One year ago today I was “kidnapped” into St Luke’s hospital for Tucker’s birth. After a high blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office on the morning of December 13th, my doctor asked me to stop by Labor and Delivery in the afternoon for a recheck. My blood pressure was still very high, and it was my due date. So they kept me that night and started medications to lower my blood pressure and induce labor on December 14th. After the triage nurse told me that I would be staying at the hospital, I felt my mom's presence with me. And she was saying "We're having a baby!" I felt her excitement so clearly in that moment.
Last fall, I did a wonderful class in Hypnobirthing. The philosophy of the course included the use of hypnosis and relaxation for a pain-free birth. I believe in their tenant that it is every woman’s birthright to have a natural, comfortable birth. We read about the fascinating history of how childbirth became associated with pain and fear in our culture. Biologically, fear results in the release of the stress hormone, cortisol and the tightening of a uterus that needs to relax. Other the other hand, if a woman can stay relaxed, then her uterus will open up naturally.
In September, I had a reunion with the instructor, Jenna, and two other mothers from my birthing class. And I learned that the techniques were helpful to everyone – although no one’s birth went according to plan. Least of all mine. Jenna is now using my birth story in her classes as an illustration of how hypnobirthing can be helpful under any circumstances.
Tucker’s birth was a lesson in remaining calm and relaxed with circumstances that kept changing. I wanted to go into labor naturally but that did not happen in a timely manner. And with very high blood pressure – the physicians were concerned that I was in danger of having a seizure. The Pitocin was started at a very low dose on Saturday morning and slowly titrated up. The nurse that I really wanted, Jamie, only works on the weekends. So by being induced early, I was able to labor with a nurse that I liked and one I knew to be an advocate for natural childbirth.
Around 10 am, my contractions began in earnest. I labored in a rocking chair and on a birthing ball. My friend & birthing coach, Lois, set up the diffuser with lavender oil and everyone who came into the room commented on how wonderful it smelled! We also had soothing music coming from the CD player. And Lois was guiding me through the relaxation exercises. I was able to relax deeply in between the contractions. And then breathe through the surges themselves. To the amazement of the doctors and nurses, I was fully dilated by 4 p.m. As my nurse Jamie said, I dilated quickly because I wasn’t “fighting the process.”
Unfortunately, baby Tucker was not able to descend naturally. Jamie could feel his head and felt that he was stuck. By 7 p.m., I had to make the decision to have a C-section. The staff in the OR were all very upbeat, positive, and friendly. And I was able to remain calm throughout. And the medical staff was amazed at how calm Tucker was upon his arrival. The nurses wanted him to cry more to get rid of mucus – but he was too content to cry. Lois brought him over to me and we met “head to head” while Dr. Williams finished the surgery. Tucker seemed to know I was his mom, and mouthed my cheek in greeting.
In the days that followed, I never experienced any pain from the C-section. And I never took any of the narcotic pain medication that was offered to me. I believe that this “pain-free surgery” was a result of my day of Hypnobirthing. I think that releasing endorphins instead of stress hormones, served Tucker and I both very well as we went into the C-section procedure. I was disappointed to have a C-section and felt like something of a failure. But in the moment that I had to make that decision, I was calm and centered and my intuition was that this was the right decision. After Tucker was delivered, we could see from the marks on his head that he was trying to pass down with the length of his head instead of the width. And he was not going to be able to descend with his head in that position.
I feel that Hypnobirthing serve us well, even when the birth plan changed radically along the way. Ultimately, I did labor naturally for 8 ½ hours. I dilated very quickly and I never wished for an epidural. Baby Tucker was never in any fetal distress. We both had a very positive surgery experience. And the rest of our hospital stay was easy and happy. For weeks after his birth, I continued to feel like a failure for having a C-section. And I couldn’t share his birth story. But his birthing day was actually perfect. And I know now that all was well.