It all started when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter. We were at one of the antenatal classes and everyone was talking about how scared they were about the pain of giving birth. One of the girls mentioned hypnobirthing and how she read a book that took all her fears away. She was dismissed very quickly, probably because they heard the word “hypno” and imagined a pendulum dangling in front of their eyes as they were giving birth.
My wife was going to have a planned c-section for medical reason so I didn’t think too much of it. But my curious mind made me have a peek on the internet. I remember reading something like this: “HypnoBirthing uses deep relaxation, visualization, affirmations, special breathing techniques to achieve a confident, calm, peaceful birth and a positive birthing experience for you and your baby”. Ah – interesting I thought – I need to remember this for when I will get pregnant!
And there I was. Two years later and I was the one expecting our second little girl. Fear and doubt started creeping in when thinking about delivery. I knew I wanted to have a natural birth and I wanted to avoid drugs. Partially to protect the baby from adverse affects of the drugs. Partially to prove myself that I could deliver a baby as nature intended. All of that while going through the most incredible physical pain of a lifetime. Like the one my mum always described when giving birth to me. Or the dramatic scenes that you always see in movies (have you ever watched the second Bridget Jone’s diaries movie?). Laying on my back on a hospital bad, with my legs up in the air, and an obstetrician up my vagina telling me when to push. I didn’t know any different! But I remembered that word “hypnobirthing” and something in my head told me to have another look.
The more I was reading on the internet about hypnobirthing, the more I was intrigued. I didn’t really know what “positive affirmations” meant, or what “self-hypnosis” involved. Some of it sounded very mystical. But I had done yoga and meditation in the past. I knew how much breathing techniques can really help achieve a calmer state of mind and direct the attention to the breathing instead of the physical pains.
Reading some testimonials and watching some videos online gave me a final push in that direction and I finally decided to buy a book: “HypnoBirthing – The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan. This book blew my mind to say the least. All of a sudden it all made sense. It become my bible and I was 100% committed to hypnobirthing.
After finishing the book I liked to think I was ready for it, but I knew I still had some fears to conquer. Also, I wanted to get my wife on board too, and it didn’t feel like explaining her what the book said was going to cut it. So I decided to enroll in a hyprobirthing course. I enrolled in Helen’s classes from Positive Births. It felt quite expensive for the number of sessions but, trust me, it was worth it! And it really helped having my wife there as well, getting involved in all the exercises. We worked a lot on all the hidden fears about births and were now fully equipped to have the best birthing experience of our life. I KNEW then that I was going to have a pain-free, calm, incredible labor and childbirth.
I attended the course when I was about 4 months pregnant. So I had quite a long time to practice all the relaxation and breathing techniques. I didn’t go all crazy with it, but I was listening to hypnobirthing music from Spotify every morning and afternoon going to and coming back from work. Even though you are not suppose to drive while listening to it – oooops!. And I was often listening to the rainbow relaxation track in bed before falling asleep. Very often falling asleep while listening to it!. I also did a lot of yoga when pregnant, which includes breathing techniques. So I was confident I had it covered! If you have never done any yoga or meditation before, and have a very busy mind, I would recommend practicing a bit more than me.
When labor day came, I had the first surge (contraction) at 3.30 am. I woke up with this incredible cramps and urge to go to the toilet, so I ran to the loo and had a massive number two. How glamorous, right?! I was not sure whether I had a tummy bug or if that was actually a surge. But by the time I got another contraction I knew it was the start of labor – yay! Surges kept coming throughout the day every half an hour or so. Totally manageable with the breathing techniques I had practiced in the previous months.
I had a normal day at home, resting in bed as much as possible. Then at about 7.30 pm, all of a sudden they started getting closer and closer to each other. When I called the midwife to give her an update she kept telling me not to worry and wait a bit longer. She kept saying that because it was my first pregnancy, I was still a long way to go. Thank god I insisted for her to come and check me out anyway, as by the time she got to my place I was 7 cm dilated! So in the car and off we go!
The 30 min or so car trip to the hospital is a blank. All I remember is listening to the rainbow relaxation track on repeat all the way and closing my eyes to focus on the breathing. Walking from the car to the hospital in the birthing unit was quite hilarious. I was doing a few steps and then stopping because I had to breathe during a contraction. I remember one person stopping by and telling me “good luck”. And I was also hoping I wouldn’t get a contraction as I was getting out of the elevator. Imagine that: squashed between elevator doors while trying to reach the delivery unit!.
As I got to the birthing unit, we found out they didn’t receive the information that I was coming in and there was no room ready for me. Not sure how that happened as the midwife called from our house saying we were coming! So I had to wait in the waiting room. To top it off, they hadn’t filled the pool yet … I was SO looking forward to a water birth, so the midwife rushed to one of the spare rooms and opened the tap of the pool.
While in the waiting room, all of a sudden, I transitioned to active labor and I felt such an urge to push. It’s amazing how the body just knows what to do. So, picture this – us in the waiting room with another big family and me kneeling down over a fridge going “I feel the need to push”. And my wife screaming back “you can’t push yet!”. Like I had any control over it!
The room wasn’t quite ready yet, but they walked me all the way there. What the heck happened to wheelchairs that you see in movies for pregnant ladies?? By that point I could feel the surges coming closer and closer and all I needed to do was to push. I remember I kept telling the midwife “isn’t it time to take my pants off?”, as she was still setting up the bloody room. Eventually she realized how fast this baby was coming and helped me take my pants and undies off.
She asked me if I wanted to go on the bed but there was NO WAY I could climb on the bed at that point. Or get into the pool for that matters (which was still pretty much empty, sigh). All I could do was stand by the bed – eyes closed and still focusing on the breathing. The midwife and my wife forced my legs open to try and squeeze a pillow between my legs and after a few minutes, at 9.35 pm, little Michaela came out and was in the midwife arms.
It was the most intense and yet most calm experience of my life. I was aware of all the noise and chaos happening around me, but all I could think of was breathing during the surges and visualize my little baby coming out. The room didn’t matter, the pool didn’t matter, nothing mattered but me being in sync with my body. It was so empowering, like I was invincible. I knew exactly what my body was going through every moment of labor and that awareness made me feel in control. I knew exactly what to do. And I remember that ecstatic feeling when my midwife told me “you are about to meet your baby” towards the end – I felt pure joy. The pain was never there, or maybe was there but never felt any. My baby was soon placed in my arms and I could finally lie on that bed with her on my chest. All of a sudden, we were a family of four.
To all the mums-to-be out there: giving birth is not about the pain. It’s not like we need to go through hell before feeling the pure joy of holding a baby in our arms. The whole experience can be a joyful experience. Hypnobirthing is not a myth, it’s not a scam that you hear about. Let go of any prejudice when you hear the word – I wish it was just called “positive birthing” or “natural birthing” or something similar. It’s about understanding the roots of who we are as women, as human beings. It’s about understanding what our body is capable of and letting go of any fear instilled into us by decades of modern and men-driven medicine.
Let yourself believe that a different way of giving birth naturally, without drugs and pain, actually exists. Give yourself a chance to have the most unforgettable childbirth (and prove your mother wrong). And if you do end up having complications, all the skills that you learnt from hypnobirthing will guide you no matter how you are going to deliver your child. Whether you end up having a c-section, an induction or end up opting for an epidural. I promise you won’t regret it. And I guarantee you that all techniques that you have mastered along the way will also help you during other stressful events in life.