Hi Nadia, I hope by now, or sometime very soon you have your own little bundle  of fun - I'm wishing you all the best. I appreciate it will now be a while before you get round to any birth  stories, but I really wanted to send mine while it's fresh in my  mind.  And also because I had such a different experience with my 2  births, I hoped somebody somewhere might find it  of some use!

Physically I coped really well with the birth of my first son James.   I had kept fit, done lots of yoga, eaten well, done my perineal  stretching and had prepared my body as well as I possibly could have  done.  I was 3/4 cm when i got to the hospital, dilated to 10 in four  hours and had a 15 minute second stage with no tearing.  However,  mentally I had the most horrific time of my life.  There were no  forceps, no flashing lights, no ventouse, but whenever I described the  birth to anyone i used the words "hideous".  I was in tears before i  even got to the hospital, ran from every contraction, i screamed "make  it stop"   "I'm not coping", I doubled over and panicked about the  next one, I was distraught about how long it would take.  Although I  knew it would be painful, I still felt extreme shock when every  contraction set in.  When my gorgeous baby boy James was born I was  99% happy that the "ordeal" was over and maybe 1% happy that my baby  had arrived.

This time, my goal was to handle the experience much more calmly.   While I thought I had prepared mentally before, I hadn't really  appreciated the dedication and practice it takes to prepare mentally -  the difference between knowing things as theory and having practiced  them so much that the techniques and thought processes kick in all by  themselves when they are needed.  We all know we are more relaxed when  we breathe properly, of course it's relaxing to imagine a nice beach,  and yes dropping your jaw and shoulders takes the tension out of your  body but I can;t stress enough - the difference between knowing and  practicing them is MASSIVE ( I know - I'm sorry i'm preaching to the  converted but allow me my little eureka moment!)

I started at about 30 weeks listening to the natal hypnotherapy cds.   They hadn't done much for me last time but I hadn't listened to them  enough - I almost dismissed them as being too obvious and wrote down  notes from them once as if cramming for an exam.  This time I listened  about 4 times a week before I went to sleep and knew they must be  doing at least something when i actually started falling asleep to them.

Then, on your recommendation, at 36 weeks I saw Lucy Symons - a  hypnotherapist who comes to your home and records you your own  personal cd.  She talked me through tips for coping - again ones that  sound obvious but need practice and repetition and i listened to her  cd in conjunction with the other one.

So the day after my due date, after a wonderful sleep I woke up  thinking what a wonderful day it would be to go into labour because it  was a weekend and we had childcare on tap for my son James.  At about  11.30 I went for a walk to the shops and started to feel a bit  twingey.  I called rob and told him it might be something, or it might  be nothing but that maybe his sister should come anyway to take  james.  At least that way we were covered.  I went home and ate bread  and jam as that's what i'd eaten the day i went into labour with james  and it felt somehow symbolic!  I was feeling a bit period painy.

At about 2.30 I watched my sister in law drive away with james and at  that point i started experiencing medium to strong period pains.   Strange how my body waited till he was safe.  They were coming every 3  minutes and lasting about a minute.  With every one I did what Lucy  taught me to do.  I counted down from 10, to 1 with each out breath.  It sounds really simple but it made my mind focus on the numbers and  not the pain .  And also by the time i got to 5 i knew i had broken  the back of it.  Meanwhile rob rubbed my back and put a hot pack on my  lower back which was wonderful.  I thought about relaxing my shoulders  and jaw which made me relax into every contraction rather than run  from it and it immediately helped.  However Rob and I were still  completely unsure about where i was with it all.  He pointed out that  i was much more compus mentus than last time.  He called my midwife (I  was lucky enough to have my own on the nhs - the same as last time)  and I was able to talk to her normally - I told her i was coping fine  and would come in when i needed gas and air - to ignore rob as he was  just worried he would have to deliver the baby at home.  The  contractions stayed the same frequency and length.  My only indication  that things were progressing were that my out breaths were moving from  blowing the candle out breaths, to "mmmmms" to sighs to groans.   focusing on keeping my voice at a low humming tone really helped.  We  just weren't really sure whether i was in labour or pre labour.

