Every couples journey to conceive is different and Annie’s story begins in the opposite way to that of her big brother. After nearly 4 years of infrequent cycles and ‘unexplained infertility’ Elijah was our little miracle. Having taken a break from ‘trying’ we were both shocked and elated to find that we had managed to conceive on our own and without intervention. Naturally we feared that the same road would lie ahead of us when the time came to expand our family. So we were left surprised to find ourselves pregnant again when Elijah was just 6 months old. The emotions that surfaced with this pregnancy were completely different to the last. As I carried Elijah I did so with boundless joy and anticipation, our long awaited baby was finally joining us and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to move into motherhood. However the first 3 months with baby Elijah challenged me in ways I never thought possible. He had colic. Breastfeeding him was fraught with anxiety and he screamed after every feed. The inconsolable evening crying left my nervous system frayed. I felt distant from him and really struggled to bond during the fourth trimester. Letting go of life as I knew it was not as easy as I assumed and motherhood did not come naturally like everyone said it would.
The residue of this experience left me tearful and uncertain when we found out we were pregnant for the second time. I wasn’t sure I could endure that again. Anyone that has found themselves unintentionally pregnant can understand the guilt of carrying a gift you didn’t ask for. It took me until 20 weeks to soften into the inevitable and embrace the unexpected. Gradually the worry about how I would ‘cope’ was replaced by wonderment and admiration for my body. The universe had presented us with two babies under two years, when not that long ago we questioned whether we could even have children at all.
Annie’s pregnancy was very different to Elijah’s, not in the least because I was busy with a toddler but also because I was very sick. The daily vomiting continued until about 16 weeks at which point it passed as quickly as it had arrived. Thankfully we were in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown so having Adam working from home was a blessing. I was also in the process of completing my HypnoBirthing Practitioner training during this time. Looking back now I feel the learnings during the course helped me to reframe my relationship to an unplanned pregnancy. I worked through a lot of my personal fears, particularly about the postpartum period and felt much more able to accept our circumstances however they would unfold. Whilst I had practiced HypnoBirthing in preparation for my first birth experience, preparing to teach the content to others connected me more fully with the wisdom of instinctual birthing and took me to a whole new depth with the relaxation practices. I felt a great deal of excitement to birth again with my expanded knowledge and toolbox of resources.
We so often talk about our birthing stories but seldom do we speak of our ‘birth preparation’. I truly feel the two dance hand in hand. Birth is something we can prepare for and this lays the foundation for a joyous and empowering experience. Having learnt more about perinatal psychology during my HypnoBirthing training I knew the importance of bonding and connecting with baby whilst pregnant. This was something I enjoyed in the moments before bed when all was quiet and also when I was on my Yoga mat. It’s so easy to move about our daily lives as normal when we are pregnant. Tuning in to the little life that is growing inside your body is a wonderful opportunity to form powerful emotional crosslinks for birth and beyond. Birthing after all is something that mother and baby fulfill together. Talking to Annie was very reassuring to me.
Throughout my pregnancy I was fortunate to feel comfortable and mobile. This meant I could continue with my regular Yoga practice and modified HIIT exercise until my body signaled to me that it was time to slow down. Life with a toddler and a business is fairly active so I definitely had to honour my energy levels and many days just walking the dog with a stroller was sufficient movement. As the third trimester neared I was listening to positive birthing affirmations regularly, home birth podcasts, practicing relaxation meditations daily and setting aside time to visualize Annie’s birth. I would visualize all the little details, like what time of day it was, where she was born, how I would receive her, what I was wearing and who was there to support us. I would revisit this visualization in my mind whenever doubt or worry surfaced.
From 32 weeks I was enjoying raspberry leaf tea each day, I found an afternoon cup of tea to be welcome ritual of rest and a good time to pause and practice simply being present. At 35 weeks I began weekly pre-labour acupuncture and from 37 weeks started to express colostrum into syringes each evening. Expressing colostrum not only helps to stimulate your milk supply but also means you have additional nutrition available should your baby need it after birth. In the final weeks of pregnancy I was also setting aside time to practice my HypnoBirthing breathing techniques so that they would become default patterns I could call upon during my labour. I also talked to my husband, Adam, about the fears I had about the birth. Particularly my concerns that the labour might be faster and more intense than last time and we were both able to voice our concerns about what life had in store for us as a family of four. I couldn’t fathom my heart being able to expand any further than it had already, how would I love Annie as much as Elijah?
