My Hypnobirthing Experience
I’ve been planning to write about my hypnobirthing experience for a while now (my daughter is now 15 months old after all!) but it just hasn’t happened – sorry about that! A couple of weeks ago, I read the Unmumsy Mum’s account of her hypnobirthing experience with child number 3 and so I was inspired to tell my story too, in the hope that other women realise how truly bloody fantastic hypnobirthing is – because it really is! What makes my story different however is that I self-taught myself in my final weeks of pregnancy and pretty much did it all alone. So here goes…
When I fell unexpectedly pregnant with my first child, my little boy who is now 4 years old, thinking about the birth didn’t really scare me. I’m the kind of person that takes everything in her stride anyway so in thinking about the birth, I just knew that it was natural, it was going to happen and there was nothing I could do to stop it – so why stress about it? He came along in the early hours of 2nd December 2013 and although I can’t say that it wasn’t painful, I would say I had a pretty amazing birthing experience. My labour lasted around 5 hours altogether from start to finish, I gave birth in a birthing pool and used just gas and air. I did obtain a second-degree tear however (whoop whoop) and also the placenta pretty much got stuck and wouldn’t budge, resulting in the doctor literally wrapping the umbilical cord around her wrist and yanking it from my body. It makes me laugh now when I picture it to be honest, but at the time, bloody hell it was painful. And those stitches? Don’t. Even. Ask.
We moved from the UK to Mauritius around 6 months into my second pregnancy (what the hell was I thinking?!) and I think the fact that I was in a brand new country and as I already knew how painful labour could be having already experienced it, thinking about labour and giving birth the second time around, I was just so much more anxious about it all – even scared.
One day, at 35 weeks pregnant, while lounging on a recliner at Flic-en-Flac beach here in Mauritius, I got chatting to a lady with two young children sitting nearby. She had a distinctly Northern British accent – and trust me, when you’re a British expat in a foreign country, hearing someone with an accent from back home gets you SO excited – so somehow I just ended up striking conversation with her. Naturally, she took a look at my mountain of a bump and asked me when I was due…etc. etc. You know how it is. Then however, she went on to ask me how I was feeling about it all and I can honestly say that I know the Universe guided her to me and me to her on that day. There is no coincidence.
I decided to be truthful and told her that although I had a great birthing experience the first time around, I was for some reason feeling really scared and anxious this time around. She told me that with her first child, she had an absolutely traumatic experience – so much so that even her close family was left traumatised after it all. “But,” she went on to tell me, “with our little girl, I had a hypnobirth and it absolutely changed everything. It’s literally one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.” Instantly, when hearing the word ‘hypnobirth’ I thought of a woman being hypnotised during labour and thought it all sounded a bit weird. She went on to tell me what hypnobirthing actually was and explained all about her birthing experience the second time around and how relaxed and beautiful it all was for her – in complete contrast to her first traumatic experience. I left her that day feeling that somehow questions I hadn’t even asked had been miraculously answered, and felt a sense of peace, calm and even excitement.
What is hypnobirthing?
As soon as we got in the car to leave the beach, I immediately whipped out my phone and Googled ‘what is hypnobirthing?’ and discovered a whole new, natural, calm and empowering way of coming through the labour and birth experience.
Hypnobirthing is basically a birth education programme, which teaches you how to get through labour and birth in a relaxed and calm way, using deep meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques. Through hypnobirthing, you come to know your body and the completely natural process of getting a baby out of it. You come to understand that pain does not have to be an accompaniment to labour and you learn to let go of all the fear and anxiety surrounding the labour and birthing process. Hypnobirthing puts the mother in control, teaches her to listen to her body and ultimately, helps her to discover the joy and magic that the birthing experience can bring.
Can I still get prepared for a hypnobirth at 35 weeks pregnant?
I was really far along in my pregnancy at this point with only 5 weeks to go until my due date, so I wondered if I had enough time to prepare, as women tend to start their hypnobirthing practices very early on in their pregnancies. But you know that? I thought ‘screw it, I’m going to have a hypnobirth no matter what it takes’ so I began researching and throwing myself right into it.
Conventionally, women usually enroll on a hypnobirthing programme where they will attend classes in person or online, some women have a doula (a birth companion/coach who is a non-medical person who stays with and assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, to provide emotional support and physical help if needed) and a big part of it is doing daily meditations, practising breathing techniques and listening to positive birth affirmations.
Being in Mauritius, I couldn’t find anyone who could assist with hypnobirthing and I was too far along to enrol in any online classes, so I took it upon myself to find the resources and materials I would need to do what I could myself in the short space of time that I had.
What did I do?
First things first, I began to research hypnobirthing quite in-depthly and came across Katharine Graves’ website, who is the founder of KG Hypnobirthing back in the UK and a leader in the field. I found her website and her YouTube channel to contain such a wealth of positive information. Straight away, I made a commitment to stop watching One Born Every Minute (I was a little bit obsessed with it at this stage in my pregnancy) as I learned that absorbing any negative energy surrounding birth and labour from TV, other people and real-life situations could really negatively impact my own mind-set and feelings towards it.
Through Katharine’s website, I found her birthing affirmations and guided meditations on iTunes which I began to listen to straight away. Honestly, the way she describes birth and labour hit me so powerfully straight away and took me back to the thoughts I had before having my first child: that childbirth is the most natural thing in the world and what a woman’s body was designed for, therefore the body knows exactly what to do and must be trusted – and suddenly, it was like a switch had been flicked and I just wasn’t scared at all anymore.
