Disclaimer: If you are considering a hypno birth, what I am about to tell you may violate the code of ethics, which is, do NOT share your birth story with anyone until they have given birth themselves. This is not a birth story, but please stop reading now if you are pregnant, just to be safe.
Have you ever tried to tell your body not to feel pain? It seems like a ludicrous idea. When you stub your toe on the couch and it’s throbbing like hell, you can try with all your might to stop feeling the pain, but does it work? Probably not. Yet that is the general idea behind hypno-birthing and medical hypnosis, and for many people like Jessica Alba, it works wonderfully.
When I tell people that I did hypno-birthing, I often get the look, like, are you seriously that weird? Actually, I wasn’t into natural birthing or anything “weird” at all back then. When I got pregnant with my son, I had made up my mind that I was going to stick to the traditional medical model. I was afraid of giving birth and really didn’t think I could do it another way. Oddly enough, I knew two people, just friends of friends, who had just had unmedicated hypno births. For some reason that I can’t explain, I felt myself drawn to it. I sent teary Facebook messages to the moms with lots of questions. Does it work, really? How bad is the pain? Should I try to do this even if I’m a neurotic head case? I received answers that were vague but encouraging. They glossed over my questions about pain and called it “hard work.” Both had had beautiful experiences and felt in control of the birthing process from start to finish. “I’d recommend it to anyone,” one said.
Oh, and they added nicely, my vocabulary would have to change. Contractions were surges. Labor was birthing. Pushing was breathing baby down. Etc. I would need to unlearn all birthing terms with negative connotations.
So my husband and I signed up for a six-week class, which was essentially a natural birthing class like the Bradley Method with a twist: We women were trained in medical grade hypnosis to shut down parts of our body so we would not feel pain. Some people who are allergic to anesthesia, we learned, had been operated on successfully with hypnosis, and felt no pain. Great!
Our class practiced self-hypnosis techniques to prepare for our birthings. We brought blankets and pillows from home and lay down on the floor for about half an hour at the end of class. We listened to our teacher read us a script. Our partners learned cue words to help keep us on track and to stimulate the anesthesia that we envisioned flowing through our bodies. (We were supposed to make it a color. Mine was purple.) To start the anesthesia, we used the finger-drop technique, in which you held your finger in the air and brought it down like a light switch. For this to be completely effective, we had to practice every day at home, and listen to CDs.
The super helpful thing for me was the CDs. The cause of pain is tension, they said, and when you are completely relaxed, the tension dissolves, and with it, the pain. So we learned all kinds of relaxation techniques and positive thinking patterns. We did work to create a safe place in our minds to go when we needed a break. Then we created a “bubble of peace” around ourselves to keep negative thinking and comments from others from reaching us. The CDs also offered powerful affirmations and suggestions for every stage of the pregnancy.
Even going into my birthing with a few lingering doubts, I was extremely calm. Hypno-birthing equipped me with everything I needed to have a relaxed, calm, peaceful, natural birth. I was prepared. I was never tense. I was never afraid. I knew that my body knew how to give birth. I’m so grateful for that.
However, I did not just feel “pressure” as we had trained ourselves to believe. My purple anesthesia didn’t work. The birthing lasted more than 30 hours and it was far beyond my control. It was actually an incredibly painful experience and my memory of it has not dulled one bit over time. When I finally did give birth, I was almost too exhausted to care about my baby. BUT I immediately felt a surge of adrenaline that was like the best high ever, and I recovered within hours and was walking around.
I’ve been told the power of hypnosis lies in the patient. I’m not certain that I ever really believed that self-hypnosis would work for me. Now, I completely believe in the mind-body connection and I know that hypno-birthing does work for some people! I suggest that anyone embrace the empowerment, the natural birthing tips and the relaxation techniques that hypno-birthing offers. Jeez, even though I’m not pregnant I still go to my safe place sometimes.
I don’t regret doing hypno-birthing and I’m proud of myself for trying it. I am still a fan of natural birth. I am also a fan of the epidural I got with my second child. I know the goal of hypno-birthing is a better birth experience and that many instructors do not claim to offer a “pain free” experience (Thank God.) It’s definitely safe to say that it made my natural birth better in many ways. What would my birth have been like without the techniques, comfort and relaxation of hypno-birthing? I really don’t want to think about it.