Dec 27 2010

How I used Hypnobabies to have a better birth

My husband and I attended a 10-week Bradley childbirth course to prepare for our son’s birth. I did avoid pain meds for his birth, but having Cervidil and magnesium sulfate in my system made it rough and I felt like I needed more tools to help me cope.

It seemed like Bradley taught me that pain was inevitable, though the pain did have a purpose. It shared methods of coping with the pain and many of them did help me.

For our daughter’s birth, I wanted something different.

I had heard of Hypnobabies while pregnant with Jonathan, but I didn’t know anyone who had used it. All the natural-minded mamas I knew did Bradley, and thought it was great. And it is a good course for learning lots of things about childbirth and what to expect.

The Hypnobabies web site didn’t appear too user-friendly and I thought it looked a little wacky, with the picture of the lady snoozing with some earphones. I didn’t look into it any further at the time. Our health insurance would pay for our Bradley course, but not the Hypnobabies home study so that was another factor in me choosing Bradley.

Karen was debating whether to do Bradley or the much cheaper Hypnobabies and she went with that one, so I thought I’d give it another look.

I bought the home study during a 20% off sale and officially began the course when I was 27 weeks pregnant. I blogged about each week (see my sidebar for links).

I was really impressed with it all. There was a lot of information in the course pack and I thought it gave a good overview of birth.

My husband read the “Birth Partner Guide” but I had him skip the regular course pack since he was really short on time and I knew he’d know most of that sort of information from Bradley anyway.

I faithfully made my way through the study, doing all the readings and listening to the tracks most of the time. I missed a day here or there, but overall I listened to the required tracks each day. However, I did not listen to the affirmations everyday as suggested. I just listened to that track when I felt like I needed a boost. I also didn’t practice the “finger-drop technique” 5x a day like suggested. I did it during the tracks and on occasion but I didn’t do it enough. And, I didn’t use it during my birthing. I used the “release” cue instead which does the same thing.

I’d read plenty of positive Hypnobabies birth stories and I was confident that I’d have a great birth, too. And I did!

Before my birthing began, I mapped out a few ideas for how I might use Hypnobabies during the birth. I think this step is pretty important. Hypnobabies gives you a ton of tools and lots of tracks, and it might be hard to know what you want to do when you’re in the moment. Lots of excitement going on, ya know?

I listened to the “Birth Day Affirmations” and “Easy First Stage” after I was full-term, but before birth. I wanted to know what was on those particular tracks in advance of the birth, so I could know if I’d want to hear them. I really liked the affirmations, but the Easy First Stage track I wasn’t sure about. I thought it would be good if my birthing was progressing more slowly, perhaps. But it was moving along at a nice clip.

After I had my first two “this is it!” pressure waves, I loaded the Birth Day Affirmations track and listened to that while in bed. I listened to that track again a few more times throughout the birth: While at home, and aloud at the birth center.

The only other thing I listened to during birth was my choral hymns playlist. I knew that I might want calming music to remind me of God’s presence. Nothing like a good hymn to do that!

I didn’t want to listen to any other HB tracks during the birth, but that’s fine.

My doula and my husband used the “release,” “relax,” and “peace” cues to help me stay focused and relaxed and that helped. They also reminded me of my “special place” and I’m glad they did, because I completely forgot about it until they brought it up!

One of the other conditioned responses that we learn in Hypnobabies is that when our birth partner places his hand on our forehead or shoulder, it instantly relaxes us more. Shane and Emily often each had a hand on me — one on my head and another on my shoulder.

I was unsure of how I’d feel about it during the birth, but it actually did help me so much. I did relax my body further when I felt their touch. And it let me know that they were right there with me to support me and be present for me.

We could have used the “Change of plans” script printed in the birth partner’s guide when I was transferring to the hospital, but we didn’t think of it. It was ok — I already had accepted that this would probably happen and I had come to terms with it.

The biggest thing I think Hypnobabies did for me was the cumulative effect of hearing positive birthing messages day after day. After about 13 weeks of hearing about how I would have a comfortable, beautiful birthing (and lots of other great messages) I really did believe it on a conscious and unconscious level.

My overall experience wasn’t painful, though toward the end it became so, but it was still extremely manageable. I felt calm through most of my 9-hour labor.

I did not have a markedly noticeable transition period, though we think it happened sometime after my water broke at the hospital. A song came on my iPod that wasn’t supposed to be on that playlist and I was instantly annoyed and snapped for them to turn it off. Emily did that, and she had trouble at first and Shane stepped over to assist, but I quickly said, “Shane don’t leave me!” and he didn’t.

Sometime around that point, Emily noticed I had started to sweat and tremble a little and suspected maybe that was my transition time.

But beyond that, I didn’t show any other signs.

The Bradley Method teaches us about three “emotional signposts” that the laboring mom exhibits: Excitement, seriousness, and self-doubt. I had wondered why Hypnobabies didn’t talk about these signposts, since I thought they were really key in knowing where you were in the birth process.

It’s possible they don’t include these because the signposts aren’t the same for a Hypno-mom. My serious phase came on fairly soon in labor and still there were plenty of points while at the birth center where I needed to be serious and focused during a wave, but immediately after it was over, I returned to casual conversation and joking here and there. Toward the end, I was serious in between, too.

