Our Daughter’s Hypnobirthing/Hypnobabies Birth Story- March 2012
(my second child)
Everything was perfect and easy. The birthing was what I had prepared for, and what I had prayed for. I could not have imagined a more empowering experience. She was born 2 hours and 45 minutes from the very first twinge, and less than 2 hours from pressures that started to make me wonder if “this was it”. Everything was truly easy. Only about 20-30 minutes of intensity during which I felt in control… and once we were at The Birth Center, we had 15 minutes of pushing and she arrived. Not only was the birthing easy, but the time of day couldn’t have been more perfect.
Although I will share the details of the birth itself, this is more a story of the psychological journey I went through as I prepared for this moment. Over the course of two pregnancies, I took three hypnobirthing courses- one private, one group, and one home study workbook. My story below is pretty long- at lot to read- but I wanted to record my journey mostly for myself. If anyone wants to read it too, that’s great, I’m happy to share. I think the main thing I’d like to share is that I credit hypnobirthing with a calm, swift, and easy birthing. For me that meant listening to scripts every single day without fail for two months, preferably while awake. I had printed affirmations with a picture that was personally important and meaningful hanging around the house where I saw them multiple times a day, and I listened to recorded pregnancy affirmations every time I was driving in the car. It meant facing my fears and working through scripts and imagery to release them. Most importantly for me, it meant practicing a tangible technique that I could use to instantly relax all muscles on command. A week or two before my due date, I was in the shower washing my hair with my hands over my head. I said the word “release” (a cue word that is throughout the Hypnobabies scripts) out loud, and to my surprise my hands instantly dropped to my side without my consciously putting them there- that was one moment I knew that everything was coming together in my preparations for our daughter’s birthing.
On Tuesday evening (my due date) we literally watched the baby drop- we could see my stomach change shape over the course of 15 minutes. All day Wednesday my brain was in a thick pea-soup fog- couldn’t concentrate on anything, was more tired than usual.
Went to bed early Wednesday evening, commenting that there would be a full moon at 4:40 am Thursday morning March 8 as well as solar flare activity forecasted to hit the earth’s atmosphere and alter magnetic fields. Surely all that celestial activity might bring her forth! That night I had a sound sleep, a nice change from all the insomnia of the prior few months. Our two year old also slept through the night- one of the only handful of times in his life he slept all the way until 6 am. I guess we all knew we needed sleep!
I dreamt that I was wearing a long dress and we watched the baby drop like on Tuesday- but then my belly kept dropping and dropping further down my legs until I looked at the bottom of the dress and there was our daughter- born completely pain-free! That’s how I knew I was finally psychologically ready for her to come.
At 5 a.m. Woke and went to bathroom, and lost a little bit of mucus- for the first time tinged pink! I had been losing mucus for several weeks but it was always white. At 5:20 a mild contraction came that felt like the tons of Braxton Hicks I’d been having for weeks. However, I had been lying down for 20 minutes prior and it was unusual for it to come when lying down. I told my husband that maybe he should go ahead and take a shower “just in case”. We both proceeded to get our early showers and for the next half hour the contractions were about every 8-9 minutes. They were stronger than what I had had in the weeks prior- enough to give me pause- and also were starting to feel different- a localized pressure from deep within my pelvis.
My son woke at 6 a.m. and asked for mommy milk. As soon as nursing started, the pressure started coming every 3-4 minutes, and lasting about 45 seconds to a minute. I had been having nursing contractions for months- very often strong enough that I needed finger-drop technique to relax through them – but with these I unusually needed to also lie down to manage comfortably. I laid on the couch with my son and started doing finger drop technique (which I learned in Hypnobabies) to relax every muscle while they came – making them very manageable.
When nursing ended around 6:25 a.m. my husband Adam called The Birth Center. Lindsay called back within a few minutes and she said it sounded like it might be my day. While I was talking to her more than 5 minutes had passed since the last pressure so we decided that I would lie down for a little bit and see if things continued to abate. In retrospect perhaps I should have gone in at that point, especially given my quick (3 hour) labor with my son- but honestly at that point I still wasn’t convinced it was time. I probably wouldn’t have even called The Birth Center at that point if it had been up to me alone- my husband made the call!
For the next 20 minutes I continued to lie on the couch while Adam packed our son’s lunch and got him dressed. The pressure continued to be localized deep in my pelvis. It started every 4 minutes or so and last about a minute- but still was very easy with finger drop technique. At 6:50 I went to the bathroom and was walking back to the couch when one started and I realized- um, whoops- standing up and without finger drop I actually had a hard time! “We’re going in!”. We called Lindsay back to tell her – she said shift change was at 7 and the next midwife on call was about 25 minutes away from the birth center, so to wait just a few minutes before making our own 30 minute drive.
