My HypnoBirthing practice had turned into a reality!
Our baby boy came into this world about 12 hours after my contractions started. I was 38 weeks and 1 day, and Henrik was 7lbs 2oz , 20 inches. I had seen my midwife that morning, and she had told me that I was dilated to 3cm. For the rest of the day at work, I sat on the birth ball and moved my hips in circles. I was excited that I could go into labor at any minute, so I wanted to help the process along. I tried to remind myself that I could also just as easily not go into labor and end up waiting three more weeks for the big day to arrive. I had occasional little “twinges” in my cervix, but I wasn’t sure if they meant anything, so I dismissed them.
My husband Jake and I ate dinner, and then around 7pm I started to feel exhausted, so I decided to go to bed early. I laid on our bed and started listening to the HypnoBirthing tracks like I had done for the past many weeks. After a while I started feeling little “cramps” (I had never experienced a contraction before). At first I thought nothing of them, but as they continued, I realized that it was the beginning of labor! Jake came in the room and I told him the news! He said, in denial, “they’re probably Braxton-Hicks.” He admitted that he would be shocked if our baby really was coming!
My contractions increased a little by 9pm, so Jake filled the tub and I sat in it for an hour. I told Jake to go to sleep at 11pm because I knew I would need him to be well rested to support me through the delivery. I didn’t feel I needed him to sit with me during the early part of labor, as I was feeling fine just meditating on my own. I also didn’t want both of us to stay up all night. He downloaded a contraction app so that I could keep track of how long they were lasting and how frequent they were occurring and he went to bed. In the early part of labor, the contractions lasted 30-40 seconds and they occurred every 6 minutes. Then, towards the end of my laboring at home, they were lasting about 60-90 seconds and were 3-4 minutes apart. From 11pm-3am, I alternated between laying on my left side in bed, rolling my hips on the birthing ball, walking a little, and doing some “cat and cows.” Somehow my husband slept through all of my moving about. I breathed through each contraction and rested during the breaks. While breathing through an intense contraction, I would place my hand on my lower abdomen and make sure my hand was moving up and down with my breath; this way I knew I was relaxing and staying loose. During the night, my bowels definitely cleared out (if you know what I mean), and I felt that I passed my mucus plug (it looked like a mucus/clear/blood tinged glob and It seemed to come in stages- smaller at first).
At 3am I felt the contractions were increasing in intensity. I had to really focus to breathe and relax, and the contraction app reaffirmed that they were longer and more frequent too, so I knew it wasn’t my imagination! Knowing that I had been “a 3” earlier that day, I was confident that I had made progress after the many hours of laboring at home, and I felt that I wanted to be at the hospital for the rest of the laboring. I excitedly woke up Jake and we packed our bags in the truck (with a few contractions in-between) and left! It was such an exciting moment! Knowing that we were driving to the hospital for the final stretch! I had a few contractions in the car on the way there and also on my walk into the hospital, for which I had to pause and let pass before I could continue walking.
We arrived to the birthing unit at 4am and I was happy to find out that I was dilated to a 6. It was nice to know that my “work” of relaxing and breathing through contractions had paid off. The nurse checked on the baby when I was admitted, but then let me move around the room, go on the birth ball, and sit in the tub as I pleased. The midwives and nurses were amazing! They told me about all of my options, but gladly supported my wish to deliver my baby naturally. I didn’t have a birth plan or instruct them to avoid any certain vocabulary, and I didn’t feel I needed to. They were all very respectful, and allowed me to take the lead. They told me I could eat lightly and drink too, so that was nice to know I had the option. I had a bite of an energy bar, but other than that I didn’t have an appetite.
I focused inward and used my husband as my main support. I would talk between contractions, but once a contraction started up again, I would stop talking and focus on my breath. I didn’t want to spend any energy by talking during contractions. Jake played meditation yoga music in the background, which I realized I liked for the final stages of labor. I had a hard time focusing on the HypnoBirthing tracks during a contraction, and just thought of the affirmations on my own as it worked for me. I sat in the tub for about an hour, and then for the rest of the time I laid on my left side in bed or stood up and folded over the raised bed so Jake could massage my lower back (which tightened up whenever I had a contraction). If I felt any nausea, Jake would hold peppermint oil near my nose. The smell really seemed to help. I threw up a few times, but I didn’t mind, as I knew it could mean that my labor was nearing the end. I was amazed at how great I felt in-between contractions; it was what I could look forward to after a contraction. Towards the end, when my contractions were quite strong and more frequent, humming calmed me and kept me focused; it let others know when I was experiencing stronger contractions, too.
