I put off writing this story for almost a year. As I write this, it is just two days until Thaddeus’s first birthday. I struggled with how to write this story, because it’s not the story I thought I would tell. Thaddeus’s birth brought things to the surface for me that I had never faced during my four previous births. I struggled mentally during his birth, and agonized over it for months. I felt like a failure as a Hypno-mom, and as a Hypnobabies Instructor. Eventually, though, I found healing through teaching Hypnobabies. Reading the scripts out loud in class, hearing them on a conscious level for the first time ever, being read in my own voice, was healing for me. In case you’re afraid to read this story, spoiler alert, it has a happy ending, although, Bubble of Peace may be needed to read my own negative thought patterns I experienced and will be honestly sharingin this story.
Thaddeus is my fifth baby. I prepared for his birth using Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis, just as I had for his four older siblings. Because it has worked so well for me, I became certified as a Hypnobabies Instructor while pregnant with Thaddeus, although I didn’t teach any classes prior to his birth.
My guess date was January 21, 2018, which was my mom’s birthday. I didn’t want him to be born on my mom’s birthday, because I wanted him to have his own special day. Thankfully, my guess date passed without him being born. My 40 week midwife appointment was on January 23 at 8:00 AM in Nashville. Because the drive to the midwife’s office is about 40 minutes in good traffic, I knew I’d need to get up early and leave the house no later than 6:30 AM to make it to that 8:00 AM appointment on time. I woke up at 5:00, showered and got ready to go. I skipped breakfast, planning to eat after the appointment, not wanting the weight of breakfast in my stomach when I had to step on the scale.
The drive was fairly uneventful, however, I did notice I was having mild pressure waves. I decided to start timing a few using the car’s clock, just in case. They averaged around 11 minutes apart. I had it in the back of my head that it could be THE day. The midwife asked me if I was noticing any pressure waves, and I told her that I had, in fact, been having pressure waves coming every 10-15 minutes since I’d been up. She was happy for me and said one of her colleagues would probably see me soon at the hospital.
I left the midwife’s office and decided I needed a big breakfast. I had been nauseous two thirds of the pregnancy, and had lost weight the first 20 weeks before I ever gained a pound. That morning, though, I felt like eating. I chose Cracker Barrel because I saw a Cracker Barrel billboard on I-65 showcasing blueberry pancakes, and nothing sounded better to me. I considered going to Pancake Pantry, but decided against it because I didn’t feel like standing in line, and I didn’t think it would be fair to my husband to splurge on something so delicious without him. I also had a fresh Cracker Barrel gift card from Christmas in my wallet. I ordered blueberry pancakes, turkey sausage, and eggs, and ate all of it. I was so stuffed, and I can’t remember if I bothered having lunch that day.
The rest of that day is a blur. I know I listened to “Your Birthing Time Begins” when I got home, just in case it was my birthing time. I think I listened to the “Birthing Day Affirmations” on repeat as well as I did school with my two oldest kids until I put my almost-three-year-old down for her nap. I know I listened to Deepening to help deepen my hypnosis and put me to sleep. I remember trying to make a chicken and rice dish in the Instant Pot for dinner and it didn’t turn out well at all. The rest of the evening is a blur to me. I know I retreated to the bedroom and turned my light switch off for a while just to rest, but had to go back to center at one point because I heard my seven year old in hysterics down the hall and texted my husband to see what was going on. I don’t remember much else, but my husband says we turned the lights off around 11:30.
My pressure waves increased in frequency, and I found myself shivering. Because I was GBS positive and I chose to have IV antibiotics, I knew we needed to be there at least four hours to get both doses of the medication. The waves were coming every two to five minutes apart, so we called the babysitter, my doula, and the midwife on call. The sitter arrived around 1:35, and we left the house a few minutes later. I noticed my pressure waves were starting to spread back out again as I sat in the car while my husband gave the sitter last minute directions. We arrived to the hospital around 2:10. By that point, my waves were about 10-15 minutes apart. I walked in to OB registration on my own power, and then walked to the triage room after checking in. My doula was there with is in triage. The midwife came in to see me, and I was happy to see it was my favorite midwife in the group. I really liked all the midwives, but she was my favorite. She checked my cervix, but I was shocked and disappointed to hear that I was only dilated to one centimeter.
