Birth story from first-time parents Gemma and Rob. Although they had a difficult birth Gemma and Rob used the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing techniques they’d learnt to stay calm and to question medical advice. They were empowered, strong and in control throughout

An empowered and strong birth story

Isabelle was due on the 20th March, but ended up being born on April fool’s day – already a sense of humour just like her dad!

I had a severe rash that unfortunately kept me up every night itching from 37 weeks. The doctor gave me the option to be induced at 38 weeks, however I stayed strong as I really wanted to live out my home water birth dream. In the end I had to be induced at 40 weeks 11 days.

On Wednesday 30th March I went to the midwife who gave me a sweep. She then rang the Royal Berkshire Hospital who were fully booked over the weekend and so I had to go for an 8.30am appointment the very next day or risk being over 42 weeks before I even got induced. I felt nervous as it was the last thing I wanted a) being in hospital and b) being induced in the first place. But I agreed, feeling I would try to stay calm and in control.

That night we started watching the Goldbergs (a comedy series set in the 80s we had recorded ages ago and not watched) to try to laugh her out, but she was way too comfy in there.

The next morning we rose early, which was tough given the lack of sleep we’d been getting anyway, and headed to the hospital.

Once there we waited in a side room. It was so clinical and not homely at all, and I remember thinking how hot it felt in there too. We monitored the baby, and during those 30 minutes I actually had a surge every 10 mins!! I actually had no idea that was what it was, I thought it was just the baby moving.

Taking control of the induction process

Afterwards they inserted the pessary and I used my breathing techniques to keep me calm. The doctor said there were no beds, but wanted me to stay in this side room until labour started. I refused, and said I wanted to be at home to stay relaxed; we fought hard and won!

I now had a mission to see if I could set off labour within 24 hours… so that I could still have a chance of my water birth and also to avoid having a second pessary and having to stay in hospital to be monitored.

So we went back home and tried watching comedy, walking, dancing, anything to try to get the ball rolling. That whole day I felt like I had constipation and general discomfort. I was unsure if this was a sign, but I kept thinking positive thoughts that it was all starting to happen.

Midnight came and we decided to go to bed, but I’d been feeling generally uncomfortable for a while and as soon as we laid down for some well deserved rest I felt a strong surge and suddenly realised it was lasting a minute – this came out of nowhere. Then 5 minutes later another…and then another…

We called the hospital and they told us to come in. I again requested a water birth. Rob asked if he had time for a shower to wake up? I laughed as I suddenly noticed a slight leak happening, and was like ‘hell no, let’s get to the hospital!’

We arrived at the maternity unit and were buzzed in. Waiting in reception there was no one to be seen, but after a few long minutes a worker came over and moved us to the waiting room. It turns out this had been a popular night to give birth so they had run out of beds!

Remaining active and positive

Since we had to stay in the waiting room I requested a birthing ball and got into a cat position, with my knees on the wooden floor. Before I knew it about 30 mins had passed and my surges were now a minute a part. I wouldn’t say I felt overly calm at this point, my knees hurt on the floor, there were no midwives about to help and I was convinced I would be having my baby in this waiting room. I decided to WhatsApp my family to distract me from this thought.

Eventually we were moved to the day unit area – midwife number 1. It wasn’t a bed but like a doctor’s lounger curtained off in the corridor, outside where I’d been induced that morning; it was quite claustrophobic and didn’t feel private and relaxing. I was having to be monitored, which meant it was hard to move around so again I knelt on the floor instead of lying down.

After nearly an hour they moved us to the day unit side room, the same type of room I was in when I was initially being induced. Midwife number 2, who was a bit gruff, didn’t give me a choice of pain relief and injected me with diamorphine. This was one of my choices for my homebirth so I was ok with this, but it made me sleepy.

I kept feeling like I would fall asleep but then the surges woke me up. I got Rob to push into my pelvis every time this happened, which is what we learnt in acupressure. I pushed myself back into him as this helped, but also because I didn’t have a proper bed it was mainly to stop me from falling off.

We also played the hypnobirthing tracks on my phone as I tried to do my breathing techniques, and I got Rob to put wet tissues on my forehead which seemed to help keep me cooler. I kept buzzing the midwife and requesting a bed, or a birthing pool, but they said there were still no beds, and it was too early for a pool. The thing that kept me positive was thinking about the fact that I would be meeting my baby girl, soon I hoped!

A bed… at last

Finally after four and a half hours I got a bed in the pre-labour suite, success! And we got midwife number 3 (Charlotte) who stayed really calm and reassuring. I felt so relieved to have a comfy bed, privacy and room to move into a few different positions.

