Sophie Pickles aka The Baby Expert's Birth Story...

Towards the end of last year (2021) I had the pleasure of teaching Sophie Pickles, aka 'The Baby Expert', or if you know her from YouTube or Insta 'Mummy Pickles'.

She lives near Skipton which isn't too far away from me, so I was able to travel to her home to do a one to one hypnobirthing course with her and her husband (and some guest appearances from her adorable two little ones who were UNBELIEVABLY good whilst we were chatting).

Sophie had her baby in February 2022. She has shared her birth story in 4 parts on her Insta & FB, and she has very kindly said I can share it here too.

It's quite a long one, as there were a few stops and starts. But it's a great one to show the twists and turns that can occur during labour and birth, and how even though things may not 'go to plan', they can still be positive and it pays to be prepared!

So grab a cuppa, and have a read lovely!

Lauren xxx

'Mummy Pickles's Positive Birth Story:

Part 1-Early & Latent Phase

From around 35 weeks pregnant, I started to become convinced that I wouldn't make it to my due date this time around. Sure, I may have felt like this in previous pregnancies but THIS time, it felt...different. Spoiler, I was wrong however, I did deliver this baby earlier than either of my others, who both ended up as inductions.

At 36 weeks, I started to feel stirrings of things changing in my body. I became even more heavy and uncomfortable - seemingly impossible but true - and developed tons of lower back pressure and period like cramps every night.

By the time I hit 37 weeks, my regular braxton hicks had ramped up a notch in frequency and strength. On Monday, when I was 37+4, I went for my last growth scan and while I was there, my consultant told me that I could have a sweep at my next midwife appointment. To be honest, I was a little shocked, I'd only be 38 weeks and it seemed too early. I decided to reserve judgement and decide for myself on the day and after speaking to my midwife.

The next evening, at 37+5, I had my first bought of real contractions. Different from braxton hicks, these were regular, coming every 10 - 15 minutes and wrapped around my back and lower tummy in a wave, along with tightening in my stomach. They were just like I remembered from my early labour with the boys and I was so excited that things might be starting.

On the Wednesday, at 37+6, I had my midwife appointment and decided that, as it seemed like labour may be close, I would accept the sweep to see if it started anything, knowing that if my body wasn't ready, it simply wouldn't work. I was 1-2cm dilated (not unusual when you've already had babies) and the sweep went well. That night, and all day on Thursday, my contractions continued. They weren't getting closer together or more intense in frequency but it definitely felt like my body was laying the foundations for labour.

On Friday morning, I told Lawrence that he shouldn't go to work. I had been up with contractions for most of the night, and while I could move and talk through them, I was having to concentrate and breathe more and more. We arranged for the boys to go to my in-laws and felt sure things were imminent. I bounced into my midwife appointment that morning and told her that I thought I might be in early labour. When she performed the second sweep, she told me that I was now 3cm and reassured me that I was experiencing the early stages of labour.

Friday passed, Saturday passed and Sunday morning rolled around and I was left feeling confused and frustrated. The contractions were there one hour and gone the next. It was exhausting and demoralising. By Sunday morning, I was convinced it had all been for nothing. Then, that afternoon, they came back! This time they were closer together (5 minutes apart) and were slowly getting stronger. I took paracetamol and had a bath and they were still coming. By late afternoon, we had again sent the boys off to the in-laws and I was using the tens machine and hypnobirthing breathing to get through the contractions, or surges. They weren't painful at all, but they were intense. We started setting up our homebirth space and by 7pm, I decided to call the labour ward to let them know what was happening. I could go into detail on what happened over the next few hours but I'll save you time reading and tell you that it was all a false alarm...again. I sent the midwife home at around 11pm because I felt I wasn't progressing and by the morning things had all stopped again.

Part 2 - Early Labour

After almost 2 weeks of latent labour and contractions that would start and then stop again (read part 1 for more), I felt so very fed up. After being convinced that I was going to give birth before my due date, I started to feel defeated and as if induction was a surety.

I had been induced with both my previous babies - at 41 weeks with baby number 1 and 40+4 with baby number 2 (earlier induction due to anxiety and SPD).

As my due date approached, at what seemed to be a snail's pace, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be meeting my baby for at least another week or so. It sounds silly but because I had never gone into natural spontaneous labour before, I began to doubt whether my body could even do it. I just didn't feel like it would ever happen!

