Moving to Auckland when Ruby, our firstborn, was a newborn meant finding a new midwife for our second bebe (affectionately known as Mellow). An easy feat, I thought. Google led me to the findmymidwife website, we found a friendly face on the website, and it seemed we were sorted. However, a few early week visits down the line something just didn’t feel right. She was a caring lady, but our views just didn’t seem to align. Anxiety crept in and as the tears flowed, Scotty convinced me that a change would be worth it. But who? How would we find a midwife now? Surely all the good ones would be booked? But, luck was on our side. A shout out around the coffee group and our new midwife was found, and she was a goodie, with a fab British accent to boot. No awkward questions about Scott’s intent from her!
Carrying Mellow was a dream. She was a true gift and I still couldn’t quite believe that she was growing (and beautifully) in my tummy. How the dynamics would work as a family of four, I wasn’t sure, but I knew one thing. VBAC was our goal. (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean for those wondering). Charming!
> A VBAC isn’t such a big deal, is it? Although I was largely confident that we could do it, an element of apprehension was certainly present. I really didn’t want another cut. Which one would be the easiest route? I wasn’t sure, but somewhere buried deep in my growing puku a tiny voice whispered: “you can do this.”
> During one of my routine midwife appointments, a purple flyer flashed before my eyes and as luck would have it, we discovered that our newly found midwife, Becci, was a newly trained hypnobirthing expert with her own business Pregnancy & Beyond. A dream result! An information evening and the determination to have a crack at this VBAC saw us signing up. Festivities prevented us from starting the course until I was 35 weeks pregnant, yet that didn’t stop us from completing it. Oh so generously, Becci committed to taking Scott and me through the sessions at home. Becci’s tenacity and Scott’s keenness for another relaxation session on the couch listening to Becci’s soothing voice eliminated any tension and fear surrounding Isla’s birth. We finished night five of our course mere days before Isla’s birth, when we were able to put everything into practice.
Side note: little did Becci know that I was seriously considering pulling out of the course after our VBAC consultation at the North Shore Hospital. The tissue box was needed. The obstetrician announced at our appointment that I would need to arrive at the hospital as soon as labour began. Upon arrival I would be examined, a line would be put in, and Mellow would be observed closely with a monitor. An arterial line would be put in? I was dumbfounded. I immediately felt set up for failure, and the signs were well and truly pointing towards another caesarean. Another option was to be induced or have a C section if I went overdue. I declined the section and said I’d be induced. Deep down I didn’t believe I would have to battle either decision, but that mandatory appointment caught me off guard and fear crept in. I wanted to be brave but I felt scared and completely unsure as to which path to take. As we walked out of that appointment with Ruby in tow and Scott’s arm around me we had a laugh at my tears, and I was somewhat shocked that I’d become so emotional. Yet clearly, this fear was real and I needed to do something about it if we wanted the calm birth we’d dreamt about.
Life had been busy prior to the course but Scott and I were determined to slow down and make a conscious effort to welcome our darling Mellow into the world the way we wanted to. Enter Becci and the hypnobirthing course night one. Relaxation, breathing, preparation and mindfulness. Preparing your body, mind and soul for the safe and confident arrival of your darling baby was an answer to my prayers. After a read-aloud titled ‘Mommy’s Promise’ for her child on the second night, I knew we had made the right choice. At that point, my barriers came tumbling down and I was ready for the birth of our little Mellow. Five more nights of relaxation, questioning, preparing, fear releasing (and a gentle snore from Scott in a state of complete relaxation!) had us well and truly ready.
I listened to my birth affirmations and I rainbow relaxed (a relaxation track you’ll grow to love, too). Finishing the hypnobirthing book was continually on my to-do list but fingers crossed it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t manage it, I thought. Despite my lack of homework in some areas, the course prepared my mind, body and readiness to welcome Mellow. Prior to the course, I was scared and my head wasn’t ready for the arrival of our second babe. After course completion, my head was all calm and Ecoya candles.
Skip to the night before my due date. Practice surges had been preparing my body and twinge reflex on how NOT to labour! Relax the jaw, don’t tense it, I remembered. Things started to shake it up a little and as I drifted in and out of sleep whilst practising my surge breathing: our Mellow was making her way to meet us.
A small birth show in the loo that morning confirmed things. I called out excitedly to Scott at the breakfast table about my findings. He was thrilled, I’m sure, as he ate his porridge! Ruby was off to daycare and I had one more errand to run before I could settle in at home. Was this really it? I wasn’t sure, but I messaged my best friend just in case. All the way around the world in London, I wanted her to know. A quick stop at the shops to finish a few jobs and home it was. Scott came home armed with a hot chocolate and a beaming, game day face. Tears streamed as we realised we were ready, well and truly! “Mellow is coming,” we said, and the fear that I had that we weren’t prepared faded into thin air. Candles were lit and birth playlists played. Surges became stronger and the bath was calling. Light and heavier breathing was our communication and Scott was amazing. We did it together. Mum even arrived on the plane from Christchurch. It was a perfect symphony. A trip to sit on the toilet saw things stepping up a notch and surge breathing saw me imagine a large, yellow balloon inflating around my tummy, and Mellow. Breathe in through the nose and out through the nose. The sign ‘I am brave, fearless, bold and strong’ was staring me in the face on the back of the toilet door and boy did I need that encouragement.
