This world doula week we’re really pleased to bring you the birth story of a Hampshire Doula baby.
We talked to his mum and their doula and we’re sharing the story here and across our social media to celebrate the way doulas help make ‘it’ happen. That ‘it’ might be: better births, bonding, support, breastfeeding, information or comfort.
Doula Vikki Young starts the story.
I saw the birth of a brand new soul last year. His name is Brodie. He’s a Hampshire Doula baby through and through!
Mum, Ali is a Hampshire Doula and I was her birth Doula.
It’s a pretty huge honour to be asked to be anyone’s Doula. But when it’s for a Doula herself you literally BEAM sunshine and rainbows.
Doula and Mum Ali Russell-Webb can start the story from further back. She tells us about her first birth and why she wanted a doula with her during her second birth.
After my first birth, I was completely traumatised. Naive to the world of, anything to do with, healthcare, I had no real idea what was happening to me or what was about to happen. Everything had been quite stressful, I had undiagnosed antenatal depression and I was overdue. This led to me being coerced into an induction, with the only thing I was terrified of, being a c-section.
My induction failed (or as a VBAC midwife once told me- it didn’t fail because it put me into labour). Well after 24 hours of that induced labour, and pain, I ended with a c-section for, what we thought was a failure to progress. This, we later found out, at a VBAC session, was not the reason, but the baby had turned OP and couldn’t get out. I stayed in the hospital for 7 days, after the birth. During which time my baby was topped up with formula, I was made to feel like I couldn’t feed him and I was shouted at by a midwife. This all resulted in terrible PND, with which I was suicidal, and PTSD. It took me 10 months to go near the hospital again.
[Editor’s note: post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can happen after any traumatic event including a traumatic experience of birth. There is help and support available if you think you may be struggling with this the birth trauma association is one good place to start. If you’re local please contact us here and we can also help you find local support. If you’re planning a birth and looking to avoid this please consider attending your local Positive Birth Movement meet-ups and look into having doula support for your birth.]
Despite all this, I knew I didn’t want an only child. When I found out I was pregnant again, I was terrified. This pregnancy was awful- HG, for 4 months followed by nasty PGP. Between both babies, I had trained as a Doula, and studied, inside and out, maternity care. I knew I needed a Doula to support me this time, and wonderful Vikki Young agreed. Even though I am not easy to support, and probably even worse when pregnant. I spent my whole pregnancy beating myself up because I was a Doula, I know about birth, why was I so terrified? Also, I have never felt so lonely, as I did in the last weeks, probably another bout of, less severe, antenatal depression.
So now we come on to the birth story. Ali tells us how things got started.
I planned my HBAC, still terrified of the hospital and was fairly content with the plan. Due to my newly learned knowledge about my first son being OP [positioned back to back with mum in the uterus more details here] and PGP [pelvic girdle pain –more details here], I had chiropractic treatment all the way through my pregnancy. I did yoga, Spinning Babies and anything else to ensure good positioning.
After a second dose of evening of primrose oil, [this is a personal experience Hampshire Doulas recommends you research anything before deciding if it’s for you which applies to alternative therapies as well as suggested medical interventions] I woke up about 3.30am, the date after my EDD (estimated date of delivery – those are nonsense) with a lot of fluid, but mostly smelling of evening primrose oil. 😁 I thought it was my waters but tried to go back to sleep. After being kicked in the face, by a toddler, for the millionth time, I gave up. There were mild surges starting (remember I’d never gone into natural labour) and I was bloody determined they were going to develop because I was so over being pregnant! (I don’t do pregnancy or babies small)
After labouring, well, staying active and being able to chat to Vikki, everything seemed all good. I got into the pool, which was blessed relief. Everything gets a little hazy, at this point, perhaps due to the amazing gas and air, perhaps I was in the zone.
One of the advantages of having a doula is they can fill in the gaps of your hazy memories of the day!
Ali laboured at home all day. Having one contraction every three minutes from about midday to the point Brodie was born at 21:20. Not just the little breathe through it contractions. But the ones that curl your toes and make you try and glue yourself to the floor. She had a bit of gas and air and a pool. I mean MAN ALIVE she was awesome.
That kid was quite happy where he was though. Unaffected by his mum’s heroic birthing efforts.
Intensity was really building and from the look of everything, Brodie was ready to come into the world. The room was peaceful and I was able to make it through the intensity of the contractions with Vikki keeping my eye contact and reminding me to breathe. Her calmness was invaluable.
After a while, and some gas runs later, things seemed not to be moving and I couldn’t feel his head. I am absolutely an advocate of physiological birth and less focus on interventions, but there is a reason we have medicine and are fortunate to be able to access expertise.
