Gaila Hemphill with baby Finn Andrew Hemphill, Revelstoke, BC
On June 28, 2011 I was feeling quite tired and lethargic. As I had spent some time in the hot sun the day before, I almost thought I had a bit a heat stroke. I took it very easy that day, I had gotten a new book from the library so I spent a mellow day reading, and had a long nap in the afternoon. I didn’t even go to prenatal yoga, I was feeling so ‘blah’. I did have some more ‘practice labour’ throughout the day, but I’d been having a lot of that for the previous few weeks I didn’t think much of it.
I ate a regular dinner with my husband Chad, when he got home from work (sausage, quinoa and a salad), and then went to lie down and read some more.
He was busy finishing tiling the bathroom downstairs in preparation as a mother/in law suite. As I lay in bed, I was having some surges that were packing a bit more punch than normal; but as they were very irregular and spaced out I still didn’t think anything of them.
At about 7:45 I experienced the most intense surge yet, with a lot of cervical pressure and actually felt/heard a small ‘pop, pop’. Very shortly after that Chad had come in the bedroom to check on me, and I remember telling him “I think my water may have just released; I felt a new pressure on my cervix, and actually felt a small pop...” I asked him to grab me a tissue as I did feel a little ‘wet’; so I wiped myself and did in fact see some liquid that was definitely not pee! It smelled like saline, and had a faint pink tinge. We decided to call our midwife to let her know what was up. She called us back shortly after and confirmed that yes, my water had indeed released, which means labour would be imminent, most likely starting within a few hours, but possibly not for a while, or even until tomorrow. (I had screened GBS negative.) I told her it was just trickling out, not gushing, but was not having any major surges at all. She suggested I get vertical, try some squatting positions to see if more waters would release, or use some positions to move the baby’s head out of the way if it was making a seal against my cervix. If none of these ‘worked’ get some rest while I still could! Or call her back when contractions were regular, 3 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, and very uncomfortable. I did try a bunch of different squats and such, and nothing really made a difference, the waters were just slowly trickling out. I decided to heed Birte’s (our midwife) advice and get some rest as I assumed things may take awhile.
10:30 or 11 ish was normally a very active time for baby, and like clockwork he started wriggling about. This movement caused the gush of amniotic fluid, and every time baby wriggled about, a new gush would release. Also with this came my mucus plug, which was not a plug at all, but just a lot of yellowish, egg white like discharge. With these releases of fluid, the surges started. Although they were still quite irregular, 10 to 20 minutes apart, lasting about a minute each, they definitely had a lot more ‘sensation’. Chad put on the Rainbow Relaxation so I could start getting into ‘my zone’, timed the surges, did light touch massage as well as some hip/pelvis massage and ran around getting the last of the bag packed for the hospital, fed the cat, cleaned the litter.... He did at one point – about midnight – try to get some sleep, but I had to wake him to help me concentrate and stay focused on my breathing, while he performed light touch massage as the surges were getting far more intense. I remember in between surges looking at each other and marvelling the fact that our time had finally come: we were having a baby, and soon!!! The surges continued to get more regular and more intense. I had to go to the bathroom a lot, and once, when I was unprepared, a contraction caught me walking from the bed to the bathroom, and it was so painful I could barely walk! It definitely gave me a powerful incentive to stay relaxed, focused and breathing properly.
