"I chose St Vincents over Epworth solely because of the initial maternity ward tour I attended. At St Vincents you were our guide and as a practicing nurse you gave me real insight into the model of care that the hospital would be providing. It was practical, informative and friendly which really differentiated the hospital. When I attended the first hypnobirth session I was thrilled that you were also the facilitator. I really valued the way you presented multiple approaches/options and outcomes throughout the course. You were able to demonstrate the differences and benefits between active birthing, hynobirthing and even other styles like the calm birthing classes available. You obviously have a great depth of knowledge and when combined with practical midwifery and your own personal birth experience this results in a fantastic combination for us as students. The course is great. It was comprehensive and allowed both mothers and their partners plenty of opportunity to learn and practice the skills.
I got a lot of the early signs that I learned about during the course (notably some major emotional swings, a show and cramps) but also just knew it wasn't far away from starting from a few days before. The contractions started really gently - just like menstrual pain and lasted a few minutes every hour. Gradually, over the course of about a day they became more frequent and more intense until they were recognisable as proper contractions lasting 1-2 minutes every 4-5 mins with a clear start, middle and end. I laboured at home overnight for about 6 hours using a number of the techniques I had been practicing. I had candles, a hypno-birthing track as well as some of my favourite songs on a different play list to mix things up a bit. In hindsight I would also have turned on the radio for a while too as I find that really comforting and something that might have helped pass the time! I also used essential oils a lot - I had rose burning in the house and lavender and clary-sage on handkerchiefs for more targeted relief. During contractions I found walking to be the most comfortable position and when the pain was at its most intense I would kneel over the couch or grip the sides of the baby's cot for support. I tried the fit ball but despite it being really comfortable during pregnancy - I didn't use it as much during the labour and preferred jumping in the shower whenever I needed to relax my body. For this time I was alone as my husband Simon was sleeping and I was really happy to just work through each surge. Simon eventually woke up around 4 when I was becoming more vocal with the pain I was experiencing. My mum (a trained midwife who was acting as my 'doula') arrived around 5am and by this time I was getting a lot of back pain and quite uncomfortable. As contractions were now every 3-4 minutes we made the decision to head into the hospital. A big factor in this was the timing - I didn't want to be stuck in peak hour traffic on punt road trying to get to the hospital so although I could probably have stayed at home longer we headed in around 6am. On arrival I was monitored and then allowed to move freely in the delivery room. The nurses were excellent, taking note of my birth preferences and fixing the hypnobirthing notice to the door. They minimised talking and dimmed the lights and I felt really safe and secure - it really felt like an extension of my own home. My obstetrician checked on me around 9am and to everyones surprise I was only 1cm dilated. She broke my waters to try and help things along, and as contractions were continuing to be strong and regular she recommended some pain relief to assist me to relax and stay rested. I started gas and air and took note of the option for morphine if I needed it. By around midday I used the morphine injection and was able to have a rest between each contraction which really helped. By late afternoon I was examined again but had only progressed to around 2cm. I was experiencing much more back pain and finding it increasingly difficult to work through the surges. My body felt contorted and it became increasingly more likely the baby was positioned in a posterior presentation. After a long discussion with my OB I elected for an epidural. This hadn't been my preference but with the slow progression and increasing pain and exhaustion I was ready for some relief. The procedure was a lot easier than I had imagined. The doctor was really helpful in timing it to be between contractions and the local anaesthetic meant I didn't feel any pain at all. It was immediately more comfortable and I could still move my legs and feel each surge - just with a lot less pain. On the down side, I was now confined to the bed on my back and I found this really restrictive. I started the synthetic hormones shortly after the epidural as the contractions had eased back to around 7-8 minutes apart. By 9pm at my next examination I was still only 3cm dilated. By this point I was getting quite disappointed in the lack of progression - I felt like things were not heading the way I had planned and powerless to change it. Surprisingly though I felt I used more of the preparation from my hypnobirthing during this time than ever. I was having to make a number of decisions and at each point I felt confident that I knew the pros and cons and that I was equipped to ask the right questions and explore all of the options. Even when things weren't working out - I knew it wasn't for lack of trying and that the decision was mine to make. My OB and the nurses were supportive of me and my preferences and made every effort to meet them and my support team helped me by playing back my options and advocating for me when I needed time and space to process my thoughts. My OB knew I didn't want a C-section but she was careful to make sure I knew it was becoming a real possibility. The baby was still doing really well (she slept through most of it making monitoring even more difficult!) so as a last resort she and the nurse formulated a plan to take me off the hormone drip, leave the epidural in and leave me to just rest for the night to see what happened with a view to starting afresh in the morning. This was a great option - something that my OB didn't do regularly apparently and I felt was only made available due to the fact I made my preferences clear and articulated them in a consistent, firm and balanced manner. Around 11pm as I prepared to sleep for the night, one side of the epidural started to wear off. It happened quite quickly - one minute I was comfortable and then it slowly drained down from my ribs to my pelvis and within 15 mins I could feel every contraction on my right side. Unfortunately I couldn't move because of epidural and despite multiple top ups and a new epidural being inserted my body just refused to be numbed on that side! Finally, at around 6am after a very stressful and painful night I was given a spinal injection to block the pain. My OB came in and I asked her to proceed with a C-section - I was done. She never pressured me into the decision and made every effort to offer me alternatives but I knew this was the right thing to do for me. It was a relief in a lot of ways and I felt like I had tried everything so there were no regrets or 'what ifs' lingering in my mind. The operation itself was not nearly as scary as I thought it would be. Even though it was classed as an emergency, the team involved all introduced themselves to me beforehand and everyone was relaxed and friendly and encouraging. Because of the hypnobirthing course and my birth preferences including C section options (even though I never thought I would need them) I was able to request and discuss the role of the paediatrician, my support person and the recovery process. My OB was fantastic and offered me the seeding technique which I gratefully accepted. She also asked whether I wanted to try delayed cord clamping as well. Simon came into theatre and was treated so well. They kept us both really informed the whole way through on what was happening and when she was being lifted out they asked SImon if he wanted to stand up and watch. To my amazement he immediately agreed! I thought he might have been a bit squeamish but he didn't hesitate for a second and says it was the best decision he had made. Someone took his phone to take pictures for us (without us even realising that was an option) and we got some terrific photos of the whole procedure which made me and my mum feel like we were 'there'. I admit it took a few days to be able to see them but I am so grateful I have this amazing record of my birth. I had one arm free to hold his hand and to touch my baby as soon as she emerged. The paediatrician allowed me skin to skin contact in the theatre and also let Simon help with the cord clamping before they both headed into the recovery area. Despite some blood loss I recovered much better then I thought I would. I didn't know you would be up and walking around within 24 hours! Yes I felt a sense of loss about not delivering 'normally' (I wish they wouldn't call it that on the hospital forms!) and in the weeks afterwards when I was sleep deprived I would catch myself wondering what I could have done differently but ultimately I knew that there was just no way I could have changed the outcome and I was so grateful that I was able to try everything and make the best of the situation I found myself. I never expected that a hypnobirth course would be preparing me for a c-section but it is the reason I have the reassurance I do today and what made what could have been a stressful experience into one that was just as beautiful and special as I had imagined it would be. If I had one word to describe the gift you gave me it would be 'empowerment'. Thank you Agnele I cannot recommend you and your course highly enough and I look forward to my next birthing experience - whatever it brings!".