At 3.30 i went to the loo.  THe weirdest thing happened - i felt  something moving down.  "oh my god it's a head" i thought.  So i had a  feel but it felt too soft to be a head.  "oh my god i'm prolapsing"  i  thought "and how unfair to prolapse when about to have a baby".   "Rob", I shouted, "something strange is happening!"  .  He ran to the  loo just in time to hear a plop and a splash "Oh my god" he thought  "she's dropped the baby down the loo".  Well it wasn't the baby - it  was my waters breaking - i had felt them coming down in their sack.   But it did show that if rob thought i could just "drop the baby down  the loo" he didn't really appreciate the effort required for labour  and childbirth!

Anyway at that point we decided regardless of how calm and normal I  was and the fact that contractions were only a minute long we would go  to the hospital as things progressed pretty quickly after my waters  broke last time.  The taxi ride was a bit rough - I kneeled on the  back seat and as lucy had taught me, kept my eyes closed to keep  myself in my own space.

At about 4.15 my midwife met us outside with a wheelchair which she  quickly decided i didn't need so we put the luggage on it and went up  to the birthing centre.  WE all had a bit of a laugh about the "baby  down the loo/prolapse" panic.  Then we got to the room and between  contractions I joked with her about how my son had told me she was  going to dig the baby out with a spade.  I am sooo being sent home, I  thought.

Then I got up on the bed and she examined me.  "Cath!" she said, "I  have some very good news! - you're 9 CM!!!!!!!" My husband could NOT  believe it (even though i had told him women often get turned away  from hospitals when they've done hypnobirthing as people don't believe  them.  She said she wasn't going to examine me again - just to let my  body do what it wanted.

At that point my body relaxed even further.  And i think i gave myself  a bit of a break.  I stayed in one place, leaning over the bed and my  contractions shortened (I was only able to count down as far as 4 with  my out breaths and they spaced out a bit.  After an hour my midwife  stood me up and did some swaying with me - just the change in position  was enough to start the guttural contractions again.  I would count  down to 1 and then have to count back up again.  But one of the  phrases from my cd kept popping into my mind "You can choose to  perceive this contraction however you want".  It would never have come  so automatically to mind if i hadn't listened to it quite so much.   And the phrase "you will give birth to your baby with joy and  relaxation".  It sounds like a load of rubbish until it's so deeply  ingrained in your mind that you believe it!  Then she suggested a walk  across the room.  Even the few steps I took were enough to deepen the  contractions even further to that really grunting, pushing intensity.   But instead of "make it stop"  as i thought last time, I thought  "that's good, my baby's moving even lower".  I swear that kind of  calmness is totally alien to me even under daily circumstances!

6.30: It was obvious it was time to push.  I got up on the bed into  the same squatting position i had with james.  This time with rob  behind the bed with his arms under mine, supporting my weight.  I felt  the head coming out and stay there for a little bit, i felt some  stinging but all i could think was how amazing to feel my baby's  head.  then some panting, then one more push and that big satisfying  slithery feel as gorgeous, perfect, amazing baby harry came into the  world.  My second stage was 5 minutes!!  And again I hadn't torn.  He  was put on my chest immediately and all I could think was what an  amazing incredible birth. I loved every second of it and often replay  it in my head now because the whole thing was so calm and joyous  rather than some flashback to a medieval torture chamber.  My midwife  was elated - I had made the whole thing very easy for her she said.

I used to think it was a bit of a myth that you could be prepared for  childbirth but I am a classic example of someone who has been proven  totally wrong and therefore call all cynics out there to give proper  birth prep a go - but properly - with practice!  Here are the things I  am going to try and remember if there is ever a next time:
  • Keep fit
  • Yoga ( I did lots of seated forward wide leg bends and frog poses,  as last time to get my pelvis open)
  • Perineal stretching
  • Closing my eyes with every contraction so people know not to talk to  me
  • Relaxing my jaw and shoulders
  • Giving each out breath a number  - Counting down from 10 to 1 with  each out breath
  • omming, hmmming and other such noises rather than screaming
  • Realising that I don't have to DO anything - my body knows what to  do and will do it all by itself
  • Realising I'm in charge of how i perceive each contraction
  • staying in the moment and not anticipating the next contraction
  • Lots of hypnobirthing cds to remind me of all the above and make  them instinctive when the need kicks in.
I hope you have a lovely babymoon with your new baby Nadia and enjoy  lots of  warm milky sleepy cuddles.  Hopefully will see you on the  post natal circuit somewhere!

Lots of love, Cath, Rob, James and Harry xxxx