6 Essential tips that transformed my home birth experience
1 Practice makes perfect
No-one can learn to play an instrument by reading a book. Even if you attend the music classes, home practice is still required. The same principle applies to hypnobirthing. I realised that I had to do more than just read Katherine Grave’s Hypnobirthing book once and listen to the meditations at random times.
During my second pregnancy, my husband and I signed up for the complete hypnobirthing course. It was all online (thank you COVID!). We started about 5-6 months before the due date.
We practised and practised and practised.
By practice I don’t mean we practised ALL the time. We had jobs, a toddler and a life! Instead, we did a little bit nearly every day for months. Once our toddler would go to sleep, we’d go through one of the online modules, and practise one of the exercises (usually relaxations, breathing or visualisations).
Hypnobirthing Tip: be prepared for your non-pregnant partner to fall asleep during these relaxations!
The time finally came. I was just under 38 weeks. My mother had flown in that morning. That same evening I started feeling something in my lower belly.
It was as if subconsciously my body said: ‘’Ok Krish. Our support has arrived! It’s safe to get going and bring this baby into the world!’’
2 Resting as the excitement rises
It started with very gentle cramps. I had been induced with my first baby, so I hadn’t experienced these sensations in my body before. Yet, I knew this was the real thing.
I turned to my partner, smiled, and said ‘’I think you need to take tomorrow off’’.
The cramps were gentle and mild. At first they came every couple of hours. They lasted all through the night.
Thanks to all those months of preparation and the hypnobirthing course, I knew what I had to do right now: REST!
I tried to get as much rest as possible. I remember my daughter climbed into our bed in the middle of the night. I lay awake, trying very hard to rest with this nervous excitement inside of me.
I finally went into her empty bed around 2am to listen to the hypnobirthing meditations I was already so familiar with.
Around 7am, my daughter came and found me. It was still too early to get ready for school so we just sat by the sofa in our living room. I was cuddling her, which helped with the surges!
We just sat in silence looking at the sunrise. I wanted to savour this moment alone with her. I knew that once she’d come back from school everything would be different.
By now, the cramps were every 30-45 minutes and still gentle. At least they felt like that to me! I think it’s thanks to the visualisations we learnt on the course. I kept seeing ocean waves and hot air balloons every time a surge came. This helped replace the intensity with a feeling of flow and softness.
Our little 2 year old went off to school. My husband called the midwife. We knew it was still too early to call, but he couldn’t help himself!
They were pretty relaxed, ‘’Call back when the surges are 5 minutes apart and we’ll come by’’.
There was a moment of, ok, what shall we do now? We followed what we learned on the course and just chilled out together. We lay in bed, cuddled and chatted. Each time a surge came, he’d guide me with a gentle breath or a visualisation and press my lower back.
Around midday, the surges were every 5 minutes. The midwife and assistant nurse were on their way!
3 Try positive images and words
During the past weeks, I printed out positive affirmations and beautiful images and stuck them all around our flat. Thanks to the hypnobirthing approach, I had encouraging sentences behind every door. I had images of budding roses, hot air balloons, and nature all over our walls.
These kept me calm and helped me focus. Each time my mind went off in a non-helpful direction, I had a positive and beautiful thing to look at and read and change my mindset.
4 Create and retreat into your mama cave
It reached a point where I didn’t want to leave my room. My room and my en-suite bathroom were my comfort zone. There was absolutely no need for me to leave this space.
I didn’t even need my carefully curated playlist, candles, diffuser or essential oils. I thought I’d want all that when the time came, but I really didn’t! I just wanted silence, darkness in my little cave. The bright daylight from outside was bothering me too so we closed the curtains. I could feel my senses being heightened and turning inwards at the same time.
5 Water + Breath = Superpower
The surges kept coming. Becoming more frequent and stronger. My husband and I used the breath we’d learnt and practised so many times before.
We just took it one wave at a time. I kept moving, trying to find a place to be. I tried various positions on the bed, the floor and in the shower. I finally found my way into the bathtub.
Aha!! I was finally comfortable!
For about two hours, I sat in the warm tub, with my partner up on the edge of the bath. Each time a surge came I’d ask him to press his feet into my lower back. That was the only place I felt any discomfort.
People kept offering me food and drinks, but I was really not interested. I was actually dozing off!
Yes, I was falling asleep. Sleeping whilst sitting up in the bathtub in the middle of labour!
I remember a battle between my logical brain and my pregnant brain. I kept switching from my science and analytical self of ‘’what is going on? Why exactly am I falling asleep? Is this normal?’’ to this other part of me who was completely uninterested in the Hows and Whys. She was just going with the flow. She was a part of me who didn’t show herself very often.
It was now her time to shine.
I could feel the surges getting closer. I still remained so relaxed my head would flop down as I slept in between them.
Suddenly at one point, I became very aware that it had just been him and me in here for ages.
Where was everyone else? I could hear my mum, midwife and the nurse chatting over a cup of tea in the kitchen.
Wait. Aren’t they supposed to be here and watching us? Why aren’t they doing their jobs?
I somehow muttered to my husband, ‘’Please ask someone to come check on me! Remind them that we’re here. Have they forgotten us? How long is this supposed to last!?’’
My midwife came in smiling. She already knew we were doing great. I didn’t realise it at the time, but they were giving us space and privacy on purpose.
She knew we didn’t need anyone else around. My self-doubt had kicked in and I needed reassurance. After she checked my dilation, only because I asked her to! I was around 7cm dilated.
My logical/scientific brain managed to ask her about falling asleep. ‘’Why is this? Is it normal?’’. That question every naïve mother asks!
She explained that my body was doing its thing. Between the breathing and the relaxation, I was allowing my body to produce its own natural pain-killers. She reminded me that what my body was producing now was stronger than the painkiller I was given during my first birth in hospital.
