Dec 27 2010

How I used Hypnobabies to have a better birth

My husband and I attended a 10-week Bradley childbirth course to prepare for our son’s birth. I did avoid pain meds for his birth, but having Cervidil and magnesium sulfate in my system made it rough and I felt like I needed more tools to help me cope.

It seemed like Bradley taught me that pain was inevitable, though the pain did have a purpose. It shared methods of coping with the pain and many of them did help me.

For our daughter’s birth, I wanted something different.

I had heard of Hypnobabies while pregnant with Jonathan, but I didn’t know anyone who had used it. All the natural-minded mamas I knew did Bradley, and thought it was great. And it is a good course for learning lots of things about childbirth and what to expect.

The Hypnobabies web site didn’t appear too user-friendly and I thought it looked a little wacky, with the picture of the lady snoozing with some earphones. I didn’t look into it any further at the time. Our health insurance would pay for our Bradley course, but not the Hypnobabies home study so that was another factor in me choosing Bradley.

Karen was debating whether to do Bradley or the much cheaper Hypnobabies and she went with that one, so I thought I’d give it another look.

I bought the home study during a 20% off sale and officially began the course when I was 27 weeks pregnant. I blogged about each week (see my sidebar for links).

I was really impressed with it all. There was a lot of information in the course pack and I thought it gave a good overview of birth.

My husband read the “Birth Partner Guide” but I had him skip the regular course pack since he was really short on time and I knew he’d know most of that sort of information from Bradley anyway.

I faithfully made my way through the study, doing all the readings and listening to the tracks most of the time. I missed a day here or there, but overall I listened to the required tracks each day. However, I did not listen to the affirmations everyday as suggested. I just listened to that track when I felt like I needed a boost. I also didn’t practice the “finger-drop technique” 5x a day like suggested. I did it during the tracks and on occasion but I didn’t do it enough. And, I didn’t use it during my birthing. I used the “release” cue instead which does the same thing.

I’d read plenty of positive Hypnobabies birth stories and I was confident that I’d have a great birth, too. And I did!

Before my birthing began, I mapped out a few ideas for how I might use Hypnobabies during the birth. I think this step is pretty important. Hypnobabies gives you a ton of tools and lots of tracks, and it might be hard to know what you want to do when you’re in the moment. Lots of excitement going on, ya know?

I listened to the “Birth Day Affirmations” and “Easy First Stage” after I was full-term, but before birth. I wanted to know what was on those particular tracks in advance of the birth, so I could know if I’d want to hear them. I really liked the affirmations, but the Easy First Stage track I wasn’t sure about. I thought it would be good if my birthing was progressing more slowly, perhaps. But it was moving along at a nice clip.

After I had my first two “this is it!” pressure waves, I loaded the Birth Day Affirmations track and listened to that while in bed. I listened to that track again a few more times throughout the birth: While at home, and aloud at the birth center.

The only other thing I listened to during birth was my choral hymns playlist. I knew that I might want calming music to remind me of God’s presence. Nothing like a good hymn to do that!

I didn’t want to listen to any other HB tracks during the birth, but that’s fine.

My doula and my husband used the “release,” “relax,” and “peace” cues to help me stay focused and relaxed and that helped. They also reminded me of my “special place” and I’m glad they did, because I completely forgot about it until they brought it up!

One of the other conditioned responses that we learn in Hypnobabies is that when our birth partner places his hand on our forehead or shoulder, it instantly relaxes us more. Shane and Emily often each had a hand on me — one on my head and another on my shoulder.

I was unsure of how I’d feel about it during the birth, but it actually did help me so much. I did relax my body further when I felt their touch. And it let me know that they were right there with me to support me and be present for me.

We could have used the “Change of plans” script printed in the birth partner’s guide when I was transferring to the hospital, but we didn’t think of it. It was ok — I already had accepted that this would probably happen and I had come to terms with it.

