The birth of my first daughter wasn’t the peaceful hypnobirthing experience I’d hoped for. Although it started well, insensitive treatment from an on-call doctor at the hospital made me tense and I found it impossible to get back into my hypnobirthing mindset after that. This led to minimal oxytocin (the body’s natural pain-reliever hormone), which resulted in a dragged out and stressful labour.
So second time round my hope was to have a shorter labour, to stay in my hypnobirthing bubble throughout, and ideally to have a water birth.
Preparation for labour
We had taken Jasmine Collins’ hypnobirthing course with my first pregnancy, so this time we just took a private refresher. It was like a reboot, and she gave me the confidence to believe that I could do it right this time.
We chose Dr Amber from Healthbay Polyclinic as our doctor, after lots of research into pro-natural birth OB/GYNs in Dubai, and I also hired a doula this time. It was something my husband and I discussed at length, and I admit we weren’t completely sold on the value of a doula to begin with, but we’re so glad we went for it! We chose Louise Atkinson from Dou La La, who was so easy to chat to, passionate about her job and super supportive.
For the birth plan/birth preferences list we used a visual, icon-based system. It was a free download that created a simple-to-read, clear and concise plan. Everyone we showed it to loved it and wanted to recommend it to their clients and patients too! I kept several copies with my pregnancy paperwork, and kept Blu tack in the folder so that we could stick one copy to the door. This is especially important with hypnobirthing, to stop people disrupting the calm environment you’ve worked so hard to create.
Hayley, from the UK, is married to Ammar, from Saudi Arabia. They have two daughters, Sofia (4 years) and Lana (2 months).
Waiting for baby...
Everyone told me the second baby comes early. So when our due date came and went, I was so surprised. By the time she did finally arrive, at 41 weeks plus two days, Dr Amber had left for travels, as had my doula Louise. I was starting to worry that my parents, who had arrived a week ago, wouldn’t get to meet her before they had to fly home.
Fortunately our back up doctor, Dr Yamini, was also supportive of our pro-natural preferences, and Louise had arranged for a back-up doula too, called Nicky Langley. She has a wealth of experience and is wonderfully kind and supportive. We made sure to meet her before Louise left, for a handover.
Dr Yamini told me that if I wanted the baby to get moving, I needed to walk. So my husband and I spent three evenings walking around Mall Of The Emirates, for hours on end. I was exhausted, uncomfortable and desperate to go into labour. Finally, on 26th July, I started having contractions (or surges, in hypnobirthing language) on and off all day.
That night, my husband set up our bedroom as a hypnobirthing haven, with candles, essential oils, calming music and my birthing ball. We spent several hours there, trying our best to stay at home for as long as possible, and communicating with our doula Nicky via WhatsApp. She finally said that it was probably worth going in to hospital at around 2am.
Read more: How to choose your birth hospital in the UAE
At the hospital
We were lucky to get the hypnobirthing suite at our chosen hospital, Al Zahra, so we were able to make use of the dimmed lights, and to have music on. After 30 minutes of monitoring, at 2.55am, they told me I was in active labour and 4-5cm dilated. We messaged Nicky to join us, and I got up to walk around again.
Suddenly things moved incredibly quickly. By the time I got back to the bed from the other side of the room and asked for the gas and air, my contractions had become more intense and I felt my baby was coming. The midwife didn’t believe me at first, but soon realised I was serious! At 3.25am my waters broke and Nicky arrived, and less than 20 minutes later Lana was born. It was so quick it almost didn’t feel real. I hadn’t even had a chance to get onto the bed in between contractions, so she was born on the floor! They hadn’t even started running the water for the birthing pool yet. As the midwife passed Lana to me she said “Wow, she’s got to be 5kg!”
A perfect birth
By staying at home for as long as possible, hiring a doula who knew how to coach me in exactly the right breathing to use at each stage, and having a supportive husband who helped me to stay in my hypnobirthing zone, I had such a great experience this time.
I also had no stitches, which meant recovery was really quick, too.
I had always hoped for a midwife-led birth, and because it ended up being so quick and unexpected, that’s what I had. The on-call doctor who was present had minimal involvement, and the midwife we had, called Kat, was fantastic.
"I’m so glad my doctor didn’t discuss the baby’s size before birth. It would have made me doubt my ability to give birth naturally, which would have robbed me of a wonderful experience"
At 5kg, Lana was certainly a big baby! My first daughter, Sofia, was 4.3kg, so I suppose my husband and I just make big babies, and being more than a week overdue meant Lana was even bigger. Dr Amber didn’t discuss the baby’s size with me while I was pregnant – thank goodness! She purposefully didn’t and I’m so glad of that, because all it would have done is make me worry and doubt my abilities to give birth naturally.
My impression is that Dubai is full of doctors who wouldn’t have let me even try to deliver naturally given my baby’s size. But they would have robbed me of the wonderful experience I had, and all of the health benefits of vaginal delivery. This highlights the importance of finding a doctor who will support your preferences; the hands-off, pro-natural approach was perfect for me and gave me the hypnobirthing experience I’d always wanted.
Hayley’s tips for mums-to-be
- Look into hypnobirthing. It really can make such a difference to your experience!
- Research OB/GYNs carefully and meet more than one if you need to. They differ greatly in their preferences/styles – make sure you find someone you are comfortable with.
- Consider hiring a doula. Research shows their presence can reduce C-section rates, and even the length of labour. Again, make sure you find someone you click with.
- Use a visual birth plan. The best I’ve found is free to download from The Positive Birth Book.
- Join the local pregnancy and mum groups on Facebook. They hold a wealth of information and can lead to amazing friendships at a time when your life is changing so much.
Hayley recommends using an icon-based birth plan (right), which is a clear way of indicating your preferences to medical staff at the hospital. She got hers free online from The Positive Birth Book.
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Portrait image by Aiza Castillo-Domingo