I never had self-doubt. I never said, “I can’t do this anymore” or anything like that. I never felt that I couldn’t do it. I did have that signpost with Johnny’s birth.

I also didn’t experience the burning ring of fire when Vivienne was crowning. I felt that with Jonathan! But with her during my last push, I felt her descend really low and I knew I could wait for one more contraction, or I could keep going and get her out now. I chose to keep pushing and my vocalizations went up an octave or two, and out she came! But no burning, and no tearing.

Transition passing without much notice and no ring of fire seem to be fairly common among other Hypno-mom’s birth stories.

Lastly, one of the bonus tracks I listened to had us visualize our birth. I thought I’d want an 8-hour birth (too much quicker and it would be more intense than I wanted, and too much longer might zap my energy, plus I’d want to be done so I could get home!). I ended up with just under a 9-hour birth.

I wanted to have a bit of pre-birthing waves to dilate and efface me and get some of the preliminary work out of the way, so that when things really started up, it would go faster. I did have a few weeks of that.

I wanted to be woken up from sleep with good, strong waves. I got one full sleep cycle in before I was woken up around 1 a.m. with a wave that I knew was the real thing. I also wanted it to begin at nighttime so that my husband would already be home.

I wanted to progress quickly enough so that I could head into the birth center before morning rush. We got to the center around 5 a.m.

I wanted my water to stay intact until I was close to pushing, to minimize risk of infection from internal exams and to keep things at a more comfortable level. My water broke at the onset of labor with Jonathan and that was more of a challenge. With Vivienne, it broke at the hospital after I was at least 7 cm, but probably more. She was born about 50 minutes after that.

So really, my birth went almost exactly as I had pictured. There were a few sub-plots that I didn’t want (transferring to the hospital and preeclampsia come to mind!) but I still had mentally prepared for those possibilities and I just went with it.

Laura wanted to know if I’d recommend pregnant ladies go straight to Hypnobabies or if I thought it would be good for them to do Bradley first.

Shane and I talked about it, and we both think Bradley is great for preparing the dad. The in-person format helps make sure they do the work and it provides a forum for them to ask questions. I think it does a great job in teaching the dad how to be a helpful birth coach and to learn many aspects of childbirth. I’m glad we have that Bradley experience.

But I don’t think Bradley prepared me as much as it could have. It told me to relax but it didn’t teach me how in a way that really helped me.

Hypnobabies taught me how to relax and how to have a comfortable, pleasant birthing. How to trust and listen to my body. And how childbirth doesn’t have to be painful throughout.

Since we did the home study, it was up to us to be disciplined enough to have Shane do the work. We didn’t make time for it like we should have. Hypnobabies does offer an in-person course that’s slightly different from the home study, and that might be more effective, especially for first-timers.

Still, with the right attitude and commitment from the mom and dad, I think a first-time parent can have great success with the home study. They should both read all the materials and be diligent with listening to the tracks.

For parents who used Bradley for a previous birth but would like something more? Yeah. Get Hypnobabies.

If I’m fortunate enough to have more children, I will absolutely use Hypnobabies again.

Posted under hypnobabies | 9 Comments »
Dec 26 2010

The recovery

Immediately after Vivienne was born, I felt pretty good. The placenta came out without a whole lot of to-do, but the midwife needed to check and make sure it all came out. I think. Can’t really remember, since I was paying attention to Vivienne. I’ll have to ask her what that was all about.

Then, there was concern that my uterus wasn’t clamping down as it should, or there was bleeding problems or something. I’ll have to ask her again what happened with that. She mentioned giving me Cytotec and I was really confused. I said, “Isn’t that linked to uterine rupture?” but apparently just if you’re pregnant. And I wasn’t. But I guess another minute later, things were looking better, and I just had Pitocin for bleeding instead.

I very fortunately didn’t need stitches, and I could tell right away that my bottom would be in much better shape for it!

I had tons of adrenaline pumping and I felt really strong, though tired.

We got Vivienne to nurse right away and unfortunately I wasn’t too careful with how I had her latch, and she gave me a blister. Whoops. It didn’t cause any long-lasting problems, though the lactation consultant who visited me gave me a shield to use for a feeding or more while it healed. It did heal fast.

Vivienne has a little bit of a tongue tie, so her latch is taking a little more work. We’re going to have her looked at by a pediatric ear nose & throat doc soon to see if it needs any attention.

They brought me a hearty breakfast and wow, the first meal you have after giving birth is just phenomenal.

I was up and moving around to go to the bathroom and such, and I was up again when the nurse came in the room to tell me that, whaddya know, I have pre-eclampsia. This was probably around 2 p.m.

At the birth center on two separate occasions, they checked my urine for leaking protein and there was none. However, the birth center used a dipstick that just gives a qualitative look at what’s going on. But still, while I was at the birth center I just had high blood pressure but no signs of protein leaking.

Oh, and I also had to give a urine sample at the hospital, but they used a catheter. This was after she was born. I hate those things. The lab result for that was 600 whatever units of protein. NOT good.

