On the Flip Side.
What it’s REALLY like to be a birth partner (A Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner experiences birth on the other side-as a birth support person. ) So this blog entry is a bit unique. It’s a birth story of sorts, but, from the perspective of a Hypnobirthing Australia practitioner and sister. This experience took my skills next level. While I have experienced the power of the program AS the birthing mother, this birth put me in the role as birth partner. So below is a personal account of an amazing hospital, water birth I was honoured to be a part of. I mention the use of many of the tools and techniques taught in the class. I don’t get too technical or explain-y as I wanted this to read as the beautiful story it came to be. **Shared with permission of the birthing mother!
I got the word that my birthing mother’s waters had broken around 2:00 am Saturday morning. Oh boy, when that phone rang I popped up like a piece of toast! LOL The call I had been anticipating! Mother did exactly the right thing- put on a maternity pad to collect some fluid for inspection. It was clear with no odour or particles so she rang her midwife to check in and then tried to rest until morning. She headed up for a check that morning and as all was well she headed home to await the onset of labour. Her surges were beginning to take shape. One here, one there… All signs indicated that today was the day we had been waiting for!
I headed over around 11:30 am Saturday morning to help establish a positive birth environment. It felt so good to have a plan- to have set jobs to perform to help set the tone for this special day. A tone of peace and calm- everything we had planned for, practiced and rehearsed. I busied myself-setting up my oil diffuser with her signature birth scent she’d been pairing with her relaxation practice- a gorgeous blend of lavender and peppermint. We darkened her bedroom and set up our collection of LED candles. I had my portable speaker and iPod loaded with all the Hypnobirthing audio tracks she’d come to know so well. We got settled and I suggested she just lie back, relax and perhaps even catch a nap if she could- we knew she would need all her strength for the events to come. Once she drifted off I snuck home to settle my own kids and switch out vehicles so my husband could take the children to a friend’s birthday party later that day.
By the time I returned she was awake yet maintaining a sense of calm with the help of her partner. She was experiencing quite a bit of nausea but handled it like a champion. Not once did she complain as her stomach emptied to make way for her baby’s entrance into the world. Her surges were steadily growing stronger and more regular. When she showed a bit of restlessness we moved into the shower. I put the Tranquil Chambers relaxation music track on my speaker and I read from the Hypnobirthing Australia scripts as she slipped into her active labour.
I remember preparing that first time to use my voice as a real live birth support person- and even though I have read these scripts many times before- today was extra special. I paused, took a deep breath, and began. Together I felt we found our groove. I watched as she explored the building sensations within her body. Sometimes she rocked gently back and forth. Other times she used her breath or a gentle noise to ride through the sensations. All the while I was giving the simple birth prompts I teach in the class. Reminding her to relax her jaw and body. Surrender to the sensations being experienced to allow a quicker, productive labour. Helping her to relax and connect with the amazing sensations that would bring her baby into the world. She moved as her body told her to, alternating between sitting, standing, leaning against the shower wall as the warm water flowed-setting her birthing body into motion.
After the shower her labour was ramping up considerably. She was doing everything right. She was allowing her body to lead the way, to open up. And even though it may have seemed overwhelming at times, she allowed the process to continue. She was supported and safe and her body knew what to do. I began to time her surges as I wanted to confirm active labour had begun. Surging 5 minutes apart, then 4 minutes apart. More nausea. Surges growing in intensity and length. We decided to ring the midwife and it was decided to allow the surges to continue to settle into a rhythm for another hour before meeting at hospital.
We packed up our tools, and slowly made our way to the hospital. We implemented our plan
to maintain her state of peace and calm by having ear buds and iPod ready so that she could listen to the Birth Affirmations Hypnobirthing track on the car ride there. (And I can tell you she was a LOT more zen on her car ride to the hospital than I was with either of my labours!).
Once settled in the birthing suite we once again created that beautiful birthing environment and set into our techniques to ensure no disruption to labour. Light touch massage to release her natural pain-relieving hormones, I read more scripts and she seamlessly continued her important work. She spent much of her time perched perfectly cross-legged like a picturesque statue. (But, a very ideal posture for an open pelvis!)
After a check and a bit of restlessness, she decided to go back into the shower as evening approached. By this time another support person had arrived so we truly had a
birth team in place! We took turns guiding the shower head over her body, diffusing her oil blend into the steamy room, continuing with the light touch massage as the Hypnobirthing tracks played on the portable speaker. We took turns resting and eating as time passed and we slipped into the dark of night. Instinctually her positions changed from time to time- her favourite cross-legged pose, then lying down on layers of towels. At one point she was so relaxed sitting up, she kept practically tipping over as she drifted off to sleep so I sat across from her, holding her up by her shoulders as she micro-napped!
After her time in the shower we were truly put to the test. Mother had been labouring for some 19 hours with little sleep the night before. Her physical and mental endurance were being challenged. Birth is a marathon on all levels! She questioned her ability (as most mothers do at this stage of birth). She briefly considered her options for pain relief, but decided to have a check done to assess dilation first. (For those of you who have not had this done it is NOT a comfortable experience.) And when the midwife advised mother to take a deep breathe she executed the most exquisite Hypnobirthing Australia relaxation breathing I’ve ever seen and the exam was completed quickly and it was confirmed, the time for birth was VERY near. No pain relief would be used.
And as transition approached our team grew even closer as we rallied around her. I tried a script which had worked beautifully earlier in the night, but my mother shook her head to tell me that was not the tool for this moment. I understood. On hands and knees she breathed through her powerful surges and slipped into deep rest in-between holding the hand of her partner. The midwife began to ready the birth pool as we reassured her that she could do this, she WAS doing this and she was drawing nearer to the birth of her son. We continued with light touch massage and verbal encouragement until the pool was ready.
Once in the water our mother enjoyed floating with legs outstretched and leaning over the side of the pool holding the hands of her partner. Our team moved into our final positions for birth and we each settled into our “jobs”. Light touch massage, effusing (pouring water from a jug onto her back) to further stimulate the release of endorphins, cooling her head with a washer, holding her hands, wafting her personal blend of peppermint and lavender over her from time to time-all the while giving verbal prompts and reassurance. She rode through the power of transition, reached full dilation and her baby began to descend the birth bath.
It is surreal to witness the sheer power of a woman’s body from this perspective. Our mother was gobsmacked by the absolute power of her own body. When she was overwhelmed by her birthing body and its strength, we continued to support her and confirm that all was well. Body and baby working together- in harmony. Baby and mother monitored perfectly throughout, and the moment of birth was upon us. And with one final bearing down motion a little boy entered a pool of warm water surrounded by people who already loved him.
My experience being a birth partner was incredible. I was useful. I was confident. I KNEW what to do for my birthing mother and it worked. Now that I’ve experienced Hypnobirthing on the flip side I feel even more passionate about sharing these tools with the world, and in particular with birth partners. The birth of a child is the birth of a family. And when we can do that with confidence, calm and peace- wow, what a beautiful experience!!!