I was on constant knicker-check every time I visited the toilet, praying for a sign that I was losing my show or that things were starting (spoiler - this never actually happened in the end!) I had lots of lower back pressure and an increased amount of braxton hicks as well as a stinking cold. All good signs of imminent labour but no different than the past couple of weeks.

On my due date, I went for a walk along the canal with my toddler and then returned home to bounce and rock on my ball while he napped and I watched feel-good television. I was feeling mild contractions and pretty strong tightenings but they were still not progressing.

The following day, a Friday (40+1), I went along to my midwife appointment and had a sweep. She told me that she could feel that the baby's head was low and I was probably about 3cm. There was progress from a couple of weeks ago but I still wasn't convinced. As I left, I joked with the midwife that I'd see her again next week. After this sweep I felt...nothing. No cramps or tightenings, no lightning crotch or uncomfortable sensations. I was convinced it hadn't worked. I decided to start an embroidery project for the baby's room, telling myself that it would help to pass the time and that maybe it would convince her to come

Saturday came and went and on Sunday morning (40+3), I woke up feeling like someone had stamped on my lower back. I took my toddler into the local town so I could pick up some more embroidery thread. We pottered slowly down the streets and collected what I needed before heading back home. Little did I know that this was the last time we'd ever go out together while he was still my 'baby!' That afternoon, I alternated between sitting on the sofa and my birth ball as I worked on my project. I felt calm and relaxed. I was getting occasional cramps/surges again at this point but they were infrequent, although relatively strong. I mentioned it to Lawrence but didn't give it much thought as I was used to my body tricking me!

As the evening approached, Lawrence asked if I'd mind if he went to play video games over at his parents' house with his older brother and close friend. I felt a little uneasy about it, but he'd been staying close to home for the last 3 weeks already and I was sure that nothing would happen that night anyway. (Although I say I was sure, I think I was just used to convincing myself that nothing was going to happen, because in reality, I did feel a little different and like 'something' was going on).

I decided to get my oxytocin flowing (the hormone responsible for starting labour) by making myself cosy on the sofa, with the fairy lights switched on (we'd set them up for home birth) and started to watch a rom com on Netflix. As the film started, I began to get some contractions and tightenings again. They still weren't very frequent but they felt pretty strong and I was having to concentrate and close my eyes while they happened. I glanced at the time and noticed they were probably coming every 15 minutes or so. At 9.30pm, by the time the film was halfway through, the surges were coming more frequently and were taking up a lot of my attention. They weren't painful but they were gaining in intensity and felt a little uncomfortable. I decided to go up to the toilet to see if the change in movement and activity would make a difference. They didn't stop when I went upstairs or walked around, and if anything, started to happen more frequently. At this point I was still alone in the house with the two boys asleep. Far from feeling panicked about it, I felt calm and still. It was a really magical time. I'd been putting off calling Lawrence until that point, not wanting to call him home for another false alarm. I told him that I thought I was definitely in labour and to make sure his parents were aware, as they were our childcare for the older two.

Little did we know the drama that was to follow!

Part 3 - Active Labour

After I called Lawrence to tell him that I thought this was finally 'it', I wandered slowly around the house making sure everything was in place for our the home birth we had planned. I slowly folded the clean laundry that had been sitting in its basket at the end of our bed, stopping to rock and breathe through the surges as they came. I was calm and relaxed, although keen for Lawrence to get home so he could help to put on my TENS machine.

I checked the boys' overnight bags (we planned on them going to stay at their grandparents' when labour happened) and made a mental note to ask Lawrence to move the midwives' home birth box downstairs when he arrived home.

About half an hour passed and I heard the front door swing open. I started to make my way downstairs, holding my phone with the Freya app from @thepositivebirthcompany open for me to time the surges. I stopped on the mid landing as another contraction wave passed over me. I closed my eyes and rocked my hips from side to side, remembering to breathe in for 4 and out for 8 as I did so. As I opened my eyes, Lawrence appeared in front of me. It may seem odd to say but I almost felt a little embarrassed. The real intensity of labour hadn't hit me yet, I hadn't yet gone into my own inner world and so I was very conscious of how silly I probably looked, swaying and puffing on the landing in my pjs. I asked Lawrence to go and get my TENS machine and we headed downstairs to the living room where I told him that I thought it was time that he prepared the home birth space (I made a list in advance of what I wanted the room to be like and we had talked about this together).

The next hour passed in a blur, as I concentrated on riding the waves, using my TENS, the Freya app with the positive affirmations tracks and hypnobirthing breathing techniques taught to me by @createcalmhypnobirthing to stay calm and in control. I felt empowered and happy, never scared or in pain.

