“Totally honest about parenting and motherhood, and 100% smug-FREE”
I read this, and I knew that The Motherload® was right up my street. This mothering lark is hard as hell. (Not even going to caveat that with the usual obligatory gushing that’s code for “please don’t think I’m a terrible mother, I definitely do love my smalls, really. REALLY really.”)
And you know what’s super-hard within this journey from relative freedom to all consuming love of an incessantly demanding dictator? Giving birth. However you do it, it’s not easy. This is hardly news to you, I’m sure. But in reading this from me, you know what might surprise you?
My name’s Keri and I’m a hypnobirthing teacher
A hypnobirthing teacher saying it loud and proud that giving birth is right up there amongst the most challenging experiences of most women’s lives. EVEN women who hypnobirth. It’s gruelling, it’s frightening, it’s unlike anything else, and for the vast majority of us, it is (at least in moments) somewhat painful. No bullsh*t here.
It can also be pretty fricking fantastic. I’ve hypnobirthed both my babies, and trained to teach it in between. When I first started working with expectant couples, I’ll admit, I thought I needed to fit into a certain mould. Second-guessing myself often, wondering ‘what would a hypnobirthing teacher say?’ when doubts were raised about the likelihood of achieving a picture perfect birth.
The method I learnt when preggers strongly suggested that I should only focus on the intended outcome, otherwise I risked attracting the wrong experience. Asking about a TENS machine was deemed to be ‘just not getting it’- this was a hard-core commitment to forgoing any and all other support. UNLESS, confusingly, you fell into *whisper it* ‘special circumstances’, then of course you could head off for a C-section. At the time, I didn’t really dwell on the weirdness of that gaping hole in between the acceptable scenarios of a perfect (read pain-free, drug-free, TENS-free) birth, and a surgical birth. The term ‘special circumstances’ suggested to me that it was a fairly rare experience, and anyway, I’d better not think about it too much or I might will it into being…
I really resent the implications for women who face difficulties for whatever reason, and choose to have some extra help in that grey area. Were they unworthy of assistance as their circumstances weren’t ‘special’ enough? Should they have tried harder? Ugh.
And the thing is, that the majority of births (hypnobirths or otherwise) exist in that grey space, and regarding those ends of the spectrum, in my experience of working with women, there are more ‘special circumstance’ hypnobirths than there are 100% pain free ones.
So why bother then? Why am I tipping up here telling you everything that’s wrong with, or a bit embarrassing about hypnobirthing? Because these are the things I think you’ve already heard. That hypnobirthing means no pain relief, no pain, and a certain sort of birth in mind. And these are the ideas that may well be putting women like you, the straight shooters, right off it. I’m not happy about this, and here’s why.
When you use it right, hypnobirthing is an absolute game changer.
It offers women, and their often reluctant partners a huge opportunity: choose a new perspective of this overwhelming event. Choose confidence, calmness and control over what you can reasonably expect. Choose to be so well informed about how your body, your mind, and your hormones work, and how your partner, environment and caregivers impact on you, that no single outcome is a success or failure. Choose to know that you did everything possible to make this the most empowering, comfortable, exhilarating birth you could have, given whatever you’re faced with. Emerge like a queen and king, pretty gobsmacked at your own strength and solidarity.
That sounds alright, right? So how do you use it right? You look around, and you carry your in built BS detector into the learning. A really great teacher won’t set it off even once. You listen and watch with an open mind, and prepare to challenge your preconceptions about how birth has to be. You put the hours in, mastering breathing techniques, deep relaxation and almost every mama’s favourite bit; light touch massage from your partner. You feel that confidence growing, and you bring that together with a realistic assessment of your situation, making choices that suit your newly educated self. You connect with other women who’ve used it, and reflect on the spectrum of their stories.
And on that seriously special day that baby arrives, you rock it. Plan A, B, or C, or anything in between, knowing that whatever you do is right, as it comes from a place of autonomy.
My Own Experience
As I said, I’ve hypnobirthed 2 boys. One in hospital, one at home. One on a bed, one in water. Everything that was great about the first one was because of hypnobirthing, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. It was good enough to make me question how any woman gives birth without access to this stuff, and switch my life round to be a part of spreading the word. Second one was my dream birth; totally thrilling. An endurance, for sure, not easy or pain-free (hell, we’re all friends here; I had to go in and get my vagina stitched up afterwards), but an ecstatic experience for both of us. I would jump at the chance to relive it, if I didn’t have to commit to another lifetime of parenting as part of the bundle… #twoanddone.
Am I just a bit off my rocker? Possibly. Probably. But hypnobirthing, used right, made me feel like I could take on the world and win. It gave me access to qualities and strength I didn’t know I had. I am SUCH a moaner when it comes to life’s trivial ailments, yet I squeezed out 8lb 11oz of chub, with his fist on his head, without even a thought of reaching for the paracetamol. Took them straight after though- those after pains are a bitch.
And I see it in the women I work with, astounded by what they’ve coped with, how positive and powerful they’ve felt, in ANY circumstances. Each of us, and our babies are unique, and who is anyone to tell us what help we are entitled to? I tell my mamas, so long as it comes from an informed place, do whatever the hell you like.
See how I’ve moved on from looking to fit the mould? I’ve told you about my torn up vagina (now well recovered, thanks for asking) so you know it’s totally honest and 100% smug-FREE. Pregnant mamas; read up, look around and think about booking onto a hypnobirthing course.
Mama to Louis and Rory, wife to Nick. Northerner in lovely Leigh on Sea, Essex. Raising my boys to believe they can do anything (except when it inconveniences me, of course…). Empowering women as they transition into motherhood, via no-nonsense hypnobirthing, information sharing and stomach churning honesty.
Image credit: Keri Jarvis