One of the philosophies that underpins HypnoBirthing is the release of fear through education and empowerment. I truly believe that taking time to work through physical, mental and emotional blocks allows us to move out of our head and into our body. A process that is so vital to instinctual birth. When the mind moves out of the way the body can do as nature intended.
As with Elijah’s birth, we had researched and spent a great deal of time deciding upon our birth preferences. Again we planned to birth Annie at home but this time I felt even more prepared to birth calmly and easily without any interventions or examinations. I looked forward to her ‘birthday’ with quiet anticipation and knew this time, without any doubt, my body could fulfill the miracle of bringing her earthside to us.
Annie’s labour began in completely the opposite way to her brothers. A whole week of ‘pre labour’ cramping and period like discomfort meant I went to bed every night thinking ‘this could be it’ only to wake up the next morning still pregnant. I knew my body was opening and preparing but each evening progress slowed and eventually would rest completely. It had started to become a real mental challenge and I found my internal narrative shifting towards frustration. I really had to remind myself to stay present and allow each day to simply unfold without expectation. As part of the HypnoBirthing program we teach visualisations that can be used during ‘latent labour’ to support the dilation of the cervix. I called upon these along with Calm breathing when I was resting or relaxing and within two days sure enough I could feel my body was ready to have our baby. At 10.30pm on the evening of Saturday the 30th of October, just as I lay down to go to bed, the cramps that had been waxing and waning for a week finally established a regular rhythm. I could feel the wave like motion of the surges and there was a noticeable shift in intensity. I was both relieved and excited. We were finally going to meet our little girl under the light of the full blue moon.
I had decided that during this birth I wouldn’t be using a ‘contraction timer’ because during our last experience using the app and fixating on the interval between surges took me out of my birthing body and became a real distraction. It also became a preoccupation for my husband when I needed his attention with me. I also knew from HypnoBirthing that time bears very little relevance to the stage of labour and doesn’t give you any evidence of how long you have left to progress. I also trusted by body implicitly and my intuition told me that our baby would arrive on her own terms. I did, however, time the initial few rhythmic surges just so I knew when to contact our midwife. They were fluctuating between 10 minutes and 5 minutes apart and lasting roughly 30-40 seconds. I called our Midwife Danette to let her know that active labour was beginning. We had decided that Danette would make her way from Egmont Village to Oakura just to be prepared. I had had a 7 hour labour previously and our midwife arrived just minutes before Elijah was born. We knew given that the pregnancies were quite close together that there was a chance the labour would be shorter this time and we didn’t want to risk Danette missing the birth. Danette arrived to us at about midnight at which point I had moved from our bed into the lounge with my swiss ball. I knew the importance of labouring upright and gravity made a big difference to my comfort levels. The surges felt much more manageable when I was out of bed and able to mobilise freely. I had popped my music on, lit a candle for warm hues of light and started my diffuser containing clary sage oil. In the weeks leading up to this birth I had spent time curating a playlist that made my heart sing and it really supported my ability to find a place of peace within myself.
Shortly after Danette arrived our 15 month old Elijah woke up and wanted to join the ‘birthday party’. He hadn’t been well all week and was in need of comfort. Amazingly, not long after he roused, my surges slowed right down and then stopped due to the disturbance. My body obviously perceiving the shift in environment wasn’t a conducive time to welcoming a baby. Adam bundled Elijah into the car and took him to Nana and Grandads. Sure enough once peace was restored the surges returned and I was able to return to my ‘zone’, breathing up with each surge and visualizing a balloon filling from my pubic bone. In between surges I walked around, drank lots of water, ate snacks, went to the bathroom to relieve the growing pressure on my bladder. At 1am the surges still felt very manageable and interspersed with plenty of rest. I felt deeply relaxed and as though I had plenty of time left to labour so suggested to Danette that perhaps she might like to go and get some rest. Not long after Danette left I felt the intensity of the surges grow and as Adam napped too I was able to draw deep within myself without distractions. I really enjoyed labouring on my own and repositioning as my body needed me to. I was able to find a beautiful pattern of movement and stillness that mirrored the undulations of labour. I would ‘sachet’ across the breakfast bar during surges and then I would sit on my swiss ball with my head on forearms when rest periods arrived. I felt deeply connected to our baby girl and completely mesmerized by the dance of labour.
