A Hypnobaby Birth
by Jessica Pirkle Callan
We had been preparing for Maureen’s birth using the Hypnobabies program for months and part of the program is visualizing the birth in detail. With an estimated due date of 2/15/11 we decided that 2/18/11 would be the perfect date. Maureen would be fully cooked, my mother-in-law would be in town, Alex wouldn’t miss as much work on a weekend, and I liked it being an even number. We wanted labor to be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. so we wouldn’t miss any sleep. And I really really really wanted it to be rainy!
When we originally decided all of this in early January, there was no rain forecasted. A few weeks away from the date, they predicted a slight chance. As the big day drew closer, the chance of precipitation increased until it was highly likely!
Friday, February 18th, we all got up, Alex getting ready for work, Lila (age 3) getting ready for school. At 7:30 as they were about to leave, i hugged Alex goodbye and felt a contraction. I told him so, but said to go ahead and carry on since it could be braxton hicks like i’d been having for weeks. They left and I went about my morning and chatted with my mother-in-law who had been staying with us the last couple days.
She had come down with an awful case of the flu right after she flew in town, the likes of which we were all just getting over. I didn’t want to tell her about the contractions, afraid that she might either disparage or freak out, but I was definitely contracting every 10 minutes! I showered and dressed, thinking secretly to myself that this was the day; making sure I had comfy yet photo-worthy clothes on, legs freshly shaved, and water-proof mascara on 🙂
I tried to call Alex, around 10 a.m., but didn’t get thru. I emailed my cousin, Sarah to giver her photography instructions adding a postscript that it might be today. Alex emailed back saying he was on a conference call and I told him I was contracting regularly. He said he’d come home if he needed to. It was so weird being unsure about everything (my first daughter was born after I was induced “from scratch”). Some women contract regularly for a day, then stop and resume a week later. Sometimes labors come on quickly and baby is born a few short hours later.
I told him to come home despite my fear I was jinxing it. He picked Lila up from school at 12:20 (normal pick-up time) and came home. I went to an already scheduled chiropractic appointment (for an adjustment and to help my transversely inclined baby move into a more optimal position). The chiropractor worked on some induction points for me and even marked them with a pen so I could continue to stimulate them at home.
I picked up some lunch and came home right as my sister-in-law picked up my mother-in-law (she was in town to help with the new baby, but we had planned to not have her at the birth). We ate, Lila watched a movie, and Alex and I retreated to the bedroom to “apply some natural prostaglandin” 😉 Having contractions during sex was a unique experience!
We spent the rest of the afternoon feverishly cleaning and unpacking (we had just moved into our mostly remodeled house 2 weeks before). I remember cleaning a toilet and having to rest next to it on the floor during a contraction. I also had candles lit, yoga chanting cd playing, and a homemade aromatherapy blend on, expecting active labor to start any minute. I can’t remember at what point I’d texted my midwife that morning, but she sent her assistant over at 5 p.m. when my contractions were 5 minutes apart.
All of the hypnobabies newsletters I’d been reading are replete with stories of quick, sudden births-Mom arrives peacefully at the hospital and no one realizes she’s in active labor until baby starts crowning in the waiting room 🙂 I was sure that would happen to me, so i was incredibly disappointed when I was told upon my requested cervical check that I was only 2-3 cm dilated and 70% effaced.
I just couldn’t understand why the assistant midwife was giving me early labor tips instead of preparing for my baby’s imminent arrival. I wanted so badly to be done by then, not necessarily because I was having a hard time but because I had a plan and things were not going as planned. Also, I HATE having my sleep interrupted and absolutely dreaded the idea of having a baby in the middle of the night. So the assistant left at 6 p.m. and we ordered Thai.
Alex went to pick up the food, while Lila and I stayed home. I’ll never forget how sweet she was when I was contracting. I had prepared her a lot by watching lots of hynobirthing videos on youtube. I’d explained that my uterus was squeezing out baby Maureen and that I really needed to focus during the squeezes. She knew to leave me alone if my eyes were closed or to say “peace” or “relax.” I was laying over the birthing ball softly moaning and she gently stroked me saying, “peace” over and over. My sweet sweet girl!!
