A true insight into the process of hypnobirthing and how it helped me deal with my anxiety throughout my pregnancy and during the countdown to labour.
What is Hypnobirthing?
Before researching hypnobirthing, I strongly believed that this was a technique based around yoga and meditation, and people who did not believe in medicine were the only people that could access these classes. It is safe to say that my preconception could not have been further from the truth. Hypnobirthing taught me many things, but the main thing I took away from the experience was that the classes allow you to focus on 'mind over matter' and use your body's natural instincts to support you in giving birth in the most natural way possible.
What led me to choose this method?
The minute I announced I was pregnant on social media and also had informed my work, for some reason everybody felt the need to automatically share their labour and birthing experience, and believe me - I heard some absolute horror stories. One lady in particular had told me that a few days before her due date she had woken up blind and couldn't see a thing for hours. Upon going into the hospital and being examined, the doctor had figured out that the baby was in a funny position and was actually leaning on a nerve that was connected to her eyesight! On top of this some of the labour and birthing stories I had heard was enough to send me into panic overdrive, which is the reason I felt that I needed someone to educate and reassure me everything would be ok.
It seemed as though my misconception was just that. A misconception. I struck up contact with some of my friends who had previously used this technique and I had heard nothing but good feedback, so I decided to look into it further. I had spent the majority of my pregnancy extremely anxious and confused. My body was completely changing and there were many weeks where I felt like there was something wrong (I'll save the explanation for another blog post!) so I thought that educating myself on this pregnancy was the best thing to do. I have grown up with a very strong role model, my mum, who birthed 2 babies with no pain relief and was always trying to convince me that it was 'not that bad' and that 'so many women around the world do it, you'll survive'. Although I am completely aware that millions of women have given birth naturally in the world, and that so many women have survived pregnancy - I still somehow felt that no one understood what I was personally going through.
Prior to coming across Positive Birth Jersey, I had heard that there were some hypnobirthing group sessions that I could access, where I would be able to meet other couples and share my journey, however with this being my first pregnancy I did not feel comfortable sitting in a group and discussing what I thought were 'embarassing' questions.
I ended up getting in contact with a lady called May Bourne (currently based in Jersey, Channel Islands - where I live). Her name had come up in previous conversation with some close friends of mine, and on top of being a Jersey practicing midwife, she also offered 1:1 sessions to fit around my busy schedule. Being a secondary school teacher and my partner being a web developer, we were unable to commit to one specific slot a week and needed someone who could be flexible. May was just this.
Once in contact with May, she assured me that Hypnobirthing was not all all for medidation and against medication, she managed to convince me that it was an education process, and as a practicing midwife she would be able to answer all my burning questions and inform me on the pregnancy and labour process from start to finish in our local hospital. This was exactly what I needed.
'...I had gone through 34 weeks of pregnancy unsure of aches and pains, whether my pregnancy was normal, and also not knowing what to expect at the end...'
I began hypnobirthing classes at 34 weeks. With pregnancy being on average 40 weeks long - I felt as though I had missed the train, and this would not benefit me as I felt it was too late to take on board any techniques. I had also gone through 34 weeks of pregnancy unsure of aches and pains, whether my pregnancy was normal, and also not knowing what to expect at the end - the part that I'm sure every first time mum dreads. Getting advice from your friends is great, but it is impossible to compare 2 pregnancies so I spent a lot of time feeling alone on this journey. Better late than never came to mind and I certainly cannot believe how quickly I picked up tips and tricks which led to me having an all natural birth, free from any pain relief.
How did hypnobirthing help me?
The moment I met May I instantly felt at ease. We had mutual friends, were similar in age, and knowing that she was a midwife in our local hospital made me confide in her as a working professional as well as a teacher of hypnobirthing, labour and childbirth.
We started off with some simple techniques. Inhale and exhale. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Was it as simple as that? I was a bit weary to begin with but May convinced me to be open minded and give the process a chance. It felt less awkward being 1:1 with her as I was able to discuss all of my worries and confide in her. Once I had discussed all of the different horror stories I heard every time I went to the staff room, and how everyone seemed to want to talk about pregnancy and birth if I was in the room (I ended up avoiding the staff room as a result for a long time as I just wanted a clear head during the teaching day) - she actually made a valid point that I did not need to engage in these conversations just because I was pregnant, and more importantly, if these conversations were adding to my anxiety. We had discussed how I needed to become more confident in saying things such as 'I don't want to talk about that right now' and 'this conversation isn't helping me feel positive about my pregnancy' or even if I just didn't feel like talking that day - to just get up and go to a quiet space to wind down. Working in a school with so many teenagers and being pregnant can be really difficult, so I had to learn fast how to avoid these conversations and speak about the appropriatness of engaging in these informative chats with students. VERY difficult as a Child Development teacher. Sex education, contraception, pregnancy, and childbirth should have been my comfort zone, right?
Throughout the process I had learned so much and we had so many laughs along the way. We read scripts and feedback from previous clients of hers, we watched videos of natural hospital births, caesarean sections, water births and home births - and although the thought of it may put you off - it actually opened my eyes to all of the different options there were and how I could choose what would be best for me. My favourite part of the experience was asking her questions that I was genuinely worried about. My personal favourite being:
What will happen if I poo in the water? Will they have to take me out and clean the pool?
On a serious note - May was able to educate me on all of the different methods of pain relief I would be offered, and how this would affect me and potentially the baby. Please note that I was not opposed to accepting pain relief if I needed it, but I suffer from anaphylaxis and have previously had extreme allergies to medication - so I wanted to try and avoid medication if I could. May offered to give me a tour of the maternity ward (as the concept of hypnobirthing emphasises that the more familiar and comfortable you are with your surroundings, the more likely you are to feel calm and at ease to give birth naturally).
My boyfriend Michael was my chosen birthing partner and I wanted to ensure that he felt completely comfortable to support me in my time of need and he would know what to do without me having to talk. When I am in any sort of extreme pain I hate people talking to me - hence why I wanted to make sure everything was prepped and ready and Michael or my mum would know what to do when the time was right. This being said, May was so accommodating and included Michael in every stage. She let him know how he would be able to tell the difference between early and active labour, what sort of touches and words would be soothing, and how to work with me.
Being so informed and educated on this process is what I believe led to me having a birth that was free from medication. I learned so many words and phrases that stuck with me and re-assured me that I was in control of this process. Some of my favourite phrases are listed below:
I am in control
Breathe baby down
My body is made to carry this baby
My body knows how to give birth
I am prepared for whatever birth my body and baby need
This was definitely an unforgettable experience and I would recommend May at Positive Birth Jersey to anyone that asks. The only regret I have is not allowing Michael to take any pictures or videos. It is definitely something I will consider for next time!
Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any other questions regarding this experience! The direct link for May's instagram is below:
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