I’m sitting on my birth ball, in the closing days of my 38th week of pregnancy. Birth is on my mind a lot…in fact, about the only other thing in my head beyond that is housework (thanks nesting) and I know which of those two I’d rather write about. I’ve written already about two elements of my plan for birth – that I want to have this baby at home and that I’ll be using a birth pool to labour and hopefully deliver this little man. This final part is all about how I really want this birth to be as calm an experience as it can be.
As I mentioned previously, my last baby was born in the hospital car park in what was quite a fraught and distressing experience. Whilst it makes a good story and I can tell it almost as a joke now, it was an experience that left a scar and from which it took me a long time to heal. More than anything I want this, our final birth experience, to be on our terms and above all to feel calm and in control during it. That’s why I don’t want to leave the house, and why I think water will be a great coping mechanism for me.
When my friend, who is a midwife, heard of my plans she suggested hypnobirth as a good tool to help me achieve the birth I hope for. She is a trained practitioner, and offered to take Hubs and I through the course as a favour. I also trained as a midwife ten years ago, and back then my only experience of a woman using hypnobirthing was not a particularly positive one. This was more down to the woman being quite a difficult person to deal with rather than her preference for hypnobirthing, but something had stuck with me which left a bad taste in my mouth. However, my friend really sold the concept to me. It turns out it wasn’t all hippie nonsense, or a fad just for stuck-up middle class madams.
What is hypnobirthing?
Hypnobirthing focuses on taking the body and mind to a deep relaxed state, so that the birthing muscles are free to do their job. We have been conditioned to see birth as a scary and painful experience, and as a result most of us involuntary tense up and fight against contractions (or surges, if I use the hypno lingo). But hypnobirthing theory says that if we remove the resistance caused by tension and fear we can work with our bodies rather than against them. By using my contractions and natural pushing instincts rather than fighting them, I can retain that sense of calm and control that I want.
That’s the hope, anyway!
In fact, it had a lot of links with things I’ve dabbled with myself – yoga breathing, mindfulness and relaxation techniques. More than that, it is based on what I know and believe about labour and birth – that it is not a medical event which needs intervention or lots of drugs as long as the mother and baby are healthy and things are progressing as they should. It tackles the issues of fear and tension as being the two obstacles most likely to turn birth from a natural process to something more complicated. It supports my belief that my body is perfectly designed to bring my baby into the world, and builds on the confidence my two previous fairly quick and straightforward deliveries have given me.
Making hypnobirthing work for me
I have to be honest about my own limitations and abilities though. I’m quite a highly strung person with a ridiculously short fuse, so I’m worried that in the moment I’ll struggle to put myself into relaxation or to zone out enough. But that’s exactly why I’m trying to apply hypnobirth principles in the first place, because the techniques give me some tools to use.
So far I’m finding the different types of breathing and the progressive relaxation to be the aspects which speak to me the most. I struggle with a lot of the visualisation exercises, and find physical anchors work better to encourage me to relax – a touch from Hubs, or having him massage me, or even just triggering the relaxation through my body by loosening my jaw and the muscles around my eyes.
I’m going a bit rogue when it comes to my birth soundtrack. I listen to my relaxation recording to practice putting myself into the relaxed state, and I will have it on standby during labour if I find myself struggling to get there. But for the most part I will be listening to my own playlist. Music is a huge part of my life, and I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to what I will listen to. I think if I used “real” relaxation tracks I would actually end up less chilled out as they’d just annoy me! Instead I’ve put together a playlist of some fairly calming songs which either have lyrics which speak to me or which have a wall-of-sound quality for me to focus on.
But above all, I’m just going into it all (labour, birth and hypnobirthing) with an open mind. Whatever works is right at the time, and I’m not going to get too hung up on any one thing or doing something the “right” way.
As I’ve done with home and water births, I’ve been reading birth stories where bloggers have been kind enough to share their experiences. These ones were my favourites…
Have you used hypnobirthing techniques? I’d love to hear about your experiences!