We ate dinner, although I didn’t have much appetite, and Alex got Lila to bed. I was hoping that things would either pick up or slow down so that I wasn’t pushing a baby out in the middle of the night. I called my midwife and she suggested doing whatever i needed to relax, like have a glass of wine.
I decided to get in the heated birthing tub we’d rented and I did have a glass of wine while Alex sat on a chair next to the tub holding my laptop while we watched 30 Rock. What an incredible difference the water made! I could feel nothing but pressure with each contraction.At around 10 p.m., Alex needed to go to bed.
I took half of a unisom hoping to at least get a good night’s sleep before what looked like a a February 19th birth by now. We actually contemplated me staying in the tub, since every time I’d gotten out to go to the bathroom, the surges were pretty uncomfortable. Good sense prevailed and I set myself up to sleep on the couch-water, blankie, and pillow.
Labor did NOT speed up or slow down. I had contractions every 5 minutes all…..night….long….. I found that the hypnosis I’d practiced worked effectively as an anesthesia i if i went “under” before a contraction started. But that gave me only 1 minute in between the end of one contraction and the preparation for another. So sometimes I spent the 3-4 minute interval sleeping until the pain of a contraction jarred me awake, and sometimes I used the hypnosis to enjoy a pain-free surge.
I don’t know if it was the unisom or some primal power, but I could just lay my head back and conk right out until the next contraction woke me. It was a very intense and primitive experience to labor all by myself in the quiet darkness all night long. At around 1 a.m. I got some yogurt and granola- a very typical snack and timing for my pregnancy. However, I ended up throwing it up a little while later.
At 7 a.m. I decided I was done with my solo nighttime journey and woke Alex up with the request to open up the tub and keep me company. Again, as soon as my body sank into the warm water, pain became pressure and felt instantly relaxed. We called the midwife and my cousin who both arrived around 9 a.m.
I requested a cervical check and was pleased to find that my night had been productive-I was now at 6 cm 90% effaced! My midwife was also able to monitor my blood pressure, pulse, and the fetal heart rate while I remained comfortably in the tub. What a luxurious difference from my hospital experience!
My sister-in-law, Rachael came by to take care of Lila. We had planned to have her there as the “Lila wrangler”. I wasn’t concerned about Lila being for the birth, in fact, she and I both kind of wanted her to witness it. However, Alex and I wanted to be able to focus on the task at hand while someone else entertained Lila and fetched her snacks or whatever.
The next few hours are a blur for me. Time was dragging and flying and standing still. I know that I kept expecting to be done soon. People kept plying me with food and beverage, but I had no interest in it. I knew that I was supposed to keep eating to fuel my energy level, but nothing sounded good!
I would go grocery shopping in my mind, racking my brain for something that sounded remotely appetizing. Popcorn! Someone made some. I ate a few pieces. I realized that that did NOT sound good. Tea! Someone made tea. I had a sip. It was not what I wanted after all. I had a few blueberries, a bite of pizza that Rachael had picked up to feed the crew. Those who know me, know that I love eating. When I don’t want to eat, something serious is going down!
The weariness of missing out on a night’s sleep and exhaustion from focusing on the task of birth started to weigh on me. I told my midwife that I didn’t want to do this anymore, and she offered to check me. I had originally planned to only get checked when I felt the urge to push in order to make sure I wasn’t pushing before being ready. Otherwise, I felt that checks are inconsequential and unnecessary. I declined at first, but consented at 12:30 p.m. My heart sank to find out that I was STILL 6 cm dilated and 90% effaced. I felt devastated, like I had spent the last 3 hours doing absolutely nothing.
The midwife recommended get out of the tub and spending some time upright to move things along. I’d gotten out of the tub several times to pee (bladder space was at a minimum and I was definitely staying hydrated!), and the contractions I experienced during those potty breaks made me want to stay in the water forever!
