So does the pregnancy yoga actually work when it comes to birthing your baby?!
I would say a resounding yes!
My online pregnancy yoga series have over 1 million views and I have been contacted by dozens of happy mothers reporting back with enjoyable pregnancies and positive birth stories, saying that they felt they have benefited from practising from my videos.
“Hi Tammy! It felt like you were my companion of every morning at the end of my pregnancy, so I thought I’d share the news – my baby girl Maria Lucia was born 100% naturally on the 28 of August. I’m sure that our yoga practices “together” played a massive role on the success of my delivery. Thanks again, all the best! “Kátia Todeschini
So here I am going to share with you my birth story blow for blow because:
1)I have received messages from ladies asking me to
2) I found reading other ladies’ birth stories really helpful for my preparation
3) I hope to reveal the effectiveness of yoga practice for labour
4) I’d like to share with you my Guide to Birth Preparation: 30 tips and tools that I found beneficial
my birth story
over 24 hours of active labour, natural and without medical pain relief, only gas & air…
Feb 22nd 2015
4pm: I’m 4 days post my due date and not feeling particularly aware that I’m about to pop. Had a huge irrational emotional outburst on my poor husband over something quite trivial. I felt the odd twangy cramps all afternoon but didn’t really think much of it.
8pm: Watching a film with a few friends. I have to stand up every now and then to deal with a cramp. I order a takeaway vindaloo curry…just in case, like the old wives tales, it works. My husband James drinks more than several beers, cos it’s Saturday night.
11pm: We go to bed. I don’t want to make a fuss, as it’s probably nothing… but just in case, I begin to record the cramps using a contraction counter app on my phone. I don’t feel the need to yet tell James about it. I’m able to sleep albeit the cramps and I can record the cramps in my semi-sleep state.
1am- 5am The cramps are definetly happening more often but I stay in bed, they average out at 1 every 15 minutes (each lasting about 45 seconds) but the space between them ranges from 7 mins to 30 mins and the fact that I can stay in bed tells me that I don’t need to take any action…Best to try and sleep. I practice Yoga Nidra, like I have done regularly throughout my pregnancy and before.
5:30am Wow! OK nope gotta get up! There’s definitely something going on here. I don’t feel nervous, like I assumed that I would. Instead, I calmly go set myself up in the lounge with some cushions and blankets and my birthing ball. I figure this is passive labour and assume it will drag on for a while before anything substantial happens.
5:30am-10:30am: I don’t need or want James with me yet, so I let him sleep off his hangover, as he’ll need the rest. I am in an interesting state of awareness. Dawn breaks and the bright sun enters the windows as I manage the more regular and more strong rushes of energy that I now recognise to be contractions. Recording them diligently helps me to stay focused, as does adopting various yoga positions and rhythmic rocking, swaying, and circular movements. I connect to my breath and use the golden thread breath exhales to manage the intensity that I feel. I’m aware that the intensity is building and remind myself to consider the sensations as positive and helpful. I become aware of what words I use in my mental dialogue to describe the sensations that could be considered as ‘pain’…(I feel it’s important to chose positive affirmative language to maintain a good mindset to pain.) I make sure to drink as much water as I can. I down 2 litres of Evian and eat a few dates and almonds and a table spoon of honey. Thats what feels right. I squeeze a stress ball to direct the tension out to my hands rather than down to my hips and lower back which tended to be the pathway. I clear my bowels quite a bit during this phase, maybe that vindaloo did work! HA! When back at my spot by the window, I listen to my pre-recorded hypo birthing scripts with my headphones.
Looking back to this phase, it was my most enjoyable part of labour. I would describe it as sublime. I felt intuitive and in control, it was a time to calmly put into practice some of what I had put in my birth plan. It felt like it was a special and sacred time and space, where I was very connected to my baby. I reminded myself of my positive affirmations and talked to my baby, “listen little buddy, we are gonna work together to get you out. Just trust the process and we will be OK”. The contractions were on average every 6 minutes lasting 45 seconds each.
