At an absolute low point last night when I had been cluster feeding for four hours, and was beside myself at ‘my inability’ to produce enough milk to get my son to sleep, I suddenly remembered that you had made a 4th trimester playlist, and that I had been keeping it for just such a moment. It was amazing. Within three minutes of putting on your post birth affirmations, H (equally beside himself) had remembered that we had a brew of pork broth on the hob and had brought me a bowl, my milk started flowing again and my son was asleep without me even noticing.
And so it seems time to introduce you to J R, born at 16.50 on Thursday 24th October at 8 pounds 4 ounces in Kings Hospital, and to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the role which you played in bringing him into this world. After 30 hours of trying to relax and/or walk myself gently towards labour after my waters broke, we started to get concerned about infection and decided to allow the hospital to induce us. Even this language was incredibly empowering. It felt like our decision, informed by both feminist power and medical protocol. We went in at 09.30 for the first exam and the prostin hormones, at which point I was examined and told that my cervix was long, thick, and less than a 1cm dilated, too posterior to sweep. We were encouraged nevertheless to go for a walk, and wandered around the misty park, enjoying some quiet time together. Then H pointed out that so far I had tried so hard to relax that perhaps I had not tried joy – that he was expecting me to dance my way into the start of labour, as I had danced my way through the end of my PhD and across the finishing line of a half marathon. So when we got home I closed a door, shut my eyes, put on my favourite music and danced alone for ten minutes, excited and confident in the knowledge that whatever happened I would meet my baby by the end of the weekend. And then my first contraction came! It was magical. I danced some more, we sat and had a sausage sandwich and laughed at all the ways in which we might fuck up being new parents, but affirmed that whatever happened we didn’t mind because the soon-to-be-three of us were in it together. A second contraction followed in 15 minutes, and so we walked over to the hospital, where I had a third on the stairs outside. By the time I got to the labour ward I had had a fourth, and as the midwives put in the cannula for IV antibiotics I put a scarf over my face, rocked my pelvis on a bouncing ball, and breathed through the waves. When I transitioned into active labour on the floor of the bathroom just under two hours later the midwife couldn’t believe that things had happened so quickly, and that I was a first time Mum who hadn’t even asked about pain relief. She knew that I was practising hypnobirthing, but was still shocked that it was working so well.
Things got complicated in the active labour stage – there was concern that the baby had suddenly flipped breech (after he had been engaged head down for 10 weeks I was completely sceptical! I trusted him completely, but nevertheless it unsettled me), and later his head got stuck and he got distressed, which meant that I ended up in stirrups being monitored and with excruciating pelvic pain that completely masked the contractions. I felt I had lost the thread of labour. But in a beautiful moment the midwife who was feeling my bump and telling me when to push joined voices with everyone else in the room to encourage me to keep pushing, I had a speedy episiotomy without time for anaesthetic, and my baby was on my chest, cord pulsing, warm and peaceful. It was completely magical.
My story isn’t the version of hypnobirthing that we saw in the videos – I was on my back without gravity to help me, and I wasn’t in touch with my breathing in the way that I had been before transition. Excruciating PGP meant that I was more focused on the midwife massaging my hip to keep my legs in place than gently pushing the baby through. But my labour lasted just 4.5 hours, I didn’t have an epidural which was one of my most strongly held preferences, and it was a beautiful natural experience that began with H reading me a poem, and both of us crying as we shared our joy that I was in labour at 41+3 and we were going to meet our child. We couldn’t have survived without the hospital – I collapsed from blood loss two hours after birth and woke up surrounded by emergency doctors doing triage – but we coped with the highs and lows with the tools which you had given us. Even with the drama of my passing out, the midwife could gently hand pump enough colostrum to keep J blissful and in H’s arms as the team of doctors were focused on looking after me.
Now, at J + 10, I look back and feel astonishingly grateful. He is a champion feeder who didn’t cry even when he had his BCG, and I can’t help but think that if his biggest problem is hiccups we have done pretty well. I am sure that staying relaxed and fit throughout my pregnancy through the combination of boxing and hypnobirthing (an unlikely pairing, perhaps) has helped to produce the beautiful boy we have with us today.
Thank you for sharing in our journey.
All our love