The biggest thing I think Hypnobabies did for me was the cumulative effect of hearing positive birthing messages day after day. After about 13 weeks of hearing about how I would have a comfortable, beautiful birthing (and lots of other great messages) I really did believe it on a conscious and unconscious level.

My overall experience wasn’t painful, though toward the end it became so, but it was still extremely manageable. I felt calm through most of my 9-hour labor.

I did not have a markedly noticeable transition period, though we think it happened sometime after my water broke at the hospital. A song came on my iPod that wasn’t supposed to be on that playlist and I was instantly annoyed and snapped for them to turn it off. Emily did that, and she had trouble at first and Shane stepped over to assist, but I quickly said, “Shane don’t leave me!” and he didn’t.

Sometime around that point, Emily noticed I had started to sweat and tremble a little and suspected maybe that was my transition time.

But beyond that, I didn’t show any other signs.

The Bradley Method teaches us about three “emotional signposts” that the laboring mom exhibits: Excitement, seriousness, and self-doubt. I had wondered why Hypnobabies didn’t talk about these signposts, since I thought they were really key in knowing where you were in the birth process.

It’s possible they don’t include these because the signposts aren’t the same for a Hypno-mom. My serious phase came on fairly soon in labor and still there were plenty of points while at the birth center where I needed to be serious and focused during a wave, but immediately after it was over, I returned to casual conversation and joking here and there. Toward the end, I was serious in between, too.

I never had self-doubt. I never said, “I can’t do this anymore” or anything like that. I never felt that I couldn’t do it. I did have that signpost with Johnny’s birth.

I also didn’t experience the burning ring of fire when Vivienne was crowning. I felt that with Jonathan! But with her during my last push, I felt her descend really low and I knew I could wait for one more contraction, or I could keep going and get her out now. I chose to keep pushing and my vocalizations went up an octave or two, and out she came! But no burning, and no tearing.

Transition passing without much notice and no ring of fire seem to be fairly common among other Hypno-mom’s birth stories.

Lastly, one of the bonus tracks I listened to had us visualize our birth. I thought I’d want an 8-hour birth (too much quicker and it would be more intense than I wanted, and too much longer might zap my energy, plus I’d want to be done so I could get home!). I ended up with just under a 9-hour birth.

I wanted to have a bit of pre-birthing waves to dilate and efface me and get some of the preliminary work out of the way, so that when things really started up, it would go faster. I did have a few weeks of that.

I wanted to be woken up from sleep with good, strong waves. I got one full sleep cycle in before I was woken up around 1 a.m. with a wave that I knew was the real thing. I also wanted it to begin at nighttime so that my husband would already be home.

I wanted to progress quickly enough so that I could head into the birth center before morning rush. We got to the center around 5 a.m.

I wanted my water to stay intact until I was close to pushing, to minimize risk of infection from internal exams and to keep things at a more comfortable level. My water broke at the onset of labor with Jonathan and that was more of a challenge. With Vivienne, it broke at the hospital after I was at least 7 cm, but probably more. She was born about 50 minutes after that.

So really, my birth went almost exactly as I had pictured. There were a few sub-plots that I didn’t want (transferring to the hospital and preeclampsia come to mind!) but I still had mentally prepared for those possibilities and I just went with it.

Laura wanted to know if I’d recommend pregnant ladies go straight to Hypnobabies or if I thought it would be good for them to do Bradley first.

Shane and I talked about it, and we both think Bradley is great for preparing the dad. The in-person format helps make sure they do the work and it provides a forum for them to ask questions. I think it does a great job in teaching the dad how to be a helpful birth coach and to learn many aspects of childbirth. I’m glad we have that Bradley experience.

But I don’t think Bradley prepared me as much as it could have. It told me to relax but it didn’t teach me how in a way that really helped me.

Hypnobabies taught me how to relax and how to have a comfortable, pleasant birthing. How to trust and listen to my body. And how childbirth doesn’t have to be painful throughout.