10:30am-11:30am: OK James time to get up! I need some assistance to put on the TENS Machine, and I also now want some music. James is in a bit of a flap, he flusterly consults his ‘how to be a dad’ DIY manual to read up on what he needs to do… a bit bloody last minute as usual! I still want to be in my own little world so when James bombards me with practical questions about packing his hospital bag, I’m like, “how about shut the hell up, I can’t think right now!” . Whilst James rushes around packing his bag and asking me annoying questions, I zone out and I sway around like a drunk hippo to the music. I listen to the Ibeyi Album by Ibeyi. Such a powerful enchanting album, it evokes a strong emotional response and I find myself strangely sobbing, but kind of in a good way. “Don’t worry James, I’m fine, the crying, it’s just energy passing through”
11:30am -12:30: The contractions are stronger, longer, more frequent. We call my birth partner Joanne, who happens to be a midwife at St Thomas Hospital where I plan to give birth, she was a support throughout my pregnancy because she also trained as a pregnancy massage therapist so I had lots of nice treatments with her, so I was lucky to have her at hand. She says not to go to hospital yet, wait as long as I can, until contractions are every 3 minutes and last a minute. OK then. I continue to deal with it. I can’t move too much now. Focused breathing, the Tens machine are really helpful, as is squeezing the stress ball. I give hydrotherapy a go. i.e I have a shower. It’s kind of nice but I can’t stay still, the contractions are coming in now way too intense so I get back out.
James gets me some clothes. I now am needing to pee constantly. I can’t lift my legs to put my knickers on and I don’t want to wear any clothes on (a recurrent theme throughout my labour!). At one point I can’t even sit on the loo to pee, I’m so delirious from the rushes of contractions that I just stand in the bathroom and pee on the floor. Things are getting crazy now, my body feels spasmodic and my senses close in on me. James keeps trying to get me to put clothes on but I refuse. Now the contractions are so fierce that I vomit with each one. Soon I contract, vomit and lose my mucus plug all at the same time. Then I contract, vomit and my waters break at the same time.
Around 3pm…OK now it’s time to go to hospital. James keeps repeating the same question, ‘Taxi or shall I drive?!” I can’t decide, my head can’t focus, both options seem terrible right now. The contractions are so extremely intense and the thought of the 30min car journey is making me feel confused. We opt for James to drive, pack the bags, I decide to put on a nice dress because I want to wear something nice for the day that my son is born. I have the Tens Machine cables hanging out the back of the dress and my waters all down my legs but, what the hell, I made some effort!
The car journey to Waterloo from Hackney was very tense. I felt like I had a rocket up my arse and James was driving so slowly and carefully due to the rain and because we had worn out car tyres. I was screaming at him to hurry up. We passed some police cars and I demanded that James STOP and get me a police escort…a request he didn’t oblige.
4pm: We arrive at hospital, now I feel overwhelmed, panicked, emotional and totally delirious. James also looks nervous. I throw myself at the reception desk of the birthing centre and scream, cry and wail for help. I have tunnel vision and out of my periphery I vaguely make out other labouring women sitting waiting to be seen to and get a room. I get prioritised. I hear the nurse say to the midwife over the phone, “we have a lady here, I don’t want her delivering in reception”. I get sat in a wheelchair and wheeled off to a birthing suite and as I go past the seated labouring ladies, I shout reassuring words of advice, ‘Sorry! Argh! F*ck! Argh its not that bad! Don’t you guys worry! It’s all fine, Argh Jesus! Ow!!”
Luckily my birth partner Jo arrives, she’s all dolled up as she has had to leave an afternoon tea with some friends to join me.