I had received no VEs but knew at this point, although it was uncomfortable out of the water, there was something not quite right. The midwife examined my cervix and found I was 3-4cm dilated, and after the work so far, I knew I needed some relief if I was going to be able to birth him. Vikki’s calm reassurance was amazing, as I had that nagging feeling of failure, but it went.
After hours at the same dilatation and no let up in those contractions, it was time to get some help. Drugs would be good right now.
Birth is unpredictable, but with good support and knowing the decision to change to plan B is yours, that unpredictability and positive birth are not mutually exclusive.
An ambulance came…
The ambulance ride was hell for Ali. Being told to lie down and keep still on this teeny bed are not things a woman in the throes of labour will ever take well.
She made it to the ward with only a few choice words 🤣
As they monitored her with the CTG [Cardiotocography (CTG) is a technical means of recording the fetal heartbeat and the uterine contractions during pregnancy.] it was clear the contractions were still coming thick and fast with no sign of the baby. An epidural was requested.
Your doula and your midwife will always tell you to trust your instincts and this was one time those instincts were needed and right.
Once we arrived at hospital I knew, in my heart, I was done and I needed a section. I am so grateful that I was in a position to know what was happening to my body, and feel self-assured enough to make an informed decision about the way forward.
I am indebted to my wonderful Doula for her sitting with me through the section, keeping me calm during the hardest parts of pain, and her presence reassuring me of my body and my ability to know exactly what I needed.
Ali had decided that this was the same road as Fin. She knew it. Mums always know. The baby was not coming without some assistance and trying to delay it was futile.
As the doc suggested waiting a bit, Brodie’s heart rate started to dip with the contractions. [This is one sign that baby might not be coping well with labour anymore.]
He was tired, she was tired and more importantly, Ali knew this baby needed to be born by c section. And soon.
The medical staff listened to Ali and she was whizzed round to theatre. I accompanied her as by now we were pretty much one unit. The eye contact was keeping her going and she needed that.
Her totally amazing husband knew it was what she needed and totally supported her ❤
So off Ali and I went to theatre.
Little (ha!) Brodie was out in no time. He was in my arms and held up to Ali so she could get those intoxicating new baby smells and hugs as she was stitched up. [Sometimes skin to skin isn’t possible immediately but it’s never too late.]
I popped out to get Ali’s husband while she was still in recovery so he could meet his brand new baby boy 💕
It may not have been the HVAC I planned, but as Doulas, we know birth is never a sure thing. I was safe and followed my instincts as my space was held for me, with love.
What started off as pretty textbook labour (whatever that is, right?) turned in to a real need for those wonderful obstetric wizards to come out and say “Hey, it’s ok. I’m here to help you. Let’s make a plan.”
I know we moan about them a lot. Terrible communication skills and an inability to listen to the woman are most common complaints. They are often seen as the worst thing to walk through a delivery room door BUT do you know what? Sometimes we need those peeps. We need their years of training in seriously complicated surgery. They can step in and save lives.
So what can we learn about doula support from this birth story?
Doulas still need Doulas. We lose our rational brains when we’re in the zone of labour and birth and are TERRIBLE at taking our own advice.
These yummy chocolate energy bites are perfect for nibbling in labour or when you’ve got a new baby and need some quick energy now. They’ve also got dates in them which have been shown to be potentially very helpful to pregnant women. Find out more about that from the Evidenced-based birth website.
The only problem my taste team discovered was they were all gone too soon.
There are loads of ways to make easy energy bites so watch out for more soon on the blog.
We wanted to find out what hypnobirth was all about so we thought a good place to start would be a chat with a hypnobirth teacher. Here’s what we asked and what we found out. It’s all about relaxation and practice.
There are lots of assumptions about what hypnobirthing is and people can feel quite confused about whether or not it’s for them. Can you explain to us what hypnobirthing really involves, please?
To understand hypnobirthing it’s good to come from a place of understanding how the body and brain work together during labour and birth. As you will know as a doula and if you’ve had a birth doula, birth is something the body does and anything that stimulates our neocortex (thinking brain) can cause us to produce adrenaline which is the natural enemy of the hormone oxytocin. Our body needs oxytocin to produce the contractions which allow birth to happen. Adrenalin also stops us producing our own natural pain-relieving endorphins. So we need to switch off our thinking brains to give birth the best opportunity to unfold without any assistance. This will help us to feel safe and let our bodies get on with the job.
Hypnobirth provides practical tools to really deeply relax and allow our bodies to let birth happen.
It’s not just ‘woo’ and it’s not just putting on some relaxing music and hoping for the best. For hypnobirthing to work as it should the relaxation exercises need to be practised consistently through the pregnancy until your body relaxes without you having to think about it when you use the prompts. It needs to become second nature.
