As a nurse, and my husband a scientist - we were a little sceptical about what Calmbirth could offer us, in comparison to the traditional 'medical model' antenatal classes. However at 28 weeks we decided to attend a Calmbirth weekend on the recommendation of our private Midwife. I wanted to be as physically and mentally prepared as possible for labour, and support my body to do what it already knew how to do.
Prior to Calmbirth I hadn't considered a waterbirth, did not realise how much my mental strength would play such a big part in my labour, and like most people... labour conjured up movie scene images of a 'soon to be mother' screaming in agony- while laying on her back, and the partner in hysterics or no where to be found!
Calmbirth gave us a different perspective of what birth could/should be. We felt that all bases were covered on this course - birth preparation, the anatomy and physiology of the birthing process, practicalities of when to go to hospital, techniques to manage the mental challenge, the physical changes during the stages of labour, the partner's role (ESSENTIAL), how to make the birthing environment personal and special, pain relief (both natural and medicinal), how to make informed decisions during and post labour, and what happens when the labour doesn't quite go to plan. After the weekend, we decided to plan for a waterbirth.
Leading up to my labour, I had a great pregnancy. I had remained as fit as possible with regular long beach walks and yoga, had sat on my Fitball at home religiously as Tracey had suggested to help with baby's positioning, practiced regular squats and had some Osteopathy/Accupuncture in the weeks leading up to my due date....all just to optimise!
In the 2 weeks prior to labour I had intermittent 'warm up' aches, which would last for minutes to an hour. So on the morning that I went in to labour (one day prior to my due date), I thought that these aches were more practicing. I woke up feeling very calm at 7 am and had an Obstetrician appointment at 9 am. I said to my husband that I had the 'warm up aches again' and we went to the Obstetrician as planned. When I arrived to his office, he offered to assess me. I was 4cm dilated and I will never forget the words "Well, you're having a baby today". I was ecstatic... that our baby was coming and that I felt so good.
By the time I got home, I knew I was in labour with the contractions (waves as I decided to call them) increasing in intensity. During the course we discussed how I would know when I wanted to go to hospital and to trust my instincts. So despite previously wanting to spend hours of the labour at home, I asked my husband to drive me in to hospital about 1 hour after we returned home from the Obstetrician visit.
I had written a very loose labour plan which I took with me - mainly of interventions that I didn't want unless absolutely necessary and post delivery care such as delayed cord clamping.Throughout the labour I used my visualisations of waves crashing, during each 'wave' which really helped. I also ran through the constant 'story line' in my mind... re-living a 10km run that I had done some years earlier. I would remember how I felt fatigued, but could easily still keep going and there was a fantastic prize at the finish line. While Tracey had mentioned that we would go in to a 'trance’ like state, I was completely blown away by how little I spoke. I said all of about 10 sentences through the whole labour. My husband and I had discussed the loose labour plan quite a lot and I had also spoken a lot to my Midwife about what I did and didn't want- this was essential and I think key to our beautiful labour. My husband (sometimes with bribery) also practiced some of the pain relieving techniques such as massage and also acupressure points....and we did the Calmbirth meditations together in the weeks leading up to the labour.
During the labour I spent a lot of time in the shower, with my husband putting the shower head on my sacrum which was amazing...... as was the 'thigh wobble'. I found it impossible to tense during the thigh wobble- highly recommend! In the class, we discussed how we would know when a position wasn't working, and would want to change, so I went in and out of the bath a few times and even found sitting on the toilet great for positioning.
I had a few challenges. The first being that the fetal heart rate monitor would not read in the bath and then the heart rate readings were too high- meaning I could not be in the bath. As I had convinced myself that I was having a waterbirth and that the water was my pain relief - this could have been extremely distressing. I also had the hospital midwife frequently pressing on my stomach to try to get a better reading which was quite uncomfortable during a wave. The hospital midwife also suggested that I have my water's broken at approximately 8 hrs in to labour to "speed up the process". During Calmbirth we discussed how to weigh up the pros and cons of any decision- and after asking a few risk/benefit questions, I decided that I was happy to continue without intervention (I knew that I was doing great as I was only 8 hours in, progressing with labour, and still felt good).
There was only one time that I nearly 'lost it' and did a mini half sob - and I remember thinking to myself........... so this is ‘Transition’ (someone give me a C-section now....) that Tracey mentioned. Thankfully my husband and my private midwife were there to give me the encouraging words that I needed to hear and immediately I was back on track. I was picturing my 10km run again, and picturing the calm labour that that I had been visualising for weeks now. I also had something in my brain telling me to keep it together and that I could totally do this.
At 8hrs, I was fully dilated, but had no sensation to push. I was back in the pool and changing my position, and then began to actively push as advised by my Obstetrician. The waves were coming faster with greater intensity. I thought to myself... this sort of feels like 'bad gastro', when you can't catch your breath. My midwife and my husband were holding my hands, the candles were lit and our favourite songs were playing. I was ready to have our baby..... I pushed for 1-2 hours, and finally felt the 'chinese burn' that my Obstretrician described (it actually felt exactly like that), and I knew his head was out. Despite all of my guttural effort sounds, it was so calm and peaceful.... a few minutes later the shoulders were out.
I knew I had to turn over and lay on my back in the water when baby was out (the team had kept reminding me of this). I was so calm, that my Obstretician had to rush to put his gloves on to assist baby up to my chest (he didn't realise that baby was out). Of course my midwife knew exactly what was happing though, and was in perfect position!
Our baby boy was in my arms for a good 5 minutes before we even decided to check if we had a boy or a girl. He was so calm and alert, looking around and holding on to my neck. When I was ready, I got out of the bath and naturally delivered the placenta. As planned we had a delayed cord clamping.
Our labour was magical, calm and despite the challenges we delivered a healthy baby boy without any intervention. My husband and I both felt very prepared and that we had a beautiful experience which we will never forget. The knowledge gained from Calmbirth, being fit, breathing practice, and meditation all contributed to our amazing experience. Our bodies really do know what to do - it's about managing the mind, preparation and having a great team.