Using the Breathing Techniques for the arrival of Schuyler Étienne Seabourne Karl

At 37 odd weeks I was well and truly ready for baby to make an appearance. I was in more pain than I was when we attended your classes - my SPD was horrific and I spent a lot of each day in bed. I finished work a week earlier than planned because I couldn't handle the walking required. Baby was so low that walking was a challenge and I was getting "fanny daggers" all the time and him being low added to my pelvis pain. At this point I discussed with my midwife and was trying almost everything to encourage him to come (raspberry leaf tea, bouncing/hip circles on my Swiss ball, inserting EPO, eating dates and acupuncture (mainly for preparing body for labour and pelvis pain)).


On Friday 17.03.17 at 1230am my waters broke in bed - thankfully I managed not to get them through the bed! Note here that my midwife went on a long weekend at midnight! And therefore we would have our back up (who we thankfully knew well and got along with really well).  I decided that I would try and sleep before labour got too established - our midwife had said don't call her over night unless something was wrong (she had provided a list) or until contractions were 60-90 seconds long and 3-4 minutes apart. My contractions starting ramping up pretty much straight away and by 3am we called the midwife as my contractions were consistently in this range. Midwife said to call her back if something changed or once they had moved to the top of my uterus (they started low like period pain). During this time, i was using the breathing techniques we learnt at (Opti-mum) antenatal classes, focusing on acknowledging the pain and then letting it go.

At 6am we called the midwife again as my contractions were now barely 30 seconds apart and were lasting 60-90 seconds and were much more intense. I was finding that the breathing techniques etc weren't working for me her so I turned to mantras. (I am strong. I can do this. My body is designed for this. This is one step closer to Schuyler).
I was thinking that if I still needed to wait until the contractions moved to the top of my uterus and then for them to work down mindfulness might not cut it and I was gonna need some pain relief. Our midwife came to meet us at home to see what was happening at this stage. She checked on baby and I and after about 45 mins at home I managed to get to a position where A vaginal examination was possible and she discovered I was already 7.5cm dilated!!

Off to the hospital we went (with my gestational diabetes it was necessary). Unfortunately the two pools at Christchurch Women's were in use so I couldn't have my water birth but our midwife mentioned being able to go into the shower so as soon as I was out of the wheelchair in the room I was stripping and making my to the shower where I used the hot water to help control my pain. I think I was in the shower for a total of about 2 minutes before I was on my knees in the shower saying I needed to push!
Once I was getting closer midwife decided I needed to move to the bed for easier access, easier monitoring and because the bathroom was a bit cold for baby to be born in. I got on my knees on the bed and put the head of the bed right up and leaned over that as I pushed and gave birth to our beautiful baby boy at 8.53am.

The mindfulness techniques and the mantras we learnt at your classes enabled me to to not only manage my labour but I honestly believe made the difference between needing pain relief and having my labour entirely natural .
I also think it gave us the opportunity to complete the majority of labour at home almost without realising it and meant that the hospital room isn't the part of the labour/birthing experience we remember the most.

My husband Anthony was amazing throughout - getting sleep in the early stage (even though I couldn't!) and just being there for me during the stronger contractions. He consistently reheated my wheat bag and hottie bottle which were my form of pain relief alongside my mindfulness and mantras. He sat on the floor outside our ensuite shower while I used the hot water to calm myself and my pain. He recognised when to touch and soothe and when to just be there next to me. He helped me adjust the heat packs throughout and right at the end as I was pushing he whispered to me "You can do this. This is the last step until we meet Schuyler". What is most amazing about this is that I had never mentioned to him before or during that I was even using mantras let alone what I was saying to myself.

We were very lucky as our backup midwife - Sheena - is aware of your Opti-mum classes and was aware that we had done them and seemed to instinctively know that we didn't need someone fluffing around us and she mainly let us labour by ourselves and in our own way. She was very quiet and calm and not intruding in our labour both at home and once we got to the hospital.  She was directive when needed, particularly when she realised I was 7cm dilated and we needed to go to the hospital. I can't even define what changed in her at that moment but that change gave me the ability to work through the contractions enough to get dressed, into the car and get the hospital. Without that I'm not sure how it would've gone!

As I have said previously we are very thankful to you both (Lorna and Keishana), as we honestly believe that your classes made my labour and enjoyable, memorable and positive experience. We feel blessed that we managed to labour for so long in our own environment (with a fluffy white cat trying to protect me!) and that we were able to have our planned/dreamed natural birth (both pain killer wise and induction wise).

All up my labour was just over 8 hours with Sheena saying that my active labour was about 4 hours.

Meet our perfect little boy - Schuyler Étienne Seabourne Karl. Born 17.03.17 at 8.53am. 8lbs.

Thank you once again. Know we are very very grateful and we will be recommending your classes even more than we had been before.

Centaine, Anthony and Schuyler Karl.

In the Depths of Winter - Birth Story by Nina

Gradually over the course of my pregnancy I developed a very clear fantasy of the perfect birthing experience. 

