come to terms with.
The good news was that Martha, a Birth Centre midwife, would be able to continue to care for me throughout my labour. Zach and I took a nice long shower together to relax, and had a photo taken of us in the Birth Centre room before we headed down the hallway with Trish and Martha to our new model of care.
I made a conscious decision to go with the flow and accept the changes to my birth plan, and focused my attention on breathing through my surges. My surges had slowed down infrequency by this point and I was aware through an internal check that I was only 1cm dilated. Martha, along with the on-call OBGYN doctor offered to break my fore-
waters that were still intact; however I declined and requested that I labour naturally and check back on my progress in a few hours. I was advised that due to my circumstances I “needed to have this baby today”, but I put the timeline out of my mind and re-focused on my relaxation and breathing whilst Trish ensured that my HypnoBirthing affirmations and Rainbow Relaxation remained on repeat creating a peaceful and calm environment around me. Zach remained by my side and both he and Trish ensured I remained hydrated and comfortable, frequently performing light touch massage or applying pressure to my sacrum, and offering snacks during early labour which I tried to nibble on.
My parents arrived with Andrea around 11:30am, performing their signature door knock theme to the ‘Mexican Hat Dance’ before gently sneaking into our quiet room. I broke into tears as they both came forward to hug me, with so much joy and happiness bursting from the seems that they were somehow able to share a brief moment with me as “pregnant Lizzi” before the arrival of our baby. They teared up too, especially when I confirmed that today was Howard’s birthday.
After walking around the room a bit, a sweet dance with Zach, and a few photos with my parents, I settled down on the bed to continue my relaxation and breathing.
After my next internal exam showed I was still around 1cm, I accepted Martha’s suggestion to break my fore-waters to help speed up my labour in an effort to avoid the need for Syntocinon to increase the frequency and intensity of my surges. I breathed through my surge as Martha released my remaining waters and felt a gush of warm liquid flow out of me. I declined the offer of Syntocinon and again requested to labour naturally for the next few hours before re-visiting the doctor’s suggestion. I was unaware of how frequently my surges were happening, or how long they were lasting for, and although I wondered what time it was, I avoided asking the question as I wanted to remain blissfully unaware of the timeline in an effort to experience time distortion.
I was about 3-4cm dilated around 4pm when Martha and the doctor again strongly recommended Syntocinon to speed up my labour and reminded me that I needed to have the baby before night-fall due to my circumstances or else an emergency C-section might be necessary.
At this point my surges had already grown stronger and I had vomited a number of times and couldn’t keep anything down. This combined with my previous 10-hour fasting meant that my energy was running very low, and for the first time I was worried about how I would be able to handle more intense surges, especially artificial ones that might be stronger than my natural labour. I shared my fears with Trish and consciously knew that I needed to move beyond this fear to progress. Trish talked me through a visualization of my fears going into a balloon and then releasing this balloon into the sky and letting it drift away from me.
After discussing options and consulting with Zach and Trish I finally accepted and agreed to the Syntocinon, as well as an anti-nausea injection. For the first time in my labour I felt pain as they inserted a cannula into my left hand and hooked me up to an IV to administer both fluids and the drug to induce a quicker labour. I continued to focus on my breathing and zone out to Rainbow Relaxation track, and put everything else out of my mind.
Martha’s shift was coming to an end, and I requested that she perform another internal exam before leaving as she was the only one who could really compare based on my previous progress. She excitedly reported that I was now 6cm, to which I replied “…only 6 cm!?!”? My energy was continuing to wane, and I wondered if I would have the energy required to birth naturally, because although I had been managing the surges fine without pain I couldn’t imagine how I was going to continue to muster the energy.
Everyone assured me that 6cm was great progress and that of course I could do this, so I decided that I could and went deeper into my relaxation and zoned out from anything going on around me as the shift was handed over to a new midwife named Joy. I don’t think I even looked at her face, but on hearing the door close as Martha left I felt a distinct change in my surges which felt lower in pressure as I breathed out and released my energy as guttural grunts.
I was laying on my left side and thought that I should perhaps tell someone about the change in my surges as I felt the natural expulsive reflex pushing my baby down, but I didn’t have the energy or drive to relay this to information to anyone so I just continued in my own world of breathing and relaxation, making sure to keep my jaw and fists unclenched.
At some point I decided to change to a kneeling position on the bed, leaning my forearms towards the raised head of the bed. I was swirling my hips and neck to relieve the built up pressure and moaning heavily while releasing the energy downwards on each exhale. The monitors were constantly dropping out in this position to the dismay of Joy who asked me a few times whether she could attach a monitor to the baby’s head inside of me. Each time I declined, and Zach instead held the external monitor to my belly through each surge so that I could remain in my current position which relieved pressure from my lower back. This continued for some amount of time which I was unaware of.
9:10 – 9:22pm
Shortly after 9pm Zach asked Joy at what point we should take my underwear off. She said now was fine so Zach proceed to help me gently lower my underwear at which point he alerted Joy: “I can see the baby’s head”! I wasn’t surprised, but Joy was and she quickly got on the phone to urgently request the OBGYN, pediatrician and other medical support to come attend to my imminent birth.
I continued breathing the baby down through each surge, and hadn’t done any intentional pushing. The best way I can describe the feeling is similar to the vomiting reflex where your body is naturally heaving; however, this was in reverse and pushing downwards to a rhythm I was not consciously in control of. My mind accepted this and I gave my body over to the rhythm and flow of these intense surges. I felt the baby crowning as I could feel my vagina stretching and stinging to make way for the head, and in one conscious moment yelled out to sternly remind Joy that she had promised to support my perineum with a warm compress and I wondered why no one was doing this.
Someone gently whispered in my ear at this point that I was surrounded by an experienced team who was doing everything to support me and that I had nothing to worry about. During the next surge someone else alerted me that the baby’s heart-rate had just dropped and in a concerned tone advised me that they wanted me to get the baby out in the next contraction.
For the first time in labour I gave a mighty push on my next surge and felt my baby’s head, shoulders and entire body slide out of my body! I had birthed him on one giant exhale with a “baby is in trouble, mamma’s gotta get you out now” push, which surprised me as much as I think I surprised everyone else in the room. I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard Jaxon cry for the first time and they handed him through the back of my legs and I pulled him up to my chest. I cried as I breathed “I’ve got you, I’ve got you…I’ve got you…” reassuring my sweet little baby he was OK as I cradled him in my arms for the very first time. I was blissfully unaware of being covered in blood and Jaxon’s poo as the umbilical cord naturally stopped pulsing and Zach eventually cut the cord.
We were bundled up in a warm cocoon of blankets when Jaxon raised his little head to gaze up at me and we locked eyes in amazement and wonder at one another. Zach joined me to study our beautiful little son all snuggled up on my chest, and through joyful tears we shared a sense of accomplishment like no other time in our lives. Our little miracle was finally here in this world with us.