As I mentioned in my post earlier this week, I am a fan of epidurals. But by my fifth baby I thought, I’d really like to know what if feels like to have a baby without pain medication. I would like to be able to say definitively which is better. There really is an undercurrent in our society of natural childbirth being the best, with an epidural coming in a distant second and a C-Section! Well, that’s the worst thing ever! You might as well paint an F for “failure” on your forehead. I happen to not agree with this, but that seems to be the message that pregnant women are fed day after day.
Since I am not a big fan of pain and avoid it as much as possible, I knew I’d need some tools in my arsenal to help with a natural labor and delivery. I needed to find The Secret. The secret that would allow me to give birth as pain-free as possible. I did some research and Hypnobirth seemed like the best fit for me.
Hypnosis is a bit of misnomer as this makes people think you’re going to be in some sort of goofy trance the whole time while your husband waves a pocket watch in front of your face. Hypnosis in this case is actually just massive relaxation on demand; the idea being that if you are relaxed it will hurt a lot less. This makes sense.
Hypnobirth requires training. We found a good teacher but the training was pretty cheesy. Part of each class is practicing several relaxation readings with your partner. But the rest of the class is spent discussing the ideas and philosophy behind Hypnobirth which I found a little eye-roll inducing. For example you’re not supposed call contractions “contractions” but something more positive. They recommend “surges”, but you can chose your own term. I decided on “fiestas” because doesn’t eating chips and guacamole and dancing sound pretty fun? Granted, I took the Hypnobirth classes with my sister and we sat in the back with our husbands and giggled and made fun of the hippy teacher and generally were disruptive and silly. I am a pragmatic person at heart and some of the background behind Hypnobirth seemed hokey to me.
The most important thing that makes Hypnobirth birth successful is practicing hypnosis, both in class and at home. This was really hard for me as I am naturally a sleeper. If you tell me to close my eyes it will only be a matter of seconds until I fall asleep (ask the people in my yoga class. I completely konk out during savasana every single time). But I tried really hard to relax (kind of a funny oxymoron) without falling asleep and got pretty good at it after a couple of months.
My husband recorded himself reading the various scripts we were given to help us relax with some flowy New-Age music in the background. That way I could listen to the recordings whenever I wanted. It’s really important to practice these a lot during your pregnancy so that your mind can instantly relax on command while you’re in labor. If you haven’t been practicing you will never be able to get on top of your fiestas and things will quickly fall apart.
When I had Jasper (baby #6) I figured that since I had used Hypnobirth successfully only 14 months earlier that I would still be able to do it, no problem. Consequently I barely practiced at all. And it was quite a debacle. After three hours of hideous contractions which–I SWEAR!–should have put me at eight centimeters but instead stalled me at four, I cried uncle and begged for the epidural. So I got one and Jasper was born ten minutes later. Whatever.
Hypnobirth during labor with Adelaide was very successful for me. Contractions for the most part were pretty do-able. I was in pain but hypnosis exercises (which I listened to for the entire five hours) really helped keep me in the relaxation zone. The downside of the constant need to be coached in relaxation is that you really can’t be talking to people. Which means that your phone calls and interruptions need to be kept to a minimum. My nurses were really good about coming in and monitoring me without bugging me very much. But one of my friends is a doctor at the hospital where I was delivering and she came in to chat and would not leave. I pretty much had to scream at her to get her out of there.
The big fail in hypnobirth was the actual pushing. It hurt. More than I can communicate. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around that much pain. I’m pretty sure only chemicals can make pushing pleasant. For me it only lasted three minutes. But they were three very horrendous minutes. Very, very, very, very horrendous.
I was in no mood to be holding a baby after the delivery. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and die. I eventually got my shiz together and held my sweet little girl. But it took a while. Obviously the experience wasn’t too terrible because I got pregnant on purpose five months later.
My final verdict is that if you are determined to go natural, Hypnobirth is a pretty good technique. I liked that it required a lot of my husband. Usually he’s got his face stuck in the computer while I’m in labor or is taking “one last business call”. But Hypnobirth required that he be present for me. If your husband is good for nothing or, like my friend Molly’s husband, is prone to fainting and ends up passing out and getting stitches when he hits his head on the hospital bed, then maybe you should forget Hypnobirth. Or get a doula.