Into the bed I went. They started me on an IV drip of magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures.

At first, I felt fine. I was like, oh ugh, I have preeclampsia again, and being on the mag is going to stink, but whatever. I convinced the nurse to let me get out of bed to use the bathroom. I didn’t want to be stuck in bed since that’s annoying and I wanted my body to keep moving.

The overseeing OB originally wanted me to have a urine catheter and I was like, “Heck no. What else can we do?” They needed to measure my output to make sure my kidney function was still good. So they let me go on the potty and I had to go in a little bowl to measure how much I went each time.

Did you know it’s possible to have a two-pound pee? I seriously did 32 ounces once, and 28-30 ounces on several more occasions. My bladder must have been gigantic. It probably was mostly the IV fluids going through me, but also the extra water weight from being pregnant.

Shane left sometime around 4 or 5 to get Johnny.

I enjoyed my liquid dinner. They make you have clear liquids to eat because the magnesium supposedly hinders your digestion and you’re really likely to throw up or something. Ugggh. Broth, Jell-o, juice and maybe something else. Gross and not energy-replenishing. And why all the high-fructose corn syrup and other junk in so much hospital food?

At 7 p.m. there was a shift change, and my new nurse did not like that I was getting up to go to the bathroom. She told me that even if I felt fine, I could still have a seizure and if I was out of bed that could be really dangerous. I was so annoyed at her, but I listened since I didn’t want to get on her bad side.

She pointed out that I had “brisk” reflexes, which just means they’re really hyper and signs that I’m not as ok as I thought.

They brought me a bed pan every time I needed to go. It’s really not easy for me to hit the target, especially when I was taking gigantic pees every time. At least I didn’t have to do any laundry.

The night continued and I started feeling worse. The mag has a cumulative effect on you and the longer you’re on it, the worse you feel. I was feeling weak, hot, and just lousy in a way that I’ve never felt aside from being on that medicine.

I think it was getting closer to midnight that I developed a really bad headache. It could have been the mag, or it could have been because my BP was still high. I asked for some pain meds for it. The nurse offered Tylenol or percocet. I knew Tylenol wouldn’t do anything so I went with percocet.

Mistake. It made me feel horrible. Sort of a freak-out feeling. Headache was still there, and I felt worried about myself and just generally really lousy.

I ended up paging the nurse again, telling her I didn’t feel right and wanted to see if there was anything they could do. My BP kept going up. She gave me a Benadryl and called the OB.

My BP was in the 170s/110s range. When the blood pressure cuff was going off, it felt like it was going to squeeze my arm off. My veins were bulging and it hurt! This is a scary range for your blood pressure to be in. You can have seizures or a stroke or other problems.

My vision was sorta weird and blurry at that point — another symptom of pre-e. Or side effect from the drugs.

The OB came in and he had them give me something in my IV to lower my pressure. It worked pretty fast, and I almost immediately felt better. I wish they just tried to lower my pressure in the first place when my headache was bad, because it was probably the problem.

My pressure readings went to the safe range and I felt like I was finally able to get some rest. I hadn’t slept since I woke up in labor the day before, so it was more than 24 hours of being awake.

I sent Vivienne to the nursery at that time, because I knew that if I wanted to get better, I truly needed a little sleep. I told them that it would be ok to give her a bottle. I would NOT be comfortable with this if it was my first baby, because breastfeeding was (and is) so important to me, and I would have been scared about it giving her problems with me later.

But this time, I knew that at least I had prior experience, and a few bottles would probably be ok. My son never had a drop of formula, and before Vivienne left the hospital she had maybe three bottles. Sorry, Vivie. I just needed my rest so that I could be a better mom for her.

I sent for Vivienne around 5:30 or so when I woke up, and I felt so much better after finally getting a little sleep and getting my BP under control.

That morning, they decided I was better and they stopped my magnesium around 9 a.m. instead of having it go the full 24 hours. What a relief! I almost immediately felt better. Maybe a half an hour later, I got up to go to the bathroom and move around a little bit, and they moved me to a regular recovery room.

They took Vivie for her pediatric checkup and they took forever to bring her to me. I was annoyed that they gave her another bottle instead of bringing her straight to me.

This time, I was classified as having severe preeclampsia. With Johnny it was just in the mild range.
Though the cure for pre-e is delivery, the disease can still crop up in moms up to 6 weeks postpartum. Crazy!

I am at risk for developing pre-e with future pregnancies. I do hope for more than two children, so this is something we’re really going to have to watch. I’m going to have hospital births from here on out, since in both cases my pre-e came on while I was in labor, or shortly after. I’d like to meet with a perinatologist to see if they can pinpoint anything I can do to have safer pregnancies and births.

Since I did have this with Johnny, I was able to learn about it a lot more after he was born and I think that helped me to be more prepared for having it again. I was aware of the signs and the severity of the disease, and I already knew the type of treatment I’d need. I also vaguely suspected I’d develop it again, so that helped me to prepare for a hospital birth even though I set out to be at a birth center.