Since we did the home study, it was up to us to be disciplined enough to have Shane do the work. We didn’t make time for it like we should have. Hypnobabies does offer an in-person course that’s slightly different from the home study, and that might be more effective, especially for first-timers.

Still, with the right attitude and commitment from the mom and dad, I think a first-time parent can have great success with the home study. They should both read all the materials and be diligent with listening to the tracks.

For parents who used Bradley for a previous birth but would like something more? Yeah. Get Hypnobabies.

If I’m fortunate enough to have more children, I will absolutely use Hypnobabies again.

Posted under hypnobabies | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “How I used Hypnobabies to have a better birth”

  1. I can’t remember if I said this before, but your experience matched what I felt, too. As in, I didn’t notice the milestones. (Maybe if I had, I would have realized how far into labor I was!) I never felt the ring of fire, I don’t remember transition. The only moment of doubt I felt was when I realized the baby was actually coming and I was still at home. I really wonder how everything would have been different if I had been at the hospital with nurses telling me what I should be thinking and feeling. When my body was telling me to push, I was scared/confused – I didn’t understand what was going on. (Mostly because I didn’t know that I was so close to giving birth.)

    I will have to consider Hypnobabies for my next kid. :-) It’s been interesting reading your thoughts as you’ve gone through it!

  2. I think we are really suggestible, especially when we are in labor. So if a nurse says, “This is going to hurt” when she gives you an IV or something, then yeah, it probably will hurt!

    I am going to be very interested in how your second birth goes! Hope that happens sooner than later :)

  3. I think I used Ina May’s books the same way you used Hypnobabies. By that I mean I used it to glean tools to help me relax and embrace labor. I guess my equivalent of listening to tracks every day was re-reading positive birth stories multiple times daily- stories that talked about births that were empowering, and that offered tips such as blowing your lips like a horse and kissing through contractions. I know some of those stories by heart and focusing on them (especially the photos of the mamas in labor- so beautiful and relaxed!) definitely helped me.

    I agree that Bradley is great, in terms of learning how labor works. I also learned a lot about relaxation, good eating, and my husband’s role. He did so well with it that although we had a doula with Lucy, we didn’t with June, and I’m 100% happy with that decision. He is a wonderful birth partner!

    I’m actually considering becoming a Bradley instructor, btw. There’s some turmoil in the Bradley world right now, but hopefully it will be resolved soon, and the new website and updated materials will be available.

    I think the bottom line is that every women needs to find what works for her. Some of us are visual, some respond more to audio cues, etc. Whatever is the most effective method for each individual mama is the best choice for her!

  4. Oh, and I think I mentioned it in my birth story, but I didn’t feel a distinct transitional period like I did with Lucy, and I didn’t throw up this time, either. Keeping sphicter law in mind, I think I didn’t “need” to get sick- I was relaxed enough physically already. Same goes for the “ring of fire”- it definitely didn’t feel as intense this time.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience and your beautiful birth story! I’m currently training to become a Hypnobabies instructor and plan on using Hypnobabies for my first birth when we become pregnant!

  6. I found your blog through Laura’s, and it sounds like you had a beautiful birth. I teach Bradley, and I agree, Bradley does a ton to help prepare couples on normal birth, prepare the husband to coach, and prepare you how to talk to your care provider. It seems that some of what you experienced is more normal for second births–minimal transition and the ring of fire is minimized since you’ve done it before, along with a shorter labor. However, I think that daily, positive affirmations are HUGE for moms, and I have only heard good things about Hypnobabies. I’m so glad you had a wonderful experience!

  7. loved reading your story. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Thanks for taking the time to share your insights. One of the things that I love about Hypnobabies is it gives you so many tools so you have a lot to choose from during your birth. I see moms who don’t listen to CDs during their birth, relying more on the relax cue, etc. Other moms love to hear the CDs. So it is nice there are options.

    I also see so many moms whose births mirror their visualization. Cool that yours did.

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