At 2.20am I began to feel the surges shift again and felt it was pertinent to call Danette and our supporting midwife, Ange. They quietly returned at 2.30am and I continued with my repetitive patterns of movement and rest while now quietly humming with each exhalation. In Yoga we talk about humming bee breath or Om breathing to lengthen the out breath and stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System. It was so interesting to me that my body just fell into this practice as the intensity of surges grew. It felt primal and perfect. The surges were much further apart than I had experienced with Elijah and naturally I assumed I had a long time left to labour. I recall thinking ‘this might actually be a 24 hour labour’ because I was experiencing such generous rest between each surge. It didn’t worry me in the slightest and I was actually really enjoying the labouring process. I also knew that every woman and baby is different and that she would arrive when she was ready. Danette would check Annies heart rate intermittently in a way that was not invasive or disturbing my flow. Annie was tolerating labour well. I felt completely at peace with allowing things to unfold at their own pace and time seemed to distort. An hour seeming to be the briefest moment in time. At some point I felt tears dripping down my cheeks and a quiet sob move over body. I was completely overcome, not by pain, but by emotion. I was crying for Elijah. I knew when he woke up in the morning his entire world would be different.
Gradually I began to feel more discomfort at the back of my sacrum. Danette reassured me that this was baby girl beginning her decent through my pelvis. I could feel her making her journey downwards. My legs were feeling unsteady from so much standing, so I decided to kneel over my swiss ball again, this helped briefly until the compulsive trembling returned. Our second midwife Ange suggested I rest my legs completely and lay on my side on a mattress on the floor. As I did this Ange also applied pressure to the sacral acupuncture points on my lower back, she applied pressure with each surge and it brought great relief. In between surges Ange would replace a hot wheat pack over my lower back. It didn’t seem like long before I needed to stand again to be comfortable and as I stood the downwards sensation became pressure. I recalled this feeling from my first birth. It was the overwhelming sense of the natural expulsive reflex, our baby was close to being born. What took me completely by surprise was the way the surges changed so quickly from upwards to downwards. Within moments my body had taken over and I needed to breath down. With a downward surge I could feel my waters release, just as they had with Elijah right before he was born. I had to remind myself to soften, relax and not to push, despite the strong desire to bear down. The next downward surge I could feel her crowning and I reached down to feel her head full of dark hair. I moved to a kneeling lunge on the floor as Adam supported the weight of my torso. At 5.07am, with a third surge I exhaled and Annie was born. I gathered her from between my legs and drew her up to my chest. Her tiny body was so perfectly formed. Once again tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt completely in awe of nature and the way our bodies are designed to fulfill life’s highest purpose with such grace.
Adam, Annie and I rested in the lounge watching her feed and as we did so the full moon slowly gave way to the rising sun and the morning chorus of the birds began. The song that was playing in that instant was an acoustic version of ‘Hallelujah’ by Dan Rodriguez. It was a magical moment that will forever be imprinted in my memory. The instinctual, empowered birth I had envisioned had manifested.
After suckling for an hour Annie’s cord had turned white. Danette had gifted us a piece of obsidian and Adam used this to cut her cord. With Elijah I had felt the natural expulsive reflex return to deliver the placenta but this time I didn’t, I just felt uncomfortable in semi reclined position. So after a little more than an hour I repositioned to be upright again. I was actually able to feel the placenta had released and I could simply reach down and draw on the umbilical cord to bring it free.
Adam was then able to enjoy skin to skin with Annie while I showered and changed. It wasn’t until around 6.30am that Annie was weighed and measured and it was truly special to have such a generous amount of time to bathe in the afterglow of birth and admire natures gift to us. We all drank tea and I continued to feed Annie into the morning. Shortly after our midwives left Adam got started on a ‘birthday breakfast’ of pancakes and bacon, just as I had requested. We then hopped into our own bed for an extended mid-morning nap to rest and recover. I felt ‘high’ after Annie’s birth, the endorphins had left me in some transcendant state where I was able to meet a greater version of myself. The self that had always been there but I was yet to meet. Becoming a mother, all over again, had enabled me to feel the capacity of the heart to infinitely expand. We are not limited in our ability to love but instead by the boundaries of our own mind.
I want to take a moment to thank our amazing Midwives Danette and Ange for supporting our wishes to birth naturally and free from intervention. Their support, advice and quiet presence brought me even more in tune with the ‘divine feminine’ that exists within all women. This birthing experience has reminded me that when we share wisdom and knowledge with each other; as mothers, daughters and partners we are healing a divide that modern society has perpetuated for far too long. When we return to our roots and access our deepest source of female power, we realise that birthing, nurturing and caring for one another is at the very centre of our humanness.
If you are interested in learning about our Upcoming HypnoBirthing Courses you can read more here.
Our 2020 Prenatal Yoga Series’ will begin again 9th January. You can find out more about this 6 Week Course and register here.