6:55 -7:15 AM Adam called our neighbor to take our son to daycare. While Adam was packing the car and wrapping up last minute logistics, I was lying on the couch, and having a lovely conversation with the neighbor, but realized that I couldn’t talk through the pressure. Each time one came I held up my hand to signal her, simply closed my eyes and did finger-drop technique to easily relax through them until they passed, and then opened my eyes and continued the conversation. The next day I looked at my iPod contraction timer and apparently during these 20 minutes the contractions were every 2 minutes, 1 minute long and the app said “In Transition”! I had no idea at the time that this was the case as they were still very easy!
7:15 AM I gave my son a huge hug and walked to the car- by this point I did realize walking was pretty difficult and I rushed to get to the passenger seat so I could close my eyes again. I settled in on my left side with my pregnancy pillow curled around my back and through my knees. I turned on the Hypnobabies Deepening Script and put my headphones in my ears, and we were off. (In retrospect, I wish I had turned on the Easy First Stage script!)
7:15-7:50 AM Car ride. At some point in the car ride I noticed that I was starting to moan, and not long after that- who knows how long, I certainly had no sense of time at this point- everything started getting super intense. The pressure/surges/pain/contractions- no words for it- was coming from deep within my pelvis- all I wanted was to stretch my legs and relax my groin, but I couldn’t move- no room and no control over my leg muscles it seemed. I focused as best I could on the words from the deepening script, and I could hear myself calling (screaming?) out “Relax!” “Release!” “Peace!”. Every now and then my husband was able to get his hand off of the steering wheel and place it on my forehead and say “Release”… which helped tremendously. As intense as it was- that hand on my forehead was comforting and every time I called out a cue word from the script, I could feel myself relax ever so slightly- enough that I knew I was in control.
Also telling me I was in control was an amazing thing- I had been the one to scope out the “least number of traffic lights” route to the Birth Center in case of morning traffic- and every time we approached one of our turns on that alternate route, I opened my eyes and pointed out the turn to my husband! I have no idea how I was able to do that, but the act of opening my eyes at exactly the perfect time each and every turn, and also realizing that Adam was driving calmly, not speeding, waiting patiently at stoplights, and staying in control for me was exactly what I needed to know.
7:50 AM We pull into the driveway of the Birth Center – I open my eyes and notice we’re in the wrong driveway… so Adam pulls out and pulls into the correct driveway- and stops by stairs to the front door- he asks me if he should leave me to go get help, and I say “YES!”- next thing I know he’s back at the car and knowing there is no way I could walk all the way to the side door I tell him to pull the car up further. I see Justine shutting my door so he can do so- and while he pulls up the length of the building, my water breaks in a full force gush in the front seat of the car…
Door opens, I say I don’t know how I will get out, say “my water just broke”… I lift my hands in disbelief because I can’t feel a thing in them, and I hear myself saying “they’re numb, they’re numb”… I’m sopping wet with sweat and want someone to take my sweater off but I can’t form the words. I say I can’t get out … Sarah says “You’re going to have to”… I summon everything from deep within me and tell my husband to help… I pull up out of the car into the foyer at the bottom of the stairs… I don’t know how I can go further… I think to myself, “now or never…” and holding onto my husband’s shoulder all in one fell swoop I run up the stairs as fast as I possibly can… gratefully see the bed ready in the blue room, and I feel like I’m diving through the air onto the bed… and I know I’m safe.
The moment I was on the bed, I felt my daughter’s head… I thought to myself…”am I ready to push?” I didn’t know, but I felt her there… I knew it was different…
I was lying face-down with my legs hanging off the bed, a result of my “dive” through the air. At some point (probably not long after, I suppose) Sarah finally says to me “it looks like you’re bearing down”… and then I knew for sure that all was okay, and I started to push.. all I could think about was the fact that “Yay! It’s almost over!” “Push her out and get it over with!” “Whoops, Adam didn’t know I was ready to push and he gave me the Easy First Stage script”… “oh well, doesn’t matter because I can’t hear the iPod over my pushing screams…”… (scream is not the right word… I don’t know what they were, I just know they were loud… later Adam told me that yes they were loud but sounded in control…)… I could feel pressure on my perineum from the midwife, and that was extraordinarily comforting- helped me feel safe… I hear myself asking for a birthing stool, but they don’t understand me (and I probably couldn’t have moved to a stool anyway). My husband tells me if I want to sing the Up With People song like I did in my first birthing I can – I laugh to myself but a few minutes later hear myself squeezing out the words “Up. With. People.” He didn’t understand me, alas, as he would have gotten a kick out of it. At some point Sarah says I need to move to give more room for the baby, and I move ever so slightly, all I can manage and I say “Was that enough?” (it wasn’t – I’m not sure they could even tell I had tried to move)… Somehow pull myself to my elbows and before I know it…
8:08 AM… She’s here!
