"My son, Charlie, was born six and a half years ago by urgent, necessary cesarean. I can’t call it an emergency cesarean because no one was crashing, but I do feel that his method of birth saved his life. I had studied Hypnobabies leading up to his birth, and I am absolutely convinced that doing so helped me with his birth for numerous reasons - mostly that I remember his birthing time as a beautiful, blissful, life changing time. I think to explain that best, I’ll need to tell you the whole story.
Our birthing time started on a Wednesday evening around 6:30 when my waters broke in the car as I was driving home from teaching my final piano lesson for the day. I often spoke to Charlie (my son) during our pregnancy, and I remember feeling a little ache in my lower back, so I said, “oh, Charlie - you’re sitting on my hip kinda funny. Let’s shift over, ok?” and I did a slight pelvic tilt while seated in the car when “pop!” - my membrane ruptured and I immediately felt amniotic fluid in my seat. I pulled over, got the trash bag and blanket I’d put in the trunk for this exact purpose, lined the seat and called my husband and doula before driving home very carefully. I got home around 7:00, took a shower and changed clothes and sat down to eat some dinner. I sent my husband to the store for some depends so I could walk around the house, and I called my best friend who’d had her third baby just a few weeks prior naturally. I commented that I hadn’t felt any pressure waves yet, but I was relaxing, eating, and looking forward to an awesome birthing time. While on the phone with her, my first wave came over me. I stopped mid sentence, took a deep breath, and asked her if I just had a pressure wave. She said, “well, if you had to stop what you were doing to breathe and relax, then I’d say yes.” So we hung up, my husband got home, I finished my dinner, and we went to bed. Not long after that, our doula, Sarah, came. She was amazing and rubbed my back and helped me stay centered and remember to turn “off” during waves.
The pressure waves were coming closer and closer together, and we decided that it was time to go to the hospital. This was around 11:00 on Wednesday night. The drive to the hospital was the hardest part of the whole birthing time up to that point. It was only about 15-20 minutes, but trying to stay relaxed and “off” during waves while having to remain in a seated position was extremely difficult. But, lo and behold, we made it to the hospital! We arrived, I was fully “out of it,” so to speak with my hypnobabies cues going in my head, and my bubble of peace firmly in place as we entered the emergency entrance. I remember my doula standing with the birth ball and her gear, my husband guiding me as gently as possible, and the lady at the admittance desk asking me to sign forms. I asked my husband to read them, and I signed where needed. We got up to L&D and settled into our cozy, nest-like room. The nursing staff was wonderful. We had our birth plan on file, but also had a copy printed with our goodie bag of treats for them. We taped our sign to the door, saying that we were using self-hypnosis and to use the words pressure waves, birthing time, and transformation as a reminder to any staff that entered the room. The doctor on call came in briefly before leaving us alone to work through the birthing time without interference. I spent a lot of time on the birth ball in the shower - the hot water on my lower back felt so good. I would take breaks to ask for sips of juice or water, my doula or husband would bring them to me as well as hold me as I walked around in the room, leaning on them during waves.
At some point in the middle of that first night, my pressure waves slowed down in intensity and pace. It’s possible that my body wanted to rest, or it’s possible that I was exhibiting what Ina May Gaskin describes as the “sphincter law” - that the body will slow down birth in a setting that doesn’t feel safe and well-known. Either way, we decided to augment with pitocin. We didn’t have it on for long or turned up very high before I insisted that we turn it back off and remove the IV. This was the first time in the entire birthing time that I would describe the pressure waves as “discomfort” rather than just intense, strong, powerful, down and out pressure. Once the pitocin was turned back off, my waves returned to their previous intensity and regularity. I was in such a blissful, happy state during this entire birthing time that I remember vividly smiling at all of the care providers, talking cheerily, and moving easily when asked if I felt like I needed to walk or kneel or squat or lean. The midwife on call during the day mentioned that I didn’t look like a birthing woman - I was too comfortable. Over the course of the next day, I progressed to 10 cm dilation and found that my body was working on pushing my son out by about 9:30 or 10:00 that night. This is Thursday night. I remember that the exhaustion really caught up with me around this time. I would have a pushing wave and then doze off in between waves. I had the hospital bed in its upright sitting position, and I just sat, pushed, and rested. I would prop up my feet, play tug of war with a sheet with my doula, watched my dilation in a mirror, and sit up and push. We tried shifting around to hands and knees, but I was most comfortable sitting. After three hours of pushing, he still wasn't descending. The doctor on call decided that he needed to check the baby’s position, so he performed a vaginal exam while I had a pushing wave without asking my permission - only the second time in the entire birthing time that I felt any sort of discomfort. We had tested the strength of the pressure waves with an intrauterine catheter and found that they were “strong enough.” His vaginal exam found that my son was positioned posterior and acynclitic - so he was face up and looked like he was holding a phone between his shoulder and his ear. As we continued pushing, my son’s heart rate dropped and didn’t recover as quickly and easily as they like to see. They gave me oxygen, and we discussed our options. I was told by the doctor on call that, while surgery wasn’t ideal, it was beginning to look like it was our only remaining option. He said that it wasn't quite an emergency yet, but it was getting there and that I would not be able to have my husband with me in the room if it turned into a “crash” emergency cesarean. I felt that I had no other choice but to relent to the surgery, so I agreed. The only thing I was ever afraid of about birth was having an epidural placed or having a cesarean. I had planned that neither of these were going to need to happen, and when they suddenly were happening, I felt like I was in shock and just had to hold on to the idea that I needed to make sure we came out of this situation with a healthy baby and that I would not be paralyzed.
