My journey to becoming a Birth Nerd started back in 2016. We'd been to see some friends to celebrate the birth of their wee girl and catch up with how they were doing after the birth. Theirs was a slightly dramatic story but they (to be fair it was more him than her) kept raving on and on about how amazing this hypnobirthing course was that they had done and how it was so good to use the breathing techniques even outside of labour and birth and blah blah blah. I had no idea what they were on about and the "hypno" part of hypnobirthing sounded a bit random and woo-woo. But it stuck with me as I was newly pregnant.
Rick and I were living in London at the time but the recent Brexit vote in the referendum put the spanner in the works on the work front and we weren't sure if were going to stay in London. Not a great situation to be in when you'd really like some certainty in life...
I had always been pretty chilled out about being pregnant though. I was lucky enough not to suffer early on, which encouraged me to act as if I wasn't pregnant at all - not in a going-out-drinking-all-night kind of a way, just in a its-fine-I-can-still-carry-stuff kind of a way. I knew that growing a baby was an everyday sort of a miracle. Amazed that I could be catching a train or presenting in a meeting AND growing a human at the same time. Talk about multi-tasking. Miraculous. But I also knew that I wasn't the first pregnant woman to walk the earth, millions of women were pregnant and birthing all around the world at the same time as me. So, an ordinary miracle.
It was this idea (that women have been birthing for thousands of years, all around the world in all sorts of conditions) that always stayed with me and resonated the most when I was doing my birth preparation - there were loads of women in my position, and surely it couldn't be thaaaat bad or dangerous if the human population was continuing to grow. It couldn't have been something we were innately "bad" at doing...
As my pregnancy rumbled on, I still wasn't clear on where we'd be living when I gave birth. And I didn't love the thought of being dropped into a maternity care system I had zero idea about. It took me (probably longer than necessary) a while to realise that we were actually going to be staying in London, at least until the baby was born. But it was getting late in the game to start something like hypnobirthing. I was so happy when Rick said he'd found a hypnobirthing class near to where we lived that we could get in on - I was VERY keen to make sure I knew what to do when it came to B-Day as I didn't want to rely on someone I didn't know coaching me through the process. I was so wrong and also so right...
We did a weekend course in Natal Hypnotherapy and I felt so positive and confident after it. Rick too, said he finally felt like he knew what to expect and what his role in the whole experience was supposed to be.
In hindsight there were a few gaping holes, but that didn't change the absolute high I felt after I gave birth to Leo at 41+5 weeks. I had been booked in for an induction at midday on Monday but after a weekend of aggressive walking (on a dodgy ankle too) my waters broke just after midnight on Sunday night. After checking with Google if I'd peed or had my waters broken, I realised we were Game On.
We went in to the hospital in the early hours because of some meconium in the water but it wasn't significant and the midwives packed me off home and said they'd see me in a few (I think they meant a lot) hours later. As it turned out, things started ramping up faster than I expected and I told him we needed to go in as things were getting intense and sitting around on a pregnancy ball wasn't really doing it for me. It was about 8:30am and we could practically hear the midwives rolling their eyes when I said it was way more intense than I felt comfortable being at home with. And I've got a high pain threshold. I thought if this is still early labour, what on earth is it going to be like later on?!
We got in a cab and made our way through the morning traffic. And over the (excessive imho) speed bumps in Fulham all the way to Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. We were stuck for a while around the corner from the entrance when Rick spotted Hugh Grant emerging (sheepishly?!) from one of the houses... Managed to sneak a peak in between contractions before I had to bury my face in the pillow to get through the next one.
We made it into the birthing suite and I refused to leave. They weren't going to make me though as I was already way more dilated than they'd expected and after making the most of the TENS machine and ball, I got into the pool. WOW. The relief of the water was completely unexpected and I did not want to get out.
In amongst it all, there was a doula (from the hospital team!) and Rick, giving me words of encouragement and apart from immediately smelling when Rick opened a bag of gummy snakes I was pretty much in my own world.
The midwife checked the heartbeat in between each contraction and told me when I could start pushing. Which I did. And boy did I push. I started getting frustrated that she couldn't tell me how much harder (impossible) or how much longer I had to keep it up for. I was giving it my all and then she said that the baby was in distress and that I needed to get out of the pool so that she could give me an episiotomy. I asked to stay in a bit longer but she said no, so I reluctantly got out and just after she'd applied the local anaesthetic I had to stop her as I could feel another contraction coming and next thing I knew I was holding my son on my chest.
I absolutely could not believe it. I had given birth to a human. An actual human. Me. I had brought this little (perfect) human into the world. With my body. This human that I grew with my body.
OMG LOOK WHAT I DID!
I don't think I could ever forget how amazed I felt. I couldn't have been more proud of myself. I wanted to yell out of the window to everyone to tell them what I'd just done, as if I was the first and only person to give birth! It was then that I wanted everyone to know and feel as amazing and amazed as I did.
I never really shook that urge to share the feeling and the little seed of an idea of becoming a hypnobirthing teacher germinated. I loved hearing people's birth stories. Every time I heard one, it reminded me how powerful and clever our bodies are. Every story is so unique and I loved them all, it didn't matter to me how the babies were born, just the story was enough for me.
A couple of years later and a move halfway around the world to Australia, and I became a certified HypnoBirthing educator. I had decided that it wasn't enough that I'd told all my pregnant friends that they should do the Natal Hypnotherapy course, but I needed to be able to teach it professionally.
I ended up studying HypnoBirthing - The Mongan Method. The original HypnoBirthing course. And as I discovered, the best. It was eye-opening to realise how much had been missed out from the first course I did! Mainly the breathing. And more detail about how the uterus and cervix actually work and the visualisations to go with it. It was entirely unsurprising then to realise that the reason Leo was in distress while I was in the birth pool was because I was being told to push when I should have been working with my body. Not against it. To be honest it made me feel that in retrospect, my birth hadn't been the amazing experience I'd thought it was!
I got the chance to put my training to the test a few months after I was certified though, and in January 2020 we welcomed our second son into our family.
That birth was a very different experience to my first, but that's a post for a different day.