Jenna & JJ attended Hypnobirthing classes in April, equally excited and eager to learn as much as they could to achieve a positive birth experience. We completed the second half of their classes privately to which we were able to specifically tailor the learnings to their ideal birth.
Birth can throw some deviations and in this story written by Jenna, she details the events that lead herself and JJ to meeting their beautiful baby girl Jolie.
Story Features - Membranes releasing, induction of labour, doula support, TEN's machine, setting up an ideal birth environment, vocalisation, episiotomy and reflections on labour sensations (pain)
Throughout my pregnancy with Jolie, my husband JJ and I did a lot of preparation to set me up to have a calm, drug-free, natural birth. My goal, if our circumstances would allow it, was a vaginal delivery without epidural or forceps. We enrolled in the Hypnobirthing education course, which was so great. It taught us so much about the natural process of birth as well as breathwork, mindfulness and hands-on techniques to use in the lead up to and during birth. We also engaged the services of a doula, Georgie, who we got to know over a few evenings and would be on call to attend our birth as another support person.
On Monday 6th June at 39 weeks, I woke up to a slight trickle of fluid coming out of me. It was very light, but enough to make me think it could be my water breaking. That, or I was peeing myself! We called the midwife line at The Women’s to talk through it, and they recommended I come in so the fluid could be tested. The fluid had pretty much stopped coming out by now so I had already started to convince myself it was nothing, but we slowly made our way in anyway. There was a bit of a wait while we were triaged. By now the fluid had completely stopped and I was sure it was just a false alarm, but we were admitted to the birth centre where one of the midwives Erin did a swab test, and a few minutes later had the result - it was amniotic fluid. It was most likely a hind water leak which is why it was so slow and potentially Jolie’s changing position was the reason it was stop and start. I would be released to go home and hopefully labour would start naturally in the next 24 hours. If not, I was being booked in for an induction tomorrow and would probably get a call to come in in the afternoon. So all of a sudden and regardless of how - I was having my baby tomorrow. I was incredibly overwhelmed and the anxiety about birth started creeping in.
I was most anxious about the thought of being induced, I hadn’t mentally prepared for it to be an option this early. But I tried to put it out of my mind and instead our goal was to bring on labour naturally tonight. We called Georgie, and then did a few things that she had suggested - like going for a walk along the curb of the pavement - one foot on the road and one on the curb (to rock the babies head down onto the cervix) - as well as acupressure, burning clary sage, warm showers and doing anything that would bring on the oxytocin. I did some baking to relax and take my mind off things, and we had a cosy night on the couch. I wasn't feeling anything yet. I went to bed praying that I would wake up to contractions in the night.
Woke up in the morning disappointed that I still wasn’t having contractions. I had it in my mind that I wasn’t going to hear from the hospital until later in the afternoon, but my phone rang at 10.30am - they had been expecting me at 10am and there was a bed ready for me now. This completely rattled me. JJ had just left to take our dog Juno for a quick walk. I called him to come home and started grabbing my things, but I was in tears by now. I called my sister Andrea on the way to the hospital and told her I was freaking out. I was anxious about the birth, but the main thing that was getting to me was being induced with the synthetic oxytocin hormone. I had just heard so many stories about how induced labour can be so much more intense and the thought of the contractions being ‘artificial’ was throwing off my mindset about labour being a natural process and the contractions working exactly how they need to to birth your baby. I was worried that I’d be overwhelmed by the strength of the contractions and that I wouldn't be able to stay in a calm mindset as I’d be thinking of them as unnatural. Andrea tried her best to calm me down about the induction, and get me excited about what was ahead instead - meeting our baby. Plus, she said, maybe if it’s quick and intense, you’ll be able to handle it even better as you won’t get so exhausted.
We got to hospital and pretty quickly admitted straight to our birth suite. This was a real positive of the whole situation - we were in the room where I’d give birth before I was even in labour. We put some music on (our wedding playlists), put my affirmations up on the wall (“I am safe, my baby is safe”) and our photos up (of my late Mum, of our ultrasound, of Juno and of my baby bump). We dimmed the lights and I got changed. I had a chance to chat through my birth preferences with the midwives which was another real positive, as I guess in a natural labour you would already be too far into the contractions to have the chance to have a proper conversation with your care team about your preferences. These preferences were mainly just that I wanted a natural birth without interventions and pain relief but that I was always open to anything medical that would keep me and my baby safe. I just wanted to be consulted first, and given an opportunity to discuss with JJ and Georgie first if possible. I didn’t want to be offered pain relief - if I needed it, I would ask.
