Baby #2: My hypnobirth pandemic birth story

Trigger Warning: This is a positive birth story. However, as a birth story it is fairly graphic at times.

As my due date approached, I was getting more and more restless. It probably didn’t help that only 5 days before my due date, my birth plans had to change. The South East Coast Ambulance Service was struggling due to the new Coronavirus strain in Kent and Medway and were waiting up to 10 hours outside hospitals with patients. As such, I couldn’t have the home birth I had planned as they would be unable to assist the midwives should an emergency happen. After an afternoon of crying, I brought things back into my control. I focused on the things I could have and do at Darent Valley Hospital, where I’d had a waterbirth with my daughter.

Part of my restlessness was because I find it really difficult not knowing when I’m going to go into labour, as I like to be prepared for things! Not only that, but I was so uncomfortable. Walking was incredibly painful and rolling over in bed was agony thanks to my pelvic girdle pain. However, I knew it would all be worth it when I got to meet my little boy. On the evening of 5th January, his due date, labour finally began!

The start of labour

My daughter, Autumn, was born at 39 weeks and 6 days. As such, I hoped that this baby would come before his due date too. However, I had no such luck. On the evening of his due date, I had resigned myself to the fact that he probably wasn’t coming that day. I had my dinner and made myself as comfortable as I could on the sofa before doing some online shopping and chatting to my friends. Around 7.30pm I was feeling really tired and decided to take a nap. I had been losing my mucus plug all day, so I thought it could be a good idea to get some sleep just in case something happened. However, I’d read online that it’s not always a sign that labour is imminent so I’d tried not to get too excited about it.

At around half past eight, I woke up from my nap with some bad period like aching in my womb area as well as lower back pain and pain in my hips. I went to the toilet and lo and behold, there was my bloody show. I realised that labour had probably begun and felt quite anxious as well as excited.

Shortly after 9 o’clock, I told my mum what was going on and that I was pretty sure that I was in labour. My discomfort was rising. However, at that point I hadn’t actually had any contractions. As I was debating whether I was wrong about it being labour or not, two hit me with only a couple of minutes in between. They probably lasted around 30 seconds each. Now that I was at least 95% sure that this actually was labour, I rang my Dad to ask him to collect Autumn for him and my mum to look after.

One quick last bump picture taken between contractions while I waited for my Dad to arrive

A quick progression

I’d already packed a bag ready for Autumn, it was just a case of waking her up and getting her to choose some books and toys to take with her. When my Dad arrived, her car seat would also need to go into his car. As all this was taking place, the contractions were very quickly getting much much stronger. As we began to time them, we found that they were lasting an average of 40 seconds and were only a couple of minutes apart! I was very glad to see that my husband didn’t even attempt to argue about Autumn wanting to take her whole big box of Barbies to her Nanny and Grandad’s. Things seemed to be progressing very quickly!

I was dealing with contractions well, though. I was bouncing on my birthing ball through them, which really helped. When available, my husband was also helping me by using calming touch and massaging my back and shoulders. I was also focusing on hypnobirthing, doing my breathing exercises and visualisations. Holding my husband’s hands was also helpful. I even briefly held Autumn’s hands when he was out of the room. She was a bit unsure of everything though, I think, and didn’t really want to for long. As a result of hypnobirthing, I was able to keep composed in front of Autumn, although by the time she left with my Dad I was in a lot of pain and my husband had put the TENS machine on me upon my request.

I really felt like this little one wasn’t going to wait as the contractions were lasting longer, coming quicker and feeling more intense. At one point I was even sure I felt my baby’s head push down a bit! As such, we rang the hospital as soon as my Dad and Autumn left our house. Quite unsurprisingly, they asked me to come in straight away. I still felt a little bit doubtful that this was actually all real, especially as it was all happening so quickly! Still, it felt kind of exciting as I waddled along the driveway to the car in the cold air.

I was very uncomfortable in the car and found myself feeling a little anxious. I tried to just focus on breathing and being calm, knowing it wouldn’t be long at all until we got to the hospital. Everything was still increasing in intensity and I found myself cranking up the TENS machine further.

Arrival at the Hospital

When we arrived at the hospital at around 11.45pm, I momentarily felt relieved to have arrived there. Yet a second later, I felt like I could burst into tears because I was so scared. Not because of giving birth, but because I was so scared of going into a hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic and of the implications it could possibly have for us. Not only that, but rates were at their highest and I was at a hospital. We were in one of the very worst places in the country for cases.

My husband asked me which door we needed to go into to get to the birth centre (there are specific rules due to the pandemic). Fortunately, I was still able to speak through contractions at this point to tell him so that we could park close to it! When I got out of the car, I waddled to the boot where my husband was getting the bags out. Another contraction hit and I leaned against the side of the car, breathing through it. Around the time it hit, I noticed someone sitting in the car in the space next to us watching me. I remember feeling a bit angry that they were so blatantly staring at me instead of giving me a bit of privacy.

When I had my daughter, my husband wheeled me to the birth centre as it’s at the end of a long corridor and it was difficult to walk with contractions. However, this time there was no such luxury as there were not any wheelchairs by this side entrance to the hospital. The security guard there was also not particularly personable. Clearly seeing that I was in labour, he asked for the entry code very abruptly. As I struggled along the corridor holding my husband’s arm, I heard him weeing in the toilet as he’d left the door open. Even in labour, I was slightly disgusted and took a disliking to him.

The corridor looked so long, sprawling into the distance. I had to keep stopping when the contractions got to their worst. It was actually a struggle to stand. My poor husband was struggling too as he was holding all our stuff! We made the mistake of going to the maternity assessment unit first too, adding extra steps we didn’t need to take.

