Hypnobirthing: Championing a Happy Birth Experience
We’ve covered some incredible birth stories on these pages and one area you readers seem to want to know more about is hypnobirthing. And as none of the team have experience of hypnobirthing ourselves, when Rebecca from Ted & Ginger sent us her hypnobirth story I jumped at the chance to feature it. Over to Rebecca.
There’s an informal caveat attached to childbirth: ‘Proceed with caution!’, ‘This is gonna hurt!’, ‘You’ll never have felt pain like it…!’ Be it hand-me-down tales from friends and relatives, melodramatic depictions in films or tricky real-life births on TV, the message is consistent – bringing a baby into the world is an arduous feat. The risk? It becomes a force-fed opinion, even before we’ve experienced childbirth for ourselves.
Helpful? Certainly not. True? Not necessarily – or at least it doesn’t have to be.
Expecting the worst has no benefit to a happy birth story. After all, fear feeds pain. So wouldn’t it be better to close our ears to the negatives and approach ‘labour day’ with optimism, or at least an open mind?
Allow me to put an alternative notion on the table: uncomplicated births can and should be a wonderful, painless experience. I know – I’ve been there, and recently. My little boy Teddy is just four months old, and bringing him into the world proved to be my most incredible adventure to date.
Deciding to have a hypnobirth
I haven’t always been so gung-ho about childbirth. Like a lot of newly pregnant women, my mind buzzed with questions in the early days. Top of the pile was, ‘How the hell am I going to do this?’
I was terrified. I don’t ‘do’ hospitals – watching Holby City makes me nauseous – and I’m a habitual worrier. ‘What if I can’t hack the pain/something goes wrong/I have a giant child that can’t get out…?’
I knew I needed to do something to set my mind at ease and spare myself nine months of anguish.
I’d heard a little about hypnobirthing before I fell pregnant – someone at my gym had tried it and a work contact sang its praises for helping her with the birth of her second child after a stressful experience with her first. Looking further into the theory of it, I quickly decided it was something I too could get on board with. Bonus: the team of midwives at the hospital I’d booked in to were all for it (read: it isn’t hippy nonsense).
I found an approved instructor teaching the Wise Hippo hypnobirthing programme in our local area and signed my husband Andy and I up to a course, starting when we would be 30 weeks pregnant.
Learning the lingo and altering perceptions
The course was split into four three-hour-long sessions and it’s incredible how much we learned in such a short amount of time.
Set aside visions of pocket-watch wafting, finger-clicking, ‘when you wake up you’re a rabbit’ scenarios. Hypnobirthing is a kosher means of self-hypnosis. We were taught to lull ourselves into a deep state of relaxation, with breathing techniques designed to help us stay relaxed even when labour ranked up a notch.
‘Pain’ was removed from our birthing vocabulary. ‘Contractions’ became ‘surges’, simply because the word has a softer sound. Birth plan pressures were washed away – forget about having a perfect birth, we were told, but focus on having a birth that feels right for you on the day. We were also taught how the skills we’d acquired could be applied to a birth that takes a direction we hadn’t wanted – a C-section or induction, for example.
We heard positive birth stories, watched videos of hypnobirths in action and were set homework to regularly listen to a series of relaxation tracks, the aim being to flood our subconscious minds with happy thoughts pertaining to birth.
Fears and perceptions were addressed with basic biology. The female body is designed to effectively birth a baby, but it needs to be relaxed in order to do so. Switch off the thinking mind and go with the flow. We were taught to ‘hum’ rather than push our babies out, the emphasis being on listening to our bodies and trusting that they know what to do.
Sounds so simple, right? But it worked.
One of the first tasks we were set on our hypnobirthing course was to write our ideal labour day. What would we like to do/eat/watch? So when my surges began at 3am, we set about it as planned.
I knew I wanted to labour at home for as long as possible (that hospital phobia still niggling) and thanks to our hypnobirthing practice Andy and I were able to ride out much of it on our own. We walked our dog, popped out for lunch (yes, really!), watched a movie, then switched on the relaxation tracks for the last few hours.
By 5pm, the surges were gathering intensity and speed, but I was content breathing through them, Andy countering the pressure by pressing down on my lower back as our instructor had shown him. I envisaged each surge as a crashing wave calming to a millpond sea – the visualisation taking my mind off the sensation. As they reached the three in 10 minutes mark, it was time to pack up the car and head to hospital.
The rest is a blur – my mind was elsewhere in the final stages of labour, but I’m told I was smiling and even managed a little conversation at times. Within the space of two hours we were checked into the midwife-led-unit, I was examined and helped into the birthing pool, then Teddy gushed into the world, all 8lb 1oz of him.
It was surreal, intense and emotional, but not an experience I would describe as painful or at all distressing. I’d done it – and, one day, I’ll hypnobirth again.
To read more about my hypnobirthing experience and journey into motherhood, please visit tedandginger.blogspot.co.uk.
Did you use hypnobirthing or are you planning to do so?
Image by Ben Yew Photography