How could I only be dilated to one centimeter? I had been having pressure waves all day, and they were coming every two to five minutes before we left the house. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I felt so embarrassed, because I felt as though I should know better than to turn up at the hospital only dilated to one centimeter. I also felt incredibly guilty. The babysitter and my doula left their own children at home in the middle of the night for me, and I was only dilated to one centimeter. My husband had only slept a little over an hour to take me to the hospital, and I had jumped the gun. I wasn’t anywhere close to giving birth to our baby. To make matters worse, we were far enough from home it would be a hassle to drive home, only to have to come back again later. We could get a hotel room, but hotels in Nashville are expensive. All those thoughts swirled through my head. The midwife suggested I start walking, and I gladly complied.
My husband, doula, and I started walking loops through labor and delivery. I listened to Birthing Day Affirmations in my earbuds as we walked. My pressure waves increased in frequency as we walked, and I felt hopeful. I’m not sure how long we walked, but I eventually got tired. I had been up almost 24 hours. I consented to be checked again to see if there was enough progress to be admitted, but found I was only dilated to two centimeters. I was disappointed and frustrated, but knew I needed to start walking again.
I continued listening to my Birthing Day Affirmations, but decided to employ the Abdominal Lift and Tuck from Spinning Babies with each pressure wave. I learned from Hypnobabies that doing the Abdominal Lift and Tuck through ten pressure waves in a row could help with positioning the baby’s head onto the cervix to aid in dilation. It can also help a malpositioned baby to spin into a better position for birth. It took over an hour to perform the Abdominal Lift and Tuck through 10 consecutive pressure waves, but once it was done, we returned to our triage room to rest. The midwife came in around 6:00 AM to check me. She said I wouldn’t need to get a hotel room because I was five centimeters and could move to a birth center room. The hospital I chose to give birth in has three large rooms that have been converted to “birth center” rooms. They each have a tub, a mini fridge for snacks, oil diffusers, and a queen size bed and prettier than regular hospital furniture.
We walked to the birth center, and I had to pause for pressure waves several times along the way. As long as I was walking, my waves came about every two to three minutes. With each wave, I held onto the hand rail and squatted while directing my hypnoanesthesia and giving myself the Peace cue inside my head.
My husband and doula began setting up my candles and hanging my affirmations when we reached the birth center room. I kept my light switch in the center, because I had to get my saline lock IV in place and my first dose of antibiotics. I wanted to just lie down in the comfy queen bed and take a nap while listening to Deepening, but felt as though I needed to keep moving to keep my birthing time moving forward. I was feeling a lot of pressure in my back, and having the odd pressure wave pattern, I determined he wasn’t in the greatest position for descent. I got onto my hands and knees and rested my upper body on the birth ball and rocked my pelvis, directing my hypnoanesthesia with the Peace cue through each wave. My husband took a video of me doing this and his comment at the end of one pressure wave was that I made it look easy. I was so tired from being up for more than 24 hours at that point that it wasn’t feeling easy to me, but I took his word for it that I made it look that way.
The next couple hours consisted of me continuing to listen to Easy First Stage with my earbuds in and moving about the room in different positions. I kept my light switch in the center most of the time, and turned it to off if I was in a supported position, but just directed my hypnoanesthesia when I was not. I walked about the room, I sat on my birth ball, I squatted using the squatting ladder, and I took seemingly a million trips to the bathroom. The midwives had switched shifts at 7:00 AM, around the time I had transferred into the birthing room, and although I loved the new midwife attending my birth (she placed her hand on my shoulder and gave me the Relax cue through some pressure waves!), she had a more direct approach and kept encouraging movement because I had an irregular pressure wave pattern. I would have a few about five minutes apart, then go 20 minutes without having another one. My odd pressure wave pattern was frustrating for me. Although they weren’t in a distinctive pattern, I felt they were increasing in intensity. It was difficult for me to get into a good rhythm of moving around because I couldn’t predict when I would have a pressure wave, and I didn’t know how intense it would be. This was not like my four previous births at all. I was exhausted, and knew from previous births that if I could just listen to Deepening at least once, but preferably twice in a row, and get some rest, I would feel so much better, but I also wanted to be a good patient, so I kept moving. They all knew I was a Hypnobabies instructor, and I felt pressure to be the perfect patient and to have the perfect birth. I didn’t want to give off a bad impression. At one point, I remember my nurse doppling heart tones during a pressure wave, and I mentioned when it was over that it was a strong wave. She agreed it was a strong wave, but said they would have to get much stronger if I planned to have my baby that day. I remember feeling exhausted, and at that point, the thought of my birthing time dragging on for many more hours sounded daunting. My birthing time with my oldest was 44 hours from the first pressure wave until he was born. I had been at home and resting for most of that time, though. I was barely upright at all during that marathon birth. I was quite exhausted after his birthing time was over, but only felt that way during the last few hours before he was born. I couldn’t imagine continuing in this fashion for another day.