Gas and Air and the Birthing Pool

Fortunately, as soon as we got to the birth centre I was seen quickly and given the lovely midwife that I’d spoken to on the phone. After a very uncomfortable examination (much more uncomfortable than I remember with Autumn), I was told that I was 5cm dilated. I was quite disheartened by this, as I’d been 8cm when I’d arrived at the hospital to have Autumn. More so as I was already at the maximum power with the TENS machine and that was what i was at when i was at 8cm with her. I was concerned that as a result I was going to find labour more painful this time.

When I’d gone into labour earlier in the evening I’d said “How am I going to do this? It hurts a lot already and I feel like a bit of a wuss!” Now I really felt like a wuss. I gratefully accepted the offer of gas and air, as I’d absolutely loved it with Autumn and it had helped so much. Unfortunately, I found that it made me feel really sick! Giving up with the gas and air, I just gripped hard onto the armrests on the chair and breathed through contractions, trying to do visualisations when I could concentrate enough.

The birth pool was soon ready, much sooner than I thought it would be! We didn’t have to walk far down the corridor to get there. As soon as we got there, I went into another very strong set of contractions before I even had the chance to get undressed. My husband had already taken the TENS machine off of me, so I decided to try the gas and air again. Bad idea. It didn’t help and made me feel sick again! As soon as it stopped, I got off of the foam bed and stripped down to my bra.

Now, with Autumn, the moment I stepped into the birth pool felt absolutely amazing! I couldn’t wait for that feeling again. Both births were so different, though, and I didn’t get anywhere near as much relief. It was fairly pleasant being in the water though, especially with my husband continuing to massage my back and reading from my hypnobirth book as I breathed. The LED candles he put around the pool for me were also beautiful and did make me feel a tiny bit more relaxed.

I didn’t know it, but when I got into the pool I was just going into the transitional stage. I began to feel very anxious and unsure of myself and like I couldn’t do it. Holding onto the handles of the birth pool I struggled through contractions, feeling sicker and sicker. My husband went for a wee just as I was about to go into another contraction. I quietly whimpered “No, don’t go for a wee now!” I could have cried, I needed him as I was feeling so uncertain and in pain. When he got back, I was feeling so nauseated that I gestured for a sick bowl. I wasn’t actually sick, but did heave. The midwife asked if i wanted an anti-sickness injection. Feeling sick makes me feel anxious enough at the best of times, let alone in labour! I nodded, feeling like that could be a good idea. Especially as it could allow me to try gas and air again without feeling sick.

Time to Push

While she was out of the room, I really felt like I needed the toilet. I was so scared of pooing in the pool – I think I’ve read that the majority of women poo in labour. However, I didn’t with Autumn and I didn’t want to become one of them! So with my husband’s help I quickly got out and practically ran to the toilet adjoining the room. The contractions were super strong now – I was so grateful for the bars next to the toilet for me to hold onto. I felt really anxious now and it was hard for me to keep doing my breathing exercises. Suddenly, I felt the need to be on the floor rather than in a sitting position. My midwife asked me if she could come in to check the baby’s heart beat. I’d allowed all other observations, but at that point I felt that I needed to just go with my body’s flow and I didn’t want any intervention. I found myself throwing myself forwards onto the floor (in a controlled manner), much to my husband’s surprise! The midwife was also very surprised to see me suddenly laying in the doorway between the toilet/shower room and the birth pool room!

It was there and then that I felt the overwhelming urge to push. Shortly before launching myself onto the floor, I had wiped myself only to see some blood on the tissue. Oddly, it didn’t feel the same pushing had felt with Autumn and I was convinced that the blood had meant something was wrong. I was just waiting to hear a midwife say that I needed to be transferred across the corridor where there were doctors.

Instead, I heard my husband say that he could see the amniotic sac bulging out slightly. Within a matter of seconds, the midwife and my husband had swapped sides so that she could assist me with delivering the baby. I realised that actually I wasn’t dying after all and everything was fine. My husband reminded me to just trust my instincts repeatedly, which really helped. I breathed, visualised and pushed, delivering my baby boy in his amniotic sac at 1.30am after about 5 minutes of pushing.  As I turned my head, I saw the midwife pull part of it off of his head. It looked a bit like a jellyfish!

Bonding and Delivering the Placenta

Unfortunately, there was meconium in the amniotic sac, so he would need to be monitored for 12 hours. He seemed fine in his initial checks though, which was a relief. I felt worried that it was down to me getting so stressed out as I didn’t realise I was in the transition stage this time. I thought it was just genuine anxiety and that panicked me more, as I didn’t think I’d been in labour anywhere near long enough to be at the point between the latent phase and active labour!

Laying down, I had some lovely skin to skin time with my baby boy.

Reuben enjoying skin to skin with me at 5 minutes old

After a delay, I watched my husband cut the cord. I gave him his first feed while I waited to deliver the placenta and my husband had a little cuddle.

Daddy and baby enjoying cuddles

After 20 minutes of waiting for the placenta and asking my midwife about the pros and cons of the injection, I decided to have it to deliver the placenta faster as that was making me feel a bit anxious. After a little more skin to skin time and letting our parents know that our baby had arrived, it was time to go to another room for stitches. At a whopping (for me, at least) 8lbs 10oz, it was no surprise I had a 2nd degree tear!

Once I was all sorted out and cleaned up, I was ravenous and it was an amazing feeling laying there eating toast and just looking at my baby. It is wonderful, although tiring, having a newborn again! I missed out on having a proper newborn stage with Autumn, so I’m really savouring every moment with Reuben.

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