July 21st 2017 our dreams finally came true when we welcomed our tiny miracle baby girl into the world, Phoenix Willow Moss Walls, born at 12:25pm, weighing 6lbs3 in Saudi German Hospital.
It was quite a journey, and not one for the faint hearted, but when I looked into her eyes as they laid her on my chest, everything I had gone through to get to this point was worth it.
Falling pregnant was not easy for us, and after trying for almost two years with an ectopic pregnancy and two surgeries to remove my fallopian tube and a polyp; we finally fell pregnant in November 2016.
Having been through so much to get to this point I wanted to ensure that my pregnancy and birth was a beautiful, relaxed and memorable experience. I had heard of hypnobirthing, although I admit I didn’t know too much about it until I discovered Jasmine Collin's classes here in Dubai and signed up to learn more about having a positive, natural birth experience.
The classes were great for preparing us for what to expect during pregnancy and birth and also in helping me to relax as an expectant mum.
My husband loved the classes as he really enjoyed learning how he could be a part of the birth and help in any way he could in the lead up to the big day. We both practised the breathing exercises, and religiously listened to the affirmations and visualisation tracks and found that falling to sleep to the Rainbow Relaxation track led to the best nights sleep we had ever had (even despite the many trips to the bathroom each night for me).
The hypnobirthing classes helped teach us the importance of a natural birth and how to manage the many decisions and their implications that you will face in the lead up to birth. We worked on our birth preferences and decided that we would like to try for a natural water birth, with minimal intervention, no inductions and if possible no drugs, however when we presented this to our doctor we discovered that they were in fact not at all supportive of our preferences and despite trying to get her on our side.
We soon realised that this doctor was not going to be a good fit for giving us the birth experience we wanted.
At 28 weeks we decided to change doctors and hospitals to Al Zahra after doing the hospital tour, meeting the midwives and seeing the water birth room. We both really liked the hospital and were told it was the most ‘pro natural’ in Dubai. The initial meeting with our new doctor went well, but then things started to take a little turn for us when she insisted on doing a scan at every appointment (we had told her we would prefer a Doppler to so many scans).
Then when she discovered our baby was breech at 32 weeks she told us we had to book for an ECV and schedule a C-section, if our baby did not turn by week 34 and told us we needed to get pre-approval from our insurance for this before even attempting to turn the baby, which sent me into a panic as this was very far from our birth preferences.
Having already experienced two surgeries in the last year and various fertility treatments and drugs I was determined to have my natural, drug free birth and the thought of a C-section after months of practicing hypnobirthing felt like I had been training for a marathon, but wouldn’t have the opportunity to enter the race.
I tried every possible trick I could to turn our baby naturally, from yoga poses, inversions off our sofa and upside down on a ironing board to hypnosis, acupuncture (Moxibustion) and osteopathy (Webster technique), I even tried handstands in the pool which I was never good at as a skinny teenager, let alone at 9 months pregnant!
Despite everything our little girl would not turn so it looked less likely that we could have our natural birth, as facing a breech delivery our options were very limited to C-section, as here in Dubai it seems no one will take the risk with natural breech delivery.
At 36 weeks after receiving many recommendations and advice from various parenting groups in Dubai, we decided to make the move to Dr Anni (our third change of hospital and doctor) and she agreed to help us with our preferred choice of natural birth even though our baby was in breech position, provided all was healthy up to and during the labour, we did not use any drugs so that both mother and baby were alert to do their jobs and we also agreed to allowing nature to take its course, so no inductions or interventions and to let the baby decide when she was ready.
At 40.4 weeks we went into labour naturally after Dr Anni’s advice to go and swim in the sea, when clary sage, raspberry tea, spicy food and sex had no effect, so we got up at sunset and walked and swam for 4 hours and by the time I got home at 9am my contractions had started.
I had had a few false starts during that week where I felt mild contractions but they turned into nothing, so when I got home I poured myself a large cup of raspberry tea, opened the clary sage and even tried a few seconds on my new breast pump as I had read that nipple stimulation would help to move things along.
I sent my husband to work and told him that there was nothing to report as I preferred to stay at home on my own and rest without being questioned how I was feeling and to see if things progressed.
I had a day on the sofa watching nature documentaries and trying to remain calm and relaxed. By the time my husband came home the contractions were getting stronger and a little more regular, we made some dinner from our stash of freezer meals and put on our Hypnobirthing tracks to stay relaxed.
By 8pm the contractions were around every 7 minutes, so we messaged Dr Anni who told me to try and get some sleep, eat well and call her when they were every 5 minutes, lasting a minute and like that for an hour.
We went to bed around 9pm, but of course it was not so easy trying to sleep when the contractions were coming every 6-7 minutes. I took the opportunity to rest in between and we had our Rainbow Relaxation track playing in the background. I alternated between side lying position and all fours with my husband gently stroking and massaging my back with coconut oil and lavender oil, which I found really helped when I felt discomfort in my lower back.
Excited that things were happening and a little nervous about what I was about to face with a natural breech birth without drugs, we decided to call Dr Anni at 3am.
It felt it was time for us to get to the hospital as I wanted to make sure I could get there and settled. Once we arrived at the hospital (Saudi German) we were taken to the labour ward and as soon as I lay on the bed I was very violently sick, which I’m told is normal and a good sign that things are starting to happen. My husband got to work with his ‘ambiance bag of tricks’ and put multi-coloured candles around the room, dimmed the lights and pinned up affirmations on the walls.
The surges were getting closer together and more intense and all I really wanted to do was walk around and change positions, trying all the positions we had learnt about to help with the surges, however as I was a high risk birth I had to be monitored constantly, so I was strapped up to the foetal monitor and a cannula was put into my arm in case I was rushed in for an emergency C-section.
These two things really bothered me as they were not at all part of my birth plan and threw me from my relaxed state of mind.
So my husband and Anni had to work together to coach me back to a relaxed state and remember my breathing to get me through the surges. I decided I did not want to know about the monitor and chose not to look at the screen and the doctor turned the volume off so that I was not distracted by it.
At some point (I can’t remember how long I had been in the room by then), I remember going into the shower with my husband, where I was sat on the birthing ball, rolling my hips in circular motions whilst the surges flowed through me and he held the shower head and water on my back.