When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change By Kerry Power
Let’s tackle the subject that most women fear - child birth. The most natural fact of life, yet the most terrifying. In a world where we are so up to date with technology, how is it that we lack knowledge and confidence when it comes to birth? I must admit I myself was guilty of this. In my early twenties I always told myself that when I fall pregnant I'd spend the 9 months fearing the fact that this baby needs to come out. I don't really want to experience labour but its going to happen and I can't avoid it. When I did fall pregnant I was quite quick and determined to change this mindset after hearing many horror stories from women and watching the odd 'One Born Every Minute' (if you are pregnant whilst reading this, I suggest you stay away from watching that). I understood birth as taking place in a hospital, laying on a bed and taking every drug offered to me.
It wasn't until I researched hypnobirthing that it opened my eyes to the concept of birth and made me question my decisions. I'm so glad it did, as I actually ended up having my son at a midwifery led birthing unit instead of a hospital which allowed me to have the natural and calm birth I had hoped for. Many people may think hypnobirthing involves a hippy speaking a bunch of mumbo jumbo to a group of easily persuaded mothers, but this is far from the truth. Hypnobirthing is a complete birth education programme that teaches self hypnosis, relaxation, visualisation and breathing techniques for a calmer birth. Once you have a full understanding of the benefits of hypnobirthing, it really will enable you to question your options and help illuminate unnecessary intervention.
I attended a 4 week course with Babies in Waiting - Billericay branch. Jo and Emily are absolutely incredible and a true inspiration. Everything they taught me made perfect sense. One concept that stuck with me is fear = tension = pain. Once you fear labour you will automatically tense your body and fight what it is trying to do which will result in pain. Believe it or not, a relaxed body and mind will enable it to do the job it is designed to do which will not result in unbearable pain. Once I heard this, I then knew my son’s birth was going to be completely different to how I thought it would be. I had a natural birth with no drugs, not because I was trying to prove to myself that I can do this without them, but because I honestly didn't need them. It never crossed my mind once to scream out for gas and air or an epidural. I was able to focus my mind to trust my body and block out everything and everyone around me. I chose to have my baby at a midwifery unit as I knew many drugs would not be available to me. Of course if an emergency occurred and a c-section was needed, I was only 10 minutes away from the nearest hospital and I was open to that possibility as at the end of the day I just wanted my baby to arrive safely.
Hypnobirthing is not only beneficial to mothers, but also for the birthing partners as they have a real role to play. My husband and mum were my birth partners and by attending the course with me they completely understood what they could do in order to support me. I know many men feel almost like a spare part when their partner is in labour, but that was not the case with hypnobirthing. As soon as I arrived at the midwifery unit I was completely in my own zone. I had listened to my relaxation tape on repeat in the car and took control of my breathing and really listened to my body by going with it, not fighting anything. I spoke to the midwife and she went through some questions with me as my waters had broke early that morning (it was now midnight). I was in a room with bright lights and asked questions that I did not want to answer, as I just wanted to switch off from everything and listen to my body. This is where my husband stepped in to help me as he could see me becoming irritated. As soon as the checks by the midwife were completed we were shown our room and I instantly relaxed and was transported back to my calm state. It was dimly lit with electric candles and my mum had put my relaxation tape on ready for me. I also made a playlist of my favourite songs. There was a birthing pool in the room too which I used but didn't end up giving birth to my son in. What helped me even more was the respect and support I received by the midwife. She was aware of my birth plan and that I was hypnobirthing. She settled me into the room and left me alone which I couldn't have been happier with. I felt safe and comfortable to be in my own room with just my husband and mum to help me. Of course if I needed the midwife she was only outside and she made it clear she would come in whenever I needed her. I cannot explain just how incredibly empowering and amazing my experience of birth was. Being a strong-willed woman, I knew I could do this if I was left in peace. After all, animals require privacy in order to birth so why should a woman be any different? I literally didn't speak for hours, not even to my husband or mum, I just focused on everything I had learnt and it made the whole process easier as I understood each stage of my labour and what my body was capable of. I did hit a few walls along the way, I am only human, but I had the support of my husband and mum to help me maintain focus by using simply relaxation and visualisation techniques we had learnt from Babies in Waiting. After 12 hours of labour I gave birth to an 8lb baby boy. I do feel extremely fortunate that no complications had occurred and I was able to continue with my natural birth. Even if I did have to deviate from my birth plan I know I would've been able to stay calm and focused thanks to all I had learnt. The end goal was for my baby to arrive safely, so if medical intervention was required of course I was not going to refuse it. Midwives are amazing at their jobs and the service they provide.
The mind is a powerful tool and with the right support it will enable you to feel comfortable and positive about birth and to trust your body and instincts. Daily affirmations are also helpful in order to support your positive attitude and help to build your self confidence that you can do this. Our bodies are capable of amazing things. So perhaps it is time to educate ourselves and put into practice mind over matter in order to shake the preconception that birth is going to hurt like hell. Instead of fearing it make it a memorable experience for all of the right reasons, for the end result is going to be meeting your beautiful baby and there is no better incentive.