The Happy Baby Project

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An amazing birth story

Since I posted my blog post on pregnancy yoga, active birthing and hypno-birthing, I’ve been inundated with emails and texts from mums saying I should definitely give it a go, and telling me some incredible birth stories of their own. I heard from friends who said they’d actually enjoyed the birth, had felt like a strong powerful woman throughout – they’d felt primeval almost, howling like a wolf. Of course other friends seemed to have an awful time of it, and I have no idea which camp I will fall under, but the common theme seemed to be that lots of people said the hypno-birth CDs by Maggie Howell were brilliant, and most said that if you really want to try a pain-relief free active birth, you need to truly believe in it, start early, get your partner involved, and make it your all-encompassing aim. A half-arsed attempt doesn’t seem to work.

One of the most incredible birth stories was from a friend who I’ll call Anna, who had an easy, quick birth at home with her second child. It was such an amazing story that I had to share it:

I have just had baby no 2 and did the whole hypo-birthing thing and it absolutely and completely works!  I didn’t go to classes (although I think they would be great) – I just listened to the CD you have (lots in the last few weeks) and read the book that goes with it – Effective Birth Preparation – as well as the Marie Mongan Hypnobirthing book.  I practiced the breathing a bit before and it really does work.  I had baby no 2 after having an easy 4 hour labour in my bedroom at home – listening to the birthing music CD. I was so relaxed I didn’t want to go to hospital until I had to (although by the time I realised I needed to it was too late and I ended up having him on our bedroom floor pretty much delivered by my husband!).

It was the most incredible experience especially compared to last time – I would do it again tomorrow (although some gas and air would have been good – it helps with the relaxation). So I just wanted to say go with it, get into it – it is amazing!  And although only 3 weeks old, my baby boy seems to be happy, chilled and content so far! I am a complete natural birthing convert! Your partner does need to be in on it as well – this time I made mine read certain bits of the book and he believed it more and was really supportive.  I even had him practicing birth breathing (you breath baby out not push) when he was having a poo! He just kept prompting me this time to relax which did really help.

My first baby was a little different…

I know it works as I got a bit half-heartedly into it last time with my first labour – I was told about it initially when I had reflexology close to my due date and then listened to the CD a couple of times a day in the last couple of weeks. I went into labour on the Monday lunchtime after having a sweep, 10 days overdue.  I forgot all about Hypnobirthing and laboured all day and night – and all the next day!  My contractions would get to a couple minutes apart then I would not have one for 15 minutes… By Tuesday evening I was exhausted – I had spoken to the hospital who told me I was not ready to come in and who said it was too early for any pain relief. I had a mini breakdown – was so tired and couldn’t face another night of no sleep and not progressing.

I then decided to get a grip and try the hypno-birthing.  So I turned down the lights, lay on the sofa with my tens machine, put the music on, and imagined I was an animal in a field! A couple of hours later I told my husband I was ready to go to hospital, he didn’t really believe me as I was so much calmer than I had been, nor did the midwife that I had previously spoken to on the phone (who basically said I told you not to come in yet and tried to send me home again!)- but when she examined me I was 8 cm (much to her surprise!). I believe this was only due to the fact I completely relaxed and chilled out about it for a couple of hours – and let my body do what it is designed for!  I had the pool then which was great and the midwives kept saying they couldn’t believe I was fully dilated and chatting and calm and not really in that much discomfort.

BUT they told me the baby seemed to be in distress so they took me out of the pool down to delivery suite, wired me up to loads of machines to monitor him, tried to make me push when I wasn’t ready and didn’t feel like I wanted to – and as soon as I was taken out of the calm environment the pain was unbelievable, I couldn’t relax, had no pain relief and was too late to have any. It all went downhill from there and ended up needing forceps!

So I went into my second birth ready to completely embrace the relaxation and hypno-birthing and believe in it and it worked! My husband took it more seriously this time as well – he saw how well I did in the middle last time, compared to the beginning and the end – so tell your partner if this works it will be much less stressful for him!

I am not normally a no drugs / no pain relief kind of girl but think for child birth its the way forward (although I loved the gas and air and would have it every day if I could)!

