I stared at the pink line. It was sharp and well defined. There was no doubt about it. We were pregnant. I took in a deep breath as I steadied myself. My head was reeling with so many concerns. Since I had my daughter 4 years ago, time was a luxury I could barely afford. How was I going to plan for another baby?
A knock on the door brought me back to the pregnancy test. My husband was waiting with mixed feelings on the other side. As I shared the news, my heart skipped a beat. I realized my LMP was also the first day of my HypnoBirthing practitioner-training course! How about that!
We had spent nearly all our time at the course in deep relaxation practice. To think of all those happy hormones, endorphins and enkephalins, coursing through my body at the time of conception. This was no accident. This was my very own HypnoBaby!
This pregnancy was very different from the start. I was averse to practically everything. The bouts of nausea and vomiting that followed had me loose about 6 kilos in the first trimester. The HypnoBirthing practice was pretty much the only THE ONLY thing that eased my discomfort through this difficult phase.
My biggest concern going through this pregnancy was managing stress. I had to do something to keep my stress levels in check. My daughter had hit the peak of her terrible fours and I was having a hard time using positive disciple. Knowing that my baby was listening, I had to do something to keep my stress levels in check. The relaxation and deepening techniques really helped me take a step back and self-regulate. I found myself responding and not reacting to my daughters needs. There were fewer ‘situations’ to handle as my daughter felt more connected to me.
We incorporated many of the prenatal bonding exercises to extend this connection to the little one. I would read to both, sing to both and dance with both. Today when I see my daughter singing her baby to sleep, I find myself smiling with the knowledge that my baby has known his big sister for way longer than his age in months.
Preparing for the D-Day
As I got bigger and my centre of gravity shifted way over my toes, I found myself getting things in order to prepare for my baby’s arrival. My husband and I had gone over every eventuality and we began practicing the HypnoBirthing scripts and anchors regularly. I had taped my birth affirmations to the mirror so I could read them every day. Despite being prepared I had some apprehension creeping in as my due month approached.
I was worried about the lack of sleep, cracked nipples, diaper changes, bulging waistline, fatigue and what not. Most importantly I was worried I would never get this time I had with my daughter once the new baby arrived.
My husband made it a point to take me through a HypnoBirthing fear release session each time I felt the panicky. Slowly, I found myself letting go of every fearful thought and replacing them with positive affirmations.
I woke up at 6:00 am on August 27th, 2016, exactly 1 week before my given due date for a bladder run. I had a lot going on that day and Labor was the last thing on my mind.
But not for long…
I had birth show! I was quite excited and I messaged my doctor to let her know. I cancelled all appointments for the week and waited.
That didn’t last long…
I knew labor was imminent but I couldn’t stay put. I needed a distraction. I tidied up my room and I checked my labor bag obsessively. I sat on the floor and sorted through some drawers. I squatted as I bathed my daughter to widen the birth path. My husband and I went to the store to pick up some extra muslin for the baby.
And we waited some more.
I was hoping to go into labor that day so I could stay active, but I felt my first uterine surge (contraction) only at about 8 pm. I felt the surge build up like a slow wave and with each surge I simply slowed down my breath and relaxed every other muscle in my body.
All I felt was pressure.
It’s amazing how muscles have a memory of actions. I had mentally practiced doing this so often that with each surge my body just went effortlessly limp. It was an effort for me to stay up so we decided to call it a day. I got into bed in a relatively gravity dependant position so that I could still maintain the pressure on the mouth of the uterus. I popped in my headphones and I listened to the light notes of the HypnoBirthing CD.
3, 2, 1, 0, I was out.
My husband woke up and found me squatting over a birth ball and swaying with it. I was connected to my phone listening to the birth affirmations. I could hear him somewhere in the periphery of my consciousness. He was asking me if I needed help. I was too relaxed to respond. He took the lead and started slowly stroking my back doubling my relaxation. We sat there for a bit in the centre of my living room till the first ray of light.
My husband and I had a light breakfast. We joked about how we still didn’t have a name picked out. My surges were about 4 minutes apart and they were still coming along like strong pressure waves. I was feeling like gently relaxing my pelvic floor with each surge. We decided to wait an hour before heading to the hospital.