Dec 23 2010

The birth of Vivienne Elise

My sweet daughter, Vivienne Elise, was born at 9:46 a.m. on Friday, December 17, 2010 at 40 weeks 1 day gestation. Her birth was an incredible experience! I do long birth stories (see Johnny’s birth story)! I debated whether to do a shorter version for my blog, but I figured you could just skim.

The Due Date

From the time I was full-term, I had been experiencing plenty of Braxton Hicks contractions, coupled with a few stronger ones here or there. It was never consistent or frequent enough for me to think birth was coming soon. I just figured my body was gradually preparing for birth. In fact, I sort of hoped it would do lots of preliminary work — a little bit of effacement and dilation and getting her into the proper position — well before the actual birth began. That way I’d have more energy when the time came.

In the morning of December 16 (my 40-week date), I had contractions that started to seem like they were coming in a pattern. They weren’t strong and I was unsure if they would progress into something more. I asked Shane to stay home until 7 a.m. (he usually leaves at 6) while I listened to “Baby Come Out” on my Hypnobabies playlist to see if that could inspire her to keep it moving.

It didn’t.

Shane ended up working from home that day and that helped me feel safe to go into labor if I was going to. I didn’t want him to be at work when it started.

Johnny and I went to the mall to walk. We shared a pretzel and played at the mall playground for awhile. I was a little disappointed that no one asked when I was due. I thought it would be fun to say, “Today! Watch out!”

It was a great last outing with my then-only child.

That evening, I went to bed around 11.

It’s Time!

I woke up at 1:09 a.m. with a contraction. I knew this was the real deal, the way the wave started in my back and worked its way around me. I went to the bathroom and laid back down. Another one came about 10 minutes later. Yep, these were the good sort of contractions I’d been waiting for. I popped on my “Birth Day Affirmations” track from Hypnobabies to keep my head on straight.

A few more good ones came and went, and I got up to get a bowl of Cheerios. I opened Contraction Master to start timing these things. It truly didn’t take much time for me to get into a 4-minute apart, 60-second duration pattern.

My contraction log isn’t perfect as I was on the phone, in the bathroom, or puttering around during some. Oh, and I did NOT have a 4+ minute long contraction. That was an error, phew.

Even though things hadn’t been happening for long, I decided to call the midwife at 2 a.m. I told her that these weren’t really strong yet, but I probably would want to head in before morning rush hour began. I was just starting to need to be quiet during each wave. She told me to keep on doing what I was doing and to call back when I was on my way.

Johnny must have heard me talking, because he wandered into the kitchen at that time. I carried him into my room and put him in bed next to Shane, where he promptly fell back asleep. Shane noticed that I was up and on the phone and got up to see what in the world was going on. Oh, just in labor. No big deal — but eat something!

My next phone call was to Emily, my fantastic doula, so she could be aware. This was around 2:15. I also called Renee who would be watching Johnny so she would know, too.

After that, I just tried to keep my excitement down so I wouldn’t get adrenaline overload. I needed to keep focused.

I had my iPod playing the birth day affirmations, and then I switched to my choral hymns playlist.

Shane put together some last-minute items, I got dressed, and we got Johnny ready to leave. We were out the door sometime around 4:30.

I updated my Facebook status at 4:19 with a pre-determined line: “It’s 10.6 miles to the birth center, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half our kids’ car seats are occupied, it’s cold, and we’re packing swimsuits.” It was a Blues Brothers reference and I am so glad that at least one person picked up on that!

I realized that I had been in labor for about three hours, and I was surprised because it didn’t feel nearly that long. One of the lines on some of the Hypnobabies tracks is, “Every 20 minutes will only feel like 5 to you.” Maybe that helped.

Shane got Johnny in the car while I leaned over the rail outside and had another contraction. Traffic was minimal and the roads were great. My waves were coming steadily but being in the car wasn’t that big of a deal. We went through the Fort Pitt Tunnel while I had another surge and I thought that was kind of cool. It faded as the stunning Pittsburgh skyline came into view.

The Birth Center

We pulled up to the birth center and I jumped out so I could get inside and get situated in the Forest Room.

It was about 5 a.m.

Renee came to take Johnny to her house. I was relieved that she was there, because I knew I couldn’t fully relax until I knew he was fine.

I was 4 cm dilated and was happy about that. I didn’t feel like I was much further than that, based on how my surges felt, and I remember just how much work it took for me to get to 4 cm with Johnny. Things were going much faster this time!

By this point, my eyes were closed and I was being quiet or quietly humming during each wave.

The nurse asked if I wanted to call them waves, surges, rushes, contractions or whatnot. I don’t actually have a problem with the word “contraction,” but Hypnobabies encourages us to call them waves since “contraction” can have a negative connotation. I ended up just saying, “Here comes another one” or something like that.

My first blood pressure reading was 140/90. Not good.

Over the last few weeks, my blood pressure had been creeping upward and we were closely monitoring this in case I developed pre-ecclampsia, as I had done during the birth of my son. Pre-ecclampsia is a relatively common, but potentially serious pregnancy complication.

It is high blood pressure coupled with protein leaking in the urine. If untreated, it can lead to seizures and organ damage, among other things.

