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Kristel and Abigail

I decided to try Hypnobirthing for the birth after Nancy told me about her two positive birth experiences using this method. I had never heard of Hypnobirthing before, but was eager to learn more, as the idea of relying on too many drugs for pain relief wasn't to my liking.

I read the Marie Mongan Hypnobirthing book from cover to cover and the theory behind it all made complete sense. Animals give birth calmly in the wild without the need for medical intervention, so why shouldn't a woman be able to do the same?

The most useful hypnobirthing techniques for me were the breathing exercises, mainly the balloon breathing to help expand the abdomen with each surge and the sleep breathing to help me to relax between contractions. I practiced these techniques frequently during the last couple of months of my pregnancy.

I saw my Midwife on a Monday, two days after my due date, for a routine check up. To my surprise she said that I was already two centimetres dilated. I hadn't felt anything other than the usual movements of my baby and little twinges. My Midwife performed a sweep and said she wouldn't be surprised if I went into labour and delivered within 48 hours. I went home and continued life as normal, still practicing my breathing techniques and bouncing on my Swiss ball.

Tuesday was a normal day for me, I watched a DVD with my Husband in the evening and went to bed quite late. At 11.55 p.m. I felt my first contraction, which seemed very much like period pain. I stayed calm and did some deep breathing to help me through it. I knew not to call the hospital until the contractions were four to five minutes apart and had been doing so for at least an hour, so I decided to keep a record of my contractions as I lay in bed. I was expecting it to just be a one off and for there to be a long wait before the next one, but exactly five minutes later I had another contraction and this pattern continued for well over an hour.

I rang the birthing centre at my local hospital at about 1.15 a.m. The Midwife said that as it was my first baby, it was highly unlikely that I was in established labour if I had felt my first contraction only an hour ago and said that I didn't sound like I was in any pain. She suggested paracetomol and a bath and warned me that if I came in to the centre and wasn't in established labour, I would be sent home. Hubby ran me a bath and by this point the contractions were four minutes or less apart. Being in the bath made me feel quite uncomfortable so I got out and rang the birthing centre again. A different Midwife answered, but again was urging me not to come in. I told her how close the contractions were and she said that I could come in if I wanted.

We arrived at the birthing centre just before 3 a.m and were put into a side room whilst they saw to a lady who arrived just prior to us. I paced the room and continued to breathe through each of my contractions, which were only two minutes apart by this point. After half an hour or more, the Midwife came in to examine me. She looked at me with disbelief and said that due to my calmness when she saw me arrive, she thought there was no possible way I was in established labour and that she would be sending me home, only to find that I was 7-8 cm dilated already. She thought that the lady who arrived before me was definitely in labour due to her behaviour and screaming, but found that she wasn't and she was sent home!

The Midwife informed me that the pool was available, so I decided to try for a water birth. It took a while for me to get from 7-8cm dilated to the required 10cm, so I adopted different positions in the pool, using my sleep breathing and balloon breathing techniques to help me stay calm and focused . I did use gas and air with some of the stronger contractions. The Midwives commented on how calm and collected I was and said that it was a real shock for them, as they are used to screaming women and being shouted at.

Hypnobirthing encourages a calm labour and delivery with the emphasis of 'breathing the baby down' rather than the holding your breath and forced pushing that the Midwives tell you to do. I had wanted to breathe my baby down, however I wasn't assertive enough with the Midwives and quickly found myself just going along with their demands to take a big breath in, hold and push. They hadn't read my birth plan and my request to not use forced pushing seemed to fall on deaf ears when I discussed Hypnobirthing with them.

I continued to push for many hours in the pool and even did some in a squatting position outside of the pool in a bid to get my baby down. Eventually I had to make the decision to go up to the Labour ward and been seen by a Doctor, as the Midwife and my Husband could see our baby's head, but it wasn't coming down any further with each push. My contractions had also started to weaken and trail off.

I finally gave birth to our Daughter at 2.40 p.m on the Wednesday. The birth was not as I had wanted; I ended up lying down strapped to monitors and had to be put on a drip to strengthen my contractions, which was painful. The Doctor found that our baby had a large head, so was getting stuck and had to be delivered by forceps, following an episiotomy. I ended up with a third degree tear.

Abigail Jean Berry was born weighing an impressive 9lbs 1oz and as soon as she was placed on my chest for skin to skin contact, all of the pain disappeared.

I had to be taken to theatre for stitching following my tear and was laughing and joking with the nurses and anaesthetists. They couldn't believe how upbeat I was after the labour I had gone through and were very surprised that I hadn't had any pain relief other than gas and air.

When I was discharged after 2 nights, the anaesthetist double checked his notes when he saw I had been on the oxytocin drip and not had any pethadine or an epidural, he said virtually all women have an epidural if given the drip, so felt I was very brave to have just used Hypnobirthing techniques and gas and air.

I believe that Hypnobirthing really helped me, even though I didn't get to have the straight forward water birth that I had hoped for. There was no pent up fear of giving birth during my pregnancy and even when labour started, I felt calm and collected. My Daughter has been a very content and happy baby, despite her traumatic entry into the world and I feel that this is down to my relatively stress-free pregnancy and the Hypnobirthing relaxation techniques that I used during the birth.