Happy (Hypno)Birth-day

My (Hypno) Birth-day: Sunday 26th July 2015: 4:03am

WELLBEING POST: A POSITIVE STORY ABOUT CHILD BIRTH

The Universe Print ready

This post is dedicated to my little girl who turns one tomorrow and to pregnant women everywhere. I hope this helps.

When I think about this time last year I have nothing but fond memories of childbirth; it was a very happy, relaxing and euphoric time. Perhaps not the response you’d expect from a first-time Mum.

What most people don’t realise, my old self included, is that you already have all you need to have a good birth and by simply empowering yourself with the right knowledge, you can birth your baby confidently, safely and in many cases, including my own experience, you can actually enjoy your day and reflect back on the occasion as one of your fondest memories.

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Blessing Way Belly

I read not long ago that Fearne Cotton hypnobirthed, as did the Princess of Cambridge for the birth of Prince George. It seems hypnobirthing is making its way into the mainstream and thank God for that. I really wish this was a standard practise offered by the NHS. I’m certain considerable sums of money would be saved on surgery costs, drugs and hospital beds, not to mention the sheer amount of happier and more relaxed new parents there would be. The encouraging thing is that many hospitals do recognise the technique, including our very wonderful Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital – many of the midwives there have taken hypnobirthing courses and are happy to support you in your birth choice, as the lovely Gemma did on our big day.

Of course, everyone is different, every baby is different and every birthing context is different too. Even if you adopt hypnobirthing techniques, there are sometimes circumstances out of your control, certain situations where you still might need some medical assistance. If you are at least equipped with these skills, your chances of a smooth birth are far higher. Even if you need a helping hand, you’ll be in a positive frame of mind to face any turn your birthing takes.

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But hypnobirthing isn’t a new-age approach that’s just taken off. If you look back in history or even speak to women living in Asian countries today, birth is viewed as such a joyful experience.  On the whole, our society in the West has got the whole thing wrong: TV, films, friends of friends, people you meet in the doctor’s surgery, it seems there are a lot of folk out there that simply give childbirth a bad rap. All you ever hear are the horror stories. Helpful. JUST what you want to hear when you become pregnant for the first time. If that happens, place your fingers deep into your ears, walk away and when you’re a safe distance, Google: Hypnobirthing courses near me.

What is hypnobirthing?

Effectively, hypnobirthing is a birth education programme that teaches simple but specific self-hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques for a better birth. But it’s much more than just self-hypnosis. You learn about what’s happening to your body, your baby during childbirth, what to expect so you feel in control of your situation and ways of managing in the situation.

How do you learn how to hypnobirth?

You could simply buy the book and the CD and practise at home. Or if like us, you need feel like some face-to-face reassurance, then you can either do a 1:1 course, or as we did, a group course. It was a great chance to bond with four other lovely expectant couples within a relaxed atmosphere, with evenings spent talking about and giving massages, visualisations and because we were lucky to find Jackie Heffer-CookeJackie Heffer-Cooke, there was also a good amount of light-hearted banter and fun thrown in too.  It was the best £180 we’ve ever spent.

One of the visualisations I chose to use, was of hot air balloons soaring across the Himalayas, a sight that was very evocative and memory-inducing for me.

Our course was over six sessions and we were taught about what happens in childbirth, in a really positive and gentle way. The explanations used were very supportive and there’s a big emphasis on using only positive language to describe what happens. After all, the more positive you are, the more relaxed you are and the more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for your body to birth your baby. If you’re anxious or fearful this will release adrenalin, which in the childbirth context isn’t helpful. It’s all about oxytocin baby! So think, date night. Candles, soft music, dim lights, gentle words, a few caresses. Same concept, slightly different outcome.

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The beautiful “prayer flags” our doula Steff made for us containing positive affirmations. She fashioned these in and around our room at the hospital

How can it benefit you during pregnancy and birth?

