As soon as I found out I was pregnant I was hit with excitement, elation and then dread. Not because I’m going to be responsible for a tiny human, but because it has to come out of me!
As I said in a previous blog, all you hear from mothers are their disgusting labour stories; it’s like a constant competition of who had the biggest vaginal tear.
So of course I started freaking out about labour, and since i’m not good with hospitals and always think the worst, you can imagine the stress! Then a work colleague recommended Natal Hypnotherapy. I didn’t know a lot about it, but to be honest I was willing to try anything.
I should point out that Natal Hypnotherapy isn’t Hypnobirthing, the American version, where hospital staff aren’t allowed to talk directly to the labouring mother and they have to call contractions ‘surges’. It’s all very Weirdsville, USA and apparently American nurses hate it!
Even so, I think there’s still a stigma attached to hypnotherapy. Be prepared for sniggers from mothers that think you’re going all ‘hippy’ on them, and remarks from others who assume you want to orgasm during labour, which believe me is not the case.
Natal hypnotherapy prepares you for the birth by teaching self-hypnosis techniques. You learn how to use visualisation, breathing and relaxation techniques so that you can overcome your fears, manage your pain, and hopefully have a more relaxed labour.
I found a local class, which at a discounted £139 was quite pricey might I add! It was set across a Saturday and Sunday morning and was semi-private, meaning we would be with a few other couples… an immediate put-off for me. I imagined a Single Parents Alone Together bonding session a’la About a Boy, not a load of weirdo men staring at me while i’m practising my breathing – which actually happened!
So I forced the husband into it and booked onto the course. When the teacher sent me the address I realised it was taking place in her house, so basically we’d be sitting in her living room with some random couples.
It was at this point that the husband affectionately renamed it ‘hypnobollocks’.
I put my doubts to one side and dragged him to her house at 9am on a Saturday morning. Yoga mats in hand, I was feeling slightly apprehensive, and the husband… very apprehensive! We were met by the teacher, who had the most relaxing Irish accent I’ve ever heard, I almost considered paying her to be a doula at the birth just to keep me calm!
We went into her living room and met the other two couples. The first couple seemed a bit weird, and the husband was clearly forcing his wife into a home birth, and the second couple were a bit too Brady Bunch for my liking.
Over the four hours all we seemed to cover were the signs of a stressed woman in labour compared to a relaxed woman in labour, which is pretty obvious really. Then we did a few relaxation sessions, where she tried to send us to our happy place with lavender oil burning and instrumental music/beach sounds playing in the background. I would have been into this if I wasn’t 35 weeks pregnant, lying on a yoga mat on a wooden floor, with a baby that was clearly not feeling it! We left feeling a bit WTF, but i’m glad I kept an open mind and returned the next day.
The Sunday was filled with relaxation sessions, breathing and massage techniques, and other preparation measures, such as suitable aromatherapy oils and how to focus your mind during contractions, e.g. counting the ceiling tiles (exciting stuff!)
The best part for me was when she explained the different stages of labour: excitement, seriousness and self doubt. This is something the midwife, books and magazines hadn’t told me, but it really helped both of us understand what we have coming. She gave us hand-outs with tips on what to do during each stage to help your labour progress as smoothly as possible.
She also gave us a self-hypnosis CD and an ‘Effective Birth Preparation’ book to go with it. Since I went on maternity leave i’ve listened to the CD almost every day, which is forty minutes of Maggie basically pulling a Chandler and telling me i’m strong confident woman who doesn’t need to smoke. I last about 7 minutes until I fall asleep and wake up when she counts me back in the room – remind me never to go and see Derren Brown please!
Maggie must be seriously pep-talking me in my hypnotic state, as i’m feeling so much more relaxed about the birth now. I’ve got a special place I can zone out too, I know how to breathe through contractions, and although it goes a bit weird near the end when she asks me to visualise my cervix opening, i’m actually thinking that’s a good tip for stage 3 of labour!
I’ve stocked up on relaxing lavender oil, lavender room spray, labour massage oil and hand-held back massagers! You never know what labour will throw at you, but right now I’m feeling like I can actually do this.