Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this second post! You know how life goes…
Anyway, I have given a lot of thought as to what to write this next post on, and I’ve decided to just dispel common myths about hypnobirthing. I too thought that it was for wierdo-hippie type women who want to have all their babies at home in their bathtubs. Boy was I wrong! So here’s what hypnobirthing is really like–or my version, anyway. I think everyone kinda makes it their own.
Let’s start with Hypnosis-or, rather, self-hypnosis. The “self” part is important, because it clears up a very common misunderstanding about the word “hypnosis.” When most people hear that word, they think of someone watching a pendulum go back and forth with their eyes until they are in a trance-like state, after which the person hypnotizing them makes them do all sorts of weird things they aren’t aware of. How untrue! Hypnosis is actually a self-induced state of deep relaxation. Many tools can be used to reach this state, but it is always reached because someone has allowed themselves to reach it, not because someone forced it upon them.
In our hypnobirthing classes, we practiced this hypnosis frequently. I was amazed at how well it worked and how I was able to achieve it with very little effort. Our teacher used imagery, music, and sometimes physical prompts to aid us in reaching our deeply relaxed state. The scripts that we listened to talked of a beautiful waterfall, a rainbow with different colored mists, or a comfortable room with all of our favorite things…as we concentrated on these comforting, relaxing images, our bodies became totally relaxed and limp and we were not aware of many of the things going on around us. During one hypnosis session, our instructor actually came around and pinched the skin of each women’s hand with one of those tight metal alligator clips. I am not kidding when I tell you that I barely felt it. Had I not been in the relaxed state I was in, I am certain I would have yelped in pain! This technique really does work!
For many women, like myself, it does take practice. You are kidding yourself if you think that going into this state while having intense second-stage contractions is easy!!! It was actually quite difficult for me to achieve that same state during labor, and I’m not sure I ever really did. However, since I had practiced at home by listening to the music and scripts and creating my own version of the powerful imagery used, I was able to handle labor surges MUCH more easily than I think I could have without. Yes, I still felt pain. Sometimes it was almost more than I thought I could handle. But with the soothing music and my sweet husband performing the relaxation and counter pressure techniques we had learned, I made it through and had the most wonderful, beautiful birthing experience I could have ever wanted. I am being COMPLETELY honest when I say that I would change NOTHING about it!
Let me end by discussing briefly some of the hypnobirthing techniques. First, as I mentioned, we used “scripts” to create a calm, relaxing place that I could go to in my mind to help achieve hypnosis. These scripts are usually a couple pages long and are like a story that you are picturing yourself in. Someone, like your spouse or a doula, reads them to you while you are birthing (or practicing) or you can also listen to them on an ipod. I even had Nathan record some of them onto my ipod so he wouldn’t have to read them in the hospital. Our instructor, Monica, provided several for us. You can pick and choose the ones that work best for you, and cross out any lines that don’t apply or that you find distracting.
Scripts are even more effective when read over music. I went with the recommendation from Monica and purchased two relaxation CD’s that I absolutely LOVE–Liquid Mind and Comfort Zone. Once I had practiced with the scripts enough, I could pop in one of these CD’s alone and just go with my own imagery. Not only is the music beautiful, it provides a soothing, calming atmosphere in the hospital room for your baby to enter when he/she finally arrives!
We also learned several quicker relaxation techniques for when labor has started and those surges start coming strong. These included eye tiring (keeping your eyes open until you can’t stand it and finally letting them close), the depthometer (imagining a relaxing liquid filling your body, starting from head down to toes), and the light imagery (like depthometer, but a warm light instead of liquid). These can be very effective if you practice them often, especially with distractions.
A couple of other images we used had to do with uterine surges, the cervix opening, and breathing through contractions. We had to be careful with these as they have been known to start labor and you don’t want to do that too soon. I did use these a LOT when I was overdue, but I don’t think it worked! LOL! Anyway, one is to picture the muscles of your uterus expanding like blue ribbons as the surge carries the baby downward. The other is to picture the cervix opening like a rose (cheesy, I know, but it’s actually quite effective to speed up labor).
Finally, we were taught several physical relaxation techniques that can be performed by a spouse or doula. First, light touch massage. This was wonderful and really helped me focus on something besides the contractions! This is where the companion lightly runs his/her fingers up and down your back and shoulders. Next is counterpressure. There are a few different kinds; the one that worked best for me was to have Nathan apply direct, firm pressure with his hands on my hips and push my hip bones together while I sat on the birth ball (exercise ball). This relieved a lot of the pressure. There is also the knee press, which is amazing when you are lying in the bed on your back, and one where the companion puts pressure on your tailbone. Sounds strange, but they really work!! There are also lots of different labor positions to experiment with, and it’s good to practice these while practicing your hypnosis before baby comes. Then you have a lot of options ready for when the time comes.
I hope that this has helped clear up misunderstandings about Hypnobirthing and that those of you who were questioning it will reconsider! It’s not weird, I promise! It’s a beautiful way to welcome your baby and give him/her the gift of a calm, easy, drug-free entrance into the world!