I was disappointed in that first blood pressure reading. I knew that if my pressure stayed at that level, I would need to transfer to the hospital for the birth. If my baby needed to be born at the hospital, that was totally fine with me. I wasn’t dead-set on a birth center birth; rather, I just wanted to be where my baby could be born.

The last thing I wanted was to transfer to the hospital during rush hour while I was even further in labor.

We got my iPod dock out and I was listening to the birth day affirmations. During the waves, I sat mostly upright on the edge of the bed and leaned over an exercise ball to support my weight. This felt nice.

Everyone was encouraging me to relax as much as I could in the hopes that maybe it was just adrenaline and stress raising my blood pressure. I asked to get in the tub. I wasn’t sure if it would be a great idea since I wasn’t that far along in labor and I didn’t want things to stall, but the nurse quickly agreed.

I hadn’t yet lost my modesty, so I put on my $1 swim suit top that I bought for this purpose and got into the jacuzzi tub.

The tub was deep and jetted and felt wonderful. The bathroom itself looked like one you might find at a fancy hotel. Between that and someone offering me sips of water every so often, it sorta felt like I was being really spoiled!

During a quiet moment, Shane and I prayed. He prayed for the birth to go safely and for us to be the parents that God created us to be.

I tried a few positions in the tub to see where I felt most comfortable when a wave hit. I found the most comfort in a slightly deflated, oblong exercise ball thing and leaned over it. It floated and supported my weight nicely and it all felt right.

Shane or Emily poured water over my back, and put their hands on my shoulder and forehead during each surge. In Hypnobabies, we conditioned ourselves to deepen our relaxation when our birth partner put their hands in those places. It did help me to relax further, but it also helped me to know that they were RIGHT THERE with me. I wasn’t alone. I had their full support and that meant so much to me.

During the waves, in a low tone I’d say “open, open, open” which served a few purposes. It kept me focused on my task of, well, opening. It kept my face relaxed, and keeping tension out of your face often helps keep tension out of other parts. Sometimes I just said, “baby, baby, baby” so that I could remind myself that my baby wanted to come out. Sounds silly, but there was a point in Johnny’s birth where I sort of forgot why in the world I was in the state I was in. It’s because there’s a baby who wants to come out!

We chatted between each one and I felt so comfortable and relaxed. I knew that I was still in the earlier stages of things. Deep down, I couldn’t fully surrender to the birthing process because I was still concerned about my blood pressure.

They checked my blood pressure again at 6 a.m., and it was even higher. Bummer. The midwife wasn’t completely convinced I needed to transfer though, so she consulted with two other midwives about my situation. One of them, who was on call and about to go into the hospital, wanted me to head in.

So I got out of the tub (with a lot of help) and got dressed (with even more help). But the midwife wanted to consult with their midwife/director first, and the two of them agreed that for now I was ok to stay there.

They agreed to keep watching me for a time. Back into the tub I went! Oh, and at this point I was 6 cm.

I started feeling a slight touch of nausea during a couple of surges. More signs of progress!

They did another blood pressure check, and whatever it was, it was a bad result and there was no more grey area — I had to go to the hospital.

It was about 7:30.

I was out of the tub and sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to get dressed once again. Emily did all of the dressing work, since I really was unable to do anything but just be in labor. I needed a bucket, and the nurse was fast to get me one! Out came my Cheerios.

Throwing up could be a sign of being in transition — the period where you rapidly finish dilating to complete. But I knew that my mental state and ability to talk just didn’t feel like transition. I knew there was still a bit of time left.

I was about 7cm at that point and saying “oh” or “ah” throughout each wave. I really needed to work through each one, but I was still felt fine.

The Hospital

Shane loaded me up in our car and Emily buckled me in. You know you’re in serious concentration in labor when you can’t even buckle your own seat belt. I switched on my hymns and tried to sing along.

It was 7:45 and we were driving through downtown during morning rush hour. Oh, goody.

Absolutely not ideal, but hey — it wasn’t snowing! And it was only three miles.

I knew that I had to keep it together. If I panicked, I might not be able to regain my composure later, when I would most need it. So I prayed. And I focused on the words of the beautiful hymns. I kept my eyes wide open and took in the scenery.

I looked at the parade of business people making their way to work, and the buses and cars and all the commotion of the morning. I wondered if anyone saw me. I watched them and talked to my daughter, mentally trying to tell her to stop — that she was not where she could safely be born.

She seemed to get that message, because I’m convinced that my waves did space out a bit in the car.

We traveled down a brick road, and Shane tried to avoid the biggest ruts. I felt one slightly pushy wave, and I told Shane to just get me there and not worry about the ruts.

Part of me was actually thinking, “Well, this part makes my story a little more interesting at least.” Hah!

We finally arrived at the ER entrance of Mercy Hospital. They knew I was coming, so I was annoyed that no one was out there waiting for me.

I walked in as quickly as I could, and told the lady at the desk, “I’m in labor, and I’m close.” No one really moved. She asked my name and birthdate while I leaned over the counter to get through another wave. She had me sign some forms. I hope they were harmless ones, because I certainly didn’t read any of it.

Shane got a wheelchair for me.

I sat. I spotted two police officers sitting nearby in the waiting room, looking bored.