I was also given gas and air, which took the edge off some of the surges. The midwife re-examined me and said I wasn’t dilated enough to be in labour and couldn’t have more diamorphine until 6am!

I drank plenty of water to avoid dehydration and ate a tracker bar to keep up my energy which was amazing. Rob had gone to move the car into the car park and retrieved the food bag and other useful items from the car, it had seemed like an eternity he was away yet no time at all. Recollecting, I now realise how many bags Rob had been carting around as we moved between rooms – I’m surprised he hadn’t lost things like a sleep deprived wally!

Then suddenly I asked Rob to call a midwife as the surges were feeling quite intense and I wanted to know how dilated I was, hoping I was close to labour. The midwife examined me and it turned out I had gone from 3cm to 8cm in an hour and a half.

Unfortunately it meant I had no time for a water birth – no time for anything! Although this time I knew the baby was close – it was 6am and I was going into active labour, hoping that I could remain strong and birth without pain relief.

I got moved to a labour suite (funny how there was suddenly no bed shortage now) while Rob shuttled the bags between the rooms – it was 6am and time for midwife number 4. I was suddenly in active labour with the bed upright and trying out new positions, including waving my bum at the midwife on all fours – dignity seemed to go out the window at this point.

The midwife read my birth plan and tried to go through some of the finer points and possibilities – they were impressed how prepared we’d been. I was breathing in the gas and air during the surges and was being told to push down into the rectum. There was just too much to concentrate on so I flung away the gas and air and went old skool. I remember feeling nervous as it just felt like I was doing a big poo.

Meeting our daughter

After an hour of trying and lots of persevering through the cries of “I can’t do it”, the baby started to get distressed and I was feeling exhausted. The midwife was really starting to p*ss me off with variations of “go on, you can do it, just push”.  They told me that the top of her head was just about visible but every time I had a surge and it finished she would retract back up as my muscles were too tight as a first time mum. They mentioned at this point I needed an episiotomy, which when they had said was a potential when they read my birth plan had seemed an impossibility. This was not what I wanted, but Rob and I felt it was better than tearing, so they called in a doctor.

While the doctor scrubbed up, the midwife put the stirrups up, though they were too high for my short legs and I felt like my legs were over stretched. I ended up having to get the midwife to rub my right leg which had cramp. The midwives switched again – number 5, who was one of the nicest. At the same time they also wheeled in an incubator, which I hadn’t noticed but Rob did. He said this made him really nervous that the baby could be hurt but he stayed strong and just kept thinking they knew what they were doing and it all would be fine.

As my next surge happened, the doctor injected me with local anaesthetic down below, which was genius as I felt nothing, then he cut me. Rob said there was a lot of blood but I hadn’t noticed. At this point I had another surge and everyone kept saying push, PUSH, and I just gave it my all and managed to push my daughter out naturally.

Love at first sight

They gave me skin to skin straight away as I wanted. She opened her steel grey eyes, and almost smiled at me when she saw me – she was perfect and I knew everything was fine. There was this instant bond, like I’d known her forever. I felt overwhelmed that she was finally here, and my first thought was “she loves me, wow”. My second was how long she was, me being a shorty I was rather shocked by this. She was beautiful and perfect in every way.

I then noticed Rob’s reaction, he seemed so proud, and if I’d looked more closely I’d have noticed that he had welled up and was fighting to hold the tears of joy in – he’d fallen in love instantly as well.

Rob was taking photos of those first moments and notifying the family. Not going to lie, was not looking my best for those first pics with my hair that had untied itself during labour and I was pulling off the lion mane look. Meanwhile with my right leg still cramping I passed the placenta with ease then the doctor stitched me up. I had everything I wanted.

I know this story sounds long and difficult. However the positives I want to pull out were that I stood up for myself and went home after the induction to get comfortable, active labour might have been intense but was under 4 hours, the doctor did a very good job stitching me up and it now feels normal down there, and I ended up having a relatively natural labour with not much pain relief given what I’d wanted in the heat of things.

Finally, always save the best to last – Isabelle Grace Alvarez was finally here, my beautiful baby girl and not a boy as Rob fooled some people for April fool’s, tiredness not getting in the way of the chance for a joke! A month later she still is my hypnobaby. I honestly believe relaxing to the hypno tracks helped me bond with her and as it relaxed me, it relaxed her. She is very laid back and content baby, most of the time anyway! Although she is a greedy baby, a total milkaholic, she really is so chilled and we take her out most days and she goes from person without a care in the world being so well behaved.

And the best thing of all, she sleeps 5-7 hours in a row (some nights – she has disclaimers). Do you know how many people want to hit me when I say all of that? We are both the proudest parents of our little perfect in every way princess.

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