one of the most helpful things i did to prepare myself for a natural birth was reading other women's stories of success. filling my mind with confidence in my ability to birth naturally was so important.
i thought it'd be fun to have other women contribute their natural birth stories to this blog, so that it is not always me sharing how wonderful natural childbirth is. there is strength in sharing experiences so that is why i am so excited about this! i hope you'll enjoy emily's birth story as much as i did. thanks emily!
emily is a mother of two beautiful children and stay-at-home mom. she is an excellent example to me of trusting in yourself and following through with your desires!
With all the many things to think about as a first-time expectant parent, how I would give birth to my child was a top priority. I knew countless women who had successfully delivered nearly pain-free with an epidural. But, I knew myself and knew that delivering a baby naturally was something I had always hoped to do. I knew I wanted to deliver without pain medication; I just wasn’t sure how to go about doing that! In my researching of different methods I came across the Hypnobirthing/Mongan Method. The ideas behind Hynobirthing really seemed to match my own philosophies about childbirth. Marie Mongan said: "We believe that every woman has within her the power to call upon her natural instincts to bring about the best possible birthing for her baby and herself” I loved reading those words! I was thrilled to find a way to support the type of birth I wanted to have.
Marie Mongan’s ideas aren’t completely new but more a revisiting of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s ideas. She believes, as Dr. Dick-Read did, that when we are truly relaxed our body works in a wonderful way and that we can experience far less discomfort than when our muscles are tense and fearful.
When I tell people that I’ve used the Hypnobirthing method, they often have many questions on exactly what it is! Images come to mind of hypnotist’s shows, as that is what most people’s exposure to hypnosis consists of. In reality, when you are in a truly relaxed, hypnotic state you have completely control over yourself. The relaxation you experience is similar to the feeling of being engrossed in your favorite book or gazing into the campfire. During our Hypnobirthing class our teacher would show us videos of the most calm, quiet births. My husband and I were in awe and disbelief that a birth could be so wonderful.
Absolutely key to having a successful birth using this method is practice! Practicing relaxation/visualization exercises that help you learn to put yourself in a deeply relaxed and comfortable state makes it become second nature. Learning to truly relax and connect with my body and especially to my baby was so valuable during my pregnancies. When preparing for my births, I have found that I have to put myself in a calm and confident “bubble”. Of course I knew there was the chance for serious complications and for things to go in a way that I didn’t want them to. But, Marie Mongan teaches that our attitudes toward birthing can actually affect the way we are able to handle the birthing process. I found that I had to take all negative attitudes surrounding birth and labor and replace them with my calm, confident, and capable thoughts. I knew my body was able to birth the baby that was growing inside of me. When people doubted my ability to actually “survive” the entire labor without giving into an epidural, I learned I had to be positive and resolute or else doubt would creep into my mind.
When the time came to deliver my first child, I was excited to put the things I’d practice to the test. I was surprised when I went into labor at just 37 weeks! I woke up to contractions that morning and enjoyed laboring at home all through the day. As things became more intense I would lie on my side or sit on the exercise ball and do my relaxation. Things were going great. At about 5 pm we decided it was time to head to the hospital. Upon checking in, we found out I was dilated to a 5.5 cm. Once settled in my room, we dimmed the lights, put on my favorite relaxation CD and I was able to relax and go to my “place” mentally. Because the room was so calm most of the hospital staff felt that and really helped maintain that atmosphere. Then the unexpected happened- I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia when I was dilated to 7 cm! My blood pressure had reached dangerous levels. I had had a picture perfect pregnancy and I was so surprised. They informed me that I would have to have blood pressure medication and that I would be confined to the bed for the rest of my labor. During my Hypnobirthing practice, I had memorized several calming, empowering phrases (affirmations) - boy, did that ever come into play at this point! I told the nurse that I needed a couple minutes in the bathroom before being hooked up to the IV. I went in and sat on the toilet for a few contractions. In my head I repeated one of my favorite phrases- “I am prepared to handle any turn my birthing takes.” With each contraction I breathed slowly and steadily down. I focused on my baby moving down with each calm and steady breath. This focus made the pressure of the contraction a welcome sensation. These tools were amazing! I was able to replace my fears and anxiety with calm confidence. I was able to get hooked up to the IV and lay in bed without fear and with minimal discomfort. In fact, I kept waiting to get to the point that I couldn’t handle it. After all, haven’t we all seen movies with women screaming in pain during labor? That point didn’t come. I had the tools to cope with all that was coming my way. About an hour later, I delivered our healthy 7 lb. baby girl.
One of the concepts taught with Hypnobirthing is that the method works for any type of birth. The birth of my second child was so different from my first. Yet, the concepts and techniques worked wonderfully. I had been pregnant for a whole month longer than the first time around- I was 4 days overdue. I was beginning to wonder if my body remembered how to go into labor! I knew that I really wanted to avoid getting induced if at all possible. I went to see my midwife and she said I was dilated to 5 cm. I wasn’t even in active labor! She stripped my membranes and sent me home to walk and rest. I had a few contractions during the day and went to bed that night around midnight with everything feeling as normal as could be. I was discouraged. At 2 AM, I got up to go to the bathroom. By the time I got back to bed I was having a good, strong contraction. The next contraction came and I knew that this meant business. No "warm-up" contractions at this point. This was the real deal. These feelings were so welcome to me because I knew that they were bringing baby closer to me.
We quickly realized that we needed to hurry to the hospital. This was not in my "plan". I thought I'd have lots of time to labor at home. But, my body was on a schedule and I knew I wanted to be where I would have the baby SOON.
I was quickly admitted and we met my midwife in the room. My husband quickly put on my relaxation music and dimmed the lights. I felt so safe and supported and just ready to trust my body to bring this baby to the world. The contractions were strong and close but it was such an amazing feeling to know what they were doing. I relaxed between contractions doing the relaxation/visualization that I'd practiced for so many months. My husband was right by my side the whole time reminding me of my strength and capability. He and my midwife would help me during contractions with light, reassuring touches and words. I was able to move around and be in any position that was comfortable. Everyone spoke softly and there was such an amazing reverence in the room. My body was functioning just as it should, baby's heart beat was strong, and I was focused on the job at hand! Just two after labor began, I was ready to push. My midwife told me that I knew what needed to happen and told me to do whatever I needed. Just two pushes later, our sweet 9 lb. 14 oz boy was born.
The techniques I learned through the Hypnobirthing method have enabled me to have 2 wonderful, empowering and deeply spiritual births! These ideas transformed my ideas surrounding birth and helped me have the experiences that I really wanted.