At 11pm, I knew it was time to call the labour ward to let them know that we needed the midwives to be sent out. My contractions had started to become much more intense and were about 2 minutes apart, lasting almost a 'squat' towards the floor when the surge started.

I rang the labour ward and said "I'm in labour... well, I think I'm in labour. No, no, I definitely am in labour and I'm having a home birth." I was so worried about it still being a false alarm that I didn't want to be told it wasn't happening again!

It was at this point that the midwife on the phone said something that would change the course of the night and throw all our plans out the window.

After asking me the usual questions about my contractions etc., she said "The labour ward is full, so we have closed. That means home births have also been suspended. I'm really sorry to tell you this, but you're going to have to go to a different hospital. I'll call you back in 10 minutes with more information."

For a moment, a wave of panic started to rise up inside me. Then I realised, I had to stay calm. Nothing was going to change this, I had to accept what was happening and move on. I calmly relayed the information to Lawrence, who had been watching me tentatively. Safe to say, he felt less relaxed about the situation! I instructed him to make sure his parents were on the way to collect the boys and to then get the hospital bags and put them in the car. I had prepared the bags just in case we needed to transfer into the hospital and had left a 'last minute grab list' on the bag, so L knew what to pack.minute. This was only about 90 minutes since I'd first noticed proper labour sensations, so it was all happening very quickly. At this point, I found that kneeling on the floor with my arms and chest over my exercise ball was the comfiest position. I could rest my head on the ball in between contractions and then kind of

10 minutes later, the midwife called back and told me that they would be expecting me at a hospital birth centre about 25 minutes away from our house. Not too far, but in the opposite direction to the way we normally travel (so we had no idea where it was), and in a different county! While we waited for my in-laws to arrive, my contractions got very intense. There were a few times where I started to flounder, before reminding myself to breathe and relax my body. That really helped, as did the TENS machine and bizarrely, picturing a hot air balloon rising and falling every time I breathed in and out. I knew we had to leave, and soon. I could tell that I was starting to feel pressure and an urge to bear down. Not a pushing sensation as such, but definitely a different feeling than had been there previously. By the time it reached 11.45, I was constantly repeating to Lawrence that we needed to leave. I was convinced that we'd end up having to call an ambulance if we didn't set off immediately. His parents were still not with us (we later learned that driving conditions from their house were precarious thanks to Storm Corrie). Lawrence later told me that he knew I was being deadly serious when I stated "mooing" It's that sound that most women can't help but make as they reach transition, and I knew instinctively that I must be close.

Lawrence put in a last call to his parents to find out where they were and mercifully, they were making their way down our road. He jumped into action and said, "Right, let's go NOW!" Knowing they would arrive any minute (they pulled up just as we were leaving).

I walked gingerly across the living room to the front door, stopping several times along the way as contractions hit me. I gripped onto Lawrence's arm with one hand and squeezed the control for the TENS very firmly with the other hand. I was so nervous about the car journey and how I would manage, having never been in a car in labour before thanks to two previous inductions.

As soon as I sat down in the front seat, I was hit by what was probably the most painful contraction of my entire labour. I lost it entirely and very loudly screamed "I can't do this!" I felt like I was almost going to black out, convinced that there was absolutely NO way I'd make it to the hospital without giving birth first. Despite my howling protests and insistence that we wouldn't make it, Lawrence very firmly told me that we were going. We'd later learn this was definitely the best call, although I now know that he was speaking out of pure fear rather than conviction in his decisions! And so the journey to the hospital (and transition) began...

Part 4 - Transition and Birth

As I look back on my journey to hospital during labour, I am sure that I entered transition as I got into the car. It had only been about 2 hours since my first surge, but my body was sure it knew what it was doing.

That may have been true of my body, but we certainly didn't know what we were doing, or more accurately, where we were going. After learning out hospital labour ward was closed and home births were cancelled, we were being sent to a birth centre we'd never heard of in a town we'd never visited. As my husband, Lawrence fumbled with Google maps on his phone, I tried to centre my breathing and focus on the fact that I *could* do this. I opened my eyes briefly to see that the journey was predicted to take us a little over 20 minutes. Not too bad under normal circumstances, but I knew instinctively that it wouldn't be long until the baby made her arrival.

It was the night of Storm Corrie, and as we started our journey down dark and winding country roads, the winds howled all around us as branches fell from trees and huge gusts buffeted the car.