I remember being wheeled on the gurney while sitting up - naked - and struggling against the pushing waves that were overtaking my body. Remember, I was convinced at this point that my baby was in trouble and that each pressure wave was making it hard for him to get oxygen. The staff tried to wrap me in a sheet, but I kept tossing it off. We made it to the OR, and the anesthesiologist on staff asked me “if I wanted to continue my hypnosis for the surgery or if I wanted the real stuff now.” He was old and had a British accent. I don’t know if he was just trying to make a joke and lighten the mood, or if he was trying to prove to me that the 29 hours of natural birthing time, during which I hadn’t felt any discomfort except for the two times we had outside influences didn't “really” count, but either way, I’ll never forget how small and insignificant it made me feel. I was in too much shock to respond, so I just shut down. I am a survivor of sexual abuse (which was in my file), and I felt violated from the moment we got to the OR. The mood of the birth went instantly from one of empowerment, security, and safety, to one of uncertainty, violation, and fear. I wasn’t allowed to have my doula or my husband with me as they placed the spinal, so I held my nurse, Mary. She was a god-send and my only lifeline to the peace I remembered from the calm, safe L&D room. They had students place my spinal. They made a mistake the first time, so I felt fire shoot down my leg as they hit a nerve. I was fully in “off’ so as to not move a muscle as I asked them what kind of acid was just splattered all over my leg (remember - I was trying to avoid moving at all so that they didn't make a mistake and hurt my spine), and they removed the needle and tried again. The second time took. They had me lay down and spread my arms on the support boards as a resident anesthesiologist asked me questions to try to monitor my breathing and whether or not I could feel my abdomen. I was much too afraid to be able to continue my cheerful banter from the L&D room and was struggling not to cry. My husband came in and sat next to my head. I closed my eyes and listened to the doctors discussing their days - their golf games, the fact that their children were going off to college… things that had nothing to do with the significance and magnitude of the moment. I was about to meet my baby. We were about to go from a couple to a family. And no one seemed to care. It wasn't long before I heard that first cry - that amazing, life-changing, small little sound that I’ll never forget - my son’s first cry. I had planned to see him slide out of me covered in vernix and amniotic fluid and blood and be the first voice he heard in the world as I gently said, “welcome home, sweet boy” - but instead, the OB resident working with the doctor on call called out, “happy birthday!!” while I listened to beeps and numbly resigned myself to being the second or third woman to be able to speak to him. They brought him over to a table on the far side of the room without showing him to me where they dried him off and bundled him up. They invited my husband to come see him and take pictures, and Charlie grabbed my husband’s finger and held on for dear life. We have one picture of Charlie before he was completely swaddled and one picture of him next to my head as a little baby bundle. He was taken to the nursery, and my husband accompanied him. I was alone with the hospital staff as they stabilized me and put my body back together. I think I must have been in shock or had a reaction to the anesthesia because my heart rate sky-rocketed and wouldn’t come back down. They took me back to the L&D room for recovery, and I asked over and over for them to bring my baby to me so I could hold him and nurse him. My doula met me there and asked to call the nursery and see what the hold up was. They never said it, but I think they were trying to monitor my heart rate before bringing him back to me. We delayed his first bath, declined eye ointment, and there wasn’t anything necessary happening in the nursery. My husband declined nearly every procedure in the nursery. About an hour later, I finally had my boy in my arms. My doula helped me establish our first latch, encouraging me to hold my breast like a sandwich to get it into his tiny mouth.
We spent a few more days in the hospital, moving over to the postpartum ward. The nursing staff was mediocre but adequate, and the nursery staff was downright unhelpful with breastfeeding questions. Thankfully, I was connected with fantastic lactation support by way of the business my doula was associated with - then Nine Months and Beyond, now Nashville Birth & Babies. Once we were home, my milk supply came in, and I found fantastic help from the lactation consultants at Nine Months & Beyond. I went to support groups both for lactation and cesarean recovery and educated myself in an effort to avoid a cesarean for any future births.
Fast forward 5.5 years, and I had a second, beautiful Hypnobabies birth. This time, it was at home. My care providers never made me feel small or insignificant, and I never felt afraid or out of control. It was a much shorter birthing time, every bit as intense, if not more so, and a simple, completely uncomplicated birth. I had my daughter in a birth tub in my kitchen, spent a little time on my living room sofa immediately following her birth, and then spent the next several days in my own bed, eating my own food, enjoying my own shower, holding my own baby. I absolutely credit Hypnobabies with the confidence that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could have a comfortable birth and that my body could absolutely get to 10 and pushing. And had I not used Hypnobabies during my son’s birth, I am convinced that I wouldn’t have the memory of the wonderful, blissful, amazing birthing time that led up to his necessary cesarean."