I meet my midwife on duty, one of Jo’s colleagues, she’s nice but I don’t pay much attention to her as I have Jo supporting me. I immediately want to get naked and I get down onto all fours, my hair all over my face and projectile vomit green liquid all over the place, literally like a scene from the Exorcist. I throw up so, so much but I hadn’t eaten so I dunno what that stuff was. The midwife asks me whether I want her to check my dilation… I say no, because I don’t want to know. I thought that if I find out that I’m not dilated enough, it could really freak me out cos things were so intense, I didn’t think I would be able to handle the news if progress was insufficient. She felt confident progress was good enough and she remarked that she was very impressed by my breathing and management of contractions. I hear Jo tell her it’s because I do yoga.
Jo asks if I want to try out the birth pool. It’s warm and dark and like a jacuzzi without the bubbles or cocktails. They ask if I want to put on a bikini which just seemed so absurd to me. Naked was fine. I wade around like a hippo in there for god knows how long. Jo gently tips cups of water over my shoulders which feels soothing. James tries to soothe me by splashing water in my face to which I retort, ‘STOP James that is not helping!’. The midwife and Jo seem to be OK with how things are going.
I get the urge to bear down and push, they suggest that I go with it. The midwife shift ends and I get a new one. The new one insists on checking my dilation straight away. I’m only 7cm! WTF?! I thought I was soon to be at the finish line?! I’d been pushing for over an hour! Bad news as apparently it can make the cervix inflamed which makes it even more difficult to open. In hindsight, I feel that my dilation should have been checked when I first arrived at hospital, (which is typical standard procedure)… whether I wanted to know the measurement or not.
Midnight – 3:30am Back to the birthing suite, progress has slowed and I’m low on energy so they give me a drip. It works and contractions speed up again. Now I need to use all of my focus, my energy and my will to go against this insane strong urge to push down. I have to use the force of contraction energy instead to open up the cervix. Fighting against the natural urge to push is indescribable, I think you can only really understand it, if you’ve experienced it yourself (may you never have to!) All I can say is, the urge to push felt like a typhoon charging down my lower body and so having to fight against that urge was like swimming against the tide during a thunderstorm in 10 foot waves!
Every time I had a contraction, I feel a gush of water… soooo much water! I feel like I’ve pooed myself every time…and every time I jump up to check, but actually thankfully enough I didn’t poop my whole labour. (phew! lucky me!)
I’m instructed to lay on my side on the bed. It’s best not to move in order to fight the pressure and force that makes me want to push. Contrary to how I envisioned my labour, I have to stay dead still rather than move around.
Now I go for the Gas and Air, I think it helped, in that I was able to stay very focused on my breathing but it also made me dizzy and throw up again loads. I couldn’t eat or drink a thing, so much for all my energy snacks that I’d packed.
I visualise the energy of the contraction creating an opening rather than a downward flow of energy. I use my breath and I make all kinds of vocal sounds, I recall the connection between the jaw and the pelvis so keep my mouth open and relaxed.
Every 15 mins the midwife monitors the baby’s heart rate, which I found very bothersome, because I just felt like I knew my baby was totally fine. And he was.
My use of the stress ball is still going strong. It comes into its own here now. I find it a life saver in managing the contractions. Jo massages me with aromatherapy oils, James was really helpful throughout and remained calm. He put a cold damp flannel on my forehead and it was extremely soothing. He quickly and attentively did whatever I needed of him. For a long time I needed him to push down on my hips because I felt like my pelvis was exploding open with the force of the urge to push.
James and Jo are patient and helpful throughout. I see that they are exhausted and probably bored. (so much waiting around for them!) At one point James falls asleep resting his head on my hips whilst I have a contraction! Oh poor sleepy James. ‘James!! Wake the F*ck up!, I need you!”
I’m now clock checking wanting it to just be over. I have a wobble in confidence and exclaim, “I can’t do it anymore”. They both motivate me with their words. We try and shift the tempo with some music. Contractions are now one every minute. The intense sensations of each rush penetrate my hips and pelvis.
