Hypnobirthing. Sounds like a load of hippy nonsense doesn't it. You imagine an ominous looking man with a pencil moustache, waving a pocket watch in your direction as he mumbles something about falling into a deep sleep.
As your eyes glaze over, your body instinctively births the baby without your knowledge, and you come to an hour later with a new baby, a slightly sore vagina and a vague recollection of a man in a purple cloak. I don't know about you but that's not quite the experience I would be looking for.
It wasn't until I stumbled upon one of Giovanna Fletcher's vlogs where she mentioned it, that I really bothered to listen to what it was. As her and her husband (McFly's Tom Fletcher) are the parenting dream team - they did literally both win parent of the year awards, I decided it might be worth a try. They explained it as a way of coping with and even enjoying giving birth, without the need for scary pain relief. The idea of an epidural has always terrified me. Massive needle in the spine, surely I don't need to explain why that scares the crap out of me. Not being a fan of needles isn't a great start, but the thought of something in my spine makes me feel queasy and I don't particularly want a catheter put in my urethra thanks very much. There are other drugs available and these would involve needles in other slightly more desirable places, but honestly the whole idea of hospitals, IVs, monitors and tubes doesnt sit well with me. But the thought of giving birth in a pool, with just Tom and one midwife present, and being able to breathe through the contractions, and quite simply breathe the baby out (because apparently pushing is a thing of the past) sounds better doesn't it?
So we decided we may as well atleast buy the book. There was a course in London for close to £500, hardly something accessible to us, and we'd probably laugh too much and be asked to leave. But a book - well that was something we could try. I won't tell you the specific book title, this isn't a review (those will come in several months when I have read the Gruffalo's Child so much I start to analyse it). But it was a hypnobirthing book, one of many out there, and It started off fairly well. The author clearly has a very cynical view of modern medicine and of hospitals, good start if you really do want a hippy birth I suppose. But she encouraged me to have a more questioning attitude to things during my pregnancy and birth which has already served me well. Who knew you didn't actually need a midwife to examine the dilation of your cervix so frequently? Apparently it's done routinely for no proper medical purpose. So thanks cynical author for saving me a few invasive vaginal exams.
She explains the science behind labour which I strongly urge any parents-to-be to read up on. I feel far more prepared for labour now I know the proper process and what my body will be doing. But the key part to the book and the practice of hypnobirthing in general is relaxation. Essentially it boils down to breathing techniques and relaxation scripts. The breathing techniques are great, they work wonders during braxton hicks contractions. The scripts are a whole other story. They're hilarious. And I don't think that's what the author intended. I close my eyes, Tom puts on his best soothing voice and reads them out to me. It starts off with the whole closing your eyes malarky, deep breaths, letting go of your worries as you let go of your imaginary balloon (then if you're anything like me, subsequently trying not to worry about that balloon). But then suddenly you're meant to think about how hungry you are and how long it's been since you had a picnic?!?! But it's okay because you have stumbled upon a house within which is your favourite meal cooking just for you. If you aren't already put off by the ghost house or worried you are about to be kidnapped by a very thorough stalker, it's the wording at the end which will break you. Tom is repeating the phrase "so serene" at me over and over again for about a minute. I open my eyes and we sit in fits of giggles for a while. It's hardly serene anymore. I don't feel particularly relaxed, and now I'm hungry.
Perhaps not the best first experience but we persevered. We tried all the scripts. Some worked for us, some didn't. We modified some, even wrote our own (desperately using our own words to try and paint the picture of being in the hot tub on our honeymoon and not sat on the bathroom floor in Bradford while it pisses it down outside). We also had a good laugh and realised how relaxing having a laughing fit with your partner can be. Tom has been instructed to deliver constant jokes when I'm in labour. Up until the point I have had enough and want to strangle him or drown him in the birthing pool. So serene.
Bottom line, hypnobirthing involves you and your birth partner finding ways to relax you during the latent and active stages of labour. And you practice these techniques over and over at home, hoping you remember what to do on the big day. Without trying to be too sciencey, basically If you can relax enough, your uterus won't be quite so angry when it contracts, and you might have a chance of getting that baby out without a massive needle being stuck in your back. Watch this space - we'll see whether Tom muttering the word serene at me over and over while he simultaneously tries to do his hilarious impression of my grandma will work. Oh and we got a colour changing pineapple light to pack in the hospital bag too, that's relaxing right? You never know, the pineapple may be key, I'll keep you posted.