The first response I had when I found out I was pregnant with my first child was a wave of overwhelming joy, knowing we had tried for two years to see that positive test result. The second emotion I experienced? Something that resembled panic, realizing that there was one way out of that pregnancy, and from what I had heard, it involved a lot of yelling and writhing in pain. Or, getting stabbed in the back with a horse needle that would paralyze me for hours.
Uh, no thanks.
But a few weeks later, when we'd announced our news, I was standing in the breakroom at work, giving the coffee pot a nostalgic longing glance since I'd said goodbye to caffeine (you know, the whole first-time mom giving up caffeine thing), when a MALE coworker recommended the book HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan to me as he casually sipped his coffee. Y'all, you know there's something to a pregnancy/labor book if a man is singing its praises. He enthusiastically explained how the book prepared his wife for the most amazing, pain-free labor and delivery experience ever, and that I should get the book immediately and read it. Well, he had me at pain-free.
I have never done well with medical stuff (I mean, I passed out when I tried contacts for the first time), and anesthesia has never worked on me anyway, so I really wanted childbirth to be a natural process instead of a medical procedure. And to be honest, that is really how I felt it SHOULD be. It IS a natural process that, for the most part, only turns into a medical event the more we try to rush the process or make it predictable (excluding special circumstances, of course).
Have you ever just wished there could be a manual for childbirth? You know, instead of all the horror stories of other women's experiences that they seem so inclined to share once they start noticing your baby bump? Well, if ever there was, HypnoBirthing is it.
It's a dumb title, I know. Are visions of deodorant-free, placenta-eating, glazed-eyed hippies dancing through your head? No? Just me?
Actually, this book is written not only from a scientific standpoint of how your body births a baby and what it needs to do so most effectively, it also "troubleshoots" (if you will) common complications that lead to interventions like induction or C-sections. It outlines your rights as a patient, including information about medical interventions that are or aren't necessary, so you can make informed decisions and feel somewhat in control of your experience. But it also eliminated the element of fear that I had associated with giving birth. Most importantly, I felt so empowered after reading HypnoBirthing, not scared or panicked. It broke down the birthing process in terms I could understand and gave me guidance I could use for mine and my baby's benefit during the labor and delivery process.
The book is a less about some weird hypnosis and more about learning how to work with your body’s natural physiological process of birthing a baby. Here's why labor is painful: you know when you get stressed or afraid, your blood rushes to your extremities to help prepare your body for the flight or fight response? If the first sensation you feel during labor causes you to tense up, your blood rushes to those tense muscles and away from your uterus (also a muscle), depriving it of the oxygen it needs to effectively do its job and causing painful cramps. This is why everyone claims labor hurts like the dickens.
Here's the secret: you have to re-interpret the sensations you feel during labor as something other than pain to prevent that flight or fight response and keep your oxygenated blood pumping to the muscle that really needs it the most, your uterus. If you can go somewhere else in your mind and train yourself to stay relaxed, your body stays relaxed and can do its job effectively and as comfortably as possible. Eliminate the fear, and minimize the pain. Athletes do this. For example, on one of my p90x videos, the instructor suggests that participants loosen all the tension in their faces and any muscles they aren't working at that moment so that the muscles that are working can do so most efficiently.
I’ve done this twice now, and though both labors were so different, the common theme was that the more relaxed I was, the less pain I felt and the quicker my labor progressed with medical intervention.
Towards the end of my second pregnancy, my OB/GYN and I had a disagreement about the necessity of Pitocin after childbirth to help my uterus contract and return to its normal size. I wanted it only if it was medically necessary to prevent excessive blood loss because when I had it after my first son’s delivery (something I wasn’t even aware that they gave me at the time), it caused more pain than I’d experienced through labor. My preference was to breastfeed immediately after delivery instead. I could tell my doctor was getting frustrated with me when I asked about this intervention, and when I brought up that I felt his frustration, his response was, “Well, yeah, I’m getting frustrated because I’ve just done WAY more of these than you have, and I know what I’m talking about.” Let’s just say I’m thankful he wasn’t on call when I actually delivered my baby.
Of course I’m not a doctor, so my experience with labor and delivery is limited to two children. BUT, I’m the one who gave birth, not my doctor, so I know what it feels like from the inside. And having had noninterventional, natural childbirths both times, I am INTIMATELY acquainted with what goes on during the process. It wasn’t routine for me; it was life-changing. I have never felt stronger, more powerful, and more victorious than I did when I birthed my children, and that is a strength I have carried with me ever since.
Childbirth leaves a lasting impression on a woman, a memory she will carry with her the rest of her life. It can either be empowering and extremely moving and grow her in ways she never thought she was capable of, or it can be traumatic, disappointing, and scarring (both emotionally and physically).
I would never judge another woman for her chosen method of childbirth, mainly because I feel like we all just make whatever decision that’s necessary for us to get through it. But deep down, my heart is for all women to have the option to experience a calm, stress-free, gentle, deeply spiritual and empowering childbirth because I know my life has never been the same after mine. I don’t think it’s fair for women to just have to accept the idea that childbirth is a necessary evil that destroys our body and scars us for life. I think every woman should have the opportunity to discover how incredibly strong and capable her body is, how fearfully and wonderfully designed she is, rather than being pressured to succumb to the business of childbirth as conducted by the medical community. It’s such an exhilarating feeling!
That’s why I highly recommend HypnoBirthing. It’s an amazing resource for any expecting mom, and I’m looking forward to re-reading it!