Right from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I planned on using visualisations to help me through the birth.  My story tells how they worked for me.

Contraction like pains and a bloody show on the Wednesday evening, two days before my due date was all the confirmation I needed – this was happening now!  I remember being so fascinated by the bloody show – exactly how it was described in NCT!  I stood and watched it for ages, perhaps wondering what happens next?  I nearly fished it out!

Having experienced on and off contractions all night (I remember watching TV in between getting down on my hands and knees until each wave passed) my boyfriend fitted my TENS machine in the early hours of the next morning. Well – this TENS machine proved to be my best friend in the hours that followed! I even remember (in my hazy, visualising state) over-hearing one midwife saying to another “She really likes that boost button – it’s really working for her!”  More on this later.

Through the next morning, the contractions became much more regular and intense.  I continued using the TENS machine and the precious boost button when each one came.  However, it was at this time that I started my visualisations – totally different to those I had spent my pregnancy preparing!  It became apparent to me that each contraction reminded me of a balloon (in my visualisation, a hot air balloon in stripy red, orange and yellow) which blew up once, twice, three times until releasing.  Once this visualisation was established I used it throughout my labour, talking to myself in my head about each stage of the blowing up process!   Alongside the visualisations, I closed my eyes and, as a result remained completely calm.  Of course the contractions hurt. Hell yeah!  But I would never describe the pain as excruciating. For me, it was a pain that, once I had become used to the feeling, was manageable.

I remember my two older girls (although like my own, they are step children; therefore this was my first birth) entering the bedroom and seeing me on the floor on all fours pressing this boost button for England! They went to school knowing that the baby was coming which was lovely but hard for getting any work done!

Did time go slowly or quickly during these hours? I honestly don’t know! I can’t remember what my boyfriend and I discussed.  Was I quiet or chatty? All I know is that with each contraction came the eyes closed, the boost button and of course the balloon visualisation.

Now lots of people say that when their waters break it isn’t the gush that you see in movies but a little trickle.  Mine was the gush! All over the bed and carpet! Now it was time to go in.

I don’t recall the car ride – time went quickly because I mostly had my eyes closed as I continued to press the boost button and visualise.  I remember being so elated that we found, not only a parking space, but the last parking space!!  I leaned against the boot of the car before we set off for the entrance as another balloon blew up and disappeared.

It is a bit of a blur what happened next because I was totally in my own zone. I remember hearing conversations between my boyfriend and the midwives and hearing the midwives chatting to each other. I remember being examined, asking how far dilated I was and being told I was fully!  “She’s got to fully dilated at home with just the TENS machine,” I heard one midwife say to another.  It was time for the water birth I hoped for.

The water was so soothing and I chatted to my boyfriend and the midwives between each balloon blowing up and releasing. The gas and air replaced the beloved TENS machine – I had no feelings of giddiness or drunkenness unfortunately! That sounded like fun! The midwives (of which there were two) kept commenting on how cool and calm I was. I really did feel it and remember feeling incredibly proud of myself – I was doing this! – perhaps this was the calm before the storm?

Two things that you hear will happen, never happened for me.

1) I never got the urge to push

2) I never experienced transition

As my temperature was rising and my contractions were slowing down, I was advised to leave the comfort of the water bath and try ‘on land’.  Gutted.  I remember feeling disappointed as I climbed out of the soothing water but sitting on the birthing ball helped and I have a great photo that my boyfriend took – a selfie on the ball!  I love this photo.

After more time, and no further urge to push, they broke my second waters (who knew there were two!!) and I was told to empty my bladder in preparation for pushing.  This was the part I was not prepared for – I couldn’t go! I needed it but couldn’t squeeze a drop! They inserted a catheter to drain my bladder.  It turned out that I would need a further 2 catheters for the week after the birth before my bladder would return to normal.

The midwife informed me that if I didn’t get the urge to push soon, they would have to put me on a drip to kick start the contractions again. “We really want to keep this natural so we want to avoid that if we can,” she informed me.  I completely agreed so I was hugely relieved to be told that I could try pushing without the urge.

I remember saying “Ow this bit hurts!” and feeling like she was never going to come out but I literally only had to do around 5 pushes before I was informed that her head was crowning and I was invited to feel her copious amount of hair. What a great incentive to give bigger pushes. I don’t remember feeling a specific burning feeling as described in the reading I had done but with one more push, Amelie Eve was born, at 4.10pm weighing 6lb and 10 (and a half) oz. So, after my active birth and water birth classes Amelie was born on the bed with me lying on my back! Shame but oh well!

I can’t describe the feeling of Amelie being placed on my chest and giving her the first cuddles. I am disappointed that I didn’t cry – after all, pregnancy had made me a much more emotional person.  But I think I was just so amazed!

The really scary moment happened at 3 minutes old, when Amelie coughed up a lot of mucasy water and couldn’t take a breath. The ‘button’ was pressed and before we knew it, the room filled with around 12 people.  I remember a lovely midwife/nurse holding my hand and explaining why it was just routine to have this many people and it would all be fine.  I can’t describe the awful feeling for those few minutes that Amelie was taken away.  My boyfriend and I just looked at each other.  The wonderful staff gave her 3 little breaths and restored her to normal.  She was returned to me all pink and happy. The feeling of relief was immense.

I remember asking the midwife if delivering the placenta would feel painful and was told absolutely not; after being so calm throughout the birth I guess this seemed like a funny question!  The placenta was delivered very quickly and in one piece with no complications. I remember thinking ‘that’s it – nothing else to do. I’ve done it!’  Apart from some stitches – I had second degree tears; apparently Amelie put her little arm up at the last minute before coming out! Little tinker!

Literally every time I look at Amelie I replay the amazing, positive and magical experience of my pregnancy, labour and birth.  I couldn’t have asked for anything different except to have given birth in the water.  I feel so lucky to have had such incredible midwives looking after us and keeping myself and baby Amelie safe.  I feel so incredibly lucky, proud and happy to say it is the greatest achievement of my life!

~ Kate