We were home by 3:30 pm, had an hour to rest, and then picked up our son from daycare to meet his baby sister at home. Other than the neighbor taking him in the morning instead of daddy, his day had been exactly like any other!
I have been struggling with how to write this. It was such a journey for me over a long period of time and several things happened during my preparations that really touched me. I’ve wondered how to write a narrative, but perhaps I should just note the events disconnectedly and get it written down- have faith that the story will come together even though I don’t yet know how, the way I had to have faith that our daughter’s birthing would be perfect, even though I didn’t know how. I guess I need to start with telling my son’s birth story, since I never did write it before, and accepting that experience was so critical in my fear-release for my daughter’s birth.
We took a private hypnobirthing class with Katharine Graves for my first pregnancy- I listened to relaxation scripts most days at bedtime (falling asleep during them most of the time) and listened to birthing affirmations most days of the week as I did yoga. I felt especially connected to the scripts as they used recordings of me playing the piano in the background. My husband read me scripts a couple of times a week. I printed affirmations with beautiful pictures and posted them all over the house. I worked on releasing all preconceived notions and fears about childbirth- I dutifully avoided all birth stories and birthing images so I could have a blank slate for myself- I felt empowered and ready – I envisioned a fast birth – Everything I visualized and prepared for came to pass- I did indeed have a swift labor – three hours from first contraction to babe-in-arms. I went into it with absolutely no fears whatsoever. Interestingly, two things I focused on during pregnancy- not wanting my mom present during my laboring at home and not wanting an IV in the hospital- also came to fruition in their own way (my mom was asleep in the guest room and never knew I was in labor, and we had such a whirlwind check-in at the hospital that there wasn’t time for an IV).
However, looking back, I did not put anything in my toolbox for when I started feeling pain. My son’s birthing was three fast and furious hours of feeling completely out of control- screaming, cursing, screaming for pain meds, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it…” When the contractions hit all at once – no breaks in between – I forgot to breathe, I forgot to attempt any hypnobirthing techniques. My husband said he felt completely unprepared in knowing how to help me- he never realized how important his role would be, and he hadn’t made the connection between his reading scripts to me during pregnancy to how to use those scripts during labor. Neither one of us knew how to quickly regroup and prepare for the next contraction coming any second. My husband ended up speeding all the way to the hospital, running red lights, and cutting a 25 minute drive to 15 minutes. When we arrived at the hospital I clung to the rooftop carrier of the car and they dragged me in kicking and screaming onto a wheelchair and then raced me on a gurney into a L&D room. When it was time to push my son came out so fast the doc didn’t have time to put on his second glove.
I cried for at least six weeks after that experience. I couldn’t frame into words what exactly I was crying for- but I think it was mostly because I felt out of control during the experience and I had gone into it feeling as if I could be completely in control. Two years afterwards when we went to the maternity wing for an ultrasound of my daughter I cried again when I was in the driveway where they had pried me off of the car. When that happened even after two years it really hit me how much fear-release I would need to accomplish.
We signed up for a second hypnobirthing class, this time in a group setting, with Peggy at The Birth Center. We shared our first experience with her. She gave us extra fear-release exercises to try- including writing down our first birth experience, sharing with each other, and then burning the paper ceremoniously. During the classes I could tell I had so many walls up- often while listening to her read scripts I felt tense all over and no matter how hard I tried, I could not relax into the pillows. At one point we were doing a partner exercise where Adam was to be doing light massage on my back and I was to relax resting on the back of a chair. I couldn’t relax, I was completely tense- and started to cry- Peggy moved us into another room for privacy and tried to get me to look into her eyes, but I couldn’t- I just cried- and left my muscles in knots.
Besides the opportunity to gauge where my psychological walls were and learning tools to start pulling those walls down, two very important things happened during those classes. The first was when Peggy was showing videos of hypnobirthing moms. One in particular was of a gal named Cathy (I’ve always been Catherine, not Cathy, but the similarity to my name struck me). Peggy said this was Cathy’s second birthing, that her first was a less than desirable hospital birth and she wanted to create a new experience for herself- and her second, the one we were watching the end of, was a two hour labor. It was calm, gentle, and beautiful. And two hours. And her son’s name was Adam, like my husband. The same names, the second birthing, the first being a hospital birth less than desirable, the two hours (my first was three so I suspected the second would be faster)- it all touched me deeply. And I cried. From then on I had the “two hour labor” in the back of my head.