The obstetrician came around to explain how the induction would work - they would cannulate me and start me on a drip of the synthetic oxytocin (syntocinon), starting slowly and increasing the dose as needed to get the contractions going and regular. I told him I was anxious about how intense it could get. He said to try to look at it as though you are going straight into active labour and skipping the early labour phase, it may be more intense straight away but you are skipping the early labour which gets you used to the sensations but can be really long and tiring. I asked them not to tell me if and when they were increasing the dose, I was going to try and forget about it once it was in. We also discussed the possibility of a c-section if the induction didn’t bring on the birth quickly enough. But if all went to plan, I wouldn’t see him again and just be under the care of my midwife team. I wasn’t going to be able to use the bath in labour as I would be connected to the drip from here on. I felt disappointed about this, but the shower was still an option - not that I ever got the chance!
They started the induction at about 2pm. This was around the time of the shift change and the midwife Erin that we’d seen yesterday walked in! It was such a relief to see a familiar face, and I felt so much better knowing she’d be looking after me as we’d connected well yesterday. She did an internal exam to see how dilated I was (I asked for her not to tell me, but I found out later I was only 1cm), and tried to break more of the water (she couldn’t). We called Georgie to head in and she arrived pretty soon after. Another familiar face that really calmed me down. She finished setting the room up with fairy lights and aromatherapy. I started feeling hungry as I hadn’t eaten lunch. JJ got a burrito and ordered me a rice bowl - Erin tried to talk me out of eating it as I’d probably spew it back up shortly but I was too hungry and had a few mouthfuls anyway. I got comfy sitting on a birth ball and Georgie, JJ and I sat around just chatting, mainly about our wedding (because of our playlist that was on). Erin and the other midwives kept coming in saying how lovely our birth space was and they just wanted to sit down and hang up with us too. I didn’t realise it until later but my anxiety had completely disappeared, JJ and Georgie’s company had completely distracted me from all my worries.
Around 4pm I started to feel the twinges of contractions. They were mild and really just felt like period cramps. Erin gave me a heat pack to sit on my tummy. I popped the TENS machine on my back on a low setting. JJ started to give me a light touch massage on my back. I got in tune with the sensations of contracting and practised breathing my way through them. My back was starting to feel a bit stiff from being on the birth ball for so long and I also felt like I needed to wee, so I got up and went to the bathroom. I felt the waters really start to pour out of me now. From this moment on, it was on. The intensity and speed of the contractions quickly ramped up. Each contraction that came I would breathe deeply through and try to stay relaxed. I moved around trying a few different upright positions, leaning over the end of the bed, on all fours - but my legs were tiring really quickly and I felt the need to just fully rest and relax in between them. Already they were only about 2 mins apart. By this point I’d forgotten all about the ‘artificial’ hormones' and was just fully focused on getting through these contractions. I had a wave of nausea and the rice bowl came back up. I vomited a fair few times, a few times I spent the whole break between contractions vomiting. I lay down on my side on the birth mat on the floor and held JJ’s hands - I’d found my position, and I stayed here for about the next 4 hours.
