Having recently moved to England for work commitments, Rebecca and Diego were thrilled to discover they were expecting their first child and opted to have their baby at The Portland Hospital under the care of Dr Maryam Parisaei and Dr Penny Law, two leading obstetric and gynaecology consultants. Together they ensure 24-hour care of the highest standard for their patients.
As Rebecca's pregnancy progressed, she felt most comfortable when she was swimming and began to spend increasing amounts of time in the pool. The couple started to consider water birthing options – a new idea for Rebecca, who hails from America. 'Back home, water births are not very common so I really didn't know much about it. But everything I read about the subject made complete sense to me, and when I found out that the Portland are fully supportive of water births, I knew that was what I wanted to do.'
Having decided on a water birth, Rebecca was conscious that she would be unable to have an epidural so she set about researching alternative pain relief methods to help her cope during labour. 'I discussed my ideas with Dr Parisaei, who was very helpful. Hypnobirthing was mentioned and I was really drawn to the idea of taking control to make my birth experience as positive, calm and relaxing as possible.'
Hypnobirthing has seen a sharp rise in popularity over recent years, and refers to the use of hypnosis during labour to achieve a positive, calm and gentle birthing experience. Workshops aim to empower pregnant women with a variety of relaxation techniques to help them trust their bodies and reduce fear and stress during birth. Hypnobirthing can result in a shorter labour, less use of medication and less interventions, and most women start classes at around 30 weeks into their pregnancy.
Rebecca's hypnobirthing coach encouraged her to discuss her ideal birth plan with her care team at the hospital. 'The women on my course were attending a number of different hospitals, and our instructor had warned us that we may find our midwives and consultants were unfamiliar with hypnobirthing techniques, but I was so pleased to find that the team at the Portland completely understood what I was trying to achieve and were very knowledgeable about the subject.'
When Rebecca went into labour, she gave the couple's birth plan to the midwifery team. As her labour progressed, Diego was able to play a key role in proceedings, which was exactly what the couple had requested. 'Diego had been very involved throughout the pregnancy and we both wanted him to be able to make decisions during the birth,' says Rebecca. 'He was able to choose when to put the hypnobirthing CD on, to bring me drinks and talk me through the labour - everything that we'd asked for in our birth plan was followed to the letter.'
Using her hypnobirthing techniques, Rebecca felt very confident during labour. She remembers it as a very relaxed and serene time. 'The birth itself was so peaceful, with the sun setting outside the dimly lit room. Dr Law and my midwife, Katherine, were the only other people in the room, as set out in my birth plan, and I felt really comfortable in the water.'
Dr Law safely delivered baby Kai in the birthing pool, and Diego was able to cut the cord in the exact way the couple had requested. 'When Kai was born, I saw him in the water and Katherine said, "You can pick up your baby now". That was such a special moment for me,' says Rebecca. 'Kai means 'ocean' in Japanese and Hawaiian, and it felt like the perfect name for our little water baby.'
Rebecca has very fond memories of her time at the Portland, citing the high levels of care she received as a key reason for this. 'It sounds funny but I really missed the doctors after I went home; we had built up such a trusting relationship with them at this special time in our lives. As a relative newcomer to London, with my family on the other side of the world, their care and attention meant that I never once felt alone. In fact, quite the opposite – I felt completely supported and nurtured.
'It really was a whole team effort, and I can't thank Dr Parisaei, Dr Law and the midwifery team enough. They all played a huge part in bringing Kai into the world in the peaceful, calm and relaxed way that we wanted, and that experience will always stay with me.'