MAX'S BIRTH ...with thanks to Rachel & Ben

Our little Max arrived safe and sound at home in the early hours of the 6th November (right on due date!) weighing 6lb 14 oz.

Max is our first child. If I was to rewind 7 months I would have told you that I would definitely be having a hospital birth, that childbirth scared the living daylights out of me, it will be awful and it's something I would just have to 'get through'. In reality, I couldn't have been more wrong.

My pregnancy had it's fair share of ups and downs. The day I found out I was pregnant I hopped on the train from Kings Cross to head back home to Yorkshire and managed to faint somewhere near Grantham which delayed the East Coast Edinburgh train for 30 minutes (but I was ushered into 1st class and given a sandwich, every cloud...). I then spent a worrying night in hospital with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. Thankfully this wasn't the case and it was just the start of the pregnancy roller coaster. I then endured 4 months of vomiting in parks, down drains, in alleyways, occasionally down the toilet, if I was lucky.

My preconceptions about childbirth had been passed down thoughtfully from three older sisters who all have two children each. To give my sisters credit they all had natural births with only gas and air to help them but they didn't shy away from any grizzly details to fill me with dread.

It was about halfway through my pregnancy that I was chatting to my very good friend Sophie who was three months ahead of me on the pregnancy roller coaster and she told me all about Hypnobirthing. I had never heard of Hypnobirthing but Sophie was already an advocate having started Hollie's classes in Dulwich. I looked into it, it sounded logical, it made sense. I booked the course. After our first session my husband Ben and I were hooked. We learned more about labour and birth in that one session than the hours of ante-natal classes we attended and the countless negative birth stories seen on TV or told to me throughout my life.

So, armed with all the knowledge we needed from Hollie, we earnestly started practicing. We practiced every day which gave my husband a real role in the pregnancy. He was also practicing for the 'big day' as I was going to rely on him throughout my labour.

A week before my due date I started having surges. They varied in strength but really kicked in two days before I gave birth. I woke on the Wednesday morning with pretty strong surges so I gave my husband little choice but to work from home! By the time The Apprentice was on that evening I was well on my way! My surges were very strong and Ben set about building the birth pool in the living room. It not only gave him a job but it was like Ikea flatpack heaven. He was in his element, building with one hand and timing my surges with the other. The tens machine became less of a distraction and more of a nuisance by that point. I started inhaling clary sage on a tissue which was strangely good and more effective. We had the lights dim, music on, candles lit and a huge jacuzzi size pool in the living room. It was like a bizarre spa experience. The pool was full by about 11pm so I hopped in and couldn't believe the relief!

The first midwife arrived at midnight, when she checked I was 8cm dilated, she was pretty shocked, she smiled and her very first question to me was "Have you been doing Hypnobirthing?". She immediately called the second midwife. I must say here how unbelievably brilliant our two midwives were (Emily and Olivia from Oakwood). They came in so discreetly and were an amazing calm presence throughout my labour. They encouraged me and reminded me I was in safe hands but also left most of this to my husband who was smiling at me and reminding me to breathe and not tense my jaw! He was my anchor throughout and I simply could not have done it without him. My waters broke in the pool and then the pushing phase started. I finished with my 'up breathing' (visualising a hot air balloon and surfing waves!) and started my 'down breathing' visualising a waterfall near my childhood home in the Yorkshire Dales! The pushing phase was tiring but that was when I could really feel things start to happen. I could feel my baby moving slowly down. It felt like it was taking ages. That was when I hit transition at full pelt. I was exhausted but determined. I had a bite of Twix and some lemon juice and I was good to go again. Max arrived head and arm first (like Superman) into the water. No need for stitches either thanks to the Epi-No! I pulled him out and held him. He seemed to be still asleep and then opened his eyes and blinked at us.

It was simply the best thing I have ever experienced. It was calm, relaxed and more than anything else I felt like I was on auto-pilot. My body knew what to do and I just let it do it's thing. I had in my head that I wanted a home birth in water but I was open to anything if things didn't go to plan. We just aimed to go with the flow and it worked for us which is a good job as I hadn't packed a hospital bag!

You were a major factor in enabling us to have the birth we had. Even the midwife said she would love to have the birth we had, it was 'text book' apparently! Can't wait to catch up with you and the gang soon!