Ester found the birth of her daughter to be a more empowering life experience than she thought was possible with the help of hypnobirthing and great support from her husband and midwives.
“I was really scared of birth when I first got pregnant”
All my experience of birth before my pregnancy was from TV and films – watching women screaming in pain while dramatically delivering their babies in hospital corridors or taxis.
I couldn’t see myself giving birth that way and knew I didn’t want that kind of birth experience. So, because I was so scared of giving birth, I started looking into ways to prepare for the birth that would help me feel more confident.
My husband and I moved to the UK when I was seven months pregnant so we knew we only had a few weeks before the baby arrived. We signed up to an antenatal class in our new home town and I started looking for a pregnancy yoga class as a way to stay calm.
“I hadn’t heard of giving birth without an epidural before”
I also started researching my birth options. When I used the Which? Birth Choice tool, I realised that I could go to either a birth centre or a labour ward to give birth.
The local birth centre that I found looked really nice and had a birth pool, so I was very keen to give birth there. However, I also found out that if I had my baby in the birth centre, I wouldn’t be able to have an epidural.
I’d never come across the idea of giving birth without an epidural before, and I didn’t know if it would even be possible. But I wanted to give it a go so I could have my baby in the birth centre.
“Could it be possible to give birth without pain?”
I found a local yoga instructor who did pregnancy yoga as well as hypnobirthing. I hadn’t heard of hypnobirthing before and thought it sounded a bit weird; could it really be possible to give birth without pain? I decided to try the yoga and see how I felt after that.
When I went to the yoga class, I really liked the way that the instructor talked about pregnancy, birth and becoming a mother – it really spoke to me. And far from being weird in any way, the instructor was just a very down-to-earth woman.
After that, my husband and I decided to sign up for a four-hour intensive hypnobirthing class when I was 36 weeks pregnant. We learnt all about labour and what the body does during birth, as well as breathing techniques that can be used during the different stages of labour.
“I felt ready for the birth, rather than scared”
As well as the hypnobirthing class, I also watched videos, read articles and found a fantastic book on mindful birth. As my due date edged closer I felt prepared for what was to come.
In many ways, I approached my labour as a bit of an experiment. I still didn’t know if it was possible to give birth without pain and without using an epidural, but I was ready to give it a go.
After all the preparation, I felt empowered and curious about giving birth, rather than scared.
“I knew I had to accept the way my birth unfolded”
One night, I was having contractions and had a feeling that the birth would happen very soon. So I went through my plans for the birth with my husband one more time and showed him where my hospital bag was before going to bed.
I woke up at 3am with my waters breaking, and I noticed straight away that there was meconium in the water. I knew at that moment that I wouldn’t have the birth that I’d planned for, because I would have to go to the labour ward.
I was disappointed, but one part of preparing with hypnobirthing is to accept the way that your birth unfolds. I knew I had to stay calm and in control of my mind. So I just said to my husband that instead of calling the birth centre, he’d have to call the labour ward and tell them we were on our way in.
“The contractions were very strong sensations – but not painful”
The contractions became a lot stronger quickly, and I really had to focus on my breathing as I’d been practising. It took me a long time to even get out of the door as I had to stop several times to breathe.
The contractions were very strong sensations; something that I’d never felt before. It was uncomfortable at times, but I wouldn’t describe it as painful.
I got in the back of the car and kneeled on the back seat for the whole journey to the hospital. I remember the trip very clearly, I felt really relaxed and focused. Every time a contraction came, I stopped to do my belly breathing, but in between contractions I could talk and wasn’t in any pain.
“The midwives were very respectful of my birth plan”
When we got to the hospital, we were shown to a delivery room and the consultant doctor said he’d come back to check on me every four hours to see how my labour was progressing.
I had a bit of a difficult moment then as I couldn’t imagine being in labour for that length of time. But I remembered my hypnobirthing preparation and focused on staying calm.
The birth would take as long as it needed to, and my baby would come when they were ready. I just had to take one breath at a time and accept the way the birth went.
My husband was doing all the communicating with the doctor and midwives so I could focus fully on giving birth, which was essential for me.
“Having my baby skin-to-skin for the first time was magical”
After the doctor had left the room, I suddenly had the urge to push. I thought it was way too early, but the midwife examined me and said that I was seven centimetres dilated and she could see the baby’s head.
The second stage of pushing lasted an hour, and our baby was born at quarter to eight in the morning; less than four hours after we got to the hospital.
Right when she was born, there was a moment of pain, but it was over very quickly and replaced by feelings of elation that our baby was finally here.
I was over the moon when Elisabet arrived. I was also surprised, because I was certain she’d be a boy so I was really taken aback at having a daughter! It was so wonderful to hold her for the first time, and having her skin-to-skin was a magical moment.
“Giving birth wasn’t pain-free, but it was manageable”
I wanted to avoid any interventions after the birth and waited for the placenta to be delivered naturally. But it didn’t happen, even though I was moving around. So I accepted the hormone injection to help my body deliver the placenta, but even that didn’t work.
In the end, the consultant doctor had to come to remove the placenta manually. In all honesty, that was painful! But I could still manage without any pain relief apart from the breathing.
Looking back, I wouldn’t say the birth was pain-free, but it was definitely “pain manageable”. And that’s something I never thought I’d say before. I now feel certain that there are many types of pain that are worse than childbirth.
“I walked out of the hospital with my baby the same day”
I know that many women have difficult births and can’t move for the pain afterwards, and that they may not feel like themselves or be able to respond to their baby. I was happily surprised that it wasn’t at all like that for me. I could move and hold my baby straight away.
We stayed in the hospital for 12 hours to make sure that Elisabet didn’t have any problems from the meconium. When we went home later that evening, I walked down the hospital corridors carrying her myself.
When we came home I was able to hold her, breastfeed her and just enjoy her. It felt like she’d always been there. I kept feeling absolutely elated for two days – I couldn’t even rest because I was so excited and happy.
When we were preparing for the birth, some people would say to me: “Why are you getting so obsessed with the birth? What comes after is more important.” But the way that I could be present and take care of Elisabet straight away after the birth really helped us get the best start possible.
“Giving birth was an empowering life experience”
I think hypnobirthing would work with any kind of birth, because it allows you to trust yourself and understand what’s happening. You’re able to control your reactions, keep calm and use your own methods to anchor yourself.
I used breathing techniques, but you can also use different things like smells, water and images – you just need to find what works for you and learn to work with your body.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf” is something that sums up hypnobirthing really well for me.
Giving birth was a very empowering life experience for me because of hypnobirthing. To be able to stay in control by being present in the moment, allowing my body to do what it had to do and feeling everything that was going on – there’s nothing quite like it in the world.
More from Which?
- What is hypnobirthing? Read more about hypnobirthing or natal hypnotherapy, and how it can help you when you give birth.
- Natural pain relief methods: Acupuncture and aromatherapy are just a couple of the natural methods that you can use in labour.
- Making a birth plan: Writing down your preferences gives midwives, doctors and your birth partner a clear idea of what’s important to you during the birth and in the first few hours with your baby.