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Pregnancy yoga, active birthing & hypno-birthing

I’m 16 weeks and 6 days. And I’m trying something called Active Birth Yoga. Well in fact I tried it. Once. And I was a little bit small so I felt a little bit ridiculous as all the other women were so much bigger (one was 41 weeks) especially as the exercises could have been done by an arthritic 90 year old, while I can still touch my toes.

But I’m planning on giving this active birth thing a shot.

Ina May Gaskin appears to be the poster girl for the movement and the premise is pretty understandable. It says us women were born to give birth – its simple. Our bodies were meant to do it, they know what to do, we just need to chill out and get on with it. The modern era of medicine is of course welcome in what it can do in high risk cases, but in fact it has complicated matters. It makes us lie down when actually gravity tells us the best way to give birth is sitting, squatting or on all fours. Its what primitive woman used to do – there’s cave paintings and everything.

But with modern medicine and our risk-averse society, they say, we give up our natural maternal instinct to have birth imposed upon us. It’s all tubes and examinations and drugs and pushing and pulling and lying down and not really feeling anything.  Its One Born Every Minute. It’s tearing and groggy babies, they say, and the fear instilled in us by this myth that it’s really bloody hard just makes us tense and with this tension comes pain. Its a midwife-led birth not a mum-led birth. But birth, done naturally, can actually be pain free.

Pain free?

Yes please. But how realistic is this really? And will aiming for a pain free birth simply cause more panic and guilt later on when the contractions kick in and you’re screaming for the morphine? Most of my friends gave birth on epidurals, all blissfully unaware of any pains down below, and all seemed very happy about it too, with lovely happy babies to show for it. As one friend said, she just didn’t handle pain very well and she ended up having a lovely time on a walking epidural. Is it necessarily better to vow not to touch an epidural while risking an onslaught of unimaginable pain?

Well I’ve decided, against my more cynical judgment, to give it a go. I went the Active Birth Yoga class run by Natalie Meddings who is also a doula, and although I spent much of the hour and a half trying to kick my cycnical side into submission, I found the whole thing pretty interesting.

We started with tea and biscuits, so far so nice, and a new mum came in to share her “birth story”. Now you can imagine anyone willing to discuss their birth story in public is unlikely to go through the list of painful and embarrassing ailments, but this was a birth that I’d never heard the like of before. She stayed at home until the last possible minute and then had contractions for a couple of hours (which were apparently not painful) until a blissful waterbirth. She remembered her hypno-birthing technique of imagining blowing a balloon away and listening to her partner repeating the mantra that every surge (for a “surge” is what hypno birthers cleverly call a “contraction”) would bring her closer to her baby. It sounded like a beautiful and peaceful birth, and she certainly looked amazing for a mum of a 4 week old baby.

Yet this didn’t really coincide with the stories I’d heard about birth. The hours and hours of waiting and howling, the vomiting and shitting, the excruciating pain and blood and complications and “I can’t do it!”.

While I tried, and failed, to catch someone’s eye in order to roll mine cynically, I realised that actually if I found the confidence to try, then this was the birth I’d always imagined having. Of finding myself as an animal, instinctive, moaning in a new animal moan that echoed down the ages to women centuries old who had been through the same thing.

And I really like the idea of the privacy you get from staying at home as long as you can and only going to hospital when things get back. As Natalie says, you can’t really do much more of a private thing than giving birth – its about a million times more private than having sex or having a poo and those you don’t do with a roomful of interveners! – so I want to try to do most of it myself, at home, relaxing with The Chef, and then being in hospital at the last minute with a midwife who lets us do it in our own time and in our own way. But of course if I need them I’ll be so glad they’re there.

I have a lot of work to do then. As its my first I especially need the fact that this is natural, that it could be easy, and even dare I say it a wonderful experience, seep into me. Here’s what I’m planning to do:

  1. I’m going to continue the Active Birth Yoga course but only from when I’m about 5 months and have a bit more of a bump
  2. I’ve bought a hypno birthing CDEffective Birth Preparation by Maggie Howell and also her relaxing music CD for the birth
  3. I’m going to practice relaxed breathing, pelvic floor exercises, and relaxation using floral oils like lavender
  4. I have until December to try to persuade The Chef to join me in a hypno-birthing day long group class. Oh my. At £165 for a one day group session its not cheap though!

I’ll let you know how it goes.