Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hypnobirthing

I have nothing interesting to note (as is evident by my last post) so I figured I'd post a blog on Hypnobirthing that I started drafting back in March in response to a lot of the verbal inquiries I was getting from friends who'd learned I'd read the book (thanks again to my all-things-birthing-related guru, Libby).

In spite of reading the book, I'm not sure how hypnosis fits into hypnobirthing; except that it seems they encourage you to relax so much that you are in essence, hypnotizing yourself. I call that "conscious relaxation." Regardless of what it's called, the jist of the concept is that women have been having babies for years and our bodies know what to do and therefore it's perfectly normal and possible to have a pain free, natural childbirth. The author used animals as an example saying that they don't scream and need drugs during labor so why would it be any different with humans? The author also points to less privileged countries where pregnant women often "labor" in the field all day and halt just long enough to have the baby before getting back to work. We are a spoiled, drama-obsessed culture that feeds on the shocking and painful displays of labor that we see on movies and TV. When those images become our "experiences," we become ridden with fear. When we're afraid, we tense up, and when we tense the muscles that are working to get the baby out, those muscles have a harder time doing their job which creates pain. So the theory is that if you go into birth honestly not expecting to be in any pain, you won't be.

When interviewing the homebirthing midwife, I told her that I'd read the hypnobirthing book and was interested in taking some classes. She said that she doesn't recommend hypnobirthing for first time moms because they study the concept and then expect there to be no pain and are taken aback when it's not totally comfortable and end up forgetting all the relaxation techniques they learned because they feel lied to. She said since first time moms have never been "opened up" (yeah, I know, gross), they should expect a bit more discomfort than those who have (been opened up). This makes sense, and I was taking the whole no pain thing with a grain of salt anyway. I'm not naive enough to think that birth will be anywhere near as pleasant as sitting on my couch eating ice cream, but I just can't imagine it being as bad as it is made out to be (given there are no abnormal complications). I like the analogies of it being a marathon or some other sporting/aerobic event. It makes sense that just like when I'm having a good workout, I'll get tired and my muscles will get sore, and there will be points where I think I can't finish. And that's why I have my "coach". That's what the Bradley classes call the dad (or other birth partner). There's a lot of focus in this class on how he can be a good coach and keep me motivated and positive throughout.

What I like about the hypnobirthing theory is that it's POSITIVE, it focuses on birth being natural, and it provides loads of relaxation techniques (most of which are focused around controlled breathing which, due to my 10+ years of practicing yoga, I feel pretty confident about--although my asthma often inhibits this). At the urging of this book, I have stopped listening to everybody else's birth horror stories (if you have one and you feel the urge to post it as a comment, please refrain). This is a hard thing to do because people LOVE to tell you how terrible it was for them or someone they know, especially when you tell them you're doing it without drugs. I know they think I'm naive, but I don't care how naive I may sound to the expert birther, I'm convinced that something as natural and normal as giving birth cannot be THAT bad. Like I keep telling Eric, "I got this." And for all you naysayers, check out this link to over 230 positive birth stories.

The Pregnancy Journal (a day-to-day guide to pregnancy and one of two that I use when updating you on the baby's weight, hair growth, hearing capacity, and what have you) has these sections called "Childbirth Then and Now" where they share a little story about how hardcore people used to be. The one I've typed in below strikes me as being very in line with the hypnobirthing philosophy. It's an excerpt from Labor Among Primitive Peoples by Engelmann written in 1882.

"Two or three years ago (1879-1880), an Indian party of Flat Heads and Kootenais men, women, and children, set out for a hunting trip. On a severely cold winter's day, one of the women, allowing the party to proceed, dismounted from her hourse. spread an old buffalo robe upon the snow and gave birth to a child which was immediately followed by the placenta. Having attended to everything as well as the circumstances permitted, she wrapped up the young one in a blanket, mounted her hourse, and overtook the party before they had noticed her absence."

If you haven't had enough of my hypnobirthing babbling, check out the Hypnobabies blog.

4 comments:

  1. Let me know how that theory works out for ya. :) I actually like the concept a lot, just also know I have a very low tolerance for pain and therefore would wuss out quite quickly.

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  2. The theory is good - fear causes muscle tension and tense muscles allow for more pain. But there is NOTHING you can do to eliminate the pain of childbirth (especially the first child) - watermellon through a straw concept. But, with that said, there is nothing to be scared of. You aren't dying. It's just pain. And it's just short term pain at that. It's a means to an end. Nothing to fear, you're not breaking. You have what it takes to work through pain. Although childbirth is at times about a 12 on a scale of 10 - it starts slow and it's intermittent. I'm not too special and I made it. Although with you I had one shot to take the edge off early (silly hospital thought I needed to save my strength because they thought it would take a long time) the last 4 or so hours were drug free. And there was no pain meds with your brother - although he wasn't as painful (already stretched muscles) but he made up for it in later pain :-)

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  3. i still maintain that "intense" is a better description of childbirth than "painful"

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