Childbirth is such a very sensitive subject but also such an important event in mothers’ lives. It can affect our wellbeing and it is one of our most important memories.
When I was pregnant with my first baby (now 4) I came across the hypnobirthing method and Marie Mongan’s book. The book was written to show another, more natural way of giving birth at a time of over-medicalisation of childbirth in America, in the 50s and 60s. Doctors at the time used to knock mothers down with drugs and it was very different. I did a hypnobirthing course with Judith Flood, in London, she was good, if you want to check her out (the course was over a weekend, at St Thomas’s hospital, in London, which is also where I gave birth).
For me, choosing hypnobirthing was only a natural extension as I had practiced yoga for many years.
Like many others, I carried many negative images of childbirth. I was totally scared by it and had spent my teenage years, considering it as a totally undignifying process only women go through. What hypnobirthing did, was to strip me off these preconceptions and teach me a positive attitude.
It also gave me something to work on while I was waiting for baby to arrive (he was 2 weeks late so I had some time to spare).
Hypnobirthing teaches you how to reach a state of relaxation through regular practice of visualisations and positive self-hypnosis. The idea is to get your body and mind used, so that on the actual day of birth, you can reach that same comfortable place. By doing so your body will produce the good hormones that act as natural painkillers.
But going through childbirth for the first time is a little bit like walking in the dark. There are many unknowns, about your body, the size of the baby and his head and his exact position. I used to visualise during my daily routine, that the baby would be born like floating in the sea, gently and happily. That was a beautiful image, that kept me happy, unworried and ready to meet baby but in reality I had no idea of what was going to happen.
My actual birth was quite unexpected. I managed to spend 6 hours without any painkillers, by visualising and breathing. The state I was in, wasn’t very pleasant, as baby was pushing on my back (he was back to back) and making me feel, as if my joins would part.
The whole birthing process lasted 24 hours, 6 of which I spent hypnobirthing. After that I was moved from one part of the maternity ward to another, where monitors and epidurals are common practice. My blood pressure spiked and I was told there would be no pool for me, as I had to be monitored and the blood pressure had to go down.
I was told after an examination that I hadn’t made much progress (still at 5 cm and baby’s head was not applying the same pressure everywhere on the cervix). I was told that it was going to be long. When I was offered an epidural, I accepted it.
Hypnobirthing had taught me to be prepared, for any turn my birth could take and remain calm. Which I did! With the epidural it was all fine for the next 14 hours. I was able to enjoy the beautiful view from St Thomas’ hospital maternity ward, over the London Eye and Westminster bridge.
But it was a state of a calm before the storm. The stage of pushing lasted 2 hours and a half, it was exhausting (I could feel everything despite the epidural and had the feeling my internal organs would come out, that hard was I trying to push) but to no avail as baby’s head would not emerge. At the end I had an episiotomy and a ventouse.
When he emerged it was the strongest feeling I have ever had! A small baby was there, what a surprise (when you expect the first time, you somehow don’t realize that). He was hot, heavy (quite big for me, he weighed 3 kg 700g and I am quite thin and small) and crying. I wanted to hold him, look at him and care for him. It was definitely love at first sight!
So I didn’t have the hypnobirth I had hoped for but I had the birth that my body was able to manage.
After all for me hypnobirthing worked in getting me ready mentally and emotionally for the ‘big stretch’ that is birth. I accept this and would recommend hypnobirthing to other mothers as a natural method that helps to prepare for childbirth.
My second birth (now a year ago) was the complete opposite of my first, unplanned home birth, with an ambulance crew only for the last 20 minutes, after having slept for 2 hours and going through the first stages of labor in my sleep (that is the best way to make sure you are relaxed…)
We had a doula, but she didn’t make on time for the birth but my conversations with them (they are 2 ladies that work together) and the support they gave me beforehand, were what unblocked my fears and made me ready to embrace the birth experience, as a positive one.
Also thanks to Maggie Howell, she has created an amazing, natal hypnotherapy CD, (I strongly recommend it) which put me to sleep and allowed me to totally relax until my body was ready to let the baby out. I will write my 2nd birth story soon.