At about 8am I was full dilated and effaced. The midwife offered to break my water, and after about 15 more minutes of contractions, I decided that I was ready for that. I continued to breathe baby down until about 8:45pm, when the midwife told me that I could start pushing if I wanted to. At first I declined and continued to breathe baby down, but the pressure started to increase and I felt that my body was feeling ready to naturally push at that point. They could see his head too, so after about 3 pushes, Henrik Jacob was born! The last few minutes of the delivery were so amazing to experience. So much preparation... and the time had finally come. When my midwife placed Henrik on my chest just seconds after he was born, it was the best feeling I have ever experienced. The feeling of his warm (so warm) and waxy skin on mine is something I will never forget.
My baby did so well on his journey into this world. Jake was an amazing birth partner and was just as amazed as I was that our baby had finally come. We felt so blessed. After enjoying our baby for a while, the midwife showed us that all of the blood had been pulsed out of the umbilical cord and it was ready to be cut. I did the honors, since Jake has a weak stomach when it comes to things like this. Henrik stayed lying on my chest for at least the next hour and a half and my nurse patiently helped me through learning how to breastfeed right away. The entire birth was a blessing. I was so grateful that I was able to deliver Henrik naturally. My HypnoBirthing practice had turned into a reality. Right after Henrik was born, I was amazed at how great I felt physically. Mentally, I was exhausted, as I had been awake for over 24 hours by the time he was born. I didn’t have any tearing either which was really nice. I had done perineal massage throughout the later part of my pregnancy, so that may have helped me avoid it.
The goal for my son’s birth was to deliver naturally. I used a well-rounded approach that incorporated things I had learned throughout my life, including what I learned in the HypnoBirthing class. I chose a midwife as my provider so that I would feel more support in my goal to deliver naturally. I encourage everyone to seek a care provider that aligns with your birthing preference and thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions about the birthing process. But whether you plan to deliver with an OBGYN or a midwife, with epidural or naturally, I feel that Erin’s HypnoBirthing classes can provide some wonderful tools for making the birthing process more enjoyable. The relaxation techniques, confidence-building, and increased knowledge about the process can help anyone in the early hours of laboring at home, and beyond. Erin empowered me to follow my dream of delivering my child naturally and gave me wonderful tools, both physical handouts and then mental preparation practices, which I was able to utilize when it came time to deliver my baby boy. The birthing affirmations that were in the HypnoBirthing tracks were great too. They were calming, and gave me a good energy for my pregnancy and birth.
I would highly recommend Erin’s class to any pregnant mamma! It was money well spent. Thank you for everything, Erin!
Erin Stertz-Follett, Flutterby's Owner, is a Certified HypnoBirthing® Educator, Certified Hypnotist, and Certified Birth Doula who has taught and assisted hundreds of families. Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
The more you can ignore "early labor," the better....
We had our baby five days ago, and I used HypnoBirthing myself for the first time (baby #4)!
I slept through 90% of my labor! I went to bed listening to the (hypnosis) audio track, and woke up the next morning to what I thought were mild waves/surges. I breathed through them for about an hour using the surge breathing technique, never leaving my bed. Then I started shaking...
Realizing the shaking was transition, I called my midwives, and they started on their way over (this was our first home birth as well). 45 minutes later, Baby E was received by my husband on our bathroom floor. Then we waited for the midwives to arrive to help us with the rest. She was my biggest baby, and this was by far my fastest, easiest birth! It was truly amazing!
I had so many people tell me throughout my pregnancy that having the baby this way "wouldn't work," and I'll admit that at times, even I was skeptical. But it really did turn out just the way I was hoping. I am so happy to have discovered HypnoBirthing, and am even more excited to support clients choosing this program now that I have personal experience!
- Kara (doula with Sacred Space Birth Services)
HypnoBirthing® is a widely-recognized childbirth education course that has been in existence for nearly 30 years. It is the original childbirth hypnosis program, though it has been emulated many times over. It is sometimes misunderstood.
So, let's address 7 common HypnoBirthing® myths... and truths behind them!
Myth: HypnoBirthing® only teaches 'comfort techniques' or 'relaxation' for labor. It is not a comprehensive course and does not teach "deep enough" hypnosis.
The Truth: HypnoBirthing® is a fully-comprehensive childbirth preparation class. At a minimum of 12.5 hours of class instruction and practice + out of class reading/practice, we are equal to or greater in length than other time-tested programs. We walk through the entire process of what occurs, both physically and mentally/emotionally, during labor. We discuss the phases of labor, what they look like, and how we can move through them using self-hypnosis and other tools. You do not need to take any other childbirth education course when taking HypnoBirthing®.
HypnoBirthing® is as much a philosophy as it is a method - We teach: Birth is not inherently a "medical" event. It is a "life event!" It has a normal rhythm and flow. Birth can safely happen at home, in birth centers, and in hospitals. Birth is not about the caregivers, or nurses, or doulas, or educators... It is about the family, and they take charge of their care and birth.
