I thought I'd make this post about hypnobirthing as I've had a few people ask me about it, I go into a bit of detail about my labour experience so if you don't fancy reading that then perhaps skip this post ;-)
When I discovered I was pregnant I knew I wanted as peaceful a birth as possible. Think, water birth, candles, music and as few drugs as I could handle.
It's not that I wanted to feel the pain and be a martyr or anything. I just wanted (ideally) to reduce my recovery time and I didn't like the idea of any drug slowing down the birth process or being passed on to my baby.
In the lead up to the due date I read two books, the first was Ina May's "Guide to childbirth". This, randomly was recommended to me by someone at the hairdressers and I'm so glad I remembered it because the book just put me at ease instantly. It contains many birth stories and mentions lots of techniques to help relax you and get you to the right place where having a natural birth is a lot more possible.
The other book I read was Katherine Graves' "The hypnobirthing book". This tome is the standard when it comes to hypnobirthing classes. Its full of visualisation and breathing exercises which again, are there to help relax and empower you when in the thick of contractions.
So.... did any of these techniques actually work?
Well in short, they absolutely did. My waters broke on the Sunday evening and within the hour contractions started. They started very mild and far between but quite quickly progressed to being every 3 minutes and lasting more then a minute/minute and a half.
Through the initial stage - whilst I was at home, breathing and visualisations really helped
I also found leaning against a wall - face resting on my arms, was best to get through each contraction. Oh and also... in hypnobirthing, you're encouraged to call a contraction a "surge" as it seems a lot less frightening! I wasn't so good at remember that one but the breathing and visuals were constant. * As a side note, it also really helped having my mum and husband there reminding me to do these things, like relax my jaw, breathe slowly and generally encourage and keep the atmosphere as calm as possible.
So, visualisations... what did I exactly visualise? Well, might sound a bit cheesy or cliche but every time I had a "surge" I pictured in my mind a flower opening. I also said the words "relax relax relax" in my head and really simple, the word "open"
The idea is to so be as relaxed as humanly possible to enable your cervix to open - the more relaxed you can be and to actively encourage all the movements that are gonna happen 'down there' the better!
Movies have a lot to answer for. The way they portray a woman in labour is awful! So much screaming and tensing up and also apparently contractions only seem to last an hour at most before baby arrives. The truth is, labour (especially if its your first) can last a pretty long time. The female body is absolutely amazing in how it changes to let the baby move down and out but... of course, it takes time and you need to try and go with it.
The pain.... I was asked shortly after labour if it hurt.
The short answer is yes. But because it builds up I found it very bearable, it was the tiredness that I found hardest to deal with.
The contractions got to be quite painful (in the end) but overall I would just call the whole experience very intense. I knew that with each painful moment I was getting closer to meeting my baby.
The breathing techniques I used were also great in aiding with pain relief. The first one I did A LOT was one where you blow a raspberry with your lips - like a horse noise. It sounds funny but every time I did that, my bottom half relaxed.
I also kept my breathing very long and deep as possible.
Towards the end, contractions were lasting quite a while and there wasn't much rest up. At this point I started breathing deep and on exhale saying Omm as low and for as long as I could.
It sounds proper hippy dippy but it really did help and focused my mind on to the Om and not what was happening.
Hypnobirthing was a great help to me because I was able to get to 8 cm dilated without any pain relief, it was only when I got to 8 that I asked for gas and air which helped me get to fully dilated not long after.
Unfortunately for me, I ended up having to go from the birth centre to hospital and have an assisted delivery. Unbeknownst to be but I was't able to pass any water for quite a while and my full bladder was stopping my baby from being able to come out - no matter how much I pushed. Which was a lot!
Happy to report, that once I was in hospital I was really well looked after and had a pain free forceps delivery thanks to modern medicine. Yes, it wasn't in my birth plan and wasn't what I wanted but at that point I just wanted the baby to be out and healthy.
My recovery afterwards was quite slow but I definitely think that hypnobirthing played a massive positive part in the labour - even if the ending wasn't quite what I imagined.
Now, months later. I have beautiful baby and if I am blessed to have another child in future, I will definitely be using hypnobirthing techniques as I think they really helped to keep me calm and focused. :)