No one there seemed to feel my urgency.

“Why am I still here? Let’s go!” I said.

Some man said, “Wow, people are pushy around here!” and I was like…wow. YES, I’m feeling pushy! What, do these people want me to just take off my pants and have her in the waiting room? Because I might.

The orderly came and got me, and he wasn’t running and that sorta bummed me out. I kept listening to my iPod and was trying to just keep calm and focused. Then I realized he was trying to chat with me.

Um, what?!

He then had me get out of the wheel chair so I could be weighed. Good grief! I could ball park my weight — was this really necessary?! Another wave hit and I loudly said “ohhhhhh” through it, while leaning over the scale, and then the guy realized, oh, this lady really is in labor. And he told me I could sit back down even before the numbers finished stabilizing on the screen.

He got me to room 5009. I got out of that dang chair, took off my clothes, and knew I was finally where I could safely give birth. I could finally surrender to the process.

I sat on the edge of the bed and wondered why it was just Shane and I in the room. I wanted water, but he couldn’t find any cups. I was so relieved when Emily came in!

She got me ice chips, which was all I was allowed to have. “Oh for pete’s sake!” I told her, to her amusement. Because really, ice is just really cold water. So why couldn’t I have it in my chosen form? Ugh.

The nurse walked in and started my heparin lock and took some blood. I recognized her from a few weeks ago when I had a nonstress test. She told me she hoped she wouldn’t see me again — that I would have my birth center birth and all would be well. Well, whoops, we meet again, miss nurse!

The heparin lock and bloodwork process took awhile and I was really annoyed. I just wanted to be able to change positions and get back to work. During one wave, I remember reaching for the nurse’s hand. She had no choice but to hold it until I gave it back. It’s not like I would let her stick me with a needle during a wave!

Shane and Emily were supporting my weight, applying pressure on my back, and just generally being present for me.

While I sat there on the edge of the bed, my water broke. What a weird feeling! It felt like I sat on a balloon that had popped, and suddenly fluid was everywhere. This happened at 8:50.

Fortunately, the nurse was finally done taking blood and setting the heparin lock. I climbed over onto the bed and sat in a modified supported squat since that’s what felt best at the time.

I was feeling a bit pushy, but not overwhelmingly so. I wanted to just take my time and let my baby guide her way out.

The waves changed. I was now saying, “Ugghhh” through each, and I knew that my changing in tones to this particular sound signaled that I really was in the pushing stage and I was probably completely dilated.

I didn’t want a check at first, because those aren’t pleasant. So we waited a few minutes.

I asked for them to raise some stirrups because I wanted to have something for my body to brace against. They placed some really low, so that I could still be really upright.

Things were getting really powerful now. I knew that she was coming very soon. I gave myself a little pep talk aloud, something about how she was coming soon, and how this was ok, and how I needed to let this happen and not hold back.

When Johnny was born, I had a pretty lousy tear that needed surgery to correct. I didn’t want that to happen again. And I knew that the fear of tearing could impede my pushes. Hence the pep talk.

I wanted my body to guide my pushes, rather than being coached to hold my breath, bear down, and give it all I had for 10 seconds at a time (like I was with Johnny).

Somewhere around this time, the midwife checked me and told me I could push whenever I wanted — that I was completely dilated.

I must have been in transition at some point on that hospital bed, but it went by mostly unnoticed. Emily saw that I was starting to sweat and tremble a bit, but those were the only signs I displayed.

So during these waves, my body automatically gave slight pushes to move her further down. I didn’t do much to help push her along. I just gave small little pushy efforts at first.

She was getting extremely low and it became obvious to the room that she would be born very soon. My midwife knew that I was concerned about tearing, and she wanted to encourage me to get on my side, since that’s a good anti-tearing position.

I rolled onto my left side and pulled my knees up toward me. Shane was facing me and Emily was on my other side, giving me lots of counter-pressure on my back. My amniotic fluid was dripping into a river on the floor, they tell me.

It seems like I only had a few waves like this. Maybe three? I pushed fairly hard with the first one like this, but I didn’t want it to be full-force. I heard the midwife or nurse tell me that she moved pretty far, and that it was going well.

They wanted me to make sure my right leg was up and out of the way for when she actually came out. And I was concerned about getting a leg cramp, of all things. I’m not the most flexible. But, I had been doing some Pilates exercises to strengthen my legs in anticipation of pushing this way.

Shane helped to hold my leg out of the way and I pushed once more. I could feel her descending really low now. Lots of pressure!

The midwife said it would probably only take one more contraction for her to be out.

I had a few minutes in between to rest and contemplate it all. I decided I was finally done with being pregnant. I wasn’t in pain really, but I was plenty uncomfortable and getting tired. I knew that the sooner she was born, the sooner my body would be getting back to normal. I was done with all of it, finally.

I told them that I was going to push her out with this next surge.

It came, and Shane held my leg and I gave it all I had. I was surprised when I felt her head come out, because I never felt the “ring of fire” that I experienced with Johnny. And I paused for a moment, and kept on pushing and she was born at 9:46 a.m., just under 9 hours of labor.

