Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Story of Francis : Part 3

Part Three : Pregnancy and Hypno-birthing.

Although all 40 weeks of pregnancy are very important in the development of the embryo/fetus/baby, to us getting through the first twelve weeks were crucial. We had made it to ten weeks the first time.  

Ananda went for her hCG blood tests every two days, and we saw good doubling of values which thankfully continued.  Still it seemed to take for ever to get to the ten week mark and beyond.

At twelve weeks we went for a scan :

I think both of us were so awestruck by this scan that we hardly spoke. Things were looking great for us and the embryo.  We were so happy. It looked like we had gotten through the first trimester and could maybe start to relax and little, and start to dream a bit bigger.

We planned to call our families to tell them the good news, as up to that point we had only told Ananda's mother. Unfortunately, I got a call first from my family the next morning. My mam back in the UK was seriously ill. She had just that day been diagnosed with terminal late-stage gall bladder cancer.  She had been told she might only have 6 months left to live. However, following a phone call with her consultant in the UK, if appeared that she may only have a few days left if they could not clear the blockage in her liver that was causing her liver to fail.

It’s impossible to put into any coherent order the mish-mash of emotions that I went through at this point. The day before I was so happy because of the scan and going to be a Dad; the next I’m told my mam will either die very soon, or at about the same time our baby is to be born. What would I do if those two extreme life events occurred at the same time but 19,000 miles apart? Would I be forced to choose between being there for my wife and new baby or saying goodbye to my mam for the last time? Should I tell mam about the pregnancy or is that too selfish?

Most of this roller-coaster of emotions was overshadowed by the sad fact that more than likely my Mam would never get to meet her new grandchild, and this made Ananda and I both so sad. So very sad. She was such a great mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. We had only just lost my Father 18 months earlier, so this just felt like too cruel a blow to handle.

I took a leave of absence from work and flew to the UK the next day.  It felt terrible to leave Ananda behind, it really did. Fortunately I was able to spend a good four weeks looking after my mam and being with our family as we tried to make her remaining time as comfortable and loving as possible.  Mam passed away peacefully at home in June as Ananda and I were on our way to England to celebrate her 80th birthday.

After returning from Mam’s funeral we started thinking and planning for the birth of our baby. We wanted to be surprised as to its gender so when we went for scans that was the first thing we told the nurses.  

One of the plus points from moving to New Zealand was that child birth was mid-wife led and not seen as a medical issue. Conception had certainly been a medical issue for us, but that was where we wanted the “medical” care to end, thank you very much.  We had our cake and we wanted to eat it. We interviewed a bunch of midwives, all of whom would be supportive of our choices regarding the birth of our baby.

Ananda says she has always wanted to have a hypno-birthing delivery ever since she was a teenager, and surprisingly to me that idea found fertile ground with me. The mail brought us a book called “ Hypno Birthing – The Mongan Method” by Marie Mongan.

I grabbed it and read it before Ananda did, and after about 14 pages I could see why this approach to birth appealed to Ananda.  Ananda has been a long-time meditater (we both still meditate twice a day), and since the premise of hypno-birthing is getting your body into a deeply relaxed and meditative state, I thought it would be a breeze for her.

The book came with a CD with some relaxation techniques in it, each one about 10-20 minutes long. The second time we listened to it was when we were going to bed one night. I woke up feeling so refreshed and relaxed thinking that it was the best night sleep I had ever had – only to find out it was only 40 minutes later. I too was hooked.

We went to a hypno-birthing class here in Hamilton, and were given some further guidance and techniques to use over a course of two weekends. I had a big part to play in this role as I would be the facilitator, the voice that Ananda would hear as I was inducing her into a deeply relaxed state.  The voice that Ananda would hear guiding her through the stages of labour. Quite a responsibility for me, so one that I was going to commit to 110%.

At some stage in the pregnancy we started considering the option of using hypno-birthing at home and using a birthing pool.  We read lots of positive home-birth stories on line and in magazines, and along with what we learned at anti-natal class and from the Home Birth Association, this felt like the final piece in the puzzle to make our plan complete. Our mid-wives said they preferred home births as they were more relaxing and magical.

So along with going to the anti-natal classes once a week, we were also practicing our hypno-birthing techniques at home.  I remember at the first anti-natal class I stood alone in saying that I thought the day of child birth would be a relaxing day. A verbal affirmation of a mental affirmation Ananda and I were practicing every day. As I’ve said before I’m a big believer in the power of the mind. People probably thought I was nuts saying that – you’ll have to read Part 4 tomorrow to see if that came true!

Photo credit: Olga Makhotkina

The pregnancy was going quite smoothly now. Ananda, once the morning sickness had passed, was doing really well. She failed the glucose test a couple of times, but passed the more sophisticated glucose test each time. Does anyone pass the stupid glucose test?

Because we were IVF we did have to visit the hospital on occasion for scans. The hospital and staff there were the epitome of why we did not want a hospital birth in the first place. Such a culture of fear, where they always painted the worst possible picture for us: “Oh your baby’s too big”, “Oh they may have a kidney defect”. I know they were only trying to do their jobs.

I still remember the shocked look on the Dr’s face when she asked us what dates we wanted to be booked into the hospital for birth. “We’re having the baby at home”. Cue Dr’s jaw hitting the floor.

The final straw for me at the hospital was with Ananda almost full term. We were told that the baby was going to be so big “about 12 pounds” that Ananda would have to be induced and/or have a C-section. I came out of that meeting feeling terrible and worried that Ananda would change her mind about the home birth. “Don’t worry” she reassured me “I don’t listen to what she says anymore.” Sigh.

The cavalry arrived from California in early October in the shape of Ananda’s mom, Gay, (note the American vernacular for mam) and our dear niece Carsyn. Carsyn and Gay were both given jobs to do in the event that Ananda went into labour,  (note the non-American vernacular), whilst they were here.  That included how to blow up the birthing pool, where it was going to go and how it was to be filled. We also went through our “birthing plan”, both for at home and if we DID have to go to the hospital. (Although dead set against it I believe that “failing to plan is planning to fail” so we had a plan for each scenario.)

Included in the Army-like drills that I would spring on them at any time of day or night, was the hypno-birthing relaxation techniques. At this stage I would practice two or three times a week putting Ananda into a relaxed state. Gay and Carsyn also joined in too, as did Sunny the Dog. It seemed to work well on everyone, man and beast! I could see that the more we practiced the quicker and deeper Ananda was becoming “hypnotised”.  You could tell from the change in her breathing pattern, and how difficult it was to bring her out of it when practice had finished!

I was a stickler for practicing under “exam like conditions” so that included listening to the  “Peace and Quiet” CD of music by Jeff Clarkson, and using the aromatherapy scent that Ananda had found to be the most relaxing – rose – just like her middle name.

With Gay and Carsyn we also re-watched a hypno-birthing video of an actual birth which was so calm and serene and beautiful, just so they had an idea of what to expect.  I always teared up watching this.

To complete our “weird-hippy-Californian” approach to our child birth we ordered a bunch of homeopathy supplements and some tie-died t-shirts. Well maybe not. The kit came with about 13 different vials, and a guideline telling us which pills to use at different parts of labour.

We were all set. My scripts and prompts for the hypno-birthing were laminated, and everything in place. The due date came and went, and unfortunately Carsyn had to return home. Gay remained. The hospital were more insistent that Ananda would have to be induced if we went more than a week over our due date.  Primrose oil was taken both orally and suppository like, acupuncture was tried, raspberry leaf tea consumed and natural prostaglandins applied. (I let you figure out what that means!). And, as before, we waited.

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