Every so often, one of my clients will post in their amazingly supportive forum that they are struggling with the way their family and friends are reacting to their birth prep.
“Yeah yeah yeah, just you wait…”. “I’ve actually HAD a baby so…” “Why would you not just…(insert misunderstood cultural norm)?”
They always get great advice from the women in the group, and here is my contribution to throw in. It’s a letter, written on their behalf to those around them.
Thanks so much for your concern about my approach to pregnancy and birth. I know that it comes from a place of genuine concern, and that you want me to avoid disappointment.
(OR- maybe you’re just being a bit of a knob- if that’s you, click here for another version of this letter… not really).
Seriously, I know most people who have expressed their views are doing so with good intentions. But the intention means NOTHING when the words are unhelpful. I don’t want to upset you, or fall out with anyone, but I need to put my own emotional wellbeing first.
I’d love to tell you a little bit about the kind of hypnobirthing we are on board with- it’s probably not what you think. I understand why you would rear up at the name- obviously it sounds ridiculous, especially to anyone who has had a difficult birth. But here’s the thing I really need you to know- I HAVE NO PLANS TO BIRTH SILENTLY, IN MY SLEEP, WITHOUT PAIN, WHILST A UNICORN SINGS IN THE BACKGROUND. There’s nothing whimsical about my approach. It’s basic birth physiology, and it starts now. (In fact, it started a LONG time ago, but there’s nothing I can do about that murky water under the birth bridge).
Let me try and explain it a bit.
Have you ever noticed how your body behaves when you are afraid and/ or stressed? The way your shoulders need massaging after a difficult day, the tension headaches you’ve created, the times you’ve clenched your jaw in the night, maybe you grind your teeth too. It gets uncomfortable- ultimately, in the end, painful. What a waste of resources in the body too- all of that glucose and oxygen doing needless work to maintain that state of tension. I want to avoid this.
Hypnobirthing is helping me to work on my subconscious beliefs about birth- the ones that are drilled into all of us via the media and each other- the concept that undignified, torturous drama is inevitable. Because it’s this part of my mind that will automatically create the tension and resulting pain I mentioned above, and I refuse to have my experience derailed in this way.
I know you think you’re protecting me in some way by telling me to expect lots of pain, but you’re really not. Pain is highly modifiable by psychological factors, including expectations. It’s totally complex and subjective. I don’t believe an expectation of agony serves me in ANY way. I’m not stupid, or stubbornly pursuing a particular experience at all costs- if I find it agonising I can get an epidural. But any intervention comes with risks, so I’m arming myself and my birth partner with a mighty toolbox of strategies that form my Plan A. I have a Plan B, where things might come up and I might go for ALL THE DRUGS. If I choose to, I know it’s fine, because it will be an informed choice- I’ll know I’ve done everything possible to get the sort of birth I’d like right now. I’ll feel satisfied that I’m still autonomous over my body. I WON’T FEEL I’VE FAILED, OR THAT HYPNOBIRTHING DIDN’T WORK. Because I understand what hypnobirthing is- I’m an intelligent woman (you know that, right…?) and I’ve chosen a truly woman centred approach, where the challenges we face in birth are openly considered.
I’ve also got a plan for a C-section. Yep- I’m gonna hypnobirth through that too. Before you pass out, that doesn’t mean surgery without anaesthesia. It means a birth that mimics as many of the benefits of vaginal birth as possible, and one where I use the same tools to remain calm and confident.
All the tools will serve me in motherhood too- in the early days, and as the months go on. I am opening my eyes to my own capabilities, and allowing myself for the first time, to recognise that I am actually performing some kind of magic- growing a human being. Why should I be afraid? I’m becoming a mother, for the first, second or tenth time, I am acting from that place of responsibility to get the best possible start for me and my baby.
So, if you really care about me, and my baby, get on board. Every pointless, negative comment, however harmless it may seem to you, plays on my mind and lowers that precious oxytocin that keeps me feeling safe. This is a deeply personal adventure, and I’ve found a way to approach it that is working for me. Whatever goes down, I’m ready to handle it, to make great choices, to be in awe of myself, to cope, to do it like an absolute mother.