In the depths of winter there is a dimly lit, cosy room with a wood burning fire roaring, the comforting smell of peppermint wafting through the house.  The birthing mother would be calm and strong and surrounded by a small group of supportive, caring people. There would be no fuss and no fear.  The mother would have complete control over her experience, which would be the perfect length, not too long and not too fast.  After relaxing between surges in her birthing pool, she would move to the perfect spot in front of the fire and birth her beautiful healthy baby.  Afterwards the mother, father and new baby would hunker down in their warm cosy cave of a lounge, eat nourishing food and rejoice in the amazing experience that just happened.

I also was holding onto the experience of birthing my first child. A very long drawn out labour of a posterior positioned baby. A brightly lit hospital environment, surrounded by a medical team who took all of the control and failed to communicate what was happening to us. I was also holding onto the feeling of failure because although I had practised hypno-birthing, I had caved and asked for an epidural.

And afterwards, being left so exhausted that other people had to hold my new baby because I kept falling asleep and holding her seemed reckless.

These two scenarios seemed worlds apart and in reality I was just hoping for an experience that fell somewhere in-between.

The day that Albi decided to arrive was this gorgeous sunny winters day.  It was school holidays and my sister and her family where visiting and had come round along with my parents to have lunch with me.  After lunch they took my eldest child off for an adventure on the tram and left me in peace to work on my latest quilt.  10 minutes after they left I realised what I thought were some Braxton hicks were actually surges and I was in early labour.  I called my mum and asked her to come back to keep me company and called my husband Tim to come home.  I spent the next couple hours chatting to my mum and breathing through my surges, while Tim set up the birthing pool and lit the fire.

As the surges got stronger I asked for the curtains to be closed and the pool to be filled.  I was supported by either my mum or Tim through each and every surge, I was never on my own and never felt out of control.  Eventually the surges were strong and close together and my mum our midwife.  She arrived so quickly and hot on her heels came my back up midwife.

She examined me and found I was 7cm dilated and after a brief stint in the bathroom I was then helped into the birthing pool.  Can I just add in here that pool felt amazing!  I stayed in the pool and worked through the surges and eventually my body changed from breathing through them to pushing with them.  We did this for a while until I was examined again and found that I was 9cm dilated but a sneaky little cervical lip was in the way.  It was suggested that I should get more grounded click here to learn about Earth as one of the Essential Elements to Birth to work through this and I moved from the pool to leaning against a footstool in front of the fire.  I was starting to find the surges felt intense in my back as I was breathing through them waiting for that lip to get out the way.  My magical midwife massaged the most amazing geranium smelling oil to my back as well as a heat pack. I had been in active labour for 4 hours.  My water finally broke and I started pushing again and in less than 30 minutes I gave birth to a healthy 3.96kg boy.  4 minutes later I birthed the placenta without really realising it was happening.

Once we were all cleaned up and sorted out and the midwives had done all the checks and care that they needed to and had left, Tim, Albi and I hunkered down on the couch with The Tour of France on the TV and hot bowls of vegetable soup to eat.

When I recount the birth of my second child I can now say…

In the depths of winter there is a dimly lit, cosy room with a wood burning fire roaring, the comforting smell of geranium wafting through the house.  I was calm and strong and surrounded by a small amazing group of supportive, caring people. There was no fuss and no fear.  I had complete control over my experience, which was be the perfect length, not too long and not too fast.  After relaxing between surges in the birthing pool, I moved to the perfect spot in front of the fire and birthed my beautiful healthy baby boy.  Afterwards we hunkered down in our warm cosy cave of a lounge, ate nourishing soup, rejoiced in the amazing experience that just happened and watch cycling on TV.

 

A Snapshot of Mindfulness

Greetings and welcome to this new addition to our website. We have just celebrated the first birthday of Opti-mum and decided to celebrate with you all by launching a blog that will provide some clarity around how mindfulness fits in to the world of childbirth.  As midwives and mindfulness practitioners we are offering a fusion of innovative and  creative antenatal education from a mindfulness perspective. 

We are aware of how trendy the concept of mindfulness is currently, which might lead you to think that it is a new thing. It is in fact an ancient practice that is associated with multiple cultures and religions for millennia. Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Maori and others all record the use of mindfulness in one form or another within their narratives.

All of these cultures have had contemplative practices that  intentionally focus on the present moment in order tocreate a mind body connection.  This is applied by using a combination of the breath, awareness of the senses and recognition of how our thoughts and emotions can influence our physical state. The by product of this practice is a quieting of the mind, a reduction in stress levels and an increase in our physical, emotional and mental health. These are critical factors that can have a positive impact on the woman, her partner and the baby during a pregnancy, birth and postnatal period.

Mindfulness has been extensively evaluated in large research trials which have continually demonstrated significant health benefits for a wide variety of physical and psychological conditions. Our Opti-mum courses combine the art of mindfulness with the science of physiology to create a comprehensive programme for you as parents-to-be, whether you are not yet pregnant or currently expecting your fifth baby.

If we have inspired a sense of curiosity, then click here to watch our recent presentation (performance) from the Pecha Kucha evening at the Christchurch Art Gallery.