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Hayley & Harry

Baby Spencer was initially due on 10th August however our dating scan brought him forward a week to 3rd. I was skeptical as this was based on his length, thought he was just going to be tall. 

 

I worked a late shift on Tuesday 1st and finished just before midnight. I had had a bit of tummy ache at work but didn’t really think much of it. Chris and I came home and went to bed. At 2.30am on 2nd, I woke up with what felt like period pains. I wasn’t sure if this was it so just went back to sleep. I kept waking up and thought I’d dreamt it. At around 3am I was pretty sure this was what was happening. I started to time it at 3.30am and saw that these were coming roughly every 7-8 minutes, lasting for around 40 seconds each. These were very bearable and I was really excited, desperate that they wouldn’t slow down or stop. From hypnobirthing, I knew that this was likely to last a long time so was quite happy just taking it all in.

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We made the drive to Harrogate, the contractions were getting stronger at this point. We arrived and went to their assessment bit where a midwife came and examined me after a little while. She said I was 1cm. I must admit, I was pretty disappointed, the contractions were starting to intensify at this point. We made the decision to go home for a while. Once we were home, Chris went and walked our dog whilst I rolled about on a birthing ball. It was starting to get pretty uncomfortable and I almost phoned him a couple of times to ask him to come back. I used my breathing techniques learned through hypnobirthing and breathed it out.

I decided to get up at 4.30am, leaving Chris in bed. I went into the living room and bounced around a bit on my birthing ball I had borrowed from a neighbour. I phoned the Maternity Assessment Clinic and said “I think I’m in labour”. They were so helpful and lovely. I told them I was happy at home and that it was nothing I couldn’t manage for the time being. We were laughing that Chris was still in bed asleep, oblivious to how everything was about to change. I went upstairs, made sure I had put the last bits in my hospital bag. I was really excited at this point. At around 6am I woke Chris up and told him I thought I was in labour. He instantly fell back asleep although denies this. I went back in around 15 minutes later and said that I think we should start getting ready. I had got my coconut water out of the fridge, made sure all the fruit etc was packed. I even put a load of washing away. I was feeling super organised

Chris phoned MAC when he got home at about 12.30pm. We decided to give it another half an hour or so and went back. My mum had been phoning me but we had agreed that we wouldn’t let her know when I was in labour so that she didn’t spend the next goodness knows how long worrying. I knew she would start to guess if I didn’t ring her soon so we decided to try time it between contractions. As soon as one ended, we phoned her and it was the quickest conversation of my life. I ended it abruptly when I felt the next contraction coming on, saying that I had arrived at work and had to go. 

 

We arrived at Harrogate and I was less spritely than I had been the first time. I threw up in the corridor but was more concerned about getting it cleaned up. I left Chris guarding the mess while I made my way up to the maternity ward. I was shown to my room where I met our midwives, Sophie and Ciara. At around 2pm I agreed to an examination, convinced I must be well on the way by this point. I was 3cm. I was initially really disappointed, but told myself that my baby just wasn’t ready to make an appearance yet and to trust the process. The contractions continued to intensify but remained around 4 minutes apart. I asked what other pain relief options were available and we decided on codeine which I threw up instantly. Chris kept insisting that we went for walks around the corridors of the hospital, telling me that this would help and that gravity would speed things up which is something we had discussed a lot during our hypnobirthing sessions. I remember being very uncomfortable and saying I didn’t want to but I knew that he was right. As we were shuffling the corridors, a woman was wheeled past in a wheelchair, screaming. It later turned out that this was one of Chris’s high school friends. I managed to keep breathing throughout, breathing through the discomfort and constantly repeating to myself that no contraction was wasted and each was bringing my baby closer to me. I zoned out for each one, waiting for it to pass which I knew it would. Sophie suggested that I have a bath at one point. They ran me one and tried to find an alternative to the main strip lights but weren’t able to dim these. Although this wasn’t particularly tranquil, it provided a bit of a distraction for a while. My only reservation was that I had to take the tens machine off for it. I ended up briefly falling asleep between contractions. The water wasn’t that warm so remember Chris using the shower head to shower me with hot water to warm me up- who said romance isn’t dead! 

 

I got out of the bath and went for another walk before going back to my room for monitoring. They were a bit concerned that my baby wasn’t being very active. I was most comfortable on my feet, alternating between the birthing ball and leant over the bed, however the midwife explained that they wanted to monitor his movements more closely and I decided that his safety was my priority so laid down on the bed for the CTG to be fitted. I had to keep rolling onto each side to see if that encouraged more movement however each time I did this triggered another contraction. These were still four minutes apart but getting stronger each time.

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At around 8.30pm, two new midwives Megi and Jodie who had been with me offered another exam. Again, I felt that my resilience was starting to falter a bit and felt that I needed to know where I was at. To my disappointment, they told me I was still 3-4cm. I again tried to think positive but will admit I was disheartened. We discussed different options around breaking my waters as they still hadn’t gone. I asked what the pros and cons were of this, they said that it could speed things up but could also lead to further intervention as once they were broken, there was more risk of infection which is something we had discussed during my sessions. I said that I wanted some time to discuss this with Chris. We decided that as I was getting more and more tired (I had been in labour for 19 hours by this point), we wanted to try give nature a helping hand by breaking them. After my favourite midwife Megi had examined me at 8.30pm, I felt a bit of a rush of liquid. I remember saying “I think something has just happened”. She said that it was likely just mucas. As I had another contraction, I felt it again and said that I thought my waters had broken. She offered to have another look and confirmed that they had broken semi-naturally. They had gone after she had examined me so I felt really pleased that they had gone kind of of their own accord without being artificially broken. 

