Both of my children’s births will remain etched in my mind as a significant life-changing, wonderful event, but their birth stories are two different tales.
I am grateful that both my girls arrived safely and I was in one piece afterward, but this story is one of the reasons I began this blog.
There is a stigma behind hypnobirthing that it’s a rather a bit of hippy-dippy nonsense and women are not able to birth without a maraud of medically trained individuals, poking, prodding, injecting, inducing and whatever else to bring a baby into the world. But that is simply not the case.
Don’t be fooled by the term ‘hypnobirthing’. I most certainly was not hypnotised whilst I gave birth, rather I was in control, calm and I allowed my body to give me the cues, as I trusted that it knew exactly what to do!
I believe in my heart that this topic should have far more coverage than it currently does. It would be beyond beneficial to pregnant women if they were encouraged to learn about hypnobirthing methods rather than automatically to be put on the conventional, medically controlled natal care.
I also strongly believe that all girls/women of childbearing age should have access to education around this topic in schools, colleges, universities, doctors surgeries, family planning clinics and beyond. Right now it seems only available to those women who seek an alternative route from conventional natal care.
I have to say a big thank you to my sister, Charlotte. If it wasn’t for her I probably wouldn’t have known a great deal about hypnobirthing . In October 2015, Charlotte calmly without medical pain relief, gave birth to her first baby at home. She was able to breathe down her baby into the world without the need for conventional pushing that women have become so accustomed too through media influences and birth stories that are passed around and exaggerated like Chinese whispers. Her pain was managed with controlled breath and relaxation techniques. She didn’t have interference from medical assistants. She listened to her bodies cues and allowed her body to do the work for her. All she had to do was breathe and stay in a relaxed state.
When I fell pregnant with my second daughter, Francesca, in early 2016, I wanted in on this method of birthing.
I’ve always been pro natural for most things in life but in particular, giving birth. I had my first baby Lola, in 2011. She was born naturally in a conventional hospital setting with a conventional midwife and conventional medical assistance. I’ve always called her birth the marathon birth. It was just so damned hard work!
I felt like it was the hardest and painful thing I had ever endured. I remember wishing I could just get to the finish line without the sheer unbelievable amount of energy that went into getting there. I pushed with every last drop of energy I could muster. I caved into the constant offer of pain relief from the midwives and had diamorphine. Gas and air made me feel as though I was on the waltzers and sickly. It was long and drawn out and when she was born I felt an overwhelming sense of relief it was all over. She was perfect in every way but I was utterly exhausted. The diamorphine made me feel as though I had the worlds worst hangover for hours that followed.
I missed out on the rush of euphoria you hear about so often as I was just utterly worn out! I required much-needed rest with my baby but with her being born at 4pm it was soon visiting hours so I felt rushed for us to get dressed and be put on the ward. All I really wanted to do was go to sleep with my baby next to me.
In October 2016 I was mentally, physically and emotionally ready for an altogether different birth. We not only lived in an entirely different country from the previous birth, I’d also practised hypnobirthing and yoga daily for six months. I read an amazing book by Marie Mongan; Hynobirthing: The Mongan Method, which I highly recommend to any pregnant women to read as it gives an in-depth know-how into hypnobirthing and how it all began! I joined an online community called The Calm Birth School where I could sign up to online tutorials and connect with other hypno-practising mums. This worked well for me with us living away and Andrew, my husband, away at work. It meant he could log on and watch the tutorials as well.
My doctor offered a sweep on my due date, I guess this is the typical procedure to get things moving along and maintain some kind of medical control, but I kindly declined as I absolutely knew she would arrive when she was ready and trusted my instincts that all would be ok. Thankfully for me on the 9th of October, four days past her estimated due date she made her beautiful entrance into the world off her own accord.
One major difference from my firstborns birth story, was that this time I stayed at home for as long as I could. I didn’t rush to the maternity unit with the first twinges of pain as I did with baby number one! Hypnobirthing had taught me to accept what was happening as completely normal, to stay as calm as possible and that my body was doing all the work. This decreased the pain considerably and made it much more manageable.
My surges (contractions) began around 7am they grew stronger throughout the day. With each one, I took a breath in for a count of 7 and a breath out for a count of 7 until the surge subsided. I was relaxed and in control. My sister had arrived in Dubai that week to look after Lola (my five-year-old) for when the impending birth happened. I remember her cooking meals for me throughout the day which I ate between surges and we even watched a rather long-winded drama on Netflix.
Andrew was working an hour away out of town on a huge project it was an important day for him to be at work. It was a lifesaver having my sister there who understood how to stay relaxed as she’d hypnobirthed her own baby a year earlier.
