GUEST POST by Jessica Bary
I am not from Northern California. In fact, I’m not even from the U.S. I fell in love with a wonderful man from Occidental, Sonoma County, about 11 years ago. And as we were learning from each other I came across one small, intriguing fact; he was born at home, as were his 10 other cousins. That revelation BLEW. MY. MIND!!!! All I could say was: "Do you know there are hospitals for that kind of stuff?!"
And there I was, an ignorant 20 year-old girl who had never even asked the story of her own birth, while falling in love with a wonderful human who knew almost every detail of how he came into the world. When you think about it, it seems pretty crucial to know the history of our journey on this planet, which starts with our arrival earth-side, right?
So for the next eight years, I informed myself about home births, natural births, hospital procedures, and so on. I watched documentaries like. "The Business of Being Born", read blogs, talked to my husband's family.. Nothing drastic, but the more I learned, I was slowly changing my perspective on birthing a baby. I was finally seeing natural birth as my own power as a strong woman, and it moved away from those crazy movie scenes; A woman in a wheelchair screaming her way up the elevator and then cursing at whoever is in the room while pushing with a purple breathless face.... You know those scenes. Horrific. Why would ANY woman want to put themselves through that?! If those movie scenes are all you know of childbirth, it’s no wonder our natural reaction is, No, thanks, shoot me up with all the medicine you have, so I don't feel a thing. Please.
You might still be at that point yourself, and will never change your mind, and that's totally okay. Take the drugs if you want to. I just want to tell you what I experienced as a woman whose perspective shifted from one side of the spectrum to the other: that it’s also wonderful to feel it all.
Is natural childbirth painful? Yes, of course! Have you seen the size of a baby's head in comparison of the size of the entry to your wonderful vagina!? 10 centimeters indeed. But, it's not like it's all happening at once. Labor is the process of your body preparing itself to push your baby out. So with every contraction, surge, or wave, you are getting closer to bringing the newest member of your family into the world. Without painkillers, you are able to feel your baby working with your body to come meet you. That's why labor is magical and fundamental.
And this is where my hypnobirthing tool worked so well for me.
Hypnobirthing, a coin termed by Marie Mongan, is a childbirth education course that emphasizes special breathing, visualization, meditation and other hypnosis-like techniques to promote relaxation and combat fear and pain during natural childbirth. After meeting with my midwife a few times, I asked her what she thought about hypnobirthing classes. She responded that hypnobirthing is a wonderful tool, along with many other things you will use during labor, but she didn't want me to get stuck on the idea of a painless birth - because she didn’t want me to be surprised or disappointed if I ended up feeling pain. Well, thank you for the genius advice. Pain was there, but the language I learned through hypnobirthing helped me see that pain as a wonderful progress to meet my baby, instead of seeing it as something I had to endure or survive.
Here are some of the phrases that stuck with me throughout my births:
- Slip into tranquil state.
- The body fills with its own natural relaxant during labor, a wonderful effect that permits easy birth.
- Go DEEPER within, to your baby and your birthing body.
- Leave ALL distractions behind.
- CONNECT with your baby and GIVE birth.
- To view birth as a POSITIVE, NATURAL and JOYOUS experience.
- It's a UNIQUE experience to welcome your baby Earth-side. It only happens ONCE for each child.
- Opening yourself to the JOY of experiencing BIRTH. Being PRESENT. Calmly and serenely.
- The art of LETTING GO.
- Birthing with JOY & LOVE.
- SMILE, LAUGH, SURRENDER.
- Your body knows what to do.
- You are not helpless, you are the main ACTOR, take charge, be CONFIDENT.
- Be HAPPY, celebrate life coming to you!
- You are not a victim. You are the DOER, the ACTIVE participant.
- I AM knowledgeable, powerful, fulfilled, directing, decisive, self-sufficient, confident, satisfied.
- I AM VERY MUCH IN CHARGE.
I had two beautiful all natural home births. The first one was 12 hours from start to finish. The second one was just under five hours. My small birthing team was formed by my husband, my doula, my midwife and the assistant midwife. For the first birth, I had my sister as well. It was extremely quiet around me. My eyes remained closed for the majority of the time. But yes, it was loud inside my head. Focusing inward, having a few go-to calming visuals (like a rose opening in my case), breathing, and cursing a little indeed. ;-) For my second child, the song, "you are my sunshine" was stuck in my head and I was so focused on that song, getting emotional to meet this amazing second son of mine. It was the first song my oldest son learned to sing. All intertwined and meaningful only to me, I was birthing a baby while singing in my head.
During those two births and even during the aftermaths of those births, I never even thought of asking for drugs or medicines. I don't know how that was possible. IT DID NOT cross my mind, not even once. I was blown away by my own mind. I think for me, it was partly because I was away from a hospital or a doctor and partly because my mindset, which I learned from the hypnobirthing classes and book, was that I WAS in control and my birthing body knew what to do.
After birth, STAY IN BED. Let people serve you. Ask for help. Try to sleep. The Wonder Woman part of yourself did her job, and after labor and childbirth, it’s time for her to rest.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, you have options. There are hypnobirthing classes, a book, and even hypnobirthing relaxations on iTunes (Relaxation, Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, by Marie Mongan, and Birth Rehearsal Imagery, Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method, by Marie Mongan). I listened to these before bed, and it worked wonders. It even had my husband falling asleep more easily. :)
I was vaginally born in a hospital in the 80's. With a lot of interventions. I wasn’t breastfed because my mother's milk didn't come right away (which is normal), but then the nurses gave her medicine that stopped any milk from coming altogether, thus I was bottle-fed. I am thankful to have been more in charge and informed than my mother. For me, homebirth was a gift. What's better than my own bed, shower, people, and comforting smells? That said, if you know you would feel more comfortable in a hospital or birthing center (or if you have a high risk pregnancy), you should choose the surroundings you would feel most comfortable in.
Remember, I once thought natural birth and especially homebirth were archaic processes. Nowadays we have hospitals, doctors and drugs for that! But what that actually means is that we have more choices. Whether hypnobirthing and natural birth are for you or not, the most important pre-childbirth thing I can tell you is, learn to LET GO. A lot of events in life don't go the way we expect, and birthing will likely be at the top of this list. You may plan for a homebirth and end up having a C-section. You might end up somewhere between those two situations. But whatever happens, you will do your best. That's it. Your baby will come into the world the way they are meant to, and once they’ve arrived, and everyone is healthy, that's all that matters. You are MARVELOUS, ALWAYS.