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Fast forward a few hours and I decided to try gas and air as this was a less intrusive option than some other pain relief options. This worked quite well for me for a while. They were still concerned about my baby being too sleepy and a really abrasive consultant kept coming in. Whereas all the midwives were absolutely incredible and would wait for a contraction to pass before speaking to me, I remember her just firing loads of questions at me which I found extremely difficult to answer as I was trying to breathe through the contractions. I remember asking Chris to speak to her so that I could concentrate on breathing. They said that they wanted to fit a sensor to his head so that they could monitor him more closely. I asked whether it would hurt him and was told it wouldn’t. Ultimately, whilst I didn’t like the idea of it, I felt that his safety came first and that this was best for him. The downside was that this ruled out me being able to move around however felt that I knew my options and that ultimately, it was my choice to make. I asked whether I could have pethidine however was told that they would be reluctant to give me this as a side effect is a drowsy mum and baby. As they were already concerned about how quiet he was, they advised me against this. I didn’t even think twice about this advice and discounted pethidine immediately. I don’t think I even considered an epidural, I was hell bent on delivering him and being able to move around afterwards and was just something I had been quite set on from the outset. Whilst the contractions themselves were getting so intense, I knew that they wouldn’t last and that with breathing, I was getting through it.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur. I remember Chris breathing with me, stroking my arms. I have no idea why but throughout many of my contractions, I visualised a hillside with trees on, breathing in going up over the tree and out down the other side. I have no idea at all why that came to mind but was one of the strongest things I remember from the entire labour and something I used to breathe throughout. 

 

At 11.45pm, the grumpy consultant came back. By this point, I had lost my head a little bit. Looking back, this was the transition phase but it had been going on for so long and I was absolutely exhausted. Every time I tried to eat, I had thrown up. I had been on a fluids drip for hours and things were getting a bit much. She examined me and I remember her distinctly saying “Hayley, you are 10cm, in five minutes you will have a baby”. I was completely shocked but this gave me a new found incentive to push on. I knew I was nearly there.

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We spent the next hour having skin to skin and Chris was able to cut the cord after delayed cord clamping. Harry and Chris then had skin to skin. I had a few grazes and a couple of grade 2 tears which needed stitches. This was actually more uncomfortable than I thought. I used some gas and air through it (may as well get my money’s worth) and cuddled Harry. Chris went home to get some sleep and we moved to a different part of the ward where we both managed to get some sleep. Later that afternoon, I started having some kind of allergic reaction to something which I’ve suffered from before but we don’t know what causes it. Chris had to sneak me antihistamines as another bout of anaphylaxis was not needed the day I had given birth. We stayed in that day as I was losing a lot of fluid through urine and they wanted this to even out. Thankfully, that evening we were allowed to go home to start life as a completed family with our beautiful little boy. 

 

I have no doubt whatsoever that my experience of labour was made so much better thanks to my hypnobirthing course. I will openly admit that both Chris and I were extremely skeptical. Neither of us are into the fluffy, hippy stuff and are both quite pragmatic and to the point. Our jobs as police officers mean we have to make quick decisions, often with little room for emotions. 

I would honestly say that it was worth every penny. A face to face course wasn’t an option for us due to shift work and location so we opted for a zoom session. 

While some of the course content wasn’t massively ‘us’ (we really struggled with the birth scripts!), we learned to trust the process and what my body was capable of. The affirmation cards started as a bit of a joke as I plastered them all over the house including inside the fridge, but as I saw them every day, they became ingrained in me. I had the confidence to stay at home for much longer than I would have done to without hypnobirthing, and think I definitely had a much more natural birth than had I done it without. My main pain relief was breath work and my tens machine with a bit of gas and air. I felt I understood the stages of labour which managed my expectations hugely. It still went on much longer than I had hoped but ultimately I delivered a perfect little boy with very minimal intervention and no big dramatic moments. After I had had him, I heard a woman in labour next door and it sounded like something out of a horror movie with midwives running around all over the place. Every birth is different but I felt so lucky for the birth that I had had and extremely proud of myself and my body for growing and delivering him.

I had discussed the positives and negatives of coached pushing vs breathing the baby out. After so many hours, I had built up massive amounts of trust in my midwives and really felt they were doing everything they could with only me and my baby in mind. Megi told me to push when I next felt a contraction and I felt it was just the right thing to do. My contractions were still four minutes apart so this part felt like it took forever, even though Chris said it wasn’t that long at all. I had a new found focus and energy at this point as I knew we were so nearly there. Of all the things to run through my head, I remember specifically thinking “floppy jaw, floppy fanny” which is bizarre but kept focusing my mind on relaxing every part of me. Of all the quotes to stick with me, I didn’t think it would be that! At one point, Megi told me to look down. I did and my baby’s head was literally staring back at me. I wasn’t too sure about this as it was so surreal. I remember saying “I don’t want to poo on you!” at the midwives, they said I didn’t but I’m sure they were lying. A few more pushes and he was out. The midwives said babies rotate a bit as they come out but he had rotated fully so came out staring straight up which they said they hadn’t seen before. At 1.29am on 3rd August (bang on his due date) our little Harry was born. 

I remember Chris playing Emily’s hypnobirthing relaxation playlist when we were in the hospital, I didn’t realise that we had it on repeat for nine hours. I only realised when he turned it off after Harry had been born.

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