I first came across hypnobirthing when I was around 5 months pregnant and realised my due date was fast approaching. I had begun to feel more and more fearful about giving birth as all I had heard was negative birth stories, including from my own mum. I had been told the horrors of emergency c-sections, babies 'strangling' themselves with their umbilical cords and tearing requiring surgery.
I work in the medical profession and had always assumed that giving birth took place in a hospital and needed medical personnel present to ensure that birth was 'safe'. I had also presumed that I would at some point need an epidural and strong pain relief for this excruciating and unavoidable pain that I was going to be in. Working in a hospital looking after children on a daily basis I was very aware of the effects of such medicines and interventions on children, and began to feel extreme guilt that I would inflict these drugs on my baby during birth, when throughout pregnancy I had been told that all I could take was paracetamol. I began to question why such strong medicines were on offer during labour. I began searching for ways that I could avoid putting my baby through this and searched the internet for 'drug free' and 'pain free birth' when I came across Crystal’s hypnobirthing website.
I mentioned that I was looking into hypnobirthing to my colleagues at work and was confronted with lots of smirks and comments like "bless her, she doesn't know the pain she's in for", and "my friend tried that and it didn't work, she had a c-section". I asked my husband that night, "what price would you put on us having a pain and drug free birth?” he laughed and said "there would be no price, but that obviously isn't an option". I showed him Crystal's website and all of the testimonials, and we decided that in secret we would take this adventure together.
I contacted Crystal by email and she responded very quickly. We did the course at our home starting from around 30 weeks into my pregnancy. From the beginning the logic and process behind hypnobirthing made total sense and changed our outlook on birth completely. We quickly decided that in order to avoid medical intervention in an entirely natural process, we wanted to have our baby at home.
We dedicated an hour a day reading our Katherine Graves book, reading hypnobirthing scripts and listening to tapes. We also spoke very positively to each other about the upcoming birth and did our best to avoid negativity. As the due date approached we increased this time each day as I had begun maternity leave and had more free time. Crystal was always on hand for any queries or questions that we had and was a great support to us.
Around this time we went to our local hospital's 'birthing classes'. We were in a group of around 20 couples and we were quickly told that this would be the most “painful and terrifying experience of our lives”. We were talked through a typical birth, which somehow involved being induced, having an epiostomy, ventouse, strong pain relief, epidural and ultimately a c-section. The midwife running the class then proudly said that a third of all births in the hospital were 'emergency' c-sections. I found myself questioning how and why a third of births were classed as emergencies and needed surgical intervention. This hugely re-affirmed our decision to have our baby at home, to avoid these 'procedure-happy' medical professionals.
Doing the course with Crystal opened our eyes to our options and choices regarding birth, which we were simply not told by the midwives. This included giving birth at home, refusing to be induced at 42 weeks (where safe to do so) and even hiring a birth pool for home. Crystal delivers her course in such a calm, empowering and encouraging way. She made us truly feel as though a natural pain free birth was a possibility for us, where no one else did.
The home birth midwives took over my medical care at 34 weeks and were excellent. They made such an effort to get to know us as a family and understand our preferences about the birth. In the week leading up to the birth I became quite unwell and physically weak, I was unable to keep any food or drink down for 5 days up to the birth. However mentally I felt strong and continued to practice hypnobirthing.
Eight days before my due date, I woke up earlier than usual (around 7am 01/12/2016) and had a strong feeling that my baby was ready. I felt as though my waters were leaking ever so slightly. I woke my husband up giddy with excitement, to which his reply was "well get back into bed and rest then, we've got a big day ahead". Had we not done the hypnobirthing course, I know that his response would have been far different. It would have been a mad panic and rush to check the hospital bags and arrange cat-sitters.
My husband was working from home and continued work as usual. I decided to phone the midwives out of courtesy at around 11am to explain that our baby was coming that day. I described what had felt like mild period cramps which were increasing in frequency and perhaps around 5-10 minutes apart. It was suggested by the midwife that as I was holding a conversation and appeared so calm that perhaps this was false/early labour.
We went to the supermarket to buy food and magazines for the midwives and put up the birthing pool in our dining room. I sat making bunting with positive birth affirmations and hung it around the house, lit candles and watched some stand-up comedy on TV. At around 15:30 I asked my husband to put his work to one side as I felt we needed to focus. The surges were becoming more intense and I decided to use the TENS machine I had hired which helped during early labour. I ate small amounts, used my birthing ball and tried to change positions regularly.
The midwives phoned me at 8pm as it was their shift change. We said that the baby was definitely coming but we did not need them to come yet. The surges became more intense and frequent. We began to time them and they were 3-4 minutes apart lasting at least a minute. My husband suggested calling the midwife but we agreed that there was nothing that anyone could add at that time and that we were managing well.
At around 22:30 I decided that we should ask the midwife to come as I wanted to get in the birth pool soon and had been told that I shouldn't do so without her there. The midwife arrived at 11pm and was surprised that my surges were around 1 and half minutes apart, lasting 1-2 minutes. She asked to examine me and then said that I was "only 4cm". This was a huge stumbling block for me; I had been expecting her to say that my baby was coming now. I remembered Crystal’s advice to relax and re-focus, and got into the birthing pool at around 23:30. My surges slowed down once I got in the pool but I felt my labour was progressing well so decided to stay in. I remained focused on my breathing and relaxation. My husband supported me by talking to me and making sure I was eating and drinking.
I began to feel uncomfortable and had a few seconds of panic when I began to feel the urge to push. My husband was crucial in helping me to re-focus and carefully breathe my baby down. I could feel the baby's head slipping back and forth, ready to be born. At this point I told the midwife and my husband that this is what I could feel. She asked to examine me as there should be two midwives present for the birth. She said that she could feel my baby's head and appeared quite surprised. She quickly began to phone her second midwife to say there was a risk my baby would be born before they could get there, and I heard her say “I didn’t even realise she was in active labour”.
I asked the midwife if my husband could deliver our baby. I really wanted the first person to hold the baby to be one of us rather than someone they may not meet again. I felt the baby's head being born and felt instant euphoria and relief. Our baby was quickly born and guided up through the water by my husband into my arms at 2:32am Friday 2nd December, it was truly magical. I noticed immediately that the umbilical cord was wrapped round her neck and panicked until I saw her beautiful blue eyes staring at me and she appeared so calm. We un-wrapped her and she took a deep breath.
After a few minutes the second midwife arrived at our home to see my beautiful daughter in my arms. The first thing she said was 'did you do hypnobirthing?' which to me says it all.
Since then my baby has breastfed beautifully, gained weight, slept well and has such a calm nature about her, which I am sure is down to hypnobirthing. Giving birth has been the most truly empowering experience of my life, and I would urge any expectant mother to do a hypnobirthing course with Crystal.
Crystal has been a huge support and is a friend to our little family; our daughter will grow up knowing who Crystal is and what a huge impact she has had on all of our lives. We are very humbled knowing how different our experience could have been had we not met her, and will be forever grateful.