I'm sure Lawrence felt that he was in the midst of a scene from a film - driving us to hospital in a storm while I was deep in labour next to him. I know he was trying to go as fast as he was legally allowed, although the weather made that a challenge. I remember telling him to slow down as he turned corners as every bump or movement would trigger a new contraction.

I was deep in my inner world at this point. Down breathing through each contraction and visualising a hot air balloon rising and falling as I did so. It was taking all my focus and energy not to lose control of myself - to trust in my body and not let fear grip me as it had done in my previous labours.

Every so often, I would open my eyes a crack to look at how long we had left until we reached the hospital. With about about 14 minutes to go, I experienced something that I can only describe as transcendent. The contractions that had been washing over me in waves every minute, just stopped. It took me a moment to realise it at first but it was soon clear to me - my body was taking a rest, just as if it knew that I needed it to hold on until we reached our destination. I felt such peace in those 14 minutes. I still kept my eyes tightly closed, still breathing deeply and keeping focus, but I felt no pain. I remember telling myself to appreciate it - that it was happening for a reason.

Soon, Google maps told us that we had minute to go and I opened my eyes to try and spot the hospital entrance with Lawrence. There it was! We turned in and I felt a sense of relief. We were here and it would all be OK. As soon as we turned in, we noticed something was wrong. Every building had the lights off and the car parks were empty. It was eerily quiet. Lawrence started frantically Googling and quickly discovered that we had been taken to the teaching hospital and not the main site!

It was around this moment that my surges, which had started to slowly come back again, ramped up in extreme force and frequency. There was no doubt about it - if we didn't get to the hospital NOW, the baby would be born in the car.

Lawrence rang the switchboard and tried to explain the situation to the woman (on speakerphone!), while I became increasingly vocal next to him (read:loud!) I wouldn't necessarily describe the contractions as incredibly painful but the were very, very intense and not at all comfortable. I started to get the feeling I needed to push and with every surge that came, I felt the urge to bear down to relieve the pressure.

With some hurried directions and a quick drive the road, we managed to find our way to the right part of the hospital. Lawrence swung up to the entrance door, stopping right outside. He shot out the car, ran around to my side, flung open the door and said "Come on, get out!" I was in the middle of a contraction, so just had to completely ignore him

After a few more minutes, we found our way to the maternity unit. I had to stop every few paces to contract and bear down (and make a very loud noise), still gripping onto my trusty TENS machine - the only form of pain relief I'd had up to this point. In fact, this is exactly the position I was in when the midwife opened the door to the unit to greet us.

She was lovely. Calm and reassuring, immediately telling me I was doing a brilliant job. I heard her tell Lawrence that they'd run the pool for me just in case I'd like to use it, and I felt so looked after and happy, although I couldn't verbalise anything at that point.

When we got into the room, the midwives asked me to briefly get onto the bed so they could listen in to the baby's heartbeat. I said I didn't want to (I just wanted to get in the pool) but they were pretty insistent and so I consented. They noted that my contractions were coming thick and fast by that point and offered me some gas and air. I accepted and it immediately offered some relief, taking me almost out of my body as I was hit by an enormous, intense wave.

The midwife covered my legs with a sheet and the moment she did so, I felt a huge pressure, pop and gush of water. Instantly, and I mean instantly, the baby's head was right there. My body started to push and I felt the familiar ring of fire feeling.

I tried to tell the midwife what had happened but I couldn't talk or gesture. Meanwhile, she and Lawrence were having a chuckle and a conversation about where he had left his car. I summoned all my energy and screamed "Coming!!" It was all I could manage to say.

The midwife lifted back the sheet and with two more pushes (about 2 minutes after my water had broken), our beautiful Clara Elowen was born. It was just 13 minutes after we had arrived at the hospital and only 3 hours after my contractions had begun.

While this was far from the labour and birth I had planned, I am so very grateful it's the experience we got. They say that the third time's the charm and that was certainly true for my experience of giving birth. I honestly credit my experience wholeheartedly to hypnobirthing and the preparation I did surrounding this. A HUGE thank you to Lauren at Create Calm Hypnobirthing for giving me the gift of a wonderful hypnobirthing course. I couldn't have done it without her and I'll be forever grateful.

A huge congratulations to Sophie and Lawrence on the birth of their gorgeous baby girl Clara. It was such a pleasure to be part of your birth journey.

8 views0 comments