By: Crystal - a blog post written for connectedbabies.co.uk
**Trigger warning – Miscarriage, baby loss, birth trauma**
We don’t particularly celebrate Valentines Day, not since the early years of our relationship, but nonetheless it seemed idyllic that the 12 week scan for our second baby was booked on the day of love. For some reason that I can’t explain, call It instinct, I had had a niggling feeling from the beginning of this pregnancy that something wasn’t quite right, I had been hesitantly looking forward to the scan to put these thoughts to bed and see our baby on the screen. My first pregnancy had been low risk, straight forward and healthy and I had no real reason to harbour these thoughts. Baby wasn’t playing ball on scan day, the sonographer found it hard to get a good view and give us that perfect picture, but after emptying my bladder and a few star jumps we managed to get the money shot. Somehow I wasn’t reassured, but we saw our baby, we got our picture, we saw his heart beating and science said everything was OK.
We did what many couples do, the big announcement. I posted my scan picture to Facebook to share our news further than our immediate circle of friends and family. The big 12 week reveal.
To cut a very long story short and to stay on track for this blog. We lost our baby boy a few weeks later.
Jumping to today, my daughter’s birth is shown an example of a positive Hypnobirthing experience with KG Hypnobirthing on parent and teacher training courses. It’s a moment I am incredible proud of, but it’s the end of a very long story, a very long journey. The birth is not the story, the lead up to her birth is the true testament to Hypnobirthing.
Back to 2012. We had a missed miscarriage which means that our baby had died but was still in utero. I found the support from the Miscarriage Association incredibly valuable at this time trying to piece together what had happened and what I could expect. I will never forget the face of the Doctor who confirmed the worst news. The dimly lit room. The stillness of the screen. There are many difficult parts to this journey but being sent home in limbo still carrying this stillness was one of the hardest. We made an informed decision to opt for management to be as natural as possible. I opted against the surgery but I agreed to consider an induction of labour. I was booked in to return in a couple of days and was given some medication to start the process of softening my cervix. I had been told to come back if anything began in the meantime.
The day after next, in the early hours of the day I was due to go back in, I began to miscarry fully. I would wake to visit the bathroom getting sleep in-between the contractions where I could. My toddler was asleep, it was the middle of the night, I felt that I was managing things well and I made the decision to stay at home. I hadn’t felt very looked after in the hospital, which is another story, but in that moment I thought I was in the best possible place. After some time, I couldn’t sleep anymore and things were becoming intense. I was feeling overwhelmed and I woke my husband for support. I was in labour, though due to poor advice from my care providers sadly, I hadn’t expected to be. I was told I wouldn’t experience anything like labour or see anything resembling a baby.
I gave birth in the bathroom amid panic and fear. He was tiny. But perfect.
We didn’t know what to do with ourselves or with him so we called an ambulance and went to the hospital once the Grandparents had arrive to care for our son. I have to say, where the hospital let us in down in many aspects, their treatment and respect for our ‘non-viable’ baby and their bereavement services were absolutely fantastic. They organised a memorial service and a cremation which helped us to grieve and offered ongoing support.
Some time after our loss, we began to try again, but things weren’t so easy this time. I had fallen pregnant easily the first two times but month after month, pregnancy announcement after pregnancy announcement, nothing was happening. I began to get a bit obsessive with my cycle, ovulation kits, early pregnancy test kits and my mental health was starting to suffer. When I did fall pregnant after over a year of trying, it would end in early miscarriage and I was experiencing recurrent miscarriages. This was a very low time for me. I was suffering from depression, grief and isolation as I lost connection with many friends. I would shy away from invitations because I had developed a body complex, I was so conscious of that the fact that I still looked pregnant that the idea of being asked or finding an outfit even was too overwhelming. It was a low time.
One day when I thought I may be in very early pregnancy, I started to miscarry again, only it was very different. There was no spotting or signs that I had become so familiar with, I seemed to be losing a lot of blood very quickly. As the bleeding progressed heavily it became clear that I was haemorrhaging and once again it was a trip, this time with the blue lights on, to the local hospital. That experience could be a blog of it’s own so in summary, one crash team, blood transfusion and emergency surgery later I came around to the relief of my poor husband who had been left alone in the corridor in the darkness of the unknown. During my surgery, the doctor found retained products of pregnancy, not unexpected considering the circumstance, however he had suspicions that due to the amount of infected tissue I had been haemorrhaging that it may have been left over from that initial loss. Things were beginning to make sense.
I was soon back to a place of relative health although I was experiencing some strange infections and reactions, but I was healing slowly. I began to really work towards healing both my body and mind. Of note I began to see an acupuncturist who having been told the full story asked me not to try to conceive until my general health was improved. Now anybody that’s every been trying to conceive know that you don’t stop for anything, but interestingly the month she felt I was well enough to start trying again was the month that we fell pregnant.
So there is the background. Throw in a traumatic first birth experience on the top for good measure and you can imagine that despite being so longed for, how terrifying being pregnant felt.
During the period of time between losing our baby and the haemorrhage, I trained as a Hypnobirthing teacher. I was working with the NHS providing breastfeeding support and they had a training budget. A colleague had chosen Hypnobirthing and I thought it sounded interesting, so I did some research and decided to train with Katherine Graves. The training felt like a debrief from my son’s birth and I began to understand perhaps how and why his birth took the turns it did. It appealed to my ‘science brain’ and following certification I began to teach parents based on the pure logic and sense of the program. I had been teaching for a couple of years before I got to put the techniques in to practice myself.
Let's not beat around the bush, I was absolutely terrified to be pregnant again.
I carried trauma from my son’s birth which was intervention heavy and lacked all dignity, choice and respect, I was terrified of being pregnant, I was terrified of not being pregnant. The day I took the pregnancy test I started listening to the audio scripts and in particular worked through the fear release scripts every day. I was teaching regularly which helped to cement the physiology of the birth process and how we can help or hider it. I used positive affirmations. I allowed myself to feel confident and calm. I made the decision early on that I would not let my fear take over. I practiced the techniques, I ran and attended Positive Birth Movement groups, I watched positive birth films and I read positive birth stories. I allowed myself to believe. The visualisation scripts really helped me to picture my baby in the future and see her coming into the world healthily, calmly, positively.
Considering my history I was labelled as high risk but I had made my choice to birth at home and I had not been persuaded despite best efforts with any quality evidence that this pregnancy itself was not low risk or that there was any need for me to discount my home birth. At times I had to fight for this and have decisions overturned in my notes but I knew what I wanted and it was up to my care providers to prove to me why I couldn’t have it, not for me to prove why I could.
I have absolutely no doubt, that without hypnobirthing I would not have got through this pregnancy. Of course, consciously I was anxious. 9 months of worry and anxiety, 9 months of being too scared to look in my knickers every single time I went to the toilet. 9 months of being torn between wanting to bond with my baby and wanting to protect myself from the worst. The Hypnobirthing scripts enables me to bond on both a subconscious and conscious level, the visualisation techniques allowed me to believe in a future for us, the breathing techniques got us through many moments of fear and panic, many tense appointments, many wobbles. They grounded me during labour when certain sensations felt all too familiar and gave me flashbacks. The birth education empowered me to know my choices and how to voice them and to ultimate achieve what I wanted. Not forgetting the amazing benefits for my amazing husband and birth partner who had been my side throughout all of these experiences.
Hypnobirthing enabled me to go on to have the healing birth I so desperately needed. This is the part of the story you know; this is the part that plays out on the screen. Perhaps it carries more weight now.