When first time mum Harriet went into labour 5 weeks early she remained calm, relaxed and in control, as did her partner Ant. They both used all the techniques they had learnt to have an empowered, positive and truly inspiring birth experience


Signed off work early

I began using my Wise Hippo hypnobirthing techniques way before my birth, as I was signed off work 12 weeks before my estimated due date.

I had developed a whole body rash and virus in my blood. The hospital had no idea what caused this, how I got it, or how to stop it but said I needed extra scans on the baby asap.

Feeling so anxious, stressed and upset, I used my breathing and visualisation techniques to make me feel better and focussed on positive thoughts.

I knew that our baby would know I was upset and I needed to stay happy for him/her!

Finally, after 4 or 5 weeks they scanned my baby and said all was fine. However, (just to top it off) my placenta was tiring and they would now have to scan me weekly to check on the baby and decide in 2 weeks what the next plan was.

I broke down and cried…. And cried some more. I remember on the way out, telling my mum there was no way I was waiting another 7 weeks, and this baby WAS going to come before Christmas.

At my baby shower people made their predictions of the due date with my mum guessing ‘next week’. Everyone thought she was crazy. Little did they know!

The following weekend started with a mini baby shower at my friends and a girly sleepover. I was still red raw all over and itching unbearably.

I remember going to bed at 10 and not falling asleep until 4am because of it. As per every night, I listened to the MP3’s. I’d been finding them more useful recently, to keep me calm and sane because I couldn’t sleep.

The next day (Saturday) I went to buy a Christmas tree with my friends and eventually got back home at 3 in the afternoon and I was exhausted! I tried to take a nap but couldn’t relax even though I was so sleepy. My body needed to rest but I couldn’t.

That evening I went to my see my mum and spent the evening moaning about being constipated so she fed me apricots and dates. She even made me experiment with some Yoga poses. She later blamed herself for my early labour!

I left her as normal, headed home and we started to pack up some stuff into boxes (we were moving house that week).

By midnight I got into bed whilst my partner Ant stayed up to watch tv. At 12:10am (Sunday morning) I felt a small cramp in my stomach. I knew straight away this wasn’t normal even though I’d had pains and been uncomfortable before in the pregnancy.

An early start

This unusual pain didn’t freak me out or scare me. In fact, I felt a sense of excitement that secretly this might be it. I was doubtful, but just maybe it was.

The next cramp feeling came ten minutes later exactly the same. I kept checking my watch and this continued for the next 40 minutes, so I called Ant and we rang the hospital just for reassurance.

The whole time I breathed through these cramps, even though they weren’t very painful. I just knew it would keep me calm.

The hospital was brilliant! From the moment we made that phone call until the day we left a week later, I couldn’t fault them. I had heard all different birth horror stories from people about how rubbish they were, but I was really lucky.

Heading to hospital

On the way to the hospital I phoned my mum (who pretended not to freak out) and let her know we were going in just to be checked over. I remember saying that all will be fine and it’s probably nothing…

By 1am (Sunday morning) we were in our room in the day assessment unit waiting to see a doctor. By this time, I was having a surge every 3 to 5 minutes.

I couldn’t get comfortable on the bed so I walked around or lent over the chair and constantly used my count down visualisation as I did so.

The doctor examined me and said I was only 1cm dilated. He explained that because I still had 5 weeks to go this was probably just Braxton hicks, that I’d probably be sent home and go on to give birth at full term. Little did he know!

Early stages of labour

Finally, they explained that I was in the very early stages of labour. Luckily the ward was quiet so they decided to keep me in and moved me to a private room. By 4 am, Ant had gone to get my bags and my mum, and we had settled in with tea and toast.

The surges continued but I was so excited that our baby was coming that I remained really positive. The rest of the day continued in a similar way.

They left me on the monitor to continually check the baby’s heartbeat. This, for me, was reassuring. Even though I wasn’t panicking or worried, I knew that my baby was going to be premature.

My birth plan went out the window from the start. They explained that I would not be able to have a water birth and that I would have to deliver in the delivery suite.

Preparing for the arrival of a premature baby

A specialist came down to see us and explained what would happen when the baby came. She explained about complications that occur for premature babies and the chance that the baby would probably need oxygen because of being early.

I had to take two lots of steroids to strengthen the baby’s lungs. This was information over load, but she explained everything so well and we asked lots of questions. Ant then re explained everything after.

Again, I was still calm and excited even though I knew things weren’t going as planned.

The rest of the day is more of a blur for me. I was given some painkillers and codeine later as the surges got more intense, and I spent my time relaxing on the bed with my eyes closed, breathing out the discomfort.

Mum and I read magazines whilst Ant read out the crossword questions. We took some selfies and ate some more toast. At one point I thought it was all a false alarm as the surges went back to every 10-15 minutes.

Getting settled in

Around 7pm, I remember them dimming the lights and moving me to another room (which turned out to be the delivery suite) but again it was a blur. Not because I was ‘out of it’ but because I was in my zone, focussed and very relaxed.

Then, for the first time, I felt a bit worried as I had a new nurse who I didn’t know, but I made myself put that aside to keep calm.

I remember the staff change over and another midwife coming in to introduce herself. Her name was Caroline and she had assessed me when I first got into hospital the previous night. She was lovely and had remembered me. She had asked her manager if she could come to deliver my baby. I thought that was lovely and warmed to her at once.