The Gas and Air made me so drowsy. I’d contract for one whole minute then pass out nearly unconscious for one minute then repeat, again and again for what felt like forever but was possibly 90 minutes.
It’s crazy, I remember thinking OMG WOW I can’t believe that giving birth is actually this hard and so many women do it. I also thought those same infamous last words that most women probably think during labour…”I must forever remember this insanity because I’m not doing it ever again!”
Jo and the midwife on duty discuss whether they should check my dilation. In that period they did once and it was about 8 cm so I had to keep going. Then again at 3:30am apparently the left see of the cervix was ready but the right wasn’t so the midwife attempted to move it with her fingers. I just didn’t care, I just wanted this baby out now. Looking back this was a crucial and a pinnacle moment of my labour. Everything rested on this moment. At the time, I was unaware of how crucial it was and that if the manual manoeuvre didn’t work, I’d be rushed off to have all kinds of whatever medical intervention….Like so many other women. The Midwife says, “OK now PUSH really hard”. I let out one almighty PUSH. Thankfully it worked and baby’s head engaged and now I was allowed to push to my hearts content and for REAL. (I realise luck/grace played a huge part in my labour at this point).
3:30am-5am Pushing. I went for it. Every position imaginable, I tried it. I did have the odd fleeting thought that it was a bit weird having my friend Jo see my everything from all kinds of angles but by this stage what can you do?! My one request to James was that he stay at the top end and leave the professionals to the business end, for which he dutifully obliged. Jeez, I found pushing the baby down the birth canal so incredibly uncomfortable. I gave 100% but Jo asked for 120%. My mind did begin to spin and I felt like if I pushed any more bones would crack open and my innards would fall out. It was the last hurdle so I was determined not to give up yet. I used the visualisation of the coffee plunger imagery and also got James to shake my legs and bum- a technique called ‘shaking the apples’ also my breathing plus Jo’s instructions to get me through this stage.
Before labour, I was really anxious about the crowning of the head stage I was so scared of tearing. The idea of it made me wince! Everyone said, ‘oh when it gets to it you won’t care’..they were right, cos I didn’t. I did tear, but didn’t care. (2nd degree and luckily not too painful and healed very quickly and easily), I did pelvic floor exercises regularly, which helped.
5:03am Feb 23rd 2015 Milo was born.
His head was in a big cone shape due to the long push phase. Also due to the long pushing phase he did a poo literally at the last minute (cheers for that baby dude!) He was snuffly and crying with a funny head but he was safe and out and ours! Jo cleaned him up and brought him to my breast. To me his cry sounded angry and unsettled and in a short fleeting moment, my gut told me there was something wrong with him. Jo said, ‘babies cry, that’s what they do’.
I had to get on with the third stage of labour now which was pushing out the placenta. A few sniffs of clary sage oil and the placenta, fully intact, was released.
Then came the stitches, a real insult to injury! Just when you think it’s all over and you want to melt into the bliss that is your new baby, the last final hurdle. By this stage I gave up trying to ‘manage the sensations’ and went full throttle on the gas and air. I was high as a kite, exhausted and spent.
It was all over, Milo was here.
It would have been nice if the story ended right there, but after a bit of complication, we found that the meconium (poo) was on Milo’s lung so he was having breathing difficulties. It turned out to be an infection so he had to spend his first night out in the world in Intensive Care followed by 4 nights in Special Care on antibiotics and a drip.
Staying in hospital for 5 days wasn’t as bad as anticipated and it was rather nice to rest up in a supported environment. James was amazing and also stayed the whole time and by day 5, Milo was well and we were rested up and good to start our lives as a new family!
Every birth story is unique with its highs and lows. I wish you all the luck in the world with yours!
check out my birth preparation guide: 30 tips & techniques here
It contains an explanation of all of the tools and techniques highlighted in pink, above in my birth story.
you can also listen for free to the audio podcast of my birth story recorded on TheBirthHour