I was in active labor with my first child for roughly 40 hours. During that time, I never once wished for an epidural or worried that someone would try to force me into the operating room. I felt pain, but at no point did I lose faith in my body’s ability to do what it was designed to do. That’s the gift I got from HypnoBirthing.
If the term sounds vaguely familiar it’s probably because of celeb moms like Jessica Alba and Miranda Kerr, who both chose the self-hypnosis-based birthing method. I’m pretty sure I discovered HypnoBirthing via Google search when I was trying to educate myself about the various options. Lamaze seemed outdated, the Bradley Method too strict, but HypnoBirthing’s emphasis on relaxation and meditation totally resonated with me.
The brilliance of this method, developed by Marie Mongan – an educator and hypnotherapist – is its initial focus on how your birthing body works. When you understand that your body was actually designed with this crazy task in mind, it becomes a lot easier to allow the whole thing to happen. That was certainly the key for me, a panic attack sufferer with all sorts of physical triggers. But I think it makes sense for any woman. It’s astonishing how little we are taught about the process of labor and delivery, and pregnancy, for that matter. (I can feel my left foot rising off the ground to step up onto a soapbox here, so I’ll move on.) Suffice it to say, knowledge is power.
Once the physiological processes are demystified, HypnoBirthing’s focus shifts to your mind. Ah, yes, talk about power. You know the strength of the mind-body connection if you’ve ever felt embarrassed and then blushed or been frightened and then noticed your heart pounding in your chest. The beauty of this connection is that its power can be harnessed for good! Through simple breathing and mediation techniques, I was able to be present with each contraction (or “surge”) without hating it. I knew that it was all necessary work leading up to the moment when I would be face to face with my little baby and, believe it or not, that knowledge made the pain really bearable.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t exactly like the women you see on the HypnoBirthing video clips who are smiling and breathing and blissfully unaware of the passage of time. That first labor was loooooong and super intense. But I got better at it. With my second labor, I was able to enter a deeply meditative state (the self-hypnosis part) and truly felt more “pressure” than “pain.” I did three loads of laundry and ate full meals all day while in active labor. Right up to the moment before I began pushing, my husband and doula were referring to me as a Birthing Buddha. At the hospital, I sat up with my legs crossed, eyes closed, mouth relaxed, and welcomed each contraction, even as they came almost back-to-back. I’m telling you, this method works.
I’m not a hippie, though I do have some tendencies, and I don’t regularly meditate. I am a yoga instructor, which definitely helped with all the breathing stuff, but still – I want to make the point that you don’t have to be any of these things to learn and practice this birthing method. Honestly, you just need a desire to experience your birth in a way that is the antithesis to the crap portrayed on film and TV. Your birth story does not have to be the same as your mother’s or sister’s or friend’s. It is yours alone – and it can be wonderfully fearless and calm and drug-free.