At my first appointment with the midwife, I happened to mention that I'd seen a program on TV called 'Misbehaving Mums To Be' which was all about pregnant mums who had been drinking and smoking and eating fast food all day long and their health care workers efforts to point out the error of their ways. The midwife said that she hadn't seen that programme but she had seen one called 'One Born Every Minute' and suggested that I watch it when I get home as it was "realistic!" When I got home and watched it and I was horrified; all the mums screaming the wards down frightened by their experience! It didn't seem very healthy to me for mum or baby. I knew that it didn't have to be like that.
My husband had mentioned to me that he had heard about hypnosis for birth on the radio. I immediately googled hypnosis for birth, did a little research and booked on Dot Parry's 'Natal Hypnotherapy' Course in Manchester!
At that same first appointment the midwife asked me where I would like to have the baby; at home, at a birthing centre or in hospital. 'At home, for my first one?' I replied somewhat incredulous, 'I don't think so!' She went on to say that some first time mums do have their babies at home and that it was often a good thing because some women feel more relaxed. I did some investigation when I got home and the more research I did, the more I decided that to have my baby at home would be the better option for me. I read that for mums considered 'low risk' having your baby at home was as safe, if not safer, than having your baby in hospital because you can relax more and feel more comfortable with your surroundings.
My husband and I did the 'Natal Hypnotherapy' day workshop when I was 27 weeks and from thereon I practiced with the CD almost every day for either 40 minutes or 15 minutes depending on how much time I had. As the workshop recommended, I wrote out some affirmations that resonated well with me and posted them in various places round my house. Affirmations such as 'All I need to do is relax and breathe' or 'I know my baby feels my calmness and confidence'.
Before doing the course and reading widely about the natural process of giving birth, I guess that I had believed the idea which I think is prevalent in society that somehow humans weren't made for giving birth; that we were somehow deficient in this area! However, after learning all I could about birth, when I went into labour, I was very confident that my body would be able to birth my baby, just as my body knew how to grow my baby. I knew that my body was perfectly designed to have my baby, if only I would relax!
I felt the first twinges at 5am on December 3rd. I was able to potter around the house making bread and cakes for the midwives and cleaning the floor on my hands and knees as my midwife suggested to make sure that my baby was in a good position, something I had been doing each day for say 15 minutes a day for a couple of weeks. I laboured through the day and night but was still able to chat through the contractions. The first midwife came out to me at 2am. She said I was 2-3 cm dilated. Hooray! Then she left and another midwife came out at 9am. She said that I was 5cm dilated. I had been using a TENS machine and I really enjoyed the sensations that it produced on my back. Being able to control it myself was a welcome distraction from the contractions. I got in the water at about 1.30pm. The only other tool I used was an aromatherapy stick, which my friend's mum made me. It contained rose absolute, lavender and juniper which smelt beautiful and really helped me to relax.
I finally birthed our beautiful little girl, Matilda Rose at 5.33pm at home, naturally, in the water without medication just the way I had envisaged. I had my favourite chilled tunes playing in the background throughout my active labour and the lights in the room were dimmed with fairy lights creating a calm atmosphere. The water was invaluable but the self-hypnosis gave me absolute confidence that I could do it. It gave me a battery of tools to help me relax. Because I was well prepared and had practiced the techniques, these tools came to me easily and naturally.
There were several different visualisations that I used in conjunction with my breathing, for example imagining looking out towards a beautiful red sunset across the sea. I imagined that the sea was a little choppy but with my outbreath, I was able breathe out a thread of golden light to calm the sea so it lay perfectly still. I also imagined a dial which could turn the intensity of the contraction down from 10 to 1. It gave my mind something to do other than panicking or focusing on the sensations. The 'natal hypnotherapy' explained about the 'self-doubt phase' where many women think 'I can't do this!'. While it never occurred to me that I couldn't do it, the sensations were definitely stronger than I ever imagined! Despite this, I found that I had all the tools to help me deal with the pain. I had read Ina May Gaskin's book 'A Guide to Childbirth' which talked about 'orgasmic births'. The 'natal hypnotherapy' course also promoted the idea that the sensations could be enjoye d. After each contraction, I knew the importance of welcoming each sensation as opposed to dreading it as I knew that it was bringing me closer to my baby.
My husband Dave was taught on the course how to help me and how to remind me to be calm using the 3-2-1 relax cue and how to use, touch, massage and breathing. I know that some men can feel helpless during the birthing process but the course gave us tools to ensure that he was an invaluable part of the process. The midwives in attendance couldn't believe how calm I was, especially for my first baby. My mum also attended the birth. Initially, she had been very against me having a home birth and was very sceptical about the benefits of using hypnotherapy for birth but she is now a firm convert and tells everyone how wonderful it was and how calm I was! Matilda Rose was born on Christmas Eve, 5 days before her due date, a perfectly healthy 6lbs 3oz. My wonderful midwife, Hayley Greenwood knew the techniques that I was using and was very supportive. She guided me only to trust my instincts and didn't give me any commands to 'push'. Because of this, I took my time and I did not ev en tear. Having such a smooth confident delivery enabled me to be up and about very quickly. People couldn't believe it when I put her in the sling on Boxing Day and went for a walk with my husband, our first family outing!
I strongly believe that the tools of self-hypnosis for childbirth and the benefits of effective birth preparation should be strongly promoted and researched. Perhaps, only then could the myth that we are not designed perfectly to have babies be dispelled.