My name is Leonie Darch and I am a Hypnobirthing Teacher, Doula, Hypnotherapist and Mum!
Here is my personal story of pregnancy and birth.
When I was age 25 I came off the contraceptive pill and, with a history of endometriosis and irregular cycles, I was under no illusions that this was going to be a smooth ride. Over the next 3 years I had scans, dye tests and a laparoscopy and my natural cycle slowly started to reveal itself, moving from 2-3 ovulations per year to 8-10. Looking back this was not a worrying time as we had not yet started trying to conceive, we were simply allowing my body to re-set itself after many years of the contraceptive pill. When we decided to try to get pregnant it took six months and four cycles to conceive which at the time felt like a lifetime but actually I now understand how unpredictable fertility can be.
I enjoyed being pregnant and very much carried on with life as normal, working full time, exercising regularly, eating well and when I was 20 weeks we began our hypnobirthing classes. Little did I know at that first class just how much this was going to change my life! I wouldn’t describe myself back then as a holistic or spiritual person and I had certainly never meditated before. I once left a yoga class because it wasn’t fast paced enough for me! What hypnobirthing taught me was so much more than just how to relax. It taught me about life balance, stress management, self-care and the incredible mind-body connection that we have. My pregnancy was low risk and I surrounded myself with positive expectations of labour and birth.
My labour started at 6.30am early one Friday morning, I was 2 days past my due date and had lost my mucous plug the day before. The first sensations were mild, and so I came downstairs and lay on my sofa with my hypnobirthing relaxations playing on a loop. After approx. 3 hours I could sense the sensations were strengthening and I woke my husband up. We did the usual things at home, I had a bath, bounced on my ball and watched some TV until the surges were strong enough to take my full attention and coming every 2-3 minutes.
When we arrived at hospital at 1pm I was examined to be told that I was around 3cm dilated. The midwife encouraged me to go for a walk rather than stay on labour ward and so off we went, up and down stairs and around the hospital grounds. We even popped in for a cup of tea at the hospital canteen! When we returned to labour ward the midwives were satisfied that I was well on my way and showed me into my labour room. The next 2 hours were spent on the loo as I soon realised that was the most comfortable place to be! My husband was supportive and reminded me of my hypnobirthing practise until at 4pm the midwife told me that I was in established labour and could now get in the pool. Both my husband and midwife knew that this was my absolute goal and I literally chased my midwife down the corridor to the pool room!
Wow just wow! The water was like a catalyst to my labour as the endorphins and oxytocin took over my body, gentle movement and the soothing warmth cocooning me and my baby. I had three midwives with me by the time Libby was born; a student who had never seen a waterbirth and asked if she could observe, the waterbirth queen midwife (In 2007 waterbirth rates were very low) and my attending midwife who had been with me throughout. At 5.34pm Libby floated into the world. I stayed in the pool for 30 mins while my cord continued to pulsate and eventually climbed out of the pool to get dry and birth the placenta. I experienced no perineal tear, so my recovery was comfortable and after 3 hours I was transferred to the postnatal ward for the night while my husband went home.
We conceived again when Libby was 2.5yrs old and this time it was first time lucky! My cycle regulated after Libby’s birth and so there was not quite so much guess work, that together with a relaxing holiday in the south of France during ovulation and we were happy to be expecting again. My pregnancy was low risk and I continued to exercise throughout. I soon discovered however that pregnancy with a pre-schooler is exhausting! I had reduced my working hours, but the days were long and on my days off it was toddler life with ballet or gymnastics to juggle.
When I was six months pregnant I experienced severe workplace discrimination and had to make a formal complaint against my manager. This time in my life was extremely upsetting and after several weeks being signed off by my doctor for stress, I began my maternity leave at 29 weeks pregnant and made the decision to walk away from my employment. I couldn’t undo the few weeks of stress that I had experienced but I could invest the next 12 weeks into my hypnobirthing, making life as relaxed and enjoyable as possible for both me and my baby. I was feeling low at this point and sought help from my hypnobirthing teacher to help me feel those much needed endorphins. We decided that we wanted a homebirth and started excitedly preparing for this.
My due date came and went, and it soon became clear that this baby was in no hurry to make an appearance! I always felt that my scan date was too early and so I didn’t feel too anxious by this until at 41 weeks after my second sweep the word induction came about. I knew that the only thing that would stop my homebirth would be induction and it was something I was a) in denial of and b) scared of. My first birth had been spontaneous, natural and in water and all of these things were under threat. At 41+3 I had a third sweep and my midwife told me that she wanted to book in my induction for the Saturday (42wks). After my initial disappointment I remember leaving that appointment with a new sense of optimism and excitement. I accepted that my homebirth was unlikely, but I had all the tools I needed to have a positive induction and I would be holding my baby by the end of Sunday.
At approx. 4pm that day I noticed some leaking fluid and realised quite quickly my waters had released! It was our wedding anniversary and England were 1-nil up in a world cup game – quite the excitement! On reflection I believe that it was releasing the anxiety around induction that helped my body into labour. We quickly arranged for Libby to be collected from nursery and waited to see if the surges would start to regulate, we called our midwife who was happy for us to continue at home. With Libby safely on a sleepover our midwife arrived at 7pm, we were progressing nicely through the latent phase but there were no signs of active labour just yet. It was so relaxing being at home, it was midsummer, and we were all watching Wimbledon until dusk but still no real signs that things were picking up a pace.
At 10.30pm we went for a walk and I was stopping to breathe through each surge before carrying on, well this was my catalyst this time! By 11.30pm I was nearing full dilation and it soon became clear that my second midwife was not going to make it. Thankfully my midwife knew my wishes as well as I did, and she arranged for an ambulance to transfer me to a stand alone MLU rather than my nearest hospital labour ward and requested that the pool be ready for arrival. I broke all the rules in the book in the ambulance, refusing to lie on my back and attempting to hold back the expulsive urge that was coming. My husband was following behind the ambulance and there was no way he was going to miss the birth of our son! When we arrived, they quickly got me into the birth pool and my body took back over. Sebastian floated into the world at 12.31am.
My MLU experience was a very positive one, we stayed in our private room overnight with just one other woman in the unit and two or three midwives. Seb slept off his birth experience while I rested, and we went home first thing in the morning to meet his big sister. He was a relaxed and calm baby who fed well and slotted straight into family life.
In Sept 2010 when Seb was just 10 weeks old I started my year long Hypnotherapy diploma, my career change in sight! I wanted to be a Hypnobirthing Teacher and help to make birth better in the same way that my teacher had for me. My hypnobirthing business was born in 2011 and I have now supported over 250 couples with their births, I have honestly never looked back.