As a birthing mother I have benefited so much from the transformative effects of hypnosis and deep relaxation that after the birth of my first child I decided to train to teach them. My motivation was to hear my friends and peers having the kind of empowering experiences of birth that I know are possible. Not a single type of birth, but births in which any medical interventions were either truly necessary or truly wanted, in which the mother is respected and supported by any other people that she has chosen to have in the birth room with her.
Am I hypnobirthing ‘right’?
But once I was teaching hypnobirthing and also preparing for my second child’s birth, which was to be a home birth under the care of my local NHS homebirth midwives, I was interested to notice myself having some real moments of doubt. There was a little worried voice saying things like ‘you know you don’t recognise yourself in those really quiet videos’ and ‘remember how you got angry when your contractions were painful’ and ‘maybe you aren’t doing it right, even though you are meant to be teaching it’.
Sweaty, scary primal woman
Because – hands up – I am a loud, sweaty, probably scary primal woman when my babies are coming down that miraculous birth canal. I have shouted ‘GET OOOOOUT’ at both my baby and my husband. I have had a real flash of rage at the intensity of my contractions, and I have vocalised away at the top of my lungs without a thought for the neighbours. Vocalising is a great euphemism for growling, mooing, yelling and breathing like a steam engine. Not your typical home-hypno-water birth video.
So how do I know that I am using hypnosis and relaxation on a profound and effective level?
It is not because I have birthed two babies without medical pain relief, although that did make me wonder. I am no stoic about pain in ordinary situations and have deployed my hypnobirthing techniques in deadly earnest every time I have had to have a blood test during pregnancy.
It is because I felt a kind of wordless trust in my body as the births unfolded. Because whilst I rode the emotional rollercoaster of birth, there was a still point inside me that kept calm beyond the sensations and moments of self-doubt. Even whilst unleashing some spectacular ‘vocalising’ I was able to relax and let my body surrender to the opening process – my arms, hands and fingers were soft as they draped over the birth ball, I breathed deeper and deeper, and followed my instincts moment by moment.
During my son’s birth in July 2015, these instincts were to keep moving, to keep upright. I couldn’t countenance sitting still or lying down. My birth ball was my angel. I sat and gently bounced, I circled, I knelt and swayed my upper body on it, I rested my head on it, waited and listened to music on it between my contractions. I leant against cupboards and rocked, I walked around the room, savouring the quiet (once you are a mother I wonder whether you literally have to be in labour for no-one to dare to disturb you), and finally gave birth on all fours on the floor beside the bed.
Birth dance, birth trance
I had not expected to move so constantly; it really was a birth dance of simple movements repeated over and over and over again. This repetition creates its own kind of trance, supporting the hypnotic state that you are taking yourself into with visualisation and breathing techniques. .
During birth preparation we tend to listen to hypnosis tracks lying down comfortably. There are benefits to this, as mothers can get used to slipping into a hypnotic state with increasing ease. You can let go totally without having to hold yourself up, and you can rest. But it is easy to start to associate hypnosis with lying still, and women can feel concerned that they won’t be able to reach such deep states of trust and relaxation during the activity of birth.
It is not an overstatement to say that I found the deep hypnosis I was in whilst swaying and circling and walking around my birth-room a revelation. It has made a deep impact on how I now approach preparing for birth with hypnosis, and has made it clear that each mother’s hypnobirth can look and sound completely different.
Preparing for an active hypnobirth
For those of you exploring preparing for birth with hypnobirthing, my take-away tips for using active hypnosis are:
If you are looking for an honest, flexible and effective way of preparing for birth, take a look at how you can work with me or contact me to book your free 30 min consultation.
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