• Rachel Cunliffe

Born in the pandemic: Empowered decision-making, and feeling in control when birth is unpredictable.

As first-time parents expecting during the pandemic, Siobhan and John made some big decisions when choosing the best birth environment for them and their baby. Siobhan was also able to maintain a feeling of control when her labour spanned several days and took twists and turns. Here's her story...



Me and my boyfriend enrolled onto the Hypnobirthing course with Rachel at the beginning of March at the start of the Coronavirus outbreak. I’d heard about Hypnobirthing through listening to a podcast with Ferne Cotton and I knew straight away it would benefit my pregnancy and labour. So I had a taster session with Rachel and her knowledge about positive births was really reassuring and we booked onto her course. 

The course really supported me in pregnancy, as being a first time Mum, I was initially scared at the thought of labour and didn’t understand what it entailed. I felt empowered and by the end of the course was really looking forward to experiencing giving birth to my baby girl. 


"I did some research and found that another nearby hospital was

allowing water births and birth partners, so I transferred."

Heading into the third trimester during lockdown meant a lot of uncertainty around the changes of hospital policies and the hospital I was registered at stopped providing water births and birthing partners were only allowed to be present during active labour and weren’t allowed postnatally. Rachel gave us the knowledge that you can actually give birth at any hospital, so I did some research and found that another nearby hospital was allowing water births and birth partners, so I transferred. 


On Friday at 38 + 5 days, I broke up for maternity leave and an hour after my last shift at 7.30pm, my waters broke. As we had learnt all about the different stages of labour, both me and my partner were really calm and knew this could mean we have a while to go yet. But we rang the hospital to let them know and they asked us to go in to check the waters. On our way to the hospital we both said that had we not have done the course, we would of been panicking at this point, but we were both relaxed. The hospital confirmed it was my waters and we went home. That evening I had a few contractions but managed to sleep through them, but woke about 4am and had a bath to relax. 

From about 11am Saturday, the contractions started to come more regularly, so I started timing them with the Freya app and spent most of the day watching comedies to get the oxytocin flowing. Once it had been 24 hours since my waters broke, the hospital wanted us to go in for further checks. My contractions were coming about 6 mins apart at this point, so I knew we still had some time to go.


"...after using my BRAINS technique we decided this was the right decision for us."


Once at the hospital, they advised that we should start the induction process as it had been over 24 since my waters had broke. Initially I was reluctant, however after using my BRAINS technique we decided this was the right decision for us. I agreed to an examination which confirmed I was 1cm. The midwife suggested starting with the hormone oxytocin drip. As I had really wanted a water birth, they said I couldn’t have this now due to the risk of infection, so I agreed to start the induction process at around 11pm. 

We were on our way to the labour ward, whilst on our way, we were told that our room had been given to an emergency and that we were to wait on the antenatal ward. This was the hardest part for me, as we had to wait until 6am before a room became available. My contractions were consistent throughout that time and I got little sleep. I spent the night listening to my relaxation scripts and breathing through the contractions. My partner went home around 3am to get some rest, to be able to support me the next day.


"I asked the midwife if I could dim the lights and she was

more than helpful in setting the scene."


At 6am Sunday morning, I was transferred to the labour ward, I asked the midwife if I could dim the lights and she was more than helpful in setting the scene. The labour room was much nicer than I had imagined, equipped with birthing balls and shower room and I didn’t miss the thought of the midwife led unit anymore. 


The midwife gave me an examination and confirmed I was 2cm and that my waters hadn’t fully broken, so she suggested her breaking them for me. I agreed and the midwife offered me gas and air, and left me to get things going myself for four hours. I also used a tens machine during this time which Rachel leant me, this was a great distraction to the contractions. 


During this time, I put on a playlist of my favourite songs and focused on breathing through each contraction. After the four hours, at around 11am Sunday, I had another examination and I was 3cm, so we then started the oxytocin drip. As I was getting tired by this point I asked for my options for pain relief and I was offered pethidine. This was such a relief, I could still feel the contractions but they didn’t bother me as much and allowed me to rest. 

A few hours later, I had another examination which confirmed I was 4cm. At this point I was finding the contractions were getting more intense and I asked for an epidural. This gave me the real rest I needed, I was still able to move my legs, but couldn’t feel any contractions.


"I knew in my head that this may have been a transitioning moment."

Around 1am Monday, I woke up shivering and was sick. I knew in my head that this may have been a transitioning moment. Soon after the midwife gave me an examination and confirmed I was fully dilated and said I could start pushing in around an hours time. 

As I had an epidural, I had to have coached pushing and they advised that I had my legs in stirrups. As I had prepared for a UFO position and down breathing, this took some time getting used to. An hour and a half later, they advised to deliver her with the ventouse and they gave me an episiotomy. At 5.38am Monday our little girl was born and she was put on my chest for skin to skin. 

Although I had requested for delayed cord clamping, after 3 mins they had to cut the cord, as the cord was short. This was disappointing, however as I was in my skin to skin bubble, I didn’t let it affect me. 


After they delivered the placenta, I had about 10 minutes of skin to skin and that this point my partner knew something was wrong as there was around 10 people in the room. I had a ragged placenta, where only part of my placenta had been delivered, meaning they had to remove it manually. When they were trying to remove it manually, I lost around 1 litre of blood, so they said I had to go into theatre to continue to procedure. My partner came with me into theatre and our baby girl was taken by the midwife to be weighed. 


"Although my labour was very long, tiring and some would say traumatic, I felt there were many positives and I felt in control of my decisions throughout."

During theatre I lost a further 2 litres of blood so they gave me a blood transfusion. Alongside complications of my blood pressure going dangerously high and then very low.

Around 8am Monday I was out of theatre and my placenta had been fully removed. We were transferred to a ward, where my partner was able to hold her for the first time. I stayed in hospital for a further 3 days and luckily my partner was able to be with us. 

Although my labour was very long, tiring and some would say traumatic, I felt there were many positives and I felt in control of my decisions throughout. Without having the knowledge to transfer hospitals, I feel I would of had a very different experience. My labour gave me such appreciation for the amazing, life saving work the midwifes and obstetricians do. I am so grateful for the knowledge that Rachel provided for us and would highly recommend Hypnobirthing to all pregnant women.   


Aiofe, born May 2020

Tags: hospital registration, hypnobirthing, induction, waters breaking, relaxation scripts, TENS machine, midwife, empowered, positive birth stories, first-time mum, pandemic, hospital policies, ventouse, labour ward.

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