At the hospital we took the stairs up to the Labor Ward and calmly announced I was in Labor. The nurses looked amused. The surges were about 3 minutes apart now and came along like big waves starting at the top of my bump, sweeping down and out. They were more intense as I lay in bed. I asked to turn to my right and they were instantly more manageable. The room was quiet and the lights were dimmed.
3,2,1,0, I was out.
The doctor came in about 20 minutes for the internal exam. Then all hell broke loose. The mouth of my uterus had already opened to 8 cms. The anesthesiologist stopped by to ask if I needed an epidural. In response, I asked her to pass me my eyeglasses, as I could barely hear without them. “Does she look like she needs an epidural?” I heard my doctor ask playfully.
“Humor at 8 cms of dilation, I guess not” responds the anesthesiologist.
I requested to be taken off the fetal monitor at this time and asked if I could walk about. Unfortunately my request was denied. My doctor told me my baby’s heart was decelerating during the surge and that it was better if I stayed connected to the monitor. I knew that the decelerations were probably because I was in bed and my body was working harder to push my baby out without gravity to assist. By this time the surges were intense and I was feeling very thirsty. My husband offered me water after each surge and gently stroked my hand as I focused only on my breath. I was using practically every technique in the HypnoBirthing manual at this point.
The surges were a minute apart now. My husband was pressing down onto my hip during the surge. Counter pressure, a technique I pulled out of my Lamaze manual. I wanted to change positions so badly I just turned around in bed, onto my hands and knees with the CTG attached to me. Instant relief. The weight of my baby was off my back and I could move, swaying back and forth during the surge.
I heard my husband making my case and then I heard my doctor tell the nurse it was all right. That I could get into any position of comfort. I was so grateful I thanked her. It was heard as a grunt.
I was on my back again feeling the urge to bear down with each surge. My doctor gently asked me permission to check for dilation. I was now at 9 cms, but she noted that the cervix was swelling up (edematous) because I was bearing down with the surge. She asked me to keep the pressure off the pelvic floor till I was fully open. I gently lifted the floor of my pelvis during the surge letting go of my breath softly to avoid bearing down too much.
The primal urge to push was undeniable. There is nothing you can do to stop it. I could literally feel my pelvic bones making way for my baby’s decent. I felt completely tuned into my body and so connected to my baby. We were a team, hubby, baby and I.
Breathe… Breathe your baby down prompted my husband. I was holding my breath. I immediately switched to the birth breathing. I heard the doctor tell me that was a good one.
Some more birth breaths. Down and out. Down and out. I hear my husband say with a hand over my shoulder. I catch my breath again. This time the surge is overpowering. I let out a little scream that takes me over the finish line. I needed that to get through the last one.
Time of birth. Your baby head is out Sonali, says my doctor. Can you give me another one?
Groan! I thought I was done. One more breath and I can feel my baby slip through. That is the most amazing feeling in the world. People talk of orgasmic births. I can say I had one.
I look down at my chest to behold the most fascinating sight. Of a newborn seeing the world, for the very first time. Squinting, yawning, nuzzling, nestling.
“It’s a boy”, announces my doctor. My doctor takes her time to clamp my baby’s cord at my request.
Magical Moments after Birth
When I receive my baby for the first time I let him rest on my bare chest, skin to skin. I make him feel safe by allowing him to tune into the familiar sound of my heart beating, by letting him soak in my mommy pheromones, by talking to him in soft tones letting him know we love him. He takes his time to latch on, nuzzling into me as I let him take the lead and help him while I follow his cue. It’s instinctual. It’s magical. It’s natural.
My birthing experience was very different the second time. There were no bright lights, no enema, and no unnecessary hospital procedures. I was better informed and I had a whole bag of tricks to help me along the way. The self-hypnosis really worked. In the absence of fear and tension I welcomed each surge with calm resilience. All I felt was pressure. My son latched on beautifully and I had no issues with breastfeeding. I was running after my older daughter within days of having birthed. I kept waiting for the fatigue and discomfort to hit me but I never had any.
My husband and I continue to use the HypnoBirthing techniques once in awhile to de-stress. For me it brings in more oxytocin and more milk!
Dr. Sonali Santhanam, PhD., Ms. PT is an American Board Certified Physical Therapist specializing in back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. She has a Doctorate and a Masters degree from the University of Pittsburgh (USA). She is also a Certified HypnoBirthing Practitioner and Lactation Counselor. Above All, Sonali is the mother of 2 wonderful children who light up her world.