She cried immediately and looked fantastic. They helped me to lift her onto my belly where I held her until the umbilical cord stopped pulsing (only took a moment) and Shane cut the cord. I lifted her closer to me so we could nurse.

She was healthy, alert, and so beautiful.

The placenta came out soon after, and they gave me a shot of Pitocin in my IV line as a preventative measure against excessive bleeding.


I was really surprised to learn that Vivienne was 8 lbs. 2 oz.! That’s almost two pounds heavier than her brother. I was measuring small during my pregnancy and I didn’t feel huge. But I was even more surprised to learn that I didn’t actually have a bad tear. I had a slight blip that the midwife said could use just one stitch if I wanted, but I could also just let it heal as-is. Phew! What a relief.

I credit being on my side, but also I think just letting my body control the pushes, rather than pushing as hard as I could right away really helped. It helped my body stretch at a slower, more controlled rate.

When I pushed with Johnny, I gave each push all the effort I had. I was coached to “purple push,” holding my breath and bearing down for 10 seconds at a time. I didn’t feel any pain with those pushes, just a lot of power. And since I was on magnesium sulfate (it makes your muscles really relaxed and kind of worthless), maybe I did need some coaching for that birth.

But with Vivienne, since I wasn’t bearing down with all my might the entire time, I didn’t numb the nerves in my bottom and I felt it more. It sorta hurt but mostly it was just really uncomfortable and I wanted it to end.

Even though at first I thought I wouldn’t want to transfer to the hospital — I’d rather just go straight to the hospital if I needed to be there — I think her birth was exactly as it should have been. I’m glad I showed up at the birth center relatively early on. I didn’t want Johnny to be freaked out. I wanted time to get settled there. And laboring at the birth center was really enjoyable and spa-like. I wouldn’t have had that experience at the hospital.

Plus, if they started bloodwork on me, maybe the pre-e diagnosis would have come back before she was born. Pushing out a baby while on magnesium sulfate is much harder.

So now the big question — did Hypnobabies help me have a pain-free birth? I didn’t expect a totally painless birth, and Hypnobabies doesn’t promise that. But it does help moms have a more comfortable, peaceful birth.

And I’d absolutely say it was a peaceful, reasonably comfortable birth. There was never any point in the process where I felt like I was in horrible pain. I didn’t think, “ow, this hurts!” or “I want an epidural!” I just felt pretty calm throughout, and I experienced the waves as intense, powerful pressure. I was tuned in with my body. Toward the end, it got uncomfortable and hurt. I mostly just wanted her to be born to end my discomfort — I didn’t want any drugs or anything.

Please don’t misunderstand me — labor didn’t feel “good.” The sensations I felt weren’t the kind that I’d want to have happen all day every day. I was happy it was happening and I wanted it to continue so that she’d be born. But I wasn’t suffering. At the time, it just felt really intense to me and I’m really and truly not remembering the experience as full of pain, even though there probably was pain.

I do think Hypnobabies helped tremendously! I’ll write more about Hypnobabies specifically, and my recovery period will also need a separate update.

Because as it turns out, I developed severe pre-eclampsia. And that stunk. More to come.

Nov 27 2010

How might I use Hypnobabies during the birth?

I’ve provided a little overview of each week of Hypnobabies coursework, but how exactly is this going to work when my baby decides to come?

We’ll see what I actually do, but here are some possibilities. And, here’s a cheat sheet that one Hypnobabies educator put together.

When I start feeling regular pressure waves (contractions) or if my water breaks, I will know that the birthing could be coming really soon.

With Johnny’s birth, my water broke ahead of any other signs of birth. It caught me way by surprise and I was a bit frazzled. If a similar scenario happens again, I’ll have a few things I can do to help me focus and shake off the jittery excitement so I can get to work.

So, I’ll eat something, drink something, and go to sleep if it’s nighttime. If it’s daytime, I might eat, drink, and do some last-minute packing or housework to keep busy and see if things continue or if they fizzle out.

While I am doing that, I can play the “Birthing Day Affirmations” track aloud on my iPod dock, laptop, or put on my headphones.

That will help me stay positive and get in the right mental mindset. I’ve listened to this track a few times now, and I really like it for this purpose.

If things are indeed progressing, then I could get comfortable with pillows on my bed and listen to the “Fear Clearing” track. This is one that we were introduced to in week 5, and it helps us address and release any fears or concerns we might have. It’s suggested that we listen to this track in the early birthing time to quell any anxiety or issues, and I think that’s a reasonable idea.

Next, I can see how I feel and whether it seems like I have some time yet before I’ll want to head into the birth center, or if I want to keep focused with birthing prep at home.

I can listen to music (I’m going to put together a few playlists), or if I want to stay with Hypnobabies, I could listen to “Your Special Place” or “Easy, Comfortable Childbirth.” These two tracks were introduced in the first week and are a part of the maintenance schedule, and I really like them both. They’re good for helping you to relax and have positive birthing thoughts.

The “Deepening” track comes recommended at this time, but it’s not one of my favorites so I probably won’t listen to it during birth.

Or, I could put on “Easy first stage” which is a track that isn’t a part of the regular program — it’s to listen to only after 38 weeks. I’ll preview it when I hit that point so I can know what’s on it.