For a fleeting moment, I entertained the notion of asking to transfer to a regular birthing room so I could have an epidural and take a nap, but then decided against it. I chose to continue using my hypnosis techniques. I began praying to God, and talking to my baby inside my head during each pressure wave, calling him by his nickname (Chickpea) and asking him to please turn towards my back with his chin tucked to his chest so Mommy could take a nap. It was like a mantra inside my mind, “Please Chickpea, just turn. Turn, down, out. Please. Turn, down, out.”
Around 10:00 someone suggested I had made enough progress to get into the tub. As I sank into the warm water, the pressure on my back dissolved away. I didn’t want to use my earbuds in the tub, so my husband played Easy First Stage out loud on his laptop. I leaned into the side of the tub and slept between pressure waves, my switch in center the entire time. My time in the tub was glorious. Eventually, though, I wanted to lie down, and the nurse and the midwife agreed it would be a good idea for me to lie down. They encouraged my husband to try to get me to nap.
My memory of what happened after the tub is a little fuzzy. I know we lied on the bed together for a little while, listening to Easy First Stage out loud on the laptop. I never went completely to sleep, but it felt good just to lie down for a little while. I remember later sitting on my ball, leaning against the bed and some pillows for support, and asking my husband to switch to the Relaxation Music because I was having a hard time concentrating on the hypnosis track. He switched it to the Relaxation Music and began reading hypnosis prompts from his Birth Partner Guide. It was exactly what I needed to help deepen my hypnosis and make me more comfortable. After him reading to me for a while, I decided I was ready to walk in the hallway. Someone heated my rice pack up for me in the microwave, and we tied it to my lower back with my rebozo. The heat felt great, as I was still having a lot of pressure in my lower back and pelvis. My husband and I held hands and walked short little laps back and forth in the hall, as I didn’t want to get too far away from my room. Instinctively, I think I knew I didn’t have much more time left. I would lean into him and sway through each pressure wave, directing my hypnoanesthesia with my Peace cue. This was my favorite part of my birthing time. I felt like it was just the two of us, and we talked as we walked. It was a special time, with no interruptions. My midwife had been called to attend another birth, the nurse was taking her lunch break. I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world at that time, just holding hands with my husband and walking our baby out.
We returned to our room, and I entered Transformation. I used the bathroom, then I remember suddenly feeling very emotional and started crying about how tired I was. My husband, being the experienced birth partner he is, recognized Transformation right away and called the nurse to come back to check on me. I remember walking around the bed, and crying a lot about being tired, and feeling pushy with each wave. I don’t remember getting into the bed, but I do know I pushed while lying on my left side. As the midwife was gathering her supplies for the pushing phase, we suddenly heard a strange drilling sound. We hadn’t heard a single sound out of the ordinary the entire twelve hours we’d been there, and suddenly, right as I was about to push my baby out, this strange sound emerged. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of it. I wasn’t upset about it at all. It was quite funny to me.
I pushed for about 15 minutes before he was born. We had chosen not to find out his sex before birth, as we had for our four older children, however, I was not surprised to learn he was a boy. I had always seen a baby boy when I did my hypnosis practice and went to my Special Safe Place in my mind. He was born at 1415 on January 24, 2018, 8 pounds, 14 ounces. I was very pleased to not need a single stitch, as my midwife had supported my perineum during pushing, and lying on my left side had helped as well.
Thaddeus was placed skin to skin immediately, and we waited to clamp and cut the cord until it was limp and had stopped pulsing so he could get all his blood back from the placenta. He began rooting and making hungry grunts almost immediately after being placed skin to skin, and he latched on right away. He nursed for almost the entire hour after his birth while I dozed on the comfy queen bed.