From a personal point of view, these are the things that really helped us:

  • During the weeks leading up to my birth, my friends and family all seemed surprised at how clam and content I was
  • I stayed calm during the early stages of labour through to the actual birth
  • During the early stages of labour, I felt in control and peaceful. I relaxed in my bedroom and practised my breathing and listened to the Rainbow Relaxation CD we were given on the course, which included some visualisation techniques and positive affirmations
  • During my birth Matthew, Steff our doula and the midwife medicated me with nothing more than a hand fan, a cold flannel and supply of bendy straws and still energy drink. We didn’t need any intervention, no drugs or procedures, during birth
  • I used the golden thread breath that we’d learnt during the class in the birthing pool and went within myself, taking myself to peaceful places and happy moments from my life
  • It felt challenging at times but I knew every surge (contraction) would bring me closer and being armed with the knowledge we learnt during the classes, I knew when things were progressing
  • I was not only able to calmly face the birth, but I actually really loved the experience – yes it is possible to enjoy childbirth ladies
  • It was also a pretty awesome bonding experience for me and Matthew
  • After the birth, Matthew and the midwife reported that I was very focused during this time and it was very clear that I was listening to my body. I think they were quite surprised by the number of challenging surges I had that I breathed through calmly
  • I actually really enjoyed the last 40 minutes, the actual birth which I thought would be the most challenging part – but I felt so empowered
  • The techniques really helped Matthew stay clam too, when otherwise he reported, he would usually have found it much harder to understand what was happening and to respond accordingly.
  • I think men find childbirth hard because they want to be able to “fix things” yet they can’t. So armed with hypnobirthing knowledge, this gave Matthew insights into what would happen and how best he could support me on the day. He did all the right things! And didn’t try to fix a thing.

He was such a brave and attentive presence and kept so clam and supportive throughout, I really couldn’t have done it without his support and the things he learnt on the course. He was there for me the entire time without being intrusive or distracted, he was 100% “with me” at the right tone, volume and pace, just simply being with me and supporting me at every beat. My hero! Although that’s what he said I was to him.

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Our summer bundle

Tips for your big day:

In addition to learning hypnobirthing techniques, here are a few practical things that helped us:

Dry run: We visited the hospital’s Delivery Suit and Midwife-Led Birthing Unit for a tour so I knew the environment and could visualise things and manage my expectations. Plus it helps to know where you’re going!

Fuel: Eat a good meal during your early stages of labour. Think marathon carbo-loading. I had a giant plate of meatballs and pasta which armed me for the journey ahead because you don’t feel like eating during labour but you do need energy. But not everyone will feel like eating too much. Do what feels right for you but try to eat something that will give you a slow release of energy.

Drinks: Whilst I was in the pool all I fancied was a cold drink. It was a HOT summer. Sometimes water but I needed energy. We took a cool bag filled with snacks and drinks for Matthew, a few snacks for me post-birth and most importantly, some cold energy drinks with bendy straws – make sure they are not carbonated, buy the flat energy drinks which are easier to drink, you don’t want to choke on bubbles whilst trying to focus.

Take your time: We made it slowly up to Midwife Led Birthing Unit and as taught during our hypnobirthing classes, we stopped regularly en route, practicing my breathing during each surge.

Background sounds: Matthew put the Rainbow Relaxation CD on which was a good support but the thing which really helped me during birth was half way through when he surprised me and put on the yoga music our teacher had played throughout our pregnancy yoga classes – this evoked so many lovely memories and feelings of relaxation. I’d played Evelyn the CD regularly at home when I was relaxing at home too and I like to think she could recognise the music too!

First day home - five days old
Evelyn, five days old looking like a little pixie in Daddy’s arms

I can safely say that hypnobirthing gave me confidence, peace and calm to face my birthing day and to deal with it in the most positive and calm way possible. I look back and think of it as a beautiful day for so many reasons – the closeness I felt to Matthew, the determination and happiness I felt when Evelyn finally came. I can honestly say, I really think this experience has helped change the way I view hospitals and of course birth.  We can’t thank our hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga teacher Jackie Heffer-Cooke enough – it’s made all the difference to us and to Evelyn’s start in life and we have nothing but positive and fond memories of our birth. I look back on the experience as the proudest, most surreal, calm and triumphant moments in my life. It was like the biggest lucid dream of my life, but that’s a whole other blog post.

Happy birthday, Evelyn Pema x

For more information about wellbeing during pregnancy, you might like to read my post: Top Ten Pregnancy Tips: My Pregnancy Bucket List

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