Stefania & Neva

On the evening of Thursday I started to feel abdominal pain. I wasn’t sure it was labour, but it started getting im the shape of “waves” very soon, so we called the hospital. They confirmed to us these were early signs of labour, that all was good, and we needed to wait until the contractions lasted at least 1 minute every 4/5 minutes. They warned us that, because this was our first baby, early labour could also last for days. We monitored the contractions with an app, noticing how they were increasing in rhythm and intensity every hour. They were painful but someway bearable, I didn’t use any relieving tool apart from the breathing techniques we learnt in the hypnobirthing course and focusing on resting between them. Tom was amazing all the way through, holding my hands, gently massaging my back and embracing each new wave with me, reminding me that everything was going as supposed to and we were close to meeting our Neva.

Throughout the morning of Friday the contractions almost reached the regular pattern expected and I started to be worried that we were waiting too much time before going to the hospital. We checked with the midwives every 5/6 hours but only in the early afternoon they confirmed us we could approach for a check. They anticipated that we could have been sent home again, but I was feeling that my contractions were really strong and close to each other, so I hoped with all my heart that we could stay and be monitored. The journey by car was very painful and difficult: part of it was because – as we discovered once I was there- I was 8cm dilated, but now I think the pain was amplified by the fear of being sent home. Once we arrived in the car park, a midwife saw us and, noticing I was in pain, she reassured me I was doing great, and accompanied us to the midwife led unit, where other two midwives took care of us and examined me. When they confirmed I was 8 cm and my water had broken, I realized we could stay and I started feeling reassured. We reminded them of our preference to have a water birth, and they immediately prepared the pool for us.

I have beautiful memories of the hours spent in that room: the lights in the ceiling like stars in a night sky, the sweet, encouraging words of the midwives, the sound of the water filling the tub, Tom’s holding my hands and breathing with me. In the pool, I started feeling the urge to push, and assisted by the midwives I noticed that my breathing could really make the difference. I realized that the right push was the same push I make for pooing, and that there was a inner, unconscious, deep fear of letting go that accompanied my whole life that I needed to face. I felt this was the exact moment in my life when I could start letting go. That in order to meet my little Neva I needed to let her go. I was in the right environment, with my Tom by my side, nourishing me with love (and biscuits), with these angels – the midwives – guiding me and encouraging me every step of the way. And the pushes were different, I felt Neva’s head coming down, everything looked like we would have had our water birth by the end of the day.

However, time passed, it was 21.30 and Neva was still not there after 5 hours in the pool when I was fully dilated, so the midwife suggested to examine me again.

We discovered the waters weren’t fully broken, so she broke the upfront bag and realized there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. In that moment, the hardest 3 hours of labour – and of our life – started. They transferred us in the Consultant Led Unit, where they could monitor Neva’s heart, and a doctor came scanning my bump, noticing that her head was facing up, and how this was slowing everything down. He explained to us that we were getting into a risky situation, and we needed an assisted delivery in order to be sure that she wasn’t suffering. It was really difficult to hear the options from the doctor (he suggested the use of forceps and, if needed, an emergency caesarean) and all the complications that the anaesthetics might cause, but Tom helped me to remain calm, reassuring me that this was the last step in order to meet our baby, and I signed the consent. It wasn’t easy, and I remember those 10 mins like a nightmare, but the conversation we had in the hypnobirthing course about dealing with unexpected change of plans really settled the ground for facing this moment in the best way.

Once they moved us to the operating theatre around 23.30, everything happened very quickly and I remember this final hour like a dream: I gave birth to Neva without feeling my legs, pushing her out without feeling I was pushing, holding one hand with Tom and the other with the midwife who comforted me and guided me in the final contractions. This was a powerful, life-changing moment which I will remember forever: looking at my legs without feeling them was like looking at my old self abandoning me, in order to welcome the new me: a mum. It was hard, but now I know that in order to expand your soul and welcome such a huge new love in your life, you need to expand every inch of yourself, your body included.

And there she was, seven minutes after midnight, emerging from my womb, like a seashell in the foreshore when the wave retreats: our little Neva on my chest, a new life in the world, a new life for us as mum and dad. It’s incredible how easily, naturally, things can change just in a single moment: as soon as she was born, she started surprising us with her strength, her instinct, her tenderness. She knew what to do, she immediately searched for my breast and start feeding (something, the midwives said, rarely happen in the operating theatre). I felt such a deep joy in my heart, my love for her growing from that very moment and continuing growing every single day. They checked on us all night and all parameters were good, so they discharged us in the afternoon. On Saturday night of the same day she was born we were already at home, ready to start our new life together.