My surges ramped up as it approached 6pm and Andrew finally came home, with every surge I was breathing deeply I could feel a heavy dipping sensation in my pelvis, her head was starting to descend, although I wasn’t fully aware at the time- I’d gone into active labour by this point. All the while I was still ok and managing the pain I even went for a soak in the bath with clary sage oil which seemed to ramp up the surges even more so.
We ordered a pizza and I was still happily eating in between surges which were very strong now, I felt so hungry all day long it was like my body was getting that much-needed energy. My husband finally got home and looked at me with bemusement and had to ask me if I was sure if I was in labour! I think back to this and remember how much noise and shouting because of the pain I was making with my first baby and understand why he asked that!
By this time I absolutely knew it was time to head to the hospital at that point as the surges were very close together.
I put on my headphones and listened to my relaxing mp3s through the journey. With every surge, I was breathing long in and out breathes, I have to admit I wasn’t counting by this point as I’d gone into my own world but I do remember feeling in control.
Admittedly the pain was still there as it was with baby number one. I applaud the mums that get so relaxed that they really manage to minimise the pain that comes with contractions, but the 7 in 7 out breathing undoubtedly had the pain in control for me.
We reached Al Zhara hospital and luckily I got the hypnobirthing suite which was equipped with a huge big birthing tub and twinkly lights in the ceiling.
Thankfully even after a car journey I was still relaxed and coping well. I think this fooled the doctors and midwives as they essentially left us alone. The birthing tub was ready so I got in the water, after a few moments though I suddenly felt as if I needed to go to the toilette so I got out and sat down, I had a huge surge and suddenly her head was crowning. I gave her a little nudge and out her head popped. Moments later the midwife returned and with the next surge, her body was born. So yes, she was born on the loo (now there’s a story for the 18th) and not in the lovely big birthing tub after all, but she arrived healthy and beautiful and that’s all that mattered. Wonderfully the huge rush of oxytocin, the biggest natural high I’ll ever experience took over, I believe giving birth without any drug relief and minimal interference allowed this to happen.
All I needed was long deep amazing breaths to equip my body with everything it needed for a normal birth. If I could have birthed at home I would have, unfortunately, that isn’t allowed here in Dubai, but that didn’t matter by that point.
I absolutely know now that I could have applied those methods to Lola’s birth back in 2011 if I was aware that they existed then. It too could have been a drug-free birth like Francesca’s was. If I had known how to breathe to manage pain there is no question of me staying longer at home during labour or even better opted for a home birth as we were in the UK then.
The other amazing thing about hypnobirthing is that the skills learned through all that practise can be used in everyday situations. The Dads & birthing partners who spent all those hours practising breathing techniques to stay calm and relaxed with you will learn and benefit from it too. It was a profound and life changing experience for me and my family and one I will always think of with love and fondness.
I feel so many positive emotions to both Lola’s and Francesca’s births. I was lucky that everything went well both times but by not having pain relief or a barrage of nurses and doctors involved my body gave birth exactly as it was designed to do. Another big positive was by not having to forcefully push the second time I recovered in 3 weeks as opposed to 4 months as it did the first time.
Francesca is what I can only describe as a happy spirited baby. She arrived so calmly and peacefully that it seems to have given her such a content soul. I truly think the way in which a baby enters the world, those first precious moments, the skin to skin contact, the overwhelming feelings of love and connection is fundamental to the mummy baby bond and life beyond.
Birth does not need to be something to fear, all women that have healthy pregnancies are able and designed to do this, Us ladies are truly amazing! I would love to see someday soon hypnobirthing methods as the conventional way to birth for all women!
Finally, in answer to the question, is it possible to have a drug-free birth, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Providing your pregnancy has been without any issues then yes,(if there are any medical issues in your pregnancy and you wish to hypnobirth you must talk to your care provider first) you can have a birth that does not require chemical induction. Absolutely yes you can give birth without drugs for pain relief. Believe me, I am not naive and do realise that everybody’s pain threshold is different, but with dedicated practise from at around 6 months into your pregnancy, you can train your brain to handle the pain of birth in a very different way.
- Read the amazing book Marie Mongan; Hynobirthing: The Mongan Method
- Join a hypnobirthing class.
- Find your perfect care team of midwives and doctors who understand your requirements and stay on board with you throughout your pregnancy.
- Write your birth plan to how you want your babies birth to go. Even if it doesn’t pan out exactly the way you write it, your care team will read it. If for example, you state in your birth plan that you would not want to be offered pain relief unless you ask for it yourself, then they will be mindful of your wishes.
- If you are planning on hypnobirthing in a hospital like me, get your birthing partner to call the maternity unit when you are ready to go and tell them you are your way and that you are hypnobirthing. Most hospitals are now fully aware of hypnobirthing methods now and will prepare accordingly.
- Practise, practise, practise! From around 6 months or earlier if you wish, for 10-15 minutes a day, practise the breathing techniques and listen to the calming mp3s. Train your brain to believe in your bodies amazing capabilities!