I got a bit emotional when this incredible birth story arrived in my inbox and I think you’ll agree, it’s a bit of a special one!
This story from a really lovely family proves that The Wise Hippo (hypnobirthing) is for ANYONE, ANYWHERE in ANY circumstance.
Following on from the traumatic birth of my first child, when I became pregnant with my second, I was extremely anxious about giving birth again. All my previous fears from my first experience would come flooding back to me in terrifying waves every time I thought about how I would give birth this time around. Which is why after various conversations with my midwife and the consultant, I decided the best option for me would be to elect for a caesarean. After that decision I got talking to other mothers and friends as you do, and I got to hear a little about hypnobirthing and how it helped many women in the build up to and during their births. However I had assumed that these techniques could only be applied to ‘natural births’.
Fast forward a month or two, and I see an Instagram post from my friend Siobhán (‘Your Tiny Human’) about caesarean births, entitled ‘C is for c-section’. The post reads about it not mattering how you birth your baby. All births are births, and hypnobirthing techniques can be used to prepare for your caesarean, and can empower you to ask the right questions in order to ‘own your own birth’ – it doesn’t have to be something that just happens to you.
So we started the classes with Siobhán on the Wise Hippo Confident C-Section Programme. We learned how to deflect any negative comments about birth experiences which add to the anxiety. I had some issues over whether I was doing the right thing by electing to have a caesarean, was I being selfish in taking ‘the easy option’? and I worried that people would think I was less of a mother as I hadn’t birthed my baby as nature intended. Siobhán quickly reassured me that this was about me and my baby, and it was all about ‘the right birth on the day’ so I was able to let go of those negative thoughts, and I changed my way of thinking so that I didn’t worry about what other people thought. We transported our imagination to our calm place (mine being a sun lounger on a beach from the film ‘cocktail’ with Tom Cruise – don’t ask me why, its just where my subconscious took me..!) and from then on, each evening I would go to bed, plug myself in to the MP3, shut myself off from the world and I would drift off into a natural sleep.
Not only did the MP3’s help me to feel calm about everything associated with my upcoming caesarean, but they helped me to de-stress and made me feel relaxed at a time when we were in the middle of a stressful house move, had a threenager daughter struggling with the most unbelievable tantrums, and a close family member was battling with a serious illness. The relaxation techniques helped me immensely at a time when I really needed them. My husband would also listen to them with me, he would joke that they made him feel like ‘a strong powerful woman’ but in all seriousness they helped relax him too, and were a comfort to him that they were helping me. Through the course he could understand what was going to happen to my body, what we could ask for, that we had choices, and what the benefits of those choices would be. For instance a few weeks before ‘b’ day we had an appointment with the consultant. Before learning about natural c-sections, I wouldn’t have known that I was ‘allowed’ to make any requests. I would have walked into that appointment to be told about the process, signed some forms and be sent on my way and would return on the day to just go through the motions, which for a lot of people (including myself to a certain extent) this would have been absolutely fine. Instead I was armed with a list of questions I now had an opportunity to discuss, all of which pretty much were welcomed and met with understanding.
So lets skip to the day of the birth of my beautiful baby. We arrived at the NNUH at 7am. I listened to my MP3’s ‘cove of confidence’ and ‘birth affirmations’ on the way and on the ward while we waited to be seen. We were told we were first on the list which was a big relief. I had my birth plan printed in multiple copies with all my requests on it which we gave a copy to each of the medical team who came to see us prior to the procedure. We were then taken into a little side room that was attached to the operating theatre where they prepared me for the spinal. This was where I was at my most nervous, however James held my hand throughout, and I practised my breathing technique, one large deep breath in, then a long exhale counting down from 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 in my head. I also imagined myself on that sun lounger in Jamaica with Tom Cruise!
The whole medical team around me were so professional and each had their own way of helping me to feel safe. Once in the theatre, James’ hand stroked my hair, and his reassuring touch centred me and I focussed on meeting my baby. One of the team put my CD of music on to play in the room (a classical compilation I played to my first born as a baby in the early days). The procedure began and literally within 2 or 3 minutes the curtain was lowered right down as requested, and my beautiful new baby was held up and handed to me as the surgeons words ‘its a girl!’ came to us. We didn’t know the sex before so this was a really magical moment for us.
They passed her to me immediately for skin to skin, delaying the clamping of the cord and any weighing of the baby and examinations for as long as possible, so I basically had her cuddled close to me for the entirety of the time I was in theatre while they delivered the placenta and stitches were administered. I didn’t want to be parted from my baby, and she helped to distract me from the surgical environment.
As soon as I saw her face, I felt that instant overwhelming feeling of love that I didn’t know I was capable of feeling again- but I did, and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world. The whole experience felt honestly so controlled and I felt part of that. When she was eventually weighed, her weight was recorded as 6 lbs 13 oz, which was a surprise to us as the midwives had told us to expect a large baby up to 9 lbs!!
We were then wheeled into recovery where I wanted to breastfeed as soon as possible within the ‘golden hour’. I was absolutely elated when she latched on perfectly first time. It felt such a relief as this was also something I had been anxious about, following a difficult breastfeeding journey with my eldest. I’m convinced because I was so relaxed this time around and she had such a calming journey into the world, that this could only have helped make this possible. We had one nights stay at the hospital, and James was allowed to stay on the ward with me, then we were discharged the next day. After having the surgery, I would say I had a few days of uncomfortable tenderness in the beginning, and then I whole heartedly believe that from using positivity, and repeating the relaxation techniques, after 2 weeks I would say I was functioning normally with little or no discomfort.
If I hadn’t tried hypnobirthing I really think I would have struggled with the anxiety that was building in me, and it may not have been the happy, amazing birth experience that we had. We were able to control the way our baby came into the world and we were armed with the options available to us. I still use the breathing and visualisation techniques now whenever I find myself in a stressful situation, and I can see myself using them for the rest of my life, and I’m so thankful that I made the right decision for us and for our baby.
Natalie and James
So much love for you guys! Thank you for sharing your journey with me and your story with the world.