We sat and chatted in between surges. She knew about hypnobirthing and even apologised for not calling contractions, surges. She said she now understood why I was so calm and relaxed with my breathing!

One of my highlights was when she said ‘right then we are definitely going to be having this baby soon’. I replied with ‘ I’m so excited’ and turned to look at Ant and my mum. They looked shocked and I even had to ask them if they were both ok? I think I was more calm than they were.

The rest went pretty quickly from then on. The surges continued to get more intense. Yes, they hurt but it wasn’t unbearable. At one point I thought I couldn’t cope with the discomfort any more. Even though I was breathing through it and was so focused, I had had enough. Caroline suggested I tried gas and air.

I knew from the first breath in that it was not for me. Before that, I had been in total control on counting my breath in and out. The gas and air completely ruined my rhythm and flow. I was more calm and happier breathing my way than using that.

It’s ironic that the stuff used for pain relief was going to make me less calm and therefore, probably notice the pain more. After that I knew I’d be ok on my own and didn’t ask for or suggest any more pain relief. I had this on my own!

The last few things I recall was a room of 8 people all stood in a semi circle around me. My water broke (all over them) whilst pushing. All I focussed on was Caroline’s voice and instructions and listened to Ant talking to me. Caroline told me exactly what to do. She told me to push when I was ready and when I knew it was time to.

At one point she calmly told me that the baby’s heartbeat was dropping so I knew I had to work even harder to get our baby out. I was determined that these were going to be my last few pushes.

She explained that Ant wouldn’t be able to cut the cord as they needed to do it quickly and get the baby to the specialists straight away (who were set up in the corner of the room). She also asked about delivering my placenta as I had wanted to wait for it to naturally to come out. But due to the circumstance, Ant and I knew that the injection would be best to speed it up.

She also asked about the vitamin K injection, which Ant and I had already discussed before hand. Although I was in discomfort, I felt in full control and understood exactly what was going on.

Empowered and in control

I think this part of our story really stands out because with every question, barrier or bit of advice, Ant was in total control and knew what to say and what was best for me. He was so calm and prepared and he knew exactly what I wanted.

This took so much pressure off of me and I could just focus on the job at hand. 100% this was down to our Wise Hippo hypno birth classes and everything Deborah discussed and shared with us. He had really taken it on board. He knew his stuff!

During the surges, Ant massaged my lower back, in between switching the fan on and off and on and off. He continued to encourage and support me throughout and said all the right things. He kept so calm and didn’t panic and embraced every moment with me.

Our early Christmas present

As the surges got stronger and with every push, I visualised my hands pushing the discomfort away from my body and moving my baby down and out. I continued to count through my breathing and after 57 minutes of full labour and only 75ml of blood loss, our little boy Arlo, arrived at 9:59pm on Sunday 11th December. He weighed 5lb 11; pretty good for a premature baby.

It was then that I remembered earlier that my mum had popped out to grab a drink and phone to update my family. She was surprised when she got back to discover that the baby was here. It had all happened very quickly.

Arlo was taken straight over to the specialists. Thankfully he didn’t need oxygen support and they allowed Ant to watch whilst they checked him over at the table.

I kept asking if the baby was ok as he didn’t make a sound. He didn’t cry but I could faintly hear him making a gurgling noise.

I truly believe that because I was so calm during the birth, he came out so relaxed.

I was allowed to quickly hold him for a photo before he was taken straight up to the Buscot ward. That was the hardest part of it all. To go through all of that and not be able to hold your baby after was unbearable.

Ant went up to the ward with them so he could sit with him. We wanted Arlo to see at least one of us, even if we couldn’t hold him.

After a couple of stitches, a shower, and another slice of toast, I got to go up and see him. He was lying peacefully in an incubator, hiccupping and looking up at me.

The nurses let me have some skin to skin time with him which was amazing. By 2 am (Monday morning) he fell asleep.

Luckily I was given a private room on the Iffly ward. I sent Ant and mum home to rest as we’d all been up 48 hours. My sister came down and stayed in my room with me. Waking up the next day was like Christmas morning.

We went up to the Buscot ward to see him and were told we could take him back down to our room and hold him! It was the best news to hear as I was expecting the worst.

We spent the next week on the ward. Because Arlo was jaundice, he had to go under UV lights most of the day. Again, this was heart-breaking as I just wanted to hold and cuddle him but I couldn’t.

I knew that this was the best for Arlo and had to stay calm and positive for him however upset I felt.

The hospital staff were so supportive and helpful. Over the week, they showed us how to feed him, change him, and bath him, and were on hand to help and advise us. They were unbelievable and it was very emotional saying goodbye to them all when we left.

I think back to the start of the pregnancy and our decision to do the hypno birth class with Deborah. We were a bit sceptical at first I admit. But we used every bit of advice Deborah gave us. I think we would have had a completely different experience if we hadn’t have done it.

We both gained so much from the classes and enjoyed the labour.

Now, we recommend The Wise Hippo Hypnobirthing course to EVERYONE we meet. My sister, Ant’s cousin and our friend have already signed up!

Arlo is now 3 months old and a healthy 12lb 9oz. He’s a really laid back, chilled and happy baby who rarely cries. He was the best Christmas present ever! Bring on number 2! J X

A picture of a new mum kissing her early Christmas present, from when baby comes early

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