The second thing that touched me deeply was that while Peggy read a script during our last class, I had a vision of a beautiful bird with a rust-colored head coming to my side and guiding me. The imagery was extraordinarily vivid – nothing from what Peggy was reading, and not a bird I’d ever seen in “real” life. I left the class determined to find out more about the bird, because I just knew that it would help me on this journey to a beautiful birthing. I spent a few hours on the internet trying to find a picture of a bird that looked like the one in my vision – for the longest time I thought the search was in vain because no photographs of birds looked quite right. And then, I found it- a picture of a painting by the artist Doreyl of the red-headed bird from my vision- and the bird in the painting was carrying a laughing joyful blonde-headed girl through a gorgeous multi-colored sky and the painting was entitled “Learning to Fly”. I’m choking up just thinking about it- how perfect the painting was of the bird, and how much for this second birthing I wanted to be innocent and joyful like the girl in the painting.
When our class ended, we felt a lot better about hypnobirthing, and could tell that fears of my first birthing repeating itself were starting to dissipate, if ever so slightly. However I think Adam and I both were still not entirely sure what to be doing every day in preparation. I had decided I didn’t want to listen to the recordings with my piano music again because the memories of my first birthing were so intimately tied in with those specific scripts, and I was trying to release myself from those memories. I was listening to the hypnobirthing relaxation recording from the book every day, but wasn’t sure how that would translate into relaxing during a fast labor. We knew Adam should also be reading me scripts- but I couldn’t grasp how him reading scripts a few times a week would condition me to relax to his voice when I was in the midst of labor. I guess in retrospect, knowing what I know now, I would have had to hear him read the same script to me every single day in order for the conditioning to happen. However, we didn’t have the luxury of doing scripts together every day- most days I was utterly exhausted by the evening and was falling asleep not long after dinner when he was available- it seems we were always saying “we’ll do it tomorrow” and with the best intentions of doing scripts together most days of the week, it was materializing to only a few times a week. I was glad we had taken the second class, but I still felt unprepared.
I was running out of time. I was 30 weeks pregnant at this point. I remembered that a friend of mine had used the Hypnobabies course so I decided to read about that to see if it was different than the classes I had already taken. I contacted her and she overnighted the materials to me so I could see what they were all about. In the meantime I went to the Hypnobabies website and after reading a description of it, I immediately ordered their home study course before my friend’s packet arrived. I had my friend’s workbook the next day so I could get started while the “official” packet was making its way across the country on a shipping truck. I knew at once that this was the missing piece I had been seeking. The seven week course had multiple scripts to listen to so that I wouldn’t get bored. It had a very structured plan for what to listen to when, with a very structured progression of learning. Most importantly for me, it had techniques I could practice and learn on my own without my husband.
***I last wrote on this story in May, and now it’s October– where did the time go?? Oh right, I have a gorgeous beautiful baby who takes up all my time! But, I do want to finish writing this story, so here goes…***
So now I was 30 weeks pregnant with new tools in hand. I leaped into the Hypnobabies studies and followed all of their instructions to a tee. I even made a spreadsheet for myself that listed every day until 42 weeks gestation that specified what script I was to listen to that day, what position to listen in (e.g. lying on back, lying on side, on birthing ball, in car passenger seat) what techniques and meditations I was to practice each day, and summarized the learning goals and reading materials for each week. I also had a prenatal yoga and pranayama (yogic breathing) practice, so I included on the spreadsheet which poses and breathing exercises I would do each day.
I would say that it sounds like a lot of time to dedicate- and it was, but it was very doable. I listened to one 20-30 minute script each day in early afternoon when I was exhausted and needed a lie down break anyway. Sometimes I napped during the scripts but most of the time just rested. I did yoga poses in the morning when I would be exercising anyway. I practiced meditation/finger drop techniques while nursing my son (and boy were they ever helpful, as I mentioned before I was having super strong Braxton-Hicks contractions every time I nursed near the end of term). I did some brief breathing exercises before going to bed. For the last month of my pregnancy my husband read me scripts in the evening before bedtime a couple of times a week.
