Hypnobirthing and me
hypnobirthing hasn't given me a perfect, pain-free birth.
Not really the kind of statement you were expecting a hypnobirthing teacher to write?
I want to be honest with you from the beginning. I KNOW that hypnobirthing transformed not only both my labours, but made me feel like a more powerful woman, have a better relationship with my husband, and has given me a set of practical and mental skills I draw upon daily.
It did not give me an orgasmic, pain-free birth, where I gently chuckled my way through each sensual surge. If you're looking for a teacher who can promise you that, I'm sorry I wasn't the right one for you!
The firstborn's birth - a learning experience
My daughter weighed just under nine pounds, took three days to come out, and was delivered in theatre via a spinal block, episiotomy and forceps. The three of us (E, J and I) spent her first days feeling pretty exhausted - exhilarated, sure, but exhausted. Hypnobirthing stopped E's birth from being a real trauma (which I remain convinced would have ended in an emergency C-section without my HB techniques - nothing wrong with a C-section but nice to avoid that level of intervention), and made me feel (mostly) resilient, powerful and focused.
It also gave my husband the knowledge and confidence to be the most incredible, essential part of the labour, reassuring me when I needed it, cheering me on when I doubted myself, reminding me about my breathing and helping me find a point of calm when I might otherwise have panicked. Every time I felt my body trying to urge E down I found myself imagining I was swimming, being pulled across waves by the power of the water, with my little dog (we don't have a dog and I'd never imagined this before the labour!) trotting alongside me, giving me supportive barks of encouragement!
Things I learnt from E's birth about hypnobirthing:
1. Practicing my breathing techniques every day with my husband made a massive difference.
2. Practicing my affirmations every day made a massive difference.
3. I approached hypnobirthing in too "surface" a way - I think I really believed that as long as I "nailed the breathing" everything else would be perfect.
4. Burying my head in the sand, and not allowing myself to imagine that my birth might not be all done and dusted within 12 hours and that I might possibly need some help, was a mistake.
5. Not taking the time to really appreciate what was happening to me physiologically during birth (in spite of my teacher's best efforts) meant that I hadn't prepared myself fully to understand some of the sensations that occurred.
6. My husband and I didn't discuss how many choices we had, and that time was (nearly) always on our side. Had we done that, I may have avoided having my membrane sweep altogether.
THE SECONDBORN'S BIRTH - INTENSE BUT DREAMY
Having hypnobirthed E, I was determined to do the same for A. This time life seemed a bit frantic with a toddler and a new job, and I decided to do a refresher course and The Calm Birth School online course (I'm hoping to work with them in the future - watch this space!)
Feeling much more in control and having planned my birth preferences with the Head Midwife at the Birth Centre of my hospital, I was absolutely giddy with excitement when my waters broke around the time of my official "due" (guess?!) date. We were advised by the birth centre to come in and get my waters checked - all looked good and we were told we could stay, but I could sense after an hour of walking up and down stairs that my body wasn't ready to get this baby out, and so we went home so we could rest and get our little girl ready for her childminder.
So, of course, 23 hours passed and no baby, nor any real signs of labour... The recommendations for induction after waters breaking had recently changed, and we had been told that had once 24 hours had passed baby could be at risk of infection. We returned to the birth centre where I agreed to be examined, and to my disappointment (but not my surprise) I was told I would need to be checked into the labour ward. At this point I - albeit politely - kicked off. With tears of frustration I told the midwife I wasn't prepared to be transferred, that I was aware of the risks and I'd like a little more time. The wonderful midwife allowed us to go to a family room and give us more time.
At 9.30pm we walked to the family room. At 9.35pm - WHAM! The most intense sensation I have ever felt threatened to floor me. As before, my husband reminded me of my breathing and my mindset affirmations and got me back to my happy place. From then on the urges came thick and fast, pretty much constantly. Baby had clearly got the message that it (we didn't then know he was a he) needed to come out, and was in a hurry to do so! After a waddle to the loo, the midwives could see I was in established labour and hurried me to a birthing suite.
I knew instinctively I wanted to be upright, leaning forward, and found leaning on a beanbag on the bed, whilst not exactly comfortable (there was no let-up with these feelings) really helped. I could actually feel my body opening with every feeling, my cervix softening and melting away, the dilation happening. It was so intense, and at times very painful, but at the same time so wonderful.
Our one midwife stayed with us silently, before giving me some glorious gas and air (which I found really helped my breathing patterns, and made me giggle.) Suddenly I announced I wanted to get in the water. My husband reports that as soon as the midwife announced the pool was ready I ran from the bed and leapfrogged into the water with a splash!
I actually felt myself transition and crown, and I said out loud how amazing it was. The darkness, the quiet, the calm, the music (Eric Whitacre Water Night for all you choral buffs - just me?! - click here to find out more about another important part of my life). I knew instinctively I needed to get my baby out, and despite the midwife telling me to wait I pushed. After one push I could feel his head was out: I remember clearly saying "I can hear the music in my head. You know, the music they have in One Born just before the baby is out. That means it's all going to be fine!" After another primal push there he was.
Things I learnt from A's birth about hypnobirthing:
1. Breathing + mindset + logic + choices = a mum who understands her power.
2. Hypnobirthing is life-changing and life-giving.
3. Listen to the midwife when they suggest you breathe before pushing a massive baby out your lady bits - I still lost a fair bit of blood.
There is a very special photo of me - I'm in a birth pool, muddy with my own blood and goodness knows what else. I'm cuddling my newborn, umbilical cord and all. And I am that goddess. That phenomenal women, blissed out on pure love.