I can cycle through any of those tracks as time progresses to keep me relaxed and focused. I’ll probably listen to something in the car ride to the birth center, too. With headphones, so I won’t distract Shane.

I plan to ignore as many early pressure waves as I can, since I expect those to be extremely mild and I will probably be able to walk and talk through them no trouble. But once I need to consciously relax during them, then I will use my finger-drop technique or “release” cue to put my mental light switch into the “off” position.

You may recall that this position is a conditioned response that I’ve created. It allows me to very quickly reach extreme relaxation, and sensations of pain are reduced or eliminated. If I want to move around, have my eyes open, or talk, I can then move my light switch to the “center” position and still have hypno-anesthesia in the center part of my body. I can move it around and concentrate it where I may need it using my “peace” cue.

I will visualize and tell my body to open, open, open and that I welcome each powerful wave, which brings me that much closer to meeting my daughter.

At this point, I will really just need to see how I’m feeling and what I’m in the mood for hearing. I might want quiet. I might want songs, or something in the Hypnobabies set. I might want Shane or my doula to speak some prompts or simple words of encouragement to me. Hard to say. We’ll roll with it.

There’s also a “pushing your baby out” track that I can listen to aloud once it comes time to push. I’m going to preview that soon as well to get an idea for what’s on it.

I love how there’s a variety of things I can choose to do during the birth. Last time, I felt like I needed to get my body through each contraction, and once things got really intense I had nowhere for my mind to focus. I hadn’t practiced that part, and I hadn’t pre-selected a few things to concentrate on. Now, I’ll have plenty of options.

Like any extreme exertion, childbirth is as much mental work as it is physical. And now I’m going to go all high-school-sport-quote on you: “What the mind can believe, the body can achieve.”

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Nov 16 2010

Hypnobabies bonus tracks and maintenance schedule

Once you complete week 5 of your home study, you’re in maintenance mode until the birth. The track recommendations are:

– Special Place
– Deepening
– Hypnotic Childbirth #1
– Easy, Comfortable Childbirth
– Deepening
– Hypnotic Childbirth #2
– Fear Clearing

You just listen to one of those per day, going down the list. Also, listen to the affirmations track. I might start listening to birthing day affirmations once I hit 38w instead of the joyful pregnancy affirmations.

I don’t listen to the affirmations each day, but I do listen to them when I feel like I need a boost. Or, if I’m in the car, I can listen to it there.

I usually listen to the tracks at night before bedtime. Most are roughly 30 minutes long.

I have a number of bonus tracks that I got for my Hypnobabies course. Here’s a quick overview of what I have (and there are several more available on their web site for download or CD purchase).

Visualize Your Birth — I am really surprised that this isn’t automatically a part of the course! It’s a longer track — about 50 minutes or so. It walks you through the whole birth, helping you visualize every step of the way. We did visualizations when I was in cross-country and track, and I truly think they helped me perform better on race day. I also think this track will help with preparing for birth. I’m listening to it once per week or so, roughly, as a part of my maintenance schedule.

Birth Partner Be Calm and Confident — this is a track for Shane. I don’t know what he thinks of it. I heard it once, and it helps to relax you but I thought the introduction was a little too conversational. Probably intentional, but it’s not the same as other HB tracks. I’ll ask him what he thinks.

Baby, Stay IN! — I downloaded this track when I was having preterm contractions in October. I was really annoyed at my body for doing that. I strongly suspected there was a full moon, and wouldn’t ya know it, there was! This track truly did stop those contractions and helped me get back to sleep. I’ll probably need it again for the next full moon around the 21st or so. The week before Jonathan was born was a full moon and I had contractions as close as 2 minutes apart for awhile. I didn’t go into the hospital because I was already full-term and I wasn’t really showing signs of active labor, other than the frequent contractions (which fizzled out, obviously). But still! I think this is a helpful track for stopping those annoying preterm waves.

Peaceful Sleep Now, expectant moms — Helps you if you have insomnia or just difficulty falling asleep. And really, pregnant moms don’t sleep so well. You learn to program your mind to go to sleep very quickly when you want to.

After Your Baby Comes — this is a track for post-partum time, but I’m listening to it already because it has positive affirmations for when the baby is actually born. I need to hear these things now because I’m having some anxiety about the newborn time, and hearing these phrases is really helping me. Not sure how often I’ll listen to it after my daughter is here — I might just opt to sleep rather than listen. OR, I might fast-forward past the relaxation part and listen to the affirmations while nursing.

Other tracks include:

– Peaceful Sleep Now for everyone
– Come OUT, Baby!
– Fear of needles
– Eliminate Nausea Now
– Turn your breech baby
– Breastfeeding success
– Turn, posterior baby, turn!

There’s also some for VBAC moms, moms who are having c-sections, and twins. Go here to see them and get more info than I’ve provided.

If you buy the Hypnobabies course on eBay from the Hypnobabies retail store, you can often find deals of getting several of these bonus tracks. Or, Hypnobabies might be running a special promotion where you get a certain number of bonus tracks included in your order. Watch for those deals, if you’re interested!

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