We are so grateful that we were equipped to face this journey with the hypnobirthing techniques, which gave us a deep awareness of the birth process and how to deal with unexpected changes of plans. Now we are both well, my body is recovering fast, pain from surgery almost disappeared and breastfeeding has been very easy with our little hungry baby Neva. She is filling our days with oceans of tenderness, love and joy, and we have Neva.

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Top tips if you’re overdue

When you’re pregnant and approaching your due date or ‘over due’, it can be quite stressful. Perhaps you’re facing pressure from your caregivers to be induced. Maybe you’re being asked what feels like 100 times a day if you think your baby will come soon?

To go in to labour, your body needs to produce a hormone called oxytocin. And this is only produced when you are feeling calm and relaxed, not when you are stressed or under pressure.

So here are my some of my favourite ideas of things you can do to destress and chill in and around Hitchin and North Herts to enjoyably pass the time until you get to meet your baby.

Get out for a gentle walk in nature

In North Herts there are many gorgeous outdoor spaces. From Oughtonhead to Purwell Meadows and Hitch Wood to Barton Hills the list goes on and we’re spoilt for choice. When we’re in green spaces, we’re naturally more relaxed. This is because our brains are dealing with far fewer potential threats and less stimulation such as traffic or noises from other people. As such, we tend to associate things like nature, countryside or birdsong with relaxation. Furthermore, as we head into summer, a trip to Hitchin Lavender will provide not only a delight for the eyes but also the nose, as many people associate the scent of lavender with calm and relaxation.

Meet a friend for a (decaf) coffee

Hitchin is bursting with delicious delis such as Halseys and the Little Deli and cosy coffee shops like Hermitage Road, Fussey and Baer and Hitchin Coffee Lab. Grab your funniest friend and catch up over a cuppa, because being with friends and in particular, laughter encourages oxytocin production. Make the most of this time you have now to catch up with people and enjoy a tasty treat or two. It sounds cliched, but it might be a while before you can enjoy a hot drink and interrupted conversation. On this note…

Make a bucket list of things you might not be able to do with a baby

If you’re overdue, I find it’s helpful to think of this as bonus time. Make list off all the things that might not be so simple to do for a few months with a newborn. Aim to do one of these every few days, so you have things planned to look forward to. Some ideas might be going for a drink at The Vic with your partner, catching a film at the Broadway Cinema, going for out for a romantic dinner (so many options here!).

Practice relaxation

This might seem a strange idea, but it’s important that in labour, you can stay relaxed. This is so that you produce oxytocin to keep your contractions going. Spend time now listening to mindfulness tracks, favourite calming songs or if you have done hypnobirthing, listening to your audio relaxations. Doing this means you will not only feel tranquil in the moment, but you will also build an association with relaxation so that you can listen to these tracks and quickly find your calm when in labour. Pregnancy relaxation sessions can also be a great way to deeply relax. They also teach you new techniques which you can use in pregnancy and labour.

Prepare for birth and build a positive birth mindset

You’ve probably packed your hospital bag and written your birth preferences (if not, those are good things to do soon). But now is a great time to prepare for your birth if you haven’t already. The Positive Birth Book is a fab one-stop shop book to help you feel prepared for birth. The more reading you can do the more informed and empowered you will be. You can also spend this time reading positive birth stories or watching positive birth videos. This is so that you’re surrounding yourself with other people’s great experiences of birth. If you’ve done hypnobirthing now is the time to be practicing all the techniques you will have learnt. These help you to relax and to strengthen the positive mindset you will have been creating. It’s never too late to do hypnobirthing. I offer ‘crammer courses’ aimed at people late in pregnancy.

Treat yourself and indulge

A little bit of TLC and self-indulgence should make you feel good and therefore get your oxytocin going. Need some inspo? Perhaps you love having your nails done? Now can be a great time to do this, and for some people it’s a good way to retain some of your pre-child self (especially as they can last for a number of weeks). Pregnancy massage is an obvious choice. Although a little more expensive, you’ll often find it’s worth it, as this should help you to feel wonderfully calm and relaxed. Check out Mama Baby Bliss and the Yoga Shed for some amazing pregnancy massages. They both also offer pre-natal yoga sessions too. These can be a great way to dedicate some time to yourself and aid relaxation.

