I wanted to jot down a few notes about our experience of hypnobirthing – to celebrate it, mainly. Spoiler: I didn’t have the perfect hypnobirth. Things got a bit complicated, although EVERYTHING WAS FINE IN THE END.
Considering that things went a bit awry, shall we say, it could be easy for us to conclude that the classes weren’t worth bothering with, particularly as we invested a fair amount of time and money into it all. (We paid £260 for four private hypnobirthing sessions with the fantastic Sandra at East Yorkshire Hypnobirthing. Classes with one or two other couples cost £190.)
Yet despite the cost and the fact that things didn’t quite go to plan, I am still very much a hypnobirthing advocate.
My chap Graham, on the other hand, likes to shout “260 NOTES!” (i.e. £260) whenever he’s reminded of how much we spent on our course, as if he hasn’t yet got over the cost and is suffering from a strange, very specific vocal tic. I think this is mainly for ‘comedic’ value though. Hilarious.
Anyway, before I start, I’d like to say that, yes, some of the points below relate to doing a hypnobirthing course, but others are about the practice in general. It is not essential to spend a lot of money – there are free courses available (depending on where you live) and you can borrow books and practice at home etc.
We did a course because my pregnancy brain was fried and I thought I was more likely to take in the information that way.
Also, I know I’m making light of the cost, but I was of the opinion that if it was going to help towards a safe and ‘easy’ birth, then £260 / £190 seemed a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things, when a pram can cost £1k etc.
I should also mention now that I think successful hypnobirthing and standard NHS care can’t always exist side by side, unfortunately. I’ll get onto that later in part two though. (Oh yes, there’ll be a part two…)
But for now, without further ado: SIX REASONS WHY HYPNOBIRTHING IS BRILLIANT.
1. Doing a hypnobirthing course brought Graham and I together before Ted’s birth
Now, me ‘n’ G were already TOGETHER together before embarking on the course, hence finding ourselves in the pickle of impending parenthood in the first place.
But being able to go to our hypnobirthing classes together, to make daft jokes about how many biscuits I was going to eat in the class and how our nice teacher Sandra was a bit of a pervert, was a lovely shared experience. It got us in the right headspace, to think about the birth and parenthood without it being stressful.
(Sandra, if you’re reading this, we don’t really think you’re a perv. Well Graham does, but I don’t.)
Also, most of our classes were on a Sunday morning and there was a McDonald’s en route and who in their right mind denies a pregnant lady a delicious Sunday breakfast of questionable nutritional content? Exactly.
I have very fond memories of our breakfast dates at McDonald’s. To me, their Bacon, Egg & Cheese Bagels will always taste of excitement and love and pre-baby trepidation. (And grease, sometimes.)
2. We learned what was actually going on ‘in there’
I’m not sure how much biological detail they go into in the free NHS antenatal classes. We only went to the first one. Yes, we are snobs but it was held in a rough area of town and that first session was all about packing your hospital bag; we were planning a home birth so we just looked down our noses at everyone ‘OH, WE SHAN’T BE NEEDING A HOSPITAL BAG!’ while wondering if we’d get back from the class in time for our Ocado delivery. I JEST. SORT OF. Also – spoiler #2– we needed that bloody hospital bag.
Anyway, as I said, I don’t know exactly what they teach you at the standard classes. Maybe if we’d stuck around instead of being snobs, or if I’d swotted up online, I could have learned everything I needed to know, on a basic biological level at least, without spending 260 NOTES. But I didn’t.
In our hypnobirthing classes, we learned all about our amazing bodies and what they are capable of, which was very valuable and massively helped me – helped us both, I think – when labour started. And the essence of hypnobirthing is about being in tune with your body, therefore knowing what is actually happening is important.
Plus, it was taught in an interesting way by the lovely Sandra (who is not a perv).
3. The classes were fun
See above points about McDonald’s breakfasts and Sandra jokes.
The sessions themselves were enjoyable – even if I sometimes felt they weren’t ‘working’, they were – and we laughed about them afterwards. These laughs were often related to Sandra’s enthusing about sex and masturbation – the latter is recommended in early labour, hmmmmm – which is why she became known as a perv. Poor Sandra. And yes we have the sense of humour of 14 year old boys.
4. Learning about hypnobirthing equipped Graham with practical knowledge
Graham was brilliant when ‘it’ all started happening. (I don’t know why I wrote ‘it’ like that. I mean labour, not the Stephen King book or anything else for that matter.) I didn’t doubt that he would be great, but he really stepped up.
As mentioned, we’d planned a home birth, so there was more for him to do than if we’d been in hospital, and I think that being so involved in the preparation through hypnobirthing really helped.
He also did some hypnobirthing homework – i.e. we practiced hypnobirthing techniques outside of the classes – in the weeks before the birth, although this was mostly under duress when he really wanted to be watching Game of Thrones or an episode of Only Fools and Horses for the 70 billionth time or some other such tripe. Thanks, G.
5. Hypnobirthing theory gave us confidence to question standard advice
This might be something I write more about; I am passionate about it, but also find the whole issue very problematic – more about that to follow in part 2. A couple of the key mantras, if you will, of hypnobirthing theory are ‘baby will come when baby is ready’ and ‘baby knows best’. (A bit cringe I know but they make sense.) Hence, there is a questioning of standard medical advice, particularly regarding induction.
When I was 39 weeks and five days pregnant, I was asked by a midwife if I wanted to book in for an induction. I was still two weeks and two days away from being ‘post-term’, yet it was expected that I would want to be induced just a few days later.
I was healthy and low risk and had had no problems whatsoever – AND I was 99% certain that the due date given to me by the NHS was a week earlier than my actual due date. Therefore, my baby could have been induced almost three weeks before he was properly ‘overdue’, which seemed crazy and unnecessary.
Hypnobirthing theory teaches you about ‘the cascade of intervention’ – in a nutshell, once you are induced, you’re on a slippery slope (so to speak) to an increasingly medicalised birth; your labour is artificially accelerated and your body often can’t cope, and many women go from having syntocinon (the artificial hormone to boost contractions, or surges, as they are called in hypnobirthing) to pethidine to an epidural and sometimes to a C-section.
Not always, obviously. And I’m definitely not saying NO DRUGS EVER.
But that all sounded horrendous to me, and learning about the above gave me the confidence to turn down an induction. That is probably another story for another time. But I still think that turning down an induction was the right thing for me and Ted, and I’m not sure I’d have done so without hypnobirthing.
6. Hypnobirthing helped when things didn’t go exactly to plan
We planned a home birth, I laboured at home for about 19 hours, Ted wasn’t born at home. I had to get an ambulance to hospital after those 19 hours, and managed to stay quite calm. I tried to focus on my breathing and to remember what I’d learned and not worry about what lay ahead and I’d say it just about worked.
HOORAY FOR HYPNOBIRTHING.
However… there’s a BUT with all of this, and I think I’ll write about ‘the problem with hypnobirthing’ (which is mainly the disconnect I experienced between hypnobirthing theory and NHS care) in a future post.
I still think it was worth those 260 NOTES though.