The birth of Sienna – a natural birth from a first time mum

A bit about me – My name is Vi and my husband is Craig. Both of us are in our early 30’s. I am from a mixed White and Asian background (this becomes more relevant later on). This is my positive natural birth story of our daughter Sienna.

Pregnancy and the lead up to birth

Me and my husband had always spoken about having children one day. During our 20’s neither of us felt ready; I also held a fear that pregnancy and childbirth were horrifying pre-conditions of having a child. This was due to hearing several birthing horror stories; including a strong view held in my immediate family that the pain of birth was unimaginable. I had therefore always wanted an elective caesarean due to high levels of anxiety about a natural birth.

After the joy of finding out that we were pregnant; we couldn’t wait for our NHS scan and booked an early scan. It was confirmed here, and at subsequent scans, that I had a fibroid in the location where a caesarean would be performed. I was advised that natural birth would be safer, but in an emergency situation they would work round it. I then resigned myself to a natural birth – not feeling thrilled by the prospect.

This prompted me to look in to hypnobirthing. I’d had two friends, who had both had positive births, that recommended it. Soon after, we met Colleen at a parent and child event at Bluewater and booked on to the Harmony Hypnobirthing course. Following the two day hypnobirthing course I felt so much more positive, relaxed and even excited about the birth. We learnt so much on these two days which helped me to feel informed about what birth could look like. This changed my perception of the scary, painful or dangerous birth that I’d been envisioning. I love a plan, so made a birth plan using Colleen’s helpful template. ( to download the birth plan template click here)But I also felt okay that it might not go this way. I knew I didn’t want to be induced if I could avoid it. I wanted a natural birth, in a midwife led birth unit, in water, if possible.

As the expected due date got closer; I was becoming more excited. I wasn’t stuck on a “due date” and avoided negative birth stories. There was one sticking point a few weeks before I gave birth though. My community midwife told me that I would need to be booked in for an induction on my due date, due to my ethnicity. I was very shocked by this as I held the belief that anytime between 37-42 weeks was considered normal. Plus I knew that some women can birth past the 42 week stage. I was advised that as my mum was from South East Asia I was at higher risk of complications and infant mortality if I went past my due date. This was my biggest fear. However, I didn’t want to be induced. I knew that if I was, I wouldn’t then be eligible to give birth on a midwifery led unit. I asked for the research and pros and cons; as advised during our hypnobirthing classes. The midwife was unable to give me the information but directed me to where I could find it. I found very little and outdated evidence regarding this advice and a very small increase in percentage of infant mortality rates. There was also no evidence/research for women from mixed ethnic backgrounds.
This informed me and my husband that we felt happy with the decision for me to not be induced. My midwife was not very supportive regarding this decision but of course agreed it was my choice. I agreed to a sweep at 41 weeks and an induction at 41+5 if baby hadn’t come yet – more in keeping with national guidance and norms.

Going in to labour

My due date came and went and I wasn’t too worried. I was hopeful that I wouldn’t make it to 41 weeks as I wasn’t keen on having a sweep. But I knew baby would come when she was ready. I had a pretty chill week – lots of baths listening to my hypnobirthing scripts and positive affirmations, bouncing on my birthing ball, short dog walks (waddles), watching TV and playing video games whilst eating everything in sight. Perfect. I had planned that when I do go in to labour I’d like to take the dog for a walk if it’s during the day, eat some nice food, listen to my scripts and affirmations and have some nice warm baths.

40+6 days – I woke up at around 3am on the Monday morning feeling a bit off but needing a wee (of course). I went to the toilet and thought I may be having contractions. Because I’d been having Braxton Hicks and my tummy had been tight on and off for the past three weeks, I wasn’t sure if this was the start of things. I went back to bed and didn’t wake my husband as he had work in the morning. I couldn’t sleep, continuing to feel uncomfortable, so after about 20 minutes I went back to the toilet. Just before 4am I was pretty sure that I was having contractions. I called up to my husband who immediately came downstairs and I asked him to time my contractions. He followed me back to the bathroom where I decided being on all fours was more comfortable. Suddenly the contractions felt really strong. My husband ran a bath for me whilst timing my contractions. 60-90 seconds apart! It couldn’t be – early labour is supposed to last ages.

We called the hospital and my mum who was driving us to come and get us. The hospital seemed skeptical, given we’d only just started timing them, but said to come in. My mum arrived soon after and we were at the hospital by 5am. I remember very little of the 15 minute drive other than being on all fours in the back of her car. Apparently she drove down a bus lane and parked in an emergency services space next to a police car! Not that I would have cared at the time. We also realised we’d left my hospital notes at home and my mum had to go back and get them. (NB: this was more of an issue than we thought.)

My natural birth

We arrived at the Birth Place at Medway Hospital. They advised us they wouldn’t see me due to not having my notes and to go and wait in the waiting room. There was another couple in there and I felt very exposed. I wanted to be somewhere private. So we left our belongings there and my husband came with me to the disabled toilet across the hall. After briefly sitting on the toilet and seeing what I now know was a “bloody show”; I went back to all fours on the bathroom floor (probably grim but I didn’t care). I said to my husband – “It feels like the baby is coming.” So he went to get a midwife. They agreed to check my computer held notes and said they would do an examination for me which I agreed to.

When they checked; I was 9.5cm dialated. They decided to transfer me to a birthing suite straight away before receiving my notes. Luckily my mum brought them in 10 minutes later. I said that I wanted a water birth but they weren’t sure the pool would fill in time. However I did manage to get in to the pool; but after an hour in there I decided I wanted out. I had my hypnobirthing music playlist on but didn’t get a chance to do any scripts. I had also brought fake tea lights with me and aromatherapy oils to set the mood and have nice smells; but there was no time to set any of it up.

My husband did do lots of hand massages for me and managed the room really well. I mostly leaned on him or squeezed his hands whether I was standing, in the pool, leaning on the side of the pool or squatting off the side of the low bed. I remember very little else as I had my eyes shut for most of it. The time seemed to go by so quickly for the first three hours; but the last hour felt like a lifetime. I remember just before our daughter was born that I said I couldn’t give birth as it was “not physically possible!”

Natural birth at Medway birth centre

Five minutes later and I had given birth naturally, whilst stand/squatting holding on to the side of the birthing pool. Our beautiful daughter Sienna was born at 9.23am “en caul” (in her amniotic sac) as my waters never broke. She apparently broke through the sac with her fist as she was born which was witnessed by my husband, midwife and student midwife. The midwives were both in awe as neither of them had seen a baby born en caul before. I now wish I had it on camera as I didn’t get to see this but love the way my husband tells the story. I feel very lucky that I had a quick labour and a natural birth. It was a really nice and special experience; which I never believed could be possible. It was likely that I slept through the early stages of labour (woohoo!); which meant that I didn’t get to do my scripts/bath/early chill out plan. I still had a wonderful birth regardless. I truly believe that hypnobirthing and the knowledge I learnt relaxed me in my final weeks of pregnancy, and in labour and birth. I’m pleased I get to share my positive birthing story and to just know that there are plenty of positive birth stories out there.

I love Vi’s birth story. Aside from how magical her birth was; the real power of hypnobirthing was shown in her lead up to the birth. I’m sure being told by a medical professional that you will need a medicalised birth or your baby will be at risk is very daunting. Especially if this is not what you had been hoping for. Vi and Craig were able to use the questioning skills they learnt on the course to do their own research; and to come up with a birth plan that they were comfortable with, but also excited about.

If you’d like to find out more about how a Harmony Hypnobirthing class can help you prepare for the birth of your baby, click here.