What a dilemma. Labor pain-free in the tub, possibly forever; or labor painfully out of the tub, hopefully for a shorter period of time. At 1:15 p.m. I got out.I laid on my side in bed for the next hour and a half with Alex snuggled up behind me. I was in such a sleepy daze in between contractions, but when they hit I sank into Alex as he rubbed my lower back. It was a trance-like nap from which I eventually awoke in the sense that I become more aware of my surroundings and started to feel antsy.
I wandered around the house, trying to find an activity or locale that “felt right” but ended up back in the tub for some sweet respite. That lasted only an hour, since I felt like I had to be “doing” something. So I spent some contractions standing up with my arms around Alex as we swayed together, some hunched over the birthing ball, some sitting on the bathroom stool. Rachael returned with Lila in tow, bearing smoothies from Jamba Juice and I had a couple sips.
At 4:30, Rachael took Lila to her house to eat dinner and hang out until birthing time or bed time-whichever came first. I declared, “I really need to eat something!” and sent my cousin to the store for saltine crackers-the only thing that sounded good. Alex suggested I listen to a Hypnobabies track on the IPod, which is something I should have been doing all along 🙂
So I found myself on all fours on the couch with earphones in, hypnosis settling over me, and my dear husband right beside me when all of a sudden… my water broke!! Right at that point, I started to feel the urge push too. With Lila, my water broke right as i reached full dilation and she was born 45 minutes.
I reluctantly asked for a cervical check. Sure enough, I was 10 cm dilated and 100% effaced! It took a little while to completely register for me that it was actually time. I don’t run marathons, but I know that for people who do and for women giving birth that it is common to “hit a wall” and feel like you can’t go any further. Usually, in the case of birth, reaching this point signifies that the end is near and once you break through the wall, it’s smooth sailing. I had these thoughts in the back of my mind, so when I was feeling like I couldn’t go on, part of me was enslaved to the dejected feeling that it was true, but part of me thought that maybe that meant it was almost over.
Only a few minutes earlier, I had whispered to Alex that I just wanted to go to a hospital and get a C-section. I asked him if we would still have to pay for the home birth if we did that, and when he said yes, my frugality spurred me persevere 🙂
Once I had shaken off all my doubts and discouragement, I set my mind to pushing out my baby! My midwife suggested I do a couple pushes “on land” first before returning to the tub. I complied, but was very thankful to get back to my warm, wet sanctuary to begin pushing in earnest.
I pushed peacefully, remembering the Hypnobabies directive to breath evenly and relax with thoughts of openness. I was on my knees, with my arms folded over the sides of the tub-for some reason I had had a feeling all along that I would birth my baby while on fours, and although I did not consciously choose the position at the time it was just what came naturally.
I felt Maureen moving further and further down, until finally-POP! Out she came into the hands of the assistant midwife! I looked over my shoulder in disbelieving ecstasy. “I did it!” was all I could think 🙂 A few seconds later (after orchestrating the humorous process of turning around without tangling my legs in the umbilical cord) I held my brand new daughter in my arms. It was 5:31 p.m., so she was born at exactly the time we had envisioned….just with an additional 24 hours of labor tacked on 🙂
Maureen nursed very soon and very easily. I immediately regained my appetite and phoned Rachael with a take-out request. She arrived with Lila and dinner, and we all ate, drank champagne, and marveled at the new life that entered the world. It was so incredible to go through the requisite post birth exams and everything in the comfort of our own home.
By 8 p.m., everyone had gone and Alex, Lila, Maureen and I snuggled together, read a story, and went to bed. Our first night as a family of four was so delightfully mundane, hinting at many more sweet nights to come.
Jessica is a former montessori teacher, a current yoga teacher, and a future doctor. She mostly spends her days at home with lila and maureen cooking, cleaning, studying, observing her children, playing, and reading. They occasionally venture out to go grocery shopping, hiking, or walking around the zoo.