I also found Melissa Spilsted’s ‘Affirmations for beautiful birthing’ on iTunes which is a 20 minute long recording of her speaking wonderful and positive birthing affirmations, and I found her affirmations much easier to listen to and get into than Katharine’s (maybe it was the music and the Australian accent…) and so I chose to make these affirmations a bigger part of my daily routine.
Every day I would make time to listen to Katharine Graves’ ‘Peace and Relaxation’ and ‘Confidence and Power’ and repeat the affirmation parts out loud, and every night I would put in my earphones and fall asleep to Melissa’s ‘Affirmations for beautiful birthing’. The affirmations pretty much became second nature to me really quickly – I found myself repeating them while preparing breakfast, while in the shower, while sitting and drawing… basically all the time!
I found some YouTube videos online about the breathing techniques that are best implemented during childbirth and practised these very often, while listening to and repeating my affirmations. The ‘breathing the baby down’ technique was something that blew my mind, as it all seemed to make complete sense, in comparison to being told to ‘push’ when in a hospital setting. I found this video really useful:
As my due date got closer, I began to make time to do the guided meditations by both the ladies above in addition to practising the affirmations and breathing techniques, and also began watching positive hypnobirthing experience videos on YouTube… and wow! Some of the stories out there are absolutely amazing and I recommend searching YouTube for positive hypnobirthing experiences and taking the time to watch them with your partner. After doing this, I began to feel so excited about going through the labour and birth experience for the second time.
I know my birthing experience would have been so much different for certain reasons if our baby was born in England and not in Mauritius, but I’ll be writing a whole other blogpost about giving birth in Mauritius as that’s a story unto it’s own. I’ll be putting aside all of that and some of the negative aspects of my experience for the purposes of this post and concentrating just on what I did, rather than the people whose care I was under and the facility I was in.
It was the afternoon of 14th December 2016 and I was, for some random reason, watching ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ (probably because I’m a bit of a peculiar child myself), when I felt my first contraction, or ‘surge’ as they’re known in the world of hypnobirthing come on. It was like I went into pilot mode and automatically breathed in 4, breathed out 8 through it all and it was absolutely fine!
I ended up going into the hospital where I was due to give birth around 6pm that evening – my surges were coming around every 40 minutes or so, so nothing to write home about really. I was able to breathe calmly through them all and I felt great.
Much like with my first child, suddenly at around 7pm my surges came on very frequently so the bathtub in my private room was filled so I could be in water until the team at the hospital had prepared my birthing pool (I told you things are different in Mauritius – but like I said, a story for another post!). While in the water, I had my playlist on my phone of affirmations playing through our Bluetooth speaker, which we’d brought with us, and I focussed on their voices and my breathing. I felt like this time around I was so much more aware of every single little thing my body was doing and I understood why – I was so in tune and in sync with my labouring body and what it was telling me to do. My surges were quite quickly at a point where one was coming straight after the other, but I was in control and it was such an amazing feeling. I didn’t need any gas and air; I just tried my best to quietly remain focussed on my breathing.
The team managed to get me to the labour room and as I was getting into the pool, my waters broke and I knew it was time for phase 2 – breathing the baby down. And I cannot tell you how bloody fantastic this technique is. I held tightly on to my husband’s hands as I sat knees down in the birthing pool leaning against the side, and I finally got to put those 5 weeks of practise into action. It was amazing, honestly – I felt NO PAIN, just immense pressure. I breathed her down in less than 5 minutes and that’s absolutely no exaggeration – the midwives present hadn’t even noticed that she was out and in the water, and then all of a sudden my beautiful baby girl was in my arms and I was just awe-struck.
They took her off me to get her cleaned up and next thing I know, I was breathing down the placenta and out it came, no trouble at all! SO different to the first time – I was so pleased. The midwives then checked me over and much to my delight told me there was no tearing. I kind of knew this anyway because of how easily she just slipped into this world, but it was a great feeling when they confirmed that all was okay down there. No being scared to poo for a month afterwards – yay!
So I’m sure you’ve gathered that I recommend hypnobirthing to each and every pregnant woman that currently exists and that will ever exist on this earth! I obviously only had 5 weeks to prepare, and all on my own at that, but imagine if everyone took this approach in the early stages of pregnancy? Imagine women who are able to attend classes, get their partners involved and have the support of a doula throughout the whole process? Imagine how many calmer, happier, stress-free births could be happening in the world without any medical intervention?
I know the word ‘hypnobirthing’ sounds a bit la-di-da but please don’t let that put you off. All hypnobirthing does is remind you what you already know how to do deep down inside; something that being born as a woman, you have always known how to do. It takes away the fear that society has created around labour and birth, and replaces it with your own inner wisdom. I felt so empowered and strong after this experience – like I could do and achieve anything I put my mind to – and I am so thankful to the Universe for sending me my Angel on the beach at exactly the right time to guide me towards exactly what I needed.
For all the ladies reading who are pregnant or are hoping to be so in the future, please look into hypnobirthing for yourself and let it be an option for you. And for anyone who has had a hypnobirth themselves, I would love to hear about your experience so please do share in a comment below.
Happy birthing, ladies!