If you’d have asked me this time last year what hypnobirthing was, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to tell you, let alone that it would be a technique I would plan to use in the future.
As it turns out, it has become the core of my entire pregnancy, and as today is the inaugural World Hypnobirthing Day, I thought there was no better time to talk about my hypnobirthing journey so far! Free your mind of images of swinging pendulums and incense… It’s not that kind of story…
I had been doing some research into hypnobirthing once I found out I was pregnant again on my second wedding anniversary. To say this pregnancy took us by surprise was an understatement; having lost our first baby at 11 weeks, we hadn’t been planning to get pregnant straight away, but lo and behold, we did. Naturally, given the grief we were going through, I was consumed with feelings of guilt, moving on too fast, and overwhelming anxiety. I had blissfully ticked along through the first pregnancy, but this time, that innocence was gone. I was frightened. I needed something to help me feel that I was in control of my body, not the other way around.
I spent some time googling ways to reduce anxiety in pregnancy and lots of resources came up for hypnobirthing. It sounded a bit airy fairy for me, and when I read some of the affirmations that I found online, I didn’t understand how these cheesy one liners would help. Although I was sceptical, my interest was piqued, but I put everything to the back of my mind, until we were contacted by a family friend, asking whether we would be interested in being a hypnobirthing case study. I was interested to see how it all worked, so we jumped at the chance.
Oscar was raised in a home that believed in meditation, reiki, and mindfulness. Through my own mental health struggles, I have had lived experience of CBT, but beyond that, I’ve always found it difficult to ‘clear my mind’ and let thoughts drift away – to be in that zone. I have a very busy mind, often overworked by anxiety, held back by depression. Needless to say, I definitely didn’t go into it with utmost confidence, but I took with me an open mind and a lot of questions.
Our first session changed all that. Sitting in our lounge, I met Becca and Jo from Canterbury Hypnobirthing, two incredible women who had both hypnobirthed in very different circumstances. We chatted through our aims and goals for the course, plans for pregnancy (at this point there weren’t a lot to be honest!) and a bit of information about ourselves. By the end of the session, all my doubts were gone. I’d been given scientific facts, statistics, lived experiences and testimonials of the power of hypnobirthing.
Each week, the course built on what I knew and fed me more information on birth than I’ve ever been given – honestly, I think some of the hypnobirthing content should be taught in schools! Birth is definitely more complex, emotionally and physically, than you learn in Biology! I also began to get to grips with the relaxation scripts, the affirmations (which although a little cheesy, really make sense alongside the content) and the breathing techniques. Once I’d got my head around it all, I wondered how I could have questioned it!
Not only did I notice a difference in myself throughout my pregnancy, I became much calmer in general life! I’m a worrier, compounded by anxiety, a need to be in control and bossy older sibling status. Feeling such a strong connection to my baby, my body and my birth enabled me to regain control over myself, my emotions and my pregnancy experience.
Hypnobirthing opened my eyes to my choices. I can’t be alone in thinking that there is one path you follow through pregnancy and that you do what you’re told. It has enabled me to stand up for myself, to make the choices that benefit me, Oscar and our son, and to question and weigh up all of our options before committing.
One such example, is that we are now planning a home water birth. Water birth is something I have wanted from day dot, and through learning more about our choices, doing this at home began to feel right. But what comes with that is an acceptance that, whatever outcome our birth has, whether we have our textbook birth or things don’t go to plan, we will be in control. My body has grown a human being, which is amazing in itself, and my body will continue being amazing as I bring that baby into the world. Since completing the course I have absolute faith in my body’s abilities, probably for the first time ever, and I am literally excited for my birth… a far cry from when I accidentally watched a birth video on Instagram and declared in tears that it wasn’t physically possible.
The best part for me, is how it has empowered Oscar ahead of our birth. He’s learned so much from the course, from the science behind birth to how to best support me through labour. I have always carried a sense of guilt, as he hasn’t been able to experience pregnancy as I have. But hypnobirthing draws the father into the centre of the birth experience – in some ways, I see his role as more important than my own!
Hypnobirthing is on the rise. More and more midwives are used to the practice, some even encouraging it, and more and more people are using it. Kate Middleton hypnobirthed and Meghan Markle (also having a baby in the Spring, but I beat her to it!) has been practising as well. Mainstream media are starting to cotton on to the phenomenon, and there are apps and books left right and centre. And honestly, I’m not surprised.
I am now a huge advocate for hypnobirthing. The impact it has had on me, my pregnancy and will have on my birth is phenomenal. I would recommend practising hypnobirthing to anybody – whether that’s by doing a one to one course with a practitioner, joining a local group hypnobirthing class or simply learning the techniques and theory behind it by reading up yourself. Whether you birth naturally, via C-Section, actively or with complications, hypnobirthing techniques really do have a huge impact whatever your birth looks like. Once you remove the fear from your birth, all that’s left is the experience.
Will update you all once my baby has arrived, but for now, I just want to wish a Happy World Hypnobirthing Day to Jacqueline, Becca and Jo at Canterbury hypnobirthing, to my unborn baby who is going to enjoy a calm and relaxed birth, and to all the hypnobirthing babies and parents of the world. You’re all pretty amazing!