Okay, so yet again I’ve gotten so wrapped up in the writing of this that I haven’t been able to finish it and yet more time has passed. I guess there are just a couple of neat things that happened that I wanted to remember-
I went to Dr. Prociuk for homeopathy at some point during the end of my pregnancy because I had a lingering sinus infection. Somehow I knew that getting healthy was something I would hold out for in order for my body to decide it was time to go into labor. In the end, yes he helped me with my sinus infection, but more importantly, when I went to his office and I talked about my hypnosis scripts I had been listening to, he went into at least a 20 minute pep talk about birthing- about turning everything over to my higher power and just visualizing a smooth, easy, comfortable birthing that everyone around me would be amazed at. Every time I thought he was pausing, he continued about having that faith and trust and relaxation about it all. I found myself getting a little teary-eyed because it became clear to me that I still had reservations- that I ‘talked the talk’ about having faith in the process, but deep down I was still worried about the experience. He also said to me that I needed to let go of any expectation or visualization of details of how everything would transpire- that I needed to have faith that everything would turn out okay, but that I would have no control over how that would turn out, and I couldn’t visualize the room I would be in or the car ride, or who would take care of my son when it happened, but that the details would work themselves out, and as soon as I held on to any specific details I was setting myself up for disappointment because the details were sure to be different than what I was expecting.
I was deeply moved. After that, my visualizations started turning into prayers about taking care of all the details, and especially prayers that all would turn out okay in terms of childcare arrangements for my son when the time came.
The teary eyes also made me realize I had more work to do with fear release, so I started listening to Katharine Graves’ fear release recordings (with my music) on a regular basis. I loved hers the most- because she gave permission to listen to them as much as I needed, and to add as many fears as I wanted to each listening session- some of the other teachings said to only listen to fear releases once a week, or worse, only once ever and then forget about it. Another recording said to only pick one fear for each script and then pick another one the next listening (a week later, if you followed those instructions). I knew deep in my heart that this fear release was my most important work for this birthing, and releasing one fear once a week was certainly not going to touch the work I needed to do.
At some point around 37 weeks gestation or so I had an evening where contractions starting coming while lying down, 10 minutes apart for a few hours. I started to think that this could be labor, and even called my mother-in-law over in the middle of the night to come be with my son. That was a big step for me, because I really wanted noone present in labor besides my husband and the midwife. That was a big stumbling block for me- but , I called her, and as I prepared for her arrival, I was even okay with the fact that she was coming. It was the middle of the night and everything was still 10 minutes apart, so I lay down with a hypnosis recording and tried to go to sleep. As I lay there, I knew very distinctly and clearly that I was afraid of what was to come in the next few hours. I started to cry because I didn’t want to be afraid. And then I fell asleep.
When I woke up everything had stopped, and I cooked a big breakfast for my family. At my appointment later in the week, Dorinda told us that there were multiple births at The Birth Center the night I had called my mom-in-law over. If I had gone in, I would have been giving birth in a classroom. Well, hearing that immediately made me believe that God was looking out for us, and that gave me continued faith that everything would be okay.
I started praying every day, continuing to listen to Katharine’s fear release recordings, and then I also added another layer- when I was pregnant the first time, I gave a big classical piano concert and was extremely nervous about performing such a long program from memory. Katharine had taught us a hot air balloon visualization that I used extensively in preparation for the concert- pushing all concerns and worries, known and unknown over the edge of the balloon and drifting peacefully through the air higher and higher, unfettered. Now every time I started to have negative memories of my first birthing, I took those memories, rolled them in a ball, and threw them over the edge of the balloon’s basket in my mind. I was on that hot air balloon almost all the time the last few weeks of this pregnancy! This time, flying right beside me the entire time was the bird from my original vision in December, the bird from Doreyl’s painting- guiding me and keeping me company while floating through the beautiful air.
At some point I found a lovely necklace with an image of a bird like the one guiding me in all my visions, put on that necklace, and never took it off (you can see it around my neck in the picture with my newborn baby daughter).
Through the prayers, fear release exercises, and constant hot air balloon rides in my mind I slowly but surely started feeling a lightness and confidence as birthing day approached.
The only thing left was to name our daughter. We had several names but even a week before she was born were not confident about any of them. At one point in the last week though, during one of the fear release sessions of Katharine- she has all the loving people in your life send you on your way- my grandma and all of her sisters made an appearance and hugged me and sent me on my way- and I awoke from that session knowing definitively that we would give our daughter a name from that family. I picked a lovely flower name that had their family name at the root- and thus had a neat nature/gardening tie-in as well (I had always dreamed of giving a child a nature name).
That was the last piece. Very shortly thereafter I had the dream about our daughter falling out of my dress… and the rest was summarized at the beginning of this long missive. Perfectly easy, perfectly beautiful, and an amazing journey.