Some people are concerned because they have an idea about stage hypnosis appearing to show people being controlled by the hypnotist but not only is hypnobirth nothing like that neither is stage hypnosis. When ‘hypnotised’ no one is completely out of their own control. People may be open to suggestion (like eat an onion or cluck like a chicken) but they still have the ability to say no, I’m not doing that. No one can make you do something you’ve already decided is dangerous or not for you by hypnotising you. Likewise,
when you use self-hypnosis as a relaxation tool for birth you are able to take yourself to a relaxing place in your head and feel separate from what’s going on around you but you’re equally able to switch back on to what’s happening around you and interact with other people if you need or decide to do so.
Some people compare the relaxation they experience in hypnobirthing to that feeling you get when you are between waking and sleeping. They say it’s like when you’re aware that your alarm is going off but you choose to keep on drowsing through. Others describe it as being like when you drive somewhere that’s very familiar and your body takes over and gets you there on auto-pilot and when you arrive you can’t really remember the journey but you’ve made it to the destination.
So if we practise the hypnobirthing relaxation we’re definitely going to have a zen floaty birth and be completely serene and pain-free?
Maybe you will maybe you won’t. Hypnobirthing cannot promise you how your birth will go or how you will feel but what I can say is that by doing hypnobirthing you will maximise your chances for a straightforward birth if you acknowledge the conditions for enhancing your birth hormones. Hypnobirthing will reduce fear and stress and you will have the tools that will enable you to be calmer and therefore more comfortable no matter what path your birth takes.
Some people find they don’t experience labour as painful and some people labour silently. But not necessarily. Using hypnobirth tools won’t change who you are as a unique person and your birth journey will be unique to you. If you don’t feel zen or stay silent it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong and it doesn’t mean you’re not relaxing. Sometimes and for some people, the best way to relax and allow your body to work hard at contractions is to let all the feelings go in a vocal way. Sometimes, despite everything we do, things don’t go according to our plan for our birth but the relaxation tools you learn in a hypnobirth class can be incredibly useful even in these situations to help you keep calm and focused when your plans need to change. There is evidence to show that the more relaxed you are during surgery, the better your healing time is afterwards.
I always loved the mantra ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’, although we can’t make any guarantees that things will go according to our plans for birth this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what’s in our power to increase our chances.
What practically speaking can people expect from your classes?
The classes are a complete antenatal preparation so you can expect to cover all the birth basics, what happens when things don’t go to plan, how dads can support the mums complemented by how hypnobirthing works, what tools and visualisations to use, breathing, positions and techniques for dads to physically support mums. I try to make the classes as interesting as possible so we mix things up and get everyone involved and try to avoid a typical death by powerpoint scenario.
There are 4 sessions that last 2.5 hours long and they can go away and practice something after each session and come back for more support at the next session setting them up to practice little and often up until the birth so that everything becomes second nature.
For the dad’s, I prepare a cheat sheet to help them prioritise the most important things on the day as on the day, mum needs to be able to relax and dad is charged with sorting things out which can be a lot of pressure.
Dad’s are my biggest cynics but funnily enough, they are often the biggest converts too. During the classes, the parents get the opportunity to bond with each other and with their baby in a way that our busy lives often limit. They have the chance to really focus on each other, on their hopes and choices around the birth and on their feelings about becoming parents.
I am also a trained doula and have attended many births supporting mums and dads navigate the minefield of birth choices that are out there. I feel this helps me deliver my classes in a very informative manner always keeping the parent’s right to choice at the forefront of my teachings.
The relaxation tools can become tools for life not just for labour and birth. The principles can be useful in the early days, for example, if they want, there’s a script you can use for breastfeeding and the principles are relevant for later for any stressful and challenging situations we come across in life, both for mums and the dads.
The relaxation has positive health benefits for mum and also for baby. There’s some evidence that mum being stressed during pregnancy can affect baby’s brain development so that they will be more sensitive to stress. We can’t control if stressful life events happen when we are pregnant so having a tool to use to keep our bodies calm can not only benefit us but can even have positive effects on baby’s development.
As someone who has experienced hypnobirth for their own birth what was it like for you on the day?
I’ve watched the video of my third child’s birth and it does look like it was a wonderful zen calm birth. In some ways it was but inside my head, it still felt really intense and fast and I had to really focus on relaxing my body. I’ve always been a mind over matter sort of person so for me the hypnobirth tools were great because they allowed me to get quickly into that relaxed state.
When it came to the birth itself I felt really present in my body, really aware of all the different sensations and what my body was doing as it pushed out my baby. The breathing techniques were key in helping me to consciously work with my body slowly allowing my body time to stretch and not tear. I found being so relaxed through my labour had allowed my body to build up such a great amount of oxytocin that the high of holding my baby for the first time was amazing. The same oxytocin resulted in no blood loss at all, my midwife was amazed and said she would have to write 100ml in my notes as no one would believe her if she said none at all.
That said, I am very aware that every birth is different and we all have our own challenges to overcome and I try to be sensitive to that at all times and encourage a couple to find what works for them to empower them as they begin one of life’s greatest adventures.