By 1:30 or 2 am surges were 3 to 5 minutes apart and very intense. I decided to sit in the shower and spray the hot water on my belly and pelvis which was wonderful! I can definitely see the attraction of the water birth!!! By 2 am the surges were very regular at 3 minutes apart, so Chad called Birte to update her. She asked if we wanted her to come to the house first, or just meet her at the hospital, a 10 minute drive. I decided we should go to the hospital sooner rather than later, as the surges were very intense, close together; I thought it would be harder the longer we waited. As it was, I had to wait out a surge to stand up in the tub, wait out a surge to step out, wait out a surge to towel off, wait out a surge to slip a nightgown over my head, etc. By the time I got down the stairs, into the car, we had driven to the hospital, I entered and was brought up to the labour room, it was after 2:30. Chad put on the Birth Affirmations as I lay on the bed and Birte and her assistant did their routine vital checks. By 3 am she checked my cervix for the first time and was astonished to say I was fully dilated and could start pushing whenever I felt the urge. I remember at this point too, I had said to Chad that the sensations had changed and the pressure was now down low, rather than pulling up. I continued to side lie and shifted into birth breathing without really saying anything to anybody. I was so hot, Chad was trying to keep my head cool with a cold cloth, while performing light touch massage and grounding me back into relaxation in between surges. His prompts to breathe deeply and relax were so vital at this time. I tried to breathe the baby down for about 45 minutes when Birte suggested I try pushing to see how it felt. I did try, and it felt great! I remember feeling like I was really making progress now as I could feel the pressure in my pelvis changing quite rapidly. She then suggested double and triple pushes: rather than pushing once and having the baby slip back, I could push, take in a deep quick breath, and then continue the push and the forward progression became significantly more than the slip back. In no time the baby was crowning.
I had tried a few different positions but was most comfortable side lying, or on my knees while leaning on the top of the raised bed. I did try standing, and the birthing stool which were both very uncomfortable. I also remember spiralling my hips while kneeling, which felt really good and helped to relieve some pressure. When the baby was crowning I was on my knees and Birte suggested I touch his head for some motivation; it was so surreal! I kept double and triple pushing while slipping back into deep sleep breathing in between surges, and there was definitely a bit more time in between surges now. Finally, Birte told me I had to keep pushing – one after another, as the baby’s heart rate was starting to fall a little and she knew I didn’t want to have the Dr.’s intervene. I thought this meant the head was finally coming out, when, all of a sudden the whole baby slipped out! It was the shoulders that had been a little stuck; the head had already been out and I didn’t even know!!!
Chad immediately helped me turn over to sit and lean back and the baby was placed on my chest. We were so overwhelmed and elated and Birte covered him with some warm blankets, we didn’t even look right away if it was, in fact, a boy! It was! I remember saying how he looked like a little alien man as he was so wrinkly and scrunched up!!! He had a few hearty cries, but mostly he was silent and calm, and soon became quite alert.
As Chad and I gazed at our creation, Birte dealt with the oncoming placenta, a potential haemorrhage, and some suturing. Unfortunately I did tear a little bit. Through all of this I hardly remember any details as I was so overwhelmed and euphoric at what we had accomplished! Baby latched on almost immediately and started feeding really well. He seemed larger than Birte and I had thought – and very long – so I surrendered him to the bassinet next to me so she could weigh, measure and perform her other requirements. We were all shocked to discover that he weighed a healthy 8 lbs and 6 oz and was 53.5 cm long! Everything else checked out perfectly too and he received an APGAR rating of 9 as his hands and feet were a little bit blue.
Birte told me then that she was so impressed with my fast, easy birthing, that it had been a star quality birth, and she was so happy to have been part of such a reaffirming birth. I know how much of the ease, speed and efficiency of our birth was due to hypnobirthing. The fact that I went from 0 cm to 10 cm dilated in less than 4 hours is proof of that. The combination of surge breathing, strong visualizations of raising and opening the cervix, and the affirmations that every surge was bringing our baby closer to us absolutely drove that stage of labour. Although I did ‘push,’ I did what felt right, and still used hypnobirthing extensively between contractions to relax and maintain my own and the baby’s heart rate. Having a companion there was absolutely necessary to help keep me focused, relaxed and breathing deeply as it would have been very easy to get ‘carried away’ with the sensations and discomfort. We are very grateful to have had a midwife who was understanding and respectful of our wishes and birth preferences, but still professional and proactive to assist the birthing and eliminate any need for interventions. But mostly, I know that my body and my baby did that together! Yes, the surges were ‘painful’ – but totally tolerable and manageable. Never did I think I couldn’t do it or that I needed drugs. And the euphoria that followed in indescribable!
During our course preparation I originally visualized an 8 to 10 hour labour. Later, in my own preparations, I decided we could do it in 6! So we did! I am so grateful to hypnobirthing for eliminating my initial terror of birth and medical interventions, for empowering me in trust of my own body’s capability and that of my baby, and for helping to create a most amazing birth story for my new family.