We were all shocked when I birthed the placenta, as it was the largest placenta my midwife or nurse (who had been an obstetrical nurse for more than 20 years) had ever seen. She remarked, “You must have had such a healthy diet during pregnancy!” I did do a pretty decent job with my pregnancy diet once my sickness cleared up some, eating a lot of salads and protein rich foods.
We transferred to our postpartum room a little after 5:00 PM and we spent two nights in the hospital due to my GBS status, just to monitor Thaddeus for infection. The hospital staff was great, and it was the best stay we’d had out of the five births. We went home around lunch time on Friday, January 26.
In the days and weeks following his birth, I looked back on it with a lot of regret. The negativity I felt during my birthing time continued. I felt embarrassed and guilty for going to the hospital when we did. I felt as though I should have known better, being my fifth baby, and being a childbirth educator. I knew there were things I could have done differently to enjoy my birthing time more. I was ashamed of myself for considering getting an epidural. I had wanted my body pillow so I could be more comfortable resting, but I felt guilty about going to the hospital so early, depriving so many people of sleep, that I didn’t want to ask my tired husband to walk back to the car to retrieve my pillow. I wanted to just turn on Deepening and rest because I was exhausted, but I didn’t want to say no to the midwife and nurse when they suggested I keep moving to get a consistent pressure wave pattern. I thought doing so would make me a bad patient and would reflect negatively on myself as a Hypnobabies Instructor. I felt discomfort from Thaddeus’s less than ideal position during my birthing time, however, I blamed myself for the discomfort, and accused myself of not trying hard enough. I had so much negativity swirling around in my brain.
I was the model student leading up to this birth, never skipping a finger drop or hypnosis practice, and this was my fifth time doing this, yet it wasn’t easy for me. I was in a comfortable birth environment, with a supportive team. Why did I feel like such a failure?
I have reflected upon this birth and analyzed my thoughts and feelings for the past year. It’s only been through teaching Hypnobabies, and reading the scripts to my students each week that I have found peace with this birth, and I’ve learned why I struggled so.
I have perfectionist tendencies towards some (not all) things. I thought this birth had to be picture perfect because I am an instructor, and I thought if I performed perfectly, it would go perfectly. It began to unravel when I arrived at only a centimeter dilated. In previous births, I met challenges much more resiliently, but my perfectionism towards this birth set me on a pathway towards disappointment. I wanted to be the perfect wife and the perfect patient, so I didn’t ask for the things I needed that would have made me more comfortable. Rather than celebrating the victory that I chose to continue using my hypnosis techniques, I criticized myself for even considering another option. I allowed my thoughts to spiral until I drew the conclusion that I had failed and my birth was not a good experience.
It’s only been through reading birth stories of women in excruciating pain during childbirth that I realized this birth was quite good. While three out of my five Hypnobabies births have been pain free, the discomfort I felt for this birth was very manageable, and exhaustion was my biggest problem. I had been awake 33 hours when Thaddeus was born, with a large part of that time spent in motion or upright.
I know now that there is no one perfect birth, but rather, the perfect birth for the given circumstances. I had an epiphany while out for a run just last week. I’m training for my 11th half marathon. I can check off every single run on my training plan, every single cross training session, every strength session, hit every speed interval, my nutrition and hydration be on point, but I can’t control the weather on race day. I can’t control the flavor of energy gel they hand out, I can’t control the people darting in front of me, or a train parked on the tracks blocking part of the course. Being well prepared doesn’t guarantee a certain finishing time, but it certainly gives me my best shot. Being well prepared for a race allows me to make adjustments were necessary in order to reach the finish line, and to do so with a sense of peace about the process.
That is what Hypnobabies is about. It is about preparing yourself to have the best birth possible for the given circumstances. Although I had some mental and emotional turmoil during my birthing time, I can finally look back on it a year later and say that it was a good birth. The exhaustion was challenging. It was 31 hours from the time I realized I was having pressure waves until he was born. His position created an irregular pressure wave pattern that caused some discomfort. I did, however, actively use my hypnosis techniques throughout my entire birthing time, and the discomfort was manageable.
Was this my favorite birth? No, it wasn’t, and it doesn’t have to be, either. I am finally comfortable in saying, though, that it was a good birth, and I should be (and am) proud of myself.