Ruby stayed away until it was time to hop in the car (slowly!) and be on our way. She exclaimed “Mama’s sleeping!” as she waved with Grandma from the window. I was focused and ready. Goodbye, my darling big girl. We’re off to go and meet your brother or sister. The car trip went quickly and although it was the hardest part of the lot, I had an internal chuckle knowing Scotty was driving with careful precision, his hands probably at 10 to 2 as they prescribe in the Road Code.
Becci met us in the lobby. Were we ‘in labour’ enough I wondered and hoped! I was pretty sure I was but how is a second-time Mama to know? Two surges on our way to the birthing suite and my breathing technique was put to the test in front of my tutor. I leaned on the bed for a few surges. Somewhat uncomfy, I hopped onto the bed. No examinations for me. Just calming music softly spilling from Becci’s speaker. Scott went off to grab a couple of flat whites for a potentially long night, and things were relatively relaxed. Dean Evenson’s Healing Waters playlist soothed the surges and filled the birthing suite with a quiet peace. A few strong surges later and sheer relief. My membranes released! I almost did a jig when they broke. My body was doing it! I couldn’t wait to tell Mum. I’d called her when she was at the airport that morning to ask about when her waters broke pre-birth. Strangely enough, she wasn’t that keen to discuss her birth details in the departure lounge on speaker phone! But later she confirmed that they only broke just before birth, like me. A birth show appeared to match the membranes and things were moving well. Surges continued and at one point doubt crept in but Becci’s calm, soothing voice and Scott’s steady hand had me feel confident and ready. Becci helped me to carefully shuffle to the bathroom and I sat on the toilet again. The intensity that this promotes is phenomenal. Surge breathing saw me ready to hop on the bed. Mellow was getting ready.
“Tell me what to do” I quietly pleaded to Becci.
“You’re doing it, she assured me.” I felt brave, calm and focused enough in a brief interim to notice Becci’s perfect eyebrows! She said she’d tell me about it after. In other words, get on with the job!
Becci has since told us that at this stage I had the purple line. A quick google search later taught me that the purple line is nature’s way of showing that a woman’s body is fully dilated (without the need for an examination) and the bub is on the way. Holding onto the rail of the bed, and Scott’s hand during surges, I was ready to move from surge breathing to birth breathing. But how? I remembered to J breathe but not to push. “Bring Mellow down, Kate,” Becci said. I can do this, I whispered. A silent prayer and the thought of ‘is this the ring of fire?’ were in my mind and things felt extremely intense. One more birth breath and it felt like Mellow’s head was well and truly popping out. In the next breath, sheer delight and a beautiful, breathing and healthy baby was in my arms. Mellow was here and elated didn’t come close to describing how I felt. She arrived with one breath, and we were so glad she was here. Because of the short cord, we began with an awkward cuddle but oh it was blissful. What was the gender? We didn’t care. Our beautiful, naturally born babe was here. Another girl, we simultaneously exclaimed. In the next breath “We did it! Team VBAC.” Scott and I were astonished! We really couldn’t believe we had done it. This is what it feels like to trust your body and to trust your mind and the deep power of determination and commitment that dwells there. Fostered by the care of a loving and wise midwife, we had hit the jackpot. It was the best feeling in the world, and I was so bloody proud. Proud of our new darling Isla. Proud of Becci and what a legend she had been. Proud of Scott and how together we journeyed to bring our beautiful Isla into the world, and proud of myself. I was stoked. It took guts, beating off the cynics and sceptical medical professionals but we had achieved our goal of calmly bringing our Mellow into the world.
The next few hours saw plenty of blood, placenta delivery, skin-to-skin cuddles for Mama and Dadda, measurements, placenta inspection, hot milo and cold toast, a tiny bit of shock, the most rewarding shower and all of the dreaminess of a natural birth. It was 2.02am and tucked next to me in her hospital cot was our newest darling daughter. Mum always talked about the delightful feeling she’d had when I was born. I wanted to feel it when Ruby was born, but I’ve since realised we were stripped of that feeling due to medical necessity and a brow presentation and emergency caesarean. My heart was full. Scott and I felt on cloud nine, and we couldn’t quite believe she was here. As I drifted off to sleep that wonderful night, still surge breathing and high on oxytocin, I couldn’t have been happier.
Not only does hypnobirthing empower a couple to make their own choices relative to their baby’s birth, but it ignites strength. It ignited strength for Scott and me as a couple, and a sense of the uniqueness of our team and the strength in a birthing mother’s body and all the functions that are inborn in us.
As we cuddled our brand new baby, another woman was birthing in the suite next door. Loudly. So loud that Scott’s sisters on the other end of the phone in Australia could hear her. I couldn’t help but feel sad for her and the fear that was taking over her birth. If only she’d had the chance to explore hypnobirthing with Becci too.