Upon finding out I was pregnant I was delighted and excited, but I was also very nervous. In fact one of my first thoughts was how I was going to avoid giving birth. That might seem like a strange response to some mothers but I was terrified of labour, so frightened in fact that I had considered never having biological children and adopting instead just so I could avoid it. As the months passed and the bump grew it became increasingly urgent that I find a way to combat this fear and regain control of my pregnancy. And that was where Hypnobirthing came in. Through Hypnobirth I went from a life long pathological terror to an all natural, quick, calm and enjoyable labour.
What is Hypnobirth?
For those who don’t know what Hypnobirthing is (forgive me, this is when I start to come across like a street corner evangelist in a cheap suit and a bad wig), it’s a technique that that has two main aims, both of which begin long before the birth. It firstly involves educating a mother about the biological and (potential) medical process of birth. It secondly focuses on teaching the mother techniques for remaining calm under pressure and managing fear. This second technique is far easier to achieve once the first has been completed, it involves lots of anchors (things that remind you of happy times), lots of mantras (phrases to give you a positive mindset) and meditation. One of the first things that someone is taught at Hypnobirthing class is that pain is not naturally occurring in childbirth. Seriously! Physical pain is a sign that something has gone wrong, in a natural, uncomplicated birth where nothing is wrong pain is not necessarily expected. I remember giving my teacher a funny look when she told me this (I might even have rolled my eyes!) She went on to explain that the pain experienced during birth mostly stems from fear and tension. Fear causes adrenaline which stops birth hormones being produced and diverts blood away from your birthing muscles, therefore you cramp and if you’ve ever tried to use a cramping leg you’ll know it hurts like hell! Honestly I wasn’t sold on this element of Hypnobirthing until months later when I experienced it for myself during Alfie’s birth. I can tell you from experience, it’s true! Hypnobirthing DOES NOT involve anyone dangling a watch in front of you and saying ‘Look into my eyes’, at no point did I impersonate a chicken and I was never ‘back in the room’. Just clearing that up straight away!
Much has been written about Montessori practices in pregnancy and birth, hypnobirthing accommodates it perfectly my prioritising knowledge, mindfulness, independence and the infant. I highly recommend reading Understanding The Human Being for more in this topic.
Does it work?
So what was my experience of birth? It was lovely! I went into labour at about 3am on the 27th of July. I say “went into labour” like I knew what was happening, if it hadn’t been my due date I would have assumed it was wind or the start of a period and probably slept through it! Instead I ran myself a bath, watched Las Galerias Velvet on Netflix and went to back to sleep! When the alarms went off the next morning I remembered I was in labour and happily told Fred who dutifully went to work. I spent the rest of the day having baths, cuddling the dogs and watching Velvet (I’m reasonably confident Alfie will grow up to be a Spanish fashion designer). At 5pm I rang Fred and told him that tonight was not the night to spend 2 hours leaving work, labour still wasn’t sore, but it was noticeable and I wanted a bit of company lest things get a bit…theatrical! Fred did arrive home soon after, he just brought one of his managers with him and proceeded to have some kind of business strategy meeting at the kitchen table. All staff eventually left, we put on George Ezra (an anchor) and had a bit of dance around the baby’s room. By 7pm the surges (contractions) were strong enough that I had to pause every time I experienced one. Fred thought it might be an opportune moment to time the contractions, our app informed us that it was time to go to hospital but they REALLY didn’t feel that bad so I decided to wait. An hour and a half later the app was saying “Call an ambulance” which sounded a bit dramatic so we headed to the hospital.
On arrival at 9pm, after initially being accused of faking it because I was so chilled out, I was told I was 5cm dilated (ha take that Consultant Gynaecologist) and should go straight to the labour ward, which I did, after stopping at the shop for supplies! Once on the labour ward we actioned our birth plan which was mostly; keep the lights low, keep the room quiet, keep the music on, stop Fred from making me laugh. Once there I spent most of the time in the bath, where I actually fell asleep during surges/contractions.
The last phase started just after midnight and was sore but not worse than leg day at the gym and a lot less painful than standing on a plug. It was completely manageable, I ended up using a birthing stool as I felt most comfortable standing up, the midwives were perfectly supportive and followed all my cues without asking too many questions or passing any judgement. I won’t lie and say that Hypnobirthing removed all pain for me, it didn’t, but neither would I say birth was a painful experience. For the most part it was really uncomfortable and felt like a strong period. It never reached the bone shattering agony that One Born Every Minute taught me to expect.
Alfie was born at 1am calmly and happily, he didn’t cry and was delighted when offered a feed a few moments later. There are no gory details to share, no dramatic events, no tales of woe or gnashing of teeth, just lots of deep breaths and listening to Fred talk me through a meditation script.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely! Hypnobirthing will change the way you meet your baby, putting calmness, unity and support at the heart of the experience. It’s part of a longer term approach to birth and you do need to commit to providing a calm birth for your baby but the benefits are phenomenal! What made Hypnobirthing work for me was all the meditating beforehand, the knowledge I had of each phase of birth and my options during each phase and the role of Fred my birthing partner, he talked me through many meditations during birth and acted as a go between for the midwives and me meaning I was never bothered with questions etc. The midwives were wonderful and fully supported me doing birth my own way. At no point did I feel out of control of my body or the situation and looking back I really enjoyed Alfie’s birth! If you are based in Northern Ireland I highly recommend classes with the lovely Beverley Mulholland of BM Hypnobirth.