the hypno recap

I’m not exactly sure how to describe my first hypnobirthing class, or how odd the whole thing struck me once we got there. I was so sure that I was going to be really into this – because, after all (and I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about this on the blog before), hypnosis is what cured me of panic attacks when I was in my mid-20’s. So I know from first-hand experience that it can work, at least as a method of relaxation. But hypnobirthing is very different than anything I had ever experienced before.

For one, Dave had a project that was due this morning, so he was a bit cranky about losing two hours’ worth of work time, which I understand. I felt bad about dragging him away from work when he really needed to be concentrating on finishing his presentation. And when he’s jittery and anxious, it tends to rub off on me, so I don’t think either one of us was exactly in the mode to take deep, cleansing breaths and try to relax. (In fact, 20 minutes into it, I remembered what my mom used to do for us in church when we were little, and I gave him a pen and a piece of paper so he could doodle. Worked like a charm.)

Other than my mindset, though, there were just some things about the class that I didn’t understand:
* Women who talk about wanting to have natural childbirth because they want “a positive birth experience.” This makes no sense to me. I know that life is supposed to be all about the journey and not the destination, but in the case of childbirth, isn’t it the end result that counts? When it’s all said and done, if you have a healthy baby in your arms, wasn’t that a “positive” experience? Does it really matter how the baby got here, whether it was with or without pain medication, or maybe even (gasp, god forbid) via C-section?

* The renaming of all terminology that has to do with childbirth. For example, instead of labor, you say “birthing”; contractions are now called “surges,” etc. I guess the idea is to trick your brain into thinking about childbirth with new names that don’t necessarily have painful associations, but I don’t know if I buy it. However, one exception that I fully embrace: they have renamed the mucous plug, which I have always thought was the most disgusting term ever. So from now on, I shall call it a “uterine seal” just like the other hypnobirthers. Doesn’t that sound nicer?

* I got the distinct impression that there is an underlying mistrust of doctors, nurses, and the medical profession in general. I understand their argument: that women have been having babies since the beginning of time, so why does it have to be treated like a medical condition when it’s just something natural that women’s bodies know how to do? And I totally get that. But isn’t there also a reason why (in this country at least) you almost never hear phrases like “died in childbirth” anymore? Aren’t medical advances the reason why both maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped so much in the last hundred years or so?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not criticizing women who choose to have a home birth. I think that if you live within a reasonable commute of a hospital (in case of emergencies) and you have some sort of a backup “Plan B,” more power to you. I just don’t understand why, in order to have the “natural birth experience” that some women want, there has to be a feeling of suspicion raised toward those in the medical community. I know that doesn’t apply to everyone who wants a natural or home birth, it was just a vibe I got from a few people (including the instructor), and for some reason it really bothered me.

Oh, and if there were other women in the room who were planning to combine hypnobirthing with pain medication, no one admitted to it. Not that I did either, everyone in the room seemed very against the idea of using drugs of any kind. The whole thing felt very judgmental, and about halfway through it, I was feeling like I wanted to cry because clearly, these women were all stronger souls than I. And I’m pretty sure that developing an inferiority complex was not the point of the class.

So. I guess that about sums it up. I’m calling it one very expensive class (as opposed to five not-so-expensive classes), and we won’t be going back. I got the book and a couple of relaxation CD’s, and I’ll go through those to see what I can take from them, and what I should leave behind. I do think there’s some value to the concept of hypnobirthing, but as a whole, I don’t think it’s very “me.”

8 thoughts on “the hypno recap

  1. Despite me resorting to doodling after 20 minutes, it wasn’t because I’m against the idea of hypnotherapy – i think it can work wonders. However, I was just really frustrated with the whole presentation; the way that the therapist felt she had to rename all ‘pain-centric’ terms to non-offensive warm fuzzy equivalents ( literally to the point of taking a black marker and redacting the standard literature of any offending words).

    I just prefer to admit that pain and discomfort is real, but that the brain is strong enough to block it out to a great degree. I don’t think those women were any stronger than you Cin, I don’t see anything wrong with using whatever tools are available to help overcome pain. Drugs are no less a valid tool than natural birth and hypnotherapy – its just a personal choice i believe.

