When I discovered I was pregnant with my first and only child, I daydreamed about what giving birth would be like. Leading a somewhat alternative lifestyle comprised of regular meditation and a pre-preggo vegan diet, I was interested in taking a more “natural” birthing route. Sadly, hypnobirthing didn’t work for me, as much as I hoped it would.
Prior to childbirth, what I’d seen of the labor process on TV seemed quite simple — the woman’s waters would break, she’d be laid in a hospital bed where she screamed through some contractions and squeezed someone’s hand aggressively, and then she’d give an almighty push and a baby would appear as if by magic. Having little to no experience with babies (in or out of the womb) and a Catholic school education, I really didn’t know any better.
Two of my closest friends were due to give birth a few months before me (my gurus for anything pregnancy-related) and they hooked me up with a hypnobirthing CD, which I promptly downloaded onto my iPhone. If you are not familiar, hypnobirthing is essentially a childbirth pain management technique involving deep breathing, meditation, and visualization. The CD contained three guided meditation tracks. As a frequent user and fan of guided meditations pre-pregnancy, I lapped these up eagerly. The first time I listened to one where you visualize meeting your baby, I literally cried. My friend told me she did too.
There was a point in my pregnancy when I had a low-lying placenta, which is where the placenta can potentially block the baby’s way out. If my placenta hadn’t shifted out of the way towards the end, I would have needed a Caesarean, the idea of which petrified me. If a c-section was definitely on the cards, I planned to have literal hypnosis to quell my fears — some people view hypnobirthing less as pain management than of a way to control birthing fears, whatever route you take.
In addition to listening to the aforementioned guided meditations every day, I also enrolled in an online hypnobirthing course. I chose to go down this route rather than attend a course in person because it was a much cheaper option, it was more convenient, and my friend recommended it.
The narrator was describing flying off on a magic carpet where I’d collect my baby.
It gave me something to focus on throughout my pregnancy and taught me a lot. Before delving into hypnobirthing, I’d thought of it as a hippy route for those in denial about the realities of giving birth. However, the course instructor explained that there was evidence to back up the techniques: deep breathing can help keep your body pumped full of oxygen, quashing the adrenaline-fueled “fight or flight” response, and a Cochrane review found some evidence that length of labor is shorter and pain intensity lower in women using hypnobirthing techniques than controls.
So by the time it came to write my birth plan, I was feeling pretty good. If you’ve had a baby or are pregnant, you’ll know all about the birth plan; it’s basically a document stating what you would prefer if your birth goes exactly to the letter. It can include your pain relief preferences or how you want the medical staff to refer to things — for example, some hypnobirthing instructors and, consequently, students refer to contractions as “surges.”
My birth plan was pretty simple: I wanted a water birth with nitrous oxide and oxygen, and I wanted to be able to move around freely and eat. According to my hypnobirthing course, the best position to be in during labor was upright, plus being able to snack and keep hydrated meant that I would be fueling my body throughout.
However, because of a slight complication that I discovered towards the end of my pregnancy (which resulted in a bunch of interventions) my birth plan may as well have been ripped up and thrown out of the window. Long story short, I used an at home test to discover I was Group…
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