The contractions continued to get more intense, I started to vocalise to get through them. In my experience of labour, I still wouldn’t describe them as painful, not in the traditional sense, there’s no sharp or stabbing feeling - it’s an intense amount of pressure that starts in the lower abdomen and fills your whole body. It’s a steep curve up to the most intense peak, and then a slow ride down the other side as the pressure releases. I found it helpful to vocalise and let the pressure out of my body somehow. In between every contraction I completely relaxed and collapsed into JJ’s lap. His presence there kept me so relaxed, he kept talking to me, dabbing my face with a cold wet cloth, giving me sips of water, and didn’t let go of my hands. He told me later that Georgie had supported him so much to help him stay calm. Her support in the room was invaluable to both of us. I had become pretty much non-verbal. After a few hours, Erin asked if I could manage to go to the bathroom and do a wee to make some more room for the baby to descend. This seemed literally impossible to me to get up off the floor and walk the 10 steps to the bathroom. I’ll just pee myself if I need to go! Besides, I told her, I didn’t need to go! If anything, I need to poo? I think I want to push? Even with my warped sense of time, I knew it seemed quick so I felt unsure. Everyone seemed pretty surprised and Erin told me to just go with what I was feeling but they wanted to do another exam to make sure it was safe. This was… unpleasant! I think I had 2-3 contractions during the exam. Because I’d previously asked them not to tell me the cm number of my dilation there was a little bit of confusion afterwards whether I wanted to know where I was at - JJ and Erin went outside to discuss and came back in quickly afterwards saying I was fully dilated and could start pushing! It was around 8pm.
Immediately I started using the contractions to push push push, and my vocalisation went up another octave from groan to scream! I could hear everyone around me telling me how great I was doing, how amazing I was, how strong I was. So I felt I was on the right track, and I kept screaming as much as I wanted! I pushed for a while laying in the same spot on the floor, then was moved up onto the bed. Erin told me a few times I needed to listen for her voice, I was screaming too loudly to hear her when she needed to talk to me! At some point a new midwife walked in - afterwards we called her the drill sergeant! She took one look at me and said “Jenna! I need you to listen to me. You are wasting all your energy screaming so much. Next contraction I need you to close your mouth and send all that energy down to your bum and push!!” She definitely snapped me out of it! But I took on her words and the next few pushes I kept my mouth shut for as long as I could and visualised all my energy going down. Erin took my hand and let me feel how close the baby was now, her head was crowning and all we could see was a huge mop of thick black hair. I’m not sure why but I kept pulling my hand away from feeling her head, it was freaking me out! And to be honest, it felt like her head was already further out than what it actually was!
After about an hour of pushing, Erin asked me how I felt about a small episiotomy. She said, Jenna I know you don’t want one, but I think we can do a minor one and she’ll be out next push. Or we don’t, and you’ll be pushing a while longer yet. And we can see she’s getting tired, her heart rate is dropping a bit. I was feeling really exhausted by this point too. And I felt a lot of trust in Erin, that she wouldn’t be recommending it unnecessarily. So I said, “Ok, do it.” It felt like the smallest sharp pinch compared to the other intense pressure and sensation in my vagina/bum (it all feels the same to be honest). And that same push her head was out. The relief was immediate. Pushing her body out on the next contraction felt like hardly any effort at all. All of a sudden they were passing my baby to me. I was in shock, I was shaking intensely from the labour, I just kept saying “Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God” over and over. She looked nothing like I thought she would, but she was so perfect! It was incredible holding her on my chest. JJ was bawling his eyes out next to me. Our little girl Jolie was born at 9.05pm, only 5 hours after my first contraction.
I’d initially wanted to try for a natural placenta delivery but the midwives said as the labour had been quite quick it would be safer to have the oxytocin injection and the assisted placenta delivery. Again I trusted them, plus I was already pumped full of the synthetic oxytocin at this point - did it really matter anymore? We both had a good look at the placenta, even had a feel of it after some encouragement. So cool.
It was shift change time and time for Erin to go home. She gave me the biggest hug before leaving and told me how amazing I’d done, and said birth like that was the reason she got into midwifery. She even came and found us the next day on the ward and said she’d been on the biggest high after going home. I also was so grateful I got her as my midwife, she was truly amazing to have on my team.
The whole team at The Women's were amazing and didn’t once ask to take Jolie away from me, we had amazing skin on skin for almost 3 hours and did a little bit of breastfeeding. Only once I’d been stitched up (no tears, just the small episiotomy!) and was ready to get up and have a shower, did they take her to weigh her (3.66kg).
I felt amazing, I’d done it. I got her out! And I hadn’t faltered once. JJ kept telling me how proud he was of me, I hadn’t asked for pain relief once and there was only one quick moment of doubt where I’d said “I can’t” during the pushing stage. But my amazing team rallied around me and said yes you bloody can, you’re already doing it, you’re doing incredible. I honestly felt so proud of myself and still do, it’s a really amazing feeling.
Written by Jenna Jordan