You can get in touch with Wendy and Erika via their website https://www.wondrousbirthhypnobirthing.co.uk/
On the website, you can book a taster session or a whole course group class or private classes just for you.
You can also find Wondrous Birth on Facebook
All of our Hampshire Doulas will be happy to support you with hypnobirth if it is one of your chosen tools for birth. Find the right doula for you on our find a doula page.
During World Doula Week we are sharing a series of interviews with people who have benefited from doula support. Emily and Stuart’s first baby was born by c-section and their second baby was born at home in the birth pool with the support of both a doula and an independent midwife.
How did you hear about doulas?
I met a doula in a breastfeeding support group who explained what doulas were.
Why did you want a doula?
In my first pregnancy, I felt clueless and unsupported. I felt I had to go along with everything I was told to do without having it explained to me. I felt that with a doula to support me I would be more confident finding all the information I needed to make decisions. I felt I would be more confident asking questions. I also felt I would be more confident making and expressing my decisions. I felt I would have someone to be my back up if I disagreed with what I was told to do.
I also wanted more support for my partner because he felt pushed out during my first pregnancy and birth. I knew that a doula would support us both and help him to feel involved and confident with asking questions and talking to health professionals. I knew it would also help him feel more confident during the birth.
How did your partner (if you have one) and wider family feel about the idea when you first bought it up?
My partner thought it was a good idea, he was keen to have that support just like me. My family were confused about what a doula would do and how one was different to a midwife. Once explained, they were supportive of the idea. My mum had another job looking after my eldest which helped her not feel too disappointed at not being a birth partner.
How did your doula help you prepare for your birth?
My doula supported me in a meeting with the hospital to review the notes from my first pregnancy. This was good as it helped me to get closure on what had happened. We also did birth partner training with our doula which helped my partner know what to expect and how to support me through the stages of birth.
My doula reassured us that no matter what happened on the day she would support us to make birth a positive experience regardless of anything that came up which might cause us to change our plans for the birth.
She suggested alternative therapies and comfort measures for dealing with the aches and pains of pregnancy, labour and after childbirth and to help my body get ready and go into labour naturally.
If I or my partner had any questions I could always ask my doula and she would support me finding answers or reassure me what was normal, keeping me away from the worry that can come with googling!
My doula supported me at hospital appointments when I had an ICP diagnosis (this is a rare liver condition associated with pregnancy there’s more information here http://www.icpsupport.org/ ). She supported me thinking through and making decisions around plans for if I needed to be induced or potentially to choose a c-section as a result of this condition.
She supported me when pre-labour started and stopped. Including one occasion when things seemed to be happening one evening, she came round to our house and then helped me stay positive when everything stopped.
What did your doula do on the day when you went into labour?
I first called in my doula at 4 am when I was having contractions and my son was awake and needed attention. She provided an extra person to occupy my son, or set up the birth pool or support me.
In the morning, she helped my son get ready for a party he’d been invited to and co-ordinated a friend to pick him up and look after him for the day so I could rest and focus.
She tried to encourage me to eat and drink to keep up my energy through the day. She kept this up gently even when I wasn’t keen to eat as I was struggling with nausea and vomiting. She helped to keep track of how frequent contractions were and also encouraged my husband to eat and drink to keep up his strength too.
My doula helped me deal with sickness with acupressure, massage and essential oils and by avoiding strong food smells and helped me choose small amounts of food that I could manage. She also caught my sick for me (in a bowl) when that became necessary.
She helped my husband fill the pool the first time and empty and refill the pool when it got cold and needed reheating.
She reminded me to get out and go to the toilet and encouraged me to change positions to help keep things moving.
She allowed my husband to be able to focus on supporting me in the way I needed him to and not be distracted by all the practical things that also needed doing.
She took turns with my husband providing physical support when he needed to rest, eat or go to the toilet. She used hand massage during contractions. This helped because I was more able to concentrate on my hand being held which distracted me from the intensity of my contractions.
She also took photos and video during the labour and when our baby was born. Although I didn’t notice this happening at the time I enjoyed looking at them after my baby was born.
What did she do after the baby was born?
My doula helped to empty the pool and take it down after the birth. She put fresh sheets on our bed making it all comfortable to get into with our new baby to sleep. Which was a real relief and allowed us to relax and enjoy our baby rather than worry about those practical things.
She made a placenta smoothie right after the birth and prepared the placenta into ice cube trays for freezing for future smoothies.
What was the best thing about having a doula?
Knowing that I had someone with me who would be sure to stay calm and have a level head. Knowing even if something happened that might have made me and my partner feel confused or upset someone would keep us calm. That we had someone who would be on our side whatever situation occurred.
Would you recommend having a doula to other families?
Yes, I regularly do. 😊