WOW. Stronger than that morphine during my first birth! This was incredible.
I’d read about it. I knew the theory. I was now experiencing it in my body for the first time.
She gave me beautiful reassuring words, turned around and left us to it!
6 Don’t shy away from your inner wild mammal
At some point something changed.
There was a shift. I just HAD to get out of the tub. NOW.
I had to stand, lie on the bed and get on my knees, all at once!
I requested a hot water bottle on my lower back and someone to press hard. I had an urge to lean forwards and have hands pressing strongly on my lower back.
This is what’s referred to as the transition. One more of those many things I’d read about but didn’t realise at the time.
My breathing changed and I started making sounds. The midwife obviously heard me because she and the nurse were suddenly in our bedroom setting up.
I remember the nurse brought her coffee and left it on my bedside table. I’m a coffee lover, but that smell was suddenly disgusting! I came out of my trance and murmured random words to the effect of ‘’coffee, smell, take away’’!
I remember hearing animal noises. Where were they coming from? Was I in a barn during a full moon where all the mammals were giving birth at the same time?
Those noises were from me.
Within minutes I had transitioned from this calm and quiet water state to kneeling on my bed and mooing like a cow.
I was also moving my legs like an animal. My body didn’t feel like my body anymore.
My midwife noticed I became a bit self-conscious of the sounds and body movements. She reassured me that those noises and movements were normal. She encouraged me to continue making them. They were a good sign and it meant Baby was coming.
That gave me the permission to really tap into my inner animal self. There were no inhibitions, no shyness and no fear.
I kept moving and mooing. There was no fancy controlled breathing here. Just animal-like movements. I changed position to my side, to my knees, to a squat…each time getting louder.
7 Breath + Instinct = Power
Another instant shift. I couldn’t quite find a way to be comfortable on the bed. It was time to push.
Out of nowhere, someone magically pulled out a birthing stool and I was helped on to it.
My husband sat on the bedside and I sat in front with my back to him. He was holding my arms.
My midwife guided me through every urge to push. She told me when to push and when not to. She was my guide for my breath too. I felt like everyone was breathing and pushing with me.
The nurse was holding a mirror and could see the head coming out.
The breath was key here. Key to tearing and to getting Baby out safely. I let myself be led by my instinct and my midwife, which seemed to be in sync!
One push. The head came out.
Another push. The shoulders.
At 18:24, in that third and final push, I closed my eyes and travelled outer space.
I remember seeing myself flying across the universe and being amongst the stars and planets. It was a split second, but it was so vivid.
Back on earth, I was helped onto my bed. I sat propped up by pillows with a beautiful baby boy on my chest. I can’t even remember how much later we cut the cord.
Within minutes, the nurse was cleaning and tidying up. Without me even realising, they had collected the blood and weighed it. All this in my bedroom! Every single aspect of this birth kept leaving me in awe.
By around 9-10 pm, once the placenta was out, baby was checked and I passed urine, my midwife left.
We ordered pizza. Our lovely nurse, who could’ve gone home, decided to stay with us for a slice and celebrate!
We finally were ready to receive our daughter!
She walked in our room, and saw me in bed with this little baby.
Almost instantly, my 2 year old little girl stopped being a baby in my eyes and she was suddenly so big and grown up!
There you go, my essential tips for a homebirth! Wanna know what happened next?
A newborn baby and reborn mother
Before the midwife left our little family to be on our own, she mentioned something I’ll never forget.
As she was checking my baby, she said she saw a beautiful aura around him. She said that newborn babies and their mothers have a special aura, a bubble of energy surrounding them. It’s really strong for the first few days.
She reminded us that my baby and I had our little cocoon. To try and respect that energetic bubble. She told me not to be surprised if I got annoyed at bright lights, loud noises and fast movements.
I was in a bubble with my baby. I’d notice anything that interfered with this special place I was with my baby right now.
Was this the pink cloud people talk about? I had no idea. This was a new feeling for me. I hadn’t felt this with my first born. In fact, it took me about 12 days to feel that feeling of pure love with my daughter. Yet, the second time round it was totally different. My guess is that it’s probably due to the type of birth and the birthing experience I had.
When my midwife came to visit me a week after the birth. One of her first questions was, how’s it going with your daughter?
I hadn’t admitted it to anyone yet, but I had to now. I told my midwife I felt terrible because I was getting irritated around my 2 year old. She went back and explained about my little bubble/cocoon of energy during the first few days. The loud shrill voice and abrupt movements of a toddler were just too much for me to handle right now! It didn’t make me a bad mother. It was nature doing its thing. Just as it had during the pregnancy, labour and birth.
Just as she predicted, that bubble melted away after a few days and my daughter’s sounds went from being irritating to delightful again!
A gentle & confident birth
This second birth experience was completely different to the first. They were both transformative in that I became a mother.
The second time round, there was no trauma. There were no emotional or physical scars. There was no extra recovery needed. The second time round was intuitive, instinctive and empowering.
The combination of being at home and practising hypnobirthing and yoga for months, allowed me to let go of inhibitions, feel confident in my body and know exactly what I had to and not to do. And, most importantly, produce my own painkillers on demand.
With the hypnobirthing, my body was being efficient with the labour, and producing its own pain-relief. I can’t think of anything more amazing than this!
My most important lesson was not that the body is incredible and it knows what to do if you let it.
It’s that even if you have this knowledge, it’s useless without putting it into practice.
I had to practise getting in tune with my body for months. I had to practise learning how to breathe and relax. I had to practise all these amazing tools and techniques so that when the moment came, I could take a step back and let my body and my baby work their magic.
If I had to do this a third time, I’d start as soon as I got that positive result.