The pain of childbirth is all in our head.
Ok, now that I have your attention, and before you reach through the computer and slap my face, let me back up a sec. This blog post is not coming from a place of arrogance or judgment. I promise I’m not getting too big for my britches (well, not since my pregnancy anyways!). I know better than to judge or criticize another woman for the way in which she chooses to birth her child.
It hurt when other women scoffed at me or tried to talk me out of having a natural childbirth; I didn’t appreciate being reprimanded for my decision. I didn’t agree with and didn’t like being told that the natural process of childbirth was risky and dangerous and something that I was too weak to go through without medical intervention. So I wouldn’t scold anyone else for the choices they make during childbirth. Labor is such a personal experience for a woman, and we all do what we have to in order to get through the experience with our dignity, if not our lady parts, intact.
But what if I told you it could possibly be made easier than what we think?
Though I’ve known for years that I wanted to have a natural childbirth, it certainly wasn’t because I was trying to be a hero. I wasn’t out to prove a point (until so many people started telling me I couldn’t do it; then I resolved to prove them wrong!). I really am just that much of a chicken when it comes to needles. And I can’t think of anything worse than losing control over any part of my body. I figured that I’ve run races with terrible injuries and endured broken bones; I could endure the imminent pain of childbirth better than I could tolerate a needle piercing my spine. I would rather do ANYTHING than have an epidural.
I realize a lot of women are completely comfortable with medical procedures and dream of epidurals, but I hate medical rigmarole, and my track record hasn’t been too favorable when dealing with the medical environment: I blacked out after my first gyno appointment and the first time I used contacts. I had panic attacks when I got an MRI and a HIDA scan. I get clammy even having an IV or blood drawn. So I knew the conventional way of having a baby wasn’t for me. I would have just as soon had my baby in the bathtub at home alone, sans any monitors or IVs (in fact, this was secretly my backup plan in lieu of rushing off to the hospital). I wanted to keep things simple and free of any cold, sterile instruments and loud, bulky monitors. A no-frills, no-fuss, no-drama birthing experience.
Enter HypnoBirthing. Ok, it’s a lousy title. Honestly, when I was first introduced to the idea, it evoked images of Birkenstock-wearing stringy-haired women chanting ceremoniously while giving birth in a kiddie pool in their living room because they didn’t have good enough health insurance to deliver their babies in a hospital. Not for me. I’ll admit, my husband and I march to the beat of our own drummer, but I’m no hippie.
What a misguided perception I had! I may not be a hippie, but I am an athlete and a woman of faith, and the principles of HypnoBirthing resonated with me to my core. Rest assured, this isn’t some eerie hypnosis thing. HypnoBirthing is simply a method of childbirth that focuses on relaxation, visualization, intentional decisions, and the power of positive thinking. The HypnoBirthing philosophy simply advocates that:
· Birth is a natural, normal and healthy human experience and not something to be feared or dreaded. Women’s bodies are not flawed but are intricately designed to conceive, nurture the development of, and birth healthy babies.
· Normal, uncomplicated birth should be able to progress naturally, without undue medical intervention.
· The mind is a powerful tool in creating your reality. Intention creates experience. The power of positive thinking is essential for creating a positive birthing experience.
· When a woman is afraid or nervous, her body goes into flight-or-fright mode; the oxygen in her body goes to the muscles in the extremities that would be used to run away or fight instead of going to the uterine muscles that need it most. This causes the uterine muscles to tense up and leads to more painful contractions. Steady breathing instead of forceful panting allows the uterus to get the oxygen it needs to stay relaxed and allow the baby to move down the way it needs to with less (though not necessarily none at all) discomfort.
This has proven so true in my experience as a runner. The way a runner breathes is critical to ensuring a successful run. Breathing heavily leads to muscle cramps. Breathing slowly and steadily allows the muscles to get the oxygen they need to do their job more efficiently and keeps the runner’s energy level stable.
The power of positive thoughts and speech is also a principle that has proven true in my life. Life and death is in the power of the tongue. If I don’t want a negative birthing experience, I shouldn’t speak negatively about birth. Conversely, I should verbally and mentally affirm the type of positive birthing experience I want to have.
There’s a lot more to it, actually, but I’m attempting to be brief. HypnoBirthing doesn’t promise a pain-free birth, and it’s not a formula for a one-size-fits-all experience, but it did guide me through the process of preparing my mind and body for a gentler, more comfortable birthing experience.
These few blog posts are dedicated to outlining my birthing experience and how the HypnoBirthing method really worked for me. But I don’t think I’m something special. I truly believe that, free of special circumstances or high-risk situations, any woman can apply these principles to take the fear and dread out of labor and create a more positive, comfortable labor and delivery.
Stay tuned to see how it all panned out!