As hypnobirthing hits the spotlight with Kate and William confirming they will be using the techniques again to deliver their third child, it's made me start to wonder if this means more women are going to start preparing for the birth they want, rather than the birth they think might happen. As someone who had very little clue about birth and babies before having children I can totally understand why women choose to bury their heads in the sand and decide not to know, or even understand birth until it happens to them.
The issue is that this creates a bottle neck of information and a bombardment of mixed messages as soon as we decide to open our eyes and ears to the facts. A hundred different stories flying at you as soon as you announce you’re adding a pair of paws to the pack is not what any expectant parent needs. Being so very British and female we tend to keep most of the gory details to ourselves about child birth until someone tells you they are expecting and then the flood gates open.
Though sadly, chances are these are unpleasant stories that fill the mum-to-be with fear. It’s strange and a shame that there is almost an embarrassment surrounding positive birth stories. We feel sorry for those that didn’t have a good experience and almost guilty that we did. Most of us will of heard countless stories about drama filled births that lasted days, or where women were in agony with a room full of doctors that ended in an emergency c-section, but how many lovely stories have you heard? How many women have said to you that they actually enjoyed giving birth, that the day is a fond memory, or that their partner also had a positive experience?
The breaking news here is most of the women that had positive births didn’t just ‘get lucky’ they decided what they wanted and went about achieving it through practice and education. After my daughters birth I went around saying it was “fine” or “not bad”, I rarely admitted that I enjoyed it, and I repeatedly used the word lucky. Until I was corrected that it wasn’t just luck but thanks to hours of hypnobirthing practice and ensuring that I knew what to expect and what my options were. In essence feeling in control of the situation through knowledge. A saying that I love is if you don’t know your options you have no options, and it’s so true in this scenario.
Second time around I’d say I’m even more relaxed about my options and my birth going to plan. Yes I’m a hypnobirthing teacher, so I’m more up to date on facts and figures than most, but also I went into my first birth pretty set on achieving a home water birth. With a pinch of accepting half of first time mums transfer to hospital, with 70% of these because the mum chooses to not because of a medical emergency. This time around I’m even more relaxed about going with the flow and just following my body, while knowing what is available to me.
Through my work and just one of the many reasons I love it so much, I hear such a range of birth stories and it’s these that have really made me realise a positive birth experience is all about attitude. By feeling in control of your labour and understanding that you have choices whatever twists and turns your birthing takes you can still come out the other side feeling that you’ve had a positive experience.
If you know you’ve made decisions that are right for you and your baby, you will still feel empowered and the boss of your birth. Since when did the woman in labour become the least in control of the room? It’s all about her, isn’t it? Negative birth stories often start with hospital staff running around telling women what procedures they will be doing without the mother feeling she’s decided to go down that route. Explaining the next steps for forceps or just asking her to jump on the bed and lay down on her back for an internal examination……. There is so much to be said for knowing what’s available to you, what will help and what might hinder your labour. What questions to ask and how to retain control of your baby's birth, when it feels like things are spinning out of control. It’s having faith in your birth partner and knowing that you can trust them to be in control of communication, so you as the birthing woman can focus on what you’re there to do.
One of my recent couples summed it up brilliantly and here is what Claire had to say:
I just wanted to let you know that last week Wednesday Benjamin decided to make an appearance. My waters broke on Tuesday morning and as I was GBS positive I had to go straight to the hospital. After being monitored for six hours and having no contractions I was induced and laboured for 13 hours without dilating more than 1cm so finally had a c-section. Even though nothing went as planned (typical!) and I wasn’t able to be in the birthing centre, I used all the hypnobirthing techniques and they were AMAZING!
I was extremely nervous about being induced so asked for some time to do the relaxation meditation and then I simply breathed through all the contractions with gas and air until they took me into surgery. My mother is still blown away at how I coped and how in control I was and Ross my was absolute rock throughout the whole process!
As we were getting ready for surgery I told Ross that I was a bit disappointed because I knew I would have been able to get through the whole delivery with just the breathing techniques and the gas and air and he fully agreed with me. There was no doubt in either of our minds.
So, even though nothing went to plan, I wanted to say thank you for teaching us the hypnobirthing because I truly couldn’t have managed the labour without the techniques you taught us and should I be able to attempt a natural delivery with number 2 I will definitely be using hypnobirthing.
This is a story that many would have said was a negative experience, her waters broke without contractions, she laboured for 13 hours without dilation… and ending in an unplanned C-section! But for them it was still positive because they knew what their options were and they were prepared for all the twists and turns of labour, making choices that were right for them, asking for time, with the birth partner in control and supporting the mothers choice.
It’s stories like this that make me even more relaxed about delivering my baby, because whatever happens I know I’ll be in control and that between me and my husband we will do what is right for us and our baby.