As it relates to how we teach hypnosis in our classes, it is important to know that a light to medium state of hypnosis is all that is necessary for bettering your birth experience. In the HypnoBirthing® book, Marie purposefully uses the word "relaxation" instead of "self-hypnosis" often - primarily to make the concept more palatable and understandable to those who have never used hypnosis in this way before. Make no mistake - We are indeed teaching you how to harness the power of self-hypnosis for your birth experience. If anyone tells you differently, please seek me out for further clarification!
One concept that Marie is clear about is this (and this is what makes us unique): We use our time together wisely to focus on how the mind and body work when free from medical intervention. Our classes are a safe space to explore what undisturbed, instinctual birth can look like... And I, for one, think this is wonderful and much-needed! Do we discuss common labor interventions when we learn about making informed decisions? Yes, of course - "Here are some of the choices/options that may come up for you, here are the times these may be medically necessary, and here are ways you can advocate for yourself/your partner/your baby to feel more empowered in your care."
The focus of HypnoBirthing® is on chipping away at the fear that many students come to class with. It is not about building up a sense of doom and "worst-case scenarios." We always steer our students towards evidence-based information.
Myth: HypnoBirthing® doesn't "work" for everyone (especially first-time moms)!
The Truth: Marie Mongan, the creator of HypnoBirthing®, has a wonderful saying:
"It's not if the program works for you... It's how you work the program."
I have found a two-fold meaning to Marie's statement:
To address first-time versus repeat moms in particular - I have seen (and heard reports from) just as many first-time moms as repeat moms who have had beautiful births. You can check out my class web page as well as the Flutterby Blog for testimonials and birth stories from some of these women. It does a disservice to first-time birthers to insist that their birth will automatically be more difficult... or longer... or more painful... or more "impossible."
Fun fact: Some of my quickest doula client births have been first-timers! When it comes to birth, all bets are off.
Regardless of how many babies one has given birth to, when the body is relaxed, the woman is calm and confident, and the environment is supportive, beautiful births happen.
Myth: HypnoBirthing® guarantees a pain-free birth/women won't feel anything.
The Truth: The key word in this myth is "guarantee." In reality, HypnoBirthing® does nothing of the kind. Do we encourage women to birth instinctually, which may lead to experiencing less pain in labor? Absolutely. Do we teach breathing, relaxation, self-hypnosis, and visualization tools that may lead to a decrease in pain/pain perception? You bet! Do we reframe how we think of/talk about the pain and sensations that may be experienced in birth? Yup. And, do we protect ourselves from the messages we see everywhere that suffering must be a part of birth? Of course.
Do some HypnoBirthing® students report having zero pain during their birth - YES! This can be difficult to understand for the vast majority of people, as this is not what society tells us or shows us!
We explain and explore the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle, a phenomenon first observed and noted by obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick-Read: In the absence of fear (which produces tension in the body and releases hormones that trigger fight-flight-freeze/inhibits pain-blocking hormones), women are less likely to experience unbearable pain in labor, and their labors are more likely to move forward with fewer interventions.
We start out in Class One explaining exactly how the body (the uterus in particular) works in labor. Once we start dispelling myths about what is really going on there, as well as breaking through the negative messages that society gives us about birth, we almost instantly start to change our view and perceptions of extreme pain and its necessity in labor! Now, if a woman perceives pain during her labor, does that mean she has somehow "failed" at HypnoBirthing®? Absolutely not. There is not such thing as a "failed" HypnoBirth.
Myth: HypnoBirthing® mothers are not supposed to make noise in labor. They should be still and quiet.
The Truth: I am genuinely a bit confused about where this myth came from! If you turn to the HypnoBirthing® book, as well as the full course curriculum, nowhere does it state that women are to "remain silent." In our text, as well as in the videos we show in class (particularly those released in recent years), you will hear about and see women vocalizing and using all kinds of movement/positions.
Sometimes words like "hypno", "calm", "relaxed", and "confident" can create a picture of women laboring as quietly and as still as can be. However, just like all birthing women, some HypnoBirthing® mothers are quiet... some are louder... You can be relaxed, calm, in a state of hypnosis, and make sounds - they are not mutually exclusive. Some women use many different positions and forms of movement, while others do not.
Making instinctual sounds can help women feel empowered, in control, and as though they were able to express themselves in labor. Moving around can bring comfort and aid in baby's positioning for birth. HypnoBirthing® mothers are free to make any and all noises, and choose any and all positions, that make them feel good. In the end, it is most important that women feel like they are the ones directing their labor. We want mothers to do whatever comes naturally to them!
Myth: HypnoBirths are not possible in a hospital setting.