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Maya & Sofia

Maya & Sofia

I want to share my birth experience as my birth story is quite positive.

First I should say that when I was 36 weeks the doctors told me my baby was not growing as expected and they wanted to induce me as soon as I turned 37 weeks. I declined as was just feeling it wasn’t right. I went privately to a doctor in London and they said they thought there was nothing wrong and my baby was well. So I had daily CTG scans and another growth scan after 2 weeks. Then they said she was growing normally so I was put back to ‘low risk’.

So she decided to come when I was 39 weeks and 3 days. I woke up in the morning and had small weird sensation like a mild period cramp. This then started becoming more frequent and I started wondering what it was. My husband was in a long meeting so I waited patiently for the meeting to finish to tell him I thought this might be surges. His meeting finished at 1pm and he suggested I call the hospital. I called the hospital at 1:30pm to ask them if these were surges as they were not very strong. Although they were every 3-4 minutes apart. They said it probably was a sign of very early labour and can take couple of days. So I decided to do some work at home. However the surges became more intense and I asked my husband to prepare the TENS machine. The surges were much more frequent and intense so I asked him to call the hospital again. He did and they said to wait 1-2 hours wit surges like that before calling again. 10 minutes later my waters broke and I was feeling the urge to push 😳 I used the tens machine for few minutes only. We needed to get to the hospital. We arrived at 4pm and they said I was fully dilated and needed to push 😳.

My baby’s heartbeat was on the lower end so they moved me to the consultant lead unit. The midwives were absolutely amazing. They were motivating me to push and explaining how to breathe. I tried different positions as well. To be honest the final stage wasn’t that painful apart from the back ache. Finally Sofia was born at 6:30pm normally without intervention. I had level two tear which is healing well.

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Abi and Thea

Abi and Thea

We gave birth to Thea on 24th Feb at home and it was such an amazing experience!

As I was slightly overdue, I had a sweep in the morning, which found I was 2cm dilated and already. I felt like my body was very ready to give birth.

At about 1.30pm I started feeling waves of period pains, low down in my tummy. I monitored these for about 45min and they settled pretty regularly into a pattern of 30-45seconds of a wave and then about 5-10min of nothing. Each one was of a manageable pressure.

I told Ben (my husband) I was pretty sure I was in labour, called my mum and my midwife (mum would be looking after Effie, my toddler, when it came to it) . My midwife said it may be Braxton Hicks following the morning sweep or could be the real thing, so just to relax, take a walk and keep an eye on things.

Following a beautiful family walk in the sunshine with my husband, toddler and our dog, the contractions ramped up, so I called the midwife again at about 3.30pm to let her know and she said she would pop over to see how I was doing and start some paperwork.

By this point I was having to actively concentrate on relaxing throughout each ‘surge’. When my midwife checked me over at about 3.50pm I was 4-5cm dilated and warned me that once our toddler and dog were collected (mum and mother in law knew the plan so were coming to whisk them away) that my body would probably take note and things would happen more quickly. My midwife was not wrong!!

My husband was set to work filling the birthing pool and 2 other midwives joined us I think at about 4.30pm. My midwife and husband were both taking it in turns to rub my back as I was standing leaning over a table, waiting for the birthing pool to fill. As the surges built in power both my midwife and husband were reminding me to breathe through each surge and let the muscles relax and to breathe the baby down. I got into the pool as soon as it was full enough to cover my bump, with me lying down in the pool. Leaning into my husbands arms I let my body take more control and tried to allow my brain to let go, let everything relax so the surges could do the job they needed to do. At this point it was so helpful being able to picture what the muscles of my uterus were doing.

As my baby’s head began to crown, my waters broke which felt like a huge release of pressure and then in the next surge, my baby’s head was right there. Guided amazingly by midwife, just listening to her voice and allowing my body to be consumed and my brain to let go, I breathed (and swore) through my next 3 surges, actively thinking about letting the lower half of my body relax and stretch with Thea joining us in very quickly, at 6.15pm.

I felt so safe and well supported in the care of my midwives and husband. I felt safe in my environment and in control the entire time.

Wow, is the only way I can express giving birth to my second child. It was an incredible experience and so empowering. It was intense for sure, but I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as painful. With such a great experience of giving birth, I’d highly recommend hypnobirthing and a home birth.

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Louisa & Matteo

Louisa gave birth to Matteo in a birth pool at home. Find out how hypnobirthing helped her to have an empowered birth.

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