It was my first pregnancy and I was at 41 weeks plus 3 days when I went into labour. I had refused a sweep but was due to be induced in two days time. I'd been to a one-day hypnobirthing class with an amazing teacher called Jackie Kietz and had listened to a daily relaxation script and practised breathing for labour throughout the latter part of my pregnancy. I had planned for a birth in the midwife led unit but as I went overdue I started to lose faith that it would go well.
On the day of the birth I woke up with cramps which I thought was the need to go to the toilet (a sort of mix of the feeling of constipation and diarrheoa) but it went on all morning at intervals of between 4-8 minutes lasting a minute at a time and I gradually started to accept that this had to be labour!
In hindsight I think I had been having these cramps a bit in the days leading up to it but hadn't recognised it as such at the time. My husband was home with me and I called the midwife unit to let them know I thought I'd be coming in later.
By 2pm the contractions were much stronger and 2-3 mins apart. I found I didn't want to sit down, all I wanted to do was lean against the kitchen work surface and breathe deeply through them. I had my husband place his hand on my lower back and apply pressure which relieved the intensity a bit by providing counter pressure.
I called the unit again and was told to take a paracetamol. Within 15 mins of getting off the phone they were even stronger and I decided I had to go to hospital as I felt that if they got much worse I wouldn't feel able to make the journey!
We got a cab and were admitted at around 3.30pm to Kingston. I was examined and was only 2cm dilated at this point but the midwife said they didn't just go by that - my cervix was very 'ripe' and there were apparently other signs that it was progressing and so she said I could stay in the room but wouldn't have the pool until I was 4cm dilated. She offered me pethidine and liquid morphine which I refused as it didn't feel necessary at that point. She then said she would come back in a couple of hours. I was relieved to be there but felt quite upset at the idea of hours of this pain ahead with potentially slow progression, very aware of all the warnings of how long first labours can last. Nothing but the negatives I'd heard and read came to me at that time! I tried sitting on an exercise ball but I didn't like the pressure on my pelvis so I remained standing.
Within 25 mins of the midwife leaving us the contractions had become much more intense and I told my husband to get the midwife back as I had either progressed rapidly or else I now needed pain relief as I felt I couldn't stick that pain for a few hours. I asked to be examined and was then told I was at 5cm already! I was so relieved - knowing that the pain meant progress made it so much more bearable and I knew I could now move to the pool.
I remained leaning over the bed pushing my lavender-scented blanket into my face while they filled the pool. I wanted my husband beside me holding my hand but no longer wanted him touching me!
Once in the pool I knelt down looking out towards my husband and continued clutching his hand and leant my head against his hand and the edge of the pool (had a sore head for a few days after). It's so true that during the breaks in between contractions it is like nothing has been happening and I would just breathe and sink further into the pool, still staying upright on my knees leaning forward.
And the pool... The best thing about the pool was that it kept me at a stable temperature as the room felt quite warm. The midwife also trained a fan on my face which was fantastic. It was a bit odd at times when I noticed bits of congealed blood-like lumps floating past me but it really didn't bother me at the time!
The best thing about the gas and air was having something to bite down on. I did find that strong deep breathing was more effective than the gas and air and at the pushing stage I stopped using the gas and focused purely on breathing (and moaning).
Pushing the baby out was an incredible experience, I could feel how he would come out a bit while the contractions happened and then pop back in again! It became a bit frustrating as I was keen for it to be over. The breaks made it harder at this point, I felt like I wanted it to be one long pushing session just to get it over with but the midwife reassured me that my body did this to protect itself and prevent tearing (which worked - I didn't need any stitches in the end). It is true what I had heard - that it feels intense and about as much as you can stand but never too much. The midwife broke my waters at this point as the sac was still intact and I think this helped things along.
Towards the end the midwife suggested I start pushing and I told her the only pushing I could do was to push out a poo, I couldn't feel anything else. She reassured me that was what I was supposed to be feeling so I went with it and pretty soon my baby came out into the water and was handed to me. This was at 7.28pm (just under 12 hours since I noticed the contractions starting that morning).
I held him briefly in the water then lay on the bed for an hour of skin to skin. I had a natural third stage and barely noticed this happening while I held the baby - I just felt a sudden feeling of relief and was told the placenta was out.
I had been practising breathing and Jackie Kietz’s relaxation scripts in the run up to the birth and the breathing I did throughout labour was basically deep breaths in through the nose (sometimes mouth) and then longer breaths out through the mouth. I did it a lot more forcefully than I had been practising and I wasn't counting. I found I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. I hadn't fully believed in the power of breathing like that before but I absolutely feel that it got me through. I found it hard to relax my body when the contractions came but I did make a conscious effort to, which helped. Despite spending the entire labour on either my feet or my knees I didn't have any muscle ache in the following days.
The midwife was fantastic. She stayed sat at a distance writing notes, only coming over to check baby's heart rate and put a mirror under me to observe progress. She was very encouraging towards the end and I noticed she was following my husband's lead for the right things to say.
I'm not sure if we can recommend things but I drank raspberry leaf tea and ate dates in the run up to the birth. Obviously don't know that they helped but everything they are supposed to help with seemed to happen so I definitely think they're worth a go!