The Truth: HypnoBirthing® happens in all settings - in hospitals, in freestanding birth centers, and at home. The majority of my own HypnoBirthing® students and doula clients are hospital birthers, but I get a beautiful mix of all choices. What does help someone have a better birth is to find a truly supportive medical provider, choose a location for their birth that doesn't make them feel as though they are surrounded by peril, and to advocate well for themselves and their baby. We teach our students to be smart consumers of their health care - And to make a change in birthing location/providers if they do not feel fully understood and supported.
Oh, and we highly recommend hiring a HypnoBirthing®-trained/certified doula -- They are experts at guiding families through the process and techniques, and provide such important perspective!
Myth: HypnoBirthing® doesn't give students "enough" hypnosis audio tracks.
The Truth: This comes down to the root of our program and why Marie designed it in the way she did (it is the original childbirth hypnosis program). Having read through the previous five myths, you have seen me mention the terms "instinctual" and "undisturbed" several times. Another term to add to this discussion is "non-contrived." Marie designed and produced just the right number of self-hypnosis audio tracks to help parents prepare for and make their way through birth, including the cornerstone Rainbow Relaxation. She kept things simple to help parents prepare for their births without feeling pressured to use dozens of tracks, one for each part/phase of labor. Additionally, each birth partner receives several hypnosis scripts to provide additional guidance for their partner.
The beauty is in the program's simplicity and its encouragement to use your own natural birthing instincts with *just* the right amount of guidance and reinforcement.
Myth: HypnoBirthing® teaches that your baby will simply "float" out of your body with the use of special breathing... and HypnoBirthing® mothers don't push.
The Truth: HypnoBirthing® does indeed teach a unique breathing technique that mothers learn how to use during the birthing phase of their labor. This technique harnesses the power of the breath to gently, but powerfully, nudge/move baby down and into the world, following mom's instincts and what is called the "natural expulsive reflex." It allows more oxygen to reach both mother and baby, and keeps one's pelvic floor and tissues more relaxed throughout the process.
Marie designed this technique to assist versus resist what the mother's body is naturally doing - moving baby down (as baby helps in the process). She had witnessed way too much of what is called "purple-faced" or "coached" pushing in the birthing room, with women holding their breath and being instructed to push as hard as they can, even when not medically necessary. She wanted to help women understand that their bodies were made to do this - And "Birth Breathing" simply helps in that process. It's a powerful technique! In the absence of special circumstances, and under the care of a good and patient provider, the birthing phase can be so much more gentle and empowering. It looks just a little bit different for everyone (see answer to Myth #1). When you see its power before your very eyes, as I have, it is simply magical.
What other myths/concerns have you heard about HypnoBirthing®?
Leave a note in the comments, and I will do my best to address them!
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HypnoBirthing® Educator, Certified Consulting Hypnotist
On a related note: I have addressed the basics of what hypnosis is (and what it’s not) HERE, so please feel free to explore that related topic as well.
Special thanks to Danica Donnelly Photography for the beautiful pics contained in this post, from a Flutterby HypnoBirthing® student/doula family's birthing!
I went into prodromal labor on Wednesday night (two days before the birth), and wasn't consistent enough with my surges to go to the birth center (Roots Community Birth Center). I didn't get much sleep Wednesday or Thursday nights - and, without my HypnoBirthing techniques, I don't know what I would have done. My doula also spent Thursday night with me, and her familiarity with HypnoBirthing and overall attentiveness and knowledge was a true gift. (I see why labor outcomes are more positive with doulas!!).
When I finally did go to the center for an assessment (my membranes hadn't released, so I wanted a cervical check), I was at 4cm opened. After an hour and a half of Benadryl-induced 'somewhat-sleep' at the center, we did some Spinning Babies techniques and the surges really started to ramp up! Six hours later, H was born!!... Completely naturally and unmedicated; received into her fathers hands, placenta born still attached, observance of a golden hour of bonding, very little postpartum bleeding on my part - it was all we wanted and more!
I can't tell you enough how much strength and ability to have the birth WE wanted came from the HypnoBirthing class you taught us. Especially as a first time mom, not knowing what to expect but having the grace, knowledge and faith to surrender to the miracle of birth. Especially a natural, out-of-hospital birth. From being able to counter my own family's concern/fear to being out-of-hospital to the moment-to-moment passage of each surge as they literally took hold of my body in their unrelenting series of rushes... I had tools to use from HypnoBirthing class!
The cost of the class was hands down the best, most comprehensive investment we put towards our birth preparation. If this helps persuades one couple to take this class, the value they will receive be worth it.
They say a woman remembers her birthing experiences for the rest of her life, and you helped ours be one of pride, strength and fearless love.
Love and deep gratitude,
P, N + Baby H
Erin Stertz-Follett, Flutterby's Owner, is a Certified Consulting Hypnotist, Certified HypnoBirthing® Educator, and Certified Birth Doula who has taught and assisted hundreds of families. Feel free to email her at email@example.com with any questions!
Erin Stertz-Follett, Owner