Jenara's Birth Story
I have always been terrified about the idea of giving birth, to the point that I thought maybe maternity wasn’t for me. But I didn’t want to miss out on this just because of my fear, and since my husband Simon and I wanted to have a baby, I decided to go for it and deal with it.
Around the 5th month of pregnancy I came across the concept of Hypnobirthing through a book. I remember reading the book whilst having a bath one day and this being the first time that the whole thing (birth) stopped sounding terrifying, and, instead of a crazy think that happens to women, as a process that is designed to work, a natural (literally) thing to do.
When I actually started learning about the physiology of birth (vs listening to the scary stories people tell) it all started to make more sense. I loved learning what actually happens during labour and how can we take control of our own body and work with it, no against it.
Later on in the pregnancy, a friend of mine introduced me to Chloe and her course, and Simon and I decided to do it together - we wanted him to be a part of this moment as much as possible.
Every class that passed I felt more informed, confident, empowered and actually (even still a bit scared and nervous) excited and looking forward to the baby’s birth.
I had developed gestational diabetes during the third trimester, and by this point doctors had told me that it was unlikely that I could deliver in the birth centre, and that because of the diabetes I might have to be induced by week 40. So I started using the BRAIN approach (or Chloe’s ‘BRAINS’). I started asking more questions and making informed decisions. They told me when using Metformin medicine things are more restrictive, so I decided to stop it and reinforce the diet and the activity in order to still have a chance.
By week 37 I had a scan to check the baby’s growth, and found out that he was still in a transverse position. They told me I had to either book a C-section for the next two weeks, or try an ECV to try to rotate him. I actually had to make that decision the same day, as that doctor was only available once a week, and a week later it would be too late. I wanted to be able to go full term and labour, so I decided to give it a go.
It was quite uncomfortable and a bit painful (gas and air really helped!) but it was successful, so I went home with baby’s head facing down, happy that I could continue the birth plan I had in mind.
Back home that same evening, I felt some movements and discomfort on my belly which continued the day after. I had the felling he had rotated back, but they had told me chances of that were less than 5%. I called the hospital that evening (week 37+1) and a midwife told me I should go there ASAP. I was hoping for a different or less dramatic answer, and after debating wether to go or not, we decided to head there after dinner. We booked an Uber (and realised how far the trip to UCLH was by car from our home in East London) and during the trip we were saying ‘in a few weeks we will be doing this with the bag to stay! To have the baby!’
It turned out that this was actually ’the time’ that I would stay in hospital, but without any bag (apart of a tote bag with only my phone with low battery and a debit card!).
After waiting a couple of hours (Simon downstairs due to Covid hospital rules) I was scanned and confirmed the baby was back to transverse.
The doctor then told me she wanted me to stay in hospital… until the baby was born. She believed the pain I described could be early contractions and explained to me again the risk of going home and starting labour, as if the waters were broken I could have ‘cord prolapse’. She told me that it was unlikely that the C-section will happen that night ‘but the day after or the following one’.
I was shocked, then terrified. I wasn’t ready (or at least, I didn’t feel like I was). I was sad that the whole thing turned out that way. This is Thursday night (midnight by this point), Friday was my last work day before maternity leave began. I was looking forward finishing things at work with my colleagues, then having a couple of weeks off to prepare (mentally and physically) for labour, and to get all baby things ready.
And now this was it, baby had to be born by surgery and ASAP, I couldn’t go home and I wouldn’t see Simon again until the surgery.
Simon went back home and started preparing a bag for me, in the meantime they start preparing me for my hospital stay and cesarean: Covid test, cannula on my arm (vein was blocked so it took 4 attempts and different doctors to get it done) and corticosteroid injections because the baby was only 37 weeks (this is to help their lungs). At same point I couldn’t take it anymore and broke down in tears, I was very stressed and couldn’t stand more pain (I suffer needle phobia too so this was a nightmare for me). Simon came back around 2 in the morning but I couldn’t go see him, so he handled my stuff to reception and a midwife picked them up.
That night I couldn’t sleep at all. Because of the corticosteroid my blood sugars went up, so I had to have insulin and they had to prick me to measure my blood every hour. Plus I was in shock still!
Next day though, I felt a bit better and more positive. Doctors came to see me that morning and suggested to do the c-section next day (Saturday) or Monday. I said I wasn’t’ ready for it, so Monday will be better. But while the day passed, chatting with Simon, my family and some friends, a call on the phone with Chloe, and a conversation with the surgeons, I felt more confident about it. So if the doctors where available, I was up to do it the day after. I no longer felt sad about the unplanned course of things, I accepted that this was it and focused on making the best experience I could given the circumstances.
On Saturday (37+2) I woke up at 5am and had some food (in case surgery was happening I had to do fasting for 6 hs). It was a windy and stormy day but it felt quite special. After breakfast I took a shower, I listened to some of the meditation scripts, and waited for updates on the surgery. Simon was coming to town from noon, to be around in case the baby was arriving that day. Doctors came to see me at that time and told me that the surgery would be at 1pm. Simon was heading to a cafe close by, when I told him to come to the hospital instead. We had one hour to be together before it. He arrived very excited with some tears in his eyes and I was very excited too. A mix of adrenaline and emotion. I wanted to keep calm though so I did some deep breathing, he gave me a little massage on my back whilst I wrote on a piece of paper the things we would like (things already agreed with the doctors such as immediately skin to skin, delayed cord cut…) and I kept inhaling my lavender oil that I had been using since I started the Hypnobirthing course.
We then went to theatre, the anaesthetists were so friendly but I was terrified about it. Simon held my hand and kept reminding me to breath, whilst they put me the spinal block. I never had surgery before and everything was pretty scary to me, but I had met the team before and I felt in good hands. The midwife that came with us was also very friendly (though I just had met her for the first time only two hours ago). Once the anaesthetists has done her job, she stayed by my side talking to me and trying to distract me while the doctors were doing the work. Simon was on the other side, holding my hand. I remember laughing then with the doctors and talking about my trip to Greece (two of them were Greek). The playlist we had put together was playing on the phone next to my head, and that made me feel better too. I have very good memories of those minutes of surgery until soon I heard a very loud cry, and saw the baby moving fast from my body to a table a few meters apart, and I started crying with joy and relief, our baby was here!
I remember hearing comments doctors were saying ‘he’s very long!’ And I could see Simon next to him while they were cutting the cord and measuring him. Then Simon held him and brought him with me, and I kept him on my chest whilst they finish the surgery. Soon we went back to my room, where we spent a couple of ‘golden hours’ the three of us.
It wasn’t the birth I had hoped to have, but still was a beautiful experience, and once he was with us, none of what happened before mattered anymore.
Even if I couldn’t use it in labour, Hypnobirthing helped to keep me calm during those days, I also enjoyed a happier pregnancy, without fear, but instead looking forward the birth of my son with more confidence and excitement.