    I have asthma, and I have to take drugs so i don’t die every now and then. According to the therapist last night I should rename my asthma to bronchial surging and it will all be just fine. I’ll put that on my to-do list….

  2. Have you considered one of the local doulas? The women I know who have used them have been very pleased with the experience and found the doula to be a fabulous resource for both them and their partners. Most doulas I know of don’t have a bias against pain meds; their job is to serve as a resource and as your advocate during the L&D process.

  3. I guess it’s not a surprise that a hypnobirthing class would be a little wierd, but that’s crap. SURGES? Hello?

    I really, honestly don’t understand the motive to have a “natural childbirth experience.” I understand some women go natural because they want to minimize pushing time, or they want to minimize labor interventions because there is a slightly greater incidence of pitocin, forceps, vacuum, etc. with drugs than without, but even that’s not a big difference. But wanting to experience natural childbirth for the fun of it? It just ain’t fun.

    The only reason I can see for doing the birth at home is that you’re less likely to get a staph infection at home than at the hospital. But that’s not going to outweigh all the benefits of having a doctor, a nurse, all the medical facilities, 24-48 hours of supervision of the baby, ….

    And I’m with you- “mucous plug” is just too nasty to say in polite company.

  4. They are not stronger souls than you are — a good deal of those women will end up in the hospital, hooked to an epidural despite their claims to want a totally “natural” birthing experience. A good deal of them are unrealistic about the entire birthing process.
    I suggest a very specific birth plan (but be willing to be flexible based on the situation) that you and Dave discuss with each other, and also with your doctor. (is it a practice? will you have the possibility of a different on-call doctor delivering your little girl?) If it makes you feel more in control of the situation, stick a printed copy in your hospital bag, so you can hand it to the nurses when you may not be able to communicate clearly for yourself. Perhaps that will ease some of the fear of the unknown.

  5. Coming from someone who recently witnessed the whole thing firsthand…

    Pain will probably not add to the enjoyment of your experience.

    So, go for the drugs, but be ready for the possibility that the epidural may give out on you. If you do go pain free, even by accident, you’ll make it through. I guess I’m saying- have an idea of what you’d prefer to happen as a birth plan, but be very flexible and prepared for anything. Learn as much as you can about the whole medical process and how your doctor and hospital do things so that there won’t be any surprises.

    Dave, you especially need to be educated on everything. Chances are, even with good pain management, Cindy will be a wee bit to distracted to also be expected to do all of her own calming. Our birthing class instructor spent a lot of time in each lesson reminding us that the classes were mostly for the dads. She was right. Nature will more or less take over for mom. Knowing how to keep Cindy calm and happy and understanding the process and the hospital procedures will help you to be an important active part of the birth.

  6. Here I am with my typical comment when it comes to motherhood and parenting issues- What do I know? (Nada) and Have you read this great book?

    You might enjoy reading “(Mis)Conceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood” by Naomi Wolf. She incorporates her personal story into her findings from an exhaustive amount of research. She breaks down the ways that insurance companies and the medical industry have co-opted childbirth in favor of profit, but she also explores the ways that “alternative” birthing methods underserve, and even condescend to some women.

    You entry reminded me of this paragrah, found on page 184 in the the hard cover version. Wolf writes, “Ideological naturalists sometimes romanticize the pain either by minimizing how excruciating it can be or by idealizing women who choose to undergo it without resorting to drugs. They use euphemisms such as ‘discomfort’ and ‘intensity’ to describe the pain of birth, or ‘rushes’ or ‘surges’ to describe what can be agonizing contractions. One otherwise persuasive birth activist argues that contractions should be called ‘babyhugs.’

    “‘Other words in my class,’ she goes on, “are ‘angeltaps,’ ‘cuddlebunnies,’ ‘pillowfluffs,’ ‘sunflights,’ and ‘bellybounces.'” Such vocabulary can be just as condescending and unhelpful to women facing the rigors of birth as that used by traditional doctors. It is as if these naturalists believe they must sugar-coat the experience in order to entice women to have the kind of birth they believe to be ‘best.'”

    Wolf offers a lot of useful information from a feminist perspective. It’s a good book. But when it comes to childbirth, what do I know? 🙂

  7. “bronchial surging”? Dave, that sounds *far* worse than asthma – I would get that checked out right now – the last thing you want is a surge in the middle of the night…..

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