How to have an easier birth experience
My first birth experience (in France) included induction, epidural and haemorrhage and couldn’t have been much further from my natural, drug-free birth plan. I also believe this led in part to some post-natal depression. So for my second birth experience I knew I wanted to avoid the same stress, and that feeling of being totally out of control. (At least this time I would be giving birth in the UK, which meant I had far more options.)
I knew after my first birth experience that having a baby doesn’t always go according to plan, but I also knew I wanted more of a say in what happened, and I got chatting about it to a friend of mine…
Kathryn Eales is mum to two small children and her first birth experience was a horrible one. Instead of her planned home water birth, she went through a gruelling and painful 52 hour labour which left her feeling traumatised and as if she had failed somehow.
“I realised afterwards that I wasn’t prepared to deal with the challenges that labour and birth can throw at you” she says. “I’d been to a couple of hypnobirthing classes and thought as long as I stayed calm and positive, I’d have a shorter, more straightforward labour and would be able to cope with the pain. I now know that I just didn’t have the tools to cope with exhaustion, frustration, pain, fear, panic, helplessness or losing belief in my own ability to give birth.
I finally gave birth to my little boy, after nearly two and a half hours of pushing, whilst crying my eyes out, being threatened with forceps, and saying over and over “I just can’t do this – I’m so exhausted.” (She did it herself in the end – thanks to the forceps threat!)
Fast forward two years and Kathryn was pregnant with her daughter, and by then had qualified as a hypnotherapist. She had also discovered and trained in ‘Confident Childbirth Hypnobirthing’.
“I knew straight away that this approach would enable me to cope a million times better with my second birth” Kathryn says. Confident Childbirth is a personalised approach to hypnobirthing which helps you to find, and develop, your own individual coping skills, and tailor hypnosis and NLP techniques to fit you as an individual.
“This was a revelation to me and made so much sense,” she says, “we’re all different and we all have different ways of coping with challenges, and finding and practising your own skills and techniques really builds that belief that ‘you can do it’. Before I went into labour with my daughter I felt really ready – I was confident that I could be strong, persevere, manage pain, be assertive if need be, and just felt I could get through pretty much anything. It’s very similar to the way that athletes prepare mentally for competitive events, rehearsing their best performance in their mind, and knowing exactly how they’re going to think, feel and be before the event itself”
Kathryn shared all of this with me, and I have to admit I was sceptical. Could hypnotherapy, and more precisely, hypnobirthing help me to have a better birth experience? It all sounded a bit too ‘alternative’ to me. But I knew I wanted a very different – and better – birth experience with our second baby. So I agreed to go along to see her for some hypnobirthing sessions.
I was about 7 months pregnant when I saw Kathryn for my first Confident Childbirth session. I was a bit apprehensive about how it might go – was she going to go all Uri Geller on me or start swinging a watch chain in front of my eyes? “You are getting sleep, very sleepy”….
What actually happened is that Kathryn took me to a very calm, relaxed place. We talked about my bad first birth experience, and my fears for this second labour. She didn’t try to dictate to me what sort of birth plan I should have, or set unrealistic experctations with promises of a pain-free birth experience.
What she did teach me was that I could feel in control this time, and have a really positive experience. She told me “you can’t always control what goes on around you. In fact, it’s your baby, your body and your unconscious that are running the show during labour, which means that following your instincts and working with your body are key to a positive birth. What you can have control over, though, is what’s going on in your own head – your thoughts, feelings and belief in your own abilities.
Being able to let go of fear, cope with emotional ‘wobbles’ during labour, dissociate yourself from pain, cope brilliantly with a particularly fast or slow labour, overcome feelings of panic, stay calm and focused and get yourself back on track if / when you do start to doubt yourself – these are all things that you can be in charge of. And when you are, it totally transforms the whole experience”.
That was so powerful. After just a few sessions I felt confident that I could have the birth experience I wanted. The exercises Kathryn gave me to practise at home helped me gain further in my own confidence, and also helped to alleviate the doubts that Hubs had. Because he certainly questioned this “hippy” approach.
Everything was such a different experience that second time round. I woke up around 2am with contractions that didn’t feel like my previous Braxton Hicks pains. But I felt calm and in control despite the contractions making me catch my breath.
As these became more intense I mooed my way through them. I was in pain, but it was bearable. I still felt in control. The contractions became so strong they made me vomit, but it was ok, I knew I was in control. This was MY birth experience.
One of the many positive side effects of hypnobirthing is a shorter labour. I’m not sure if it was down to hypnobirthing or something else entirely, but I went from being 4cm dilated at 10am to cuddling my newborn baby girl at 10.45am.
Whilst I didn’t actively practise the hypnobirthing techniques during my labour, I am 100% certain that just learning and practising them, and having them in my mental arsenal, meant that I had a wonderful second birth experience.
Kathryn is convinced we all have everything we already need to have a positive birth experience, it’s just that sometimes we need some help to access it and believe we can do it. This is what her confident childbirth approach is all about.
Kathryn now runs Down to Earth Hypnobirth, teaching tailored hypnobirthing to expectant mums who are looking to learn effective, proven techniques to help them have a positive birth experience, without having to go down the chanting and whale music route. It is a different approach to most other hypnobirthing courses out there because it’s no-fluff, practical, straightforward and is very much tailored to the individual.
Kathryn believes that by letting go of the idea of a ‘perfect’ birth you can focus instead on preparing for your own positive one, involving whatever works best for you – whether that involves a C-Section, a water birth, making cow noises, swearing, (or whale music of course – if that’s your thing!)
I am absolutely certain that my positive birth experience second time round was a direct result of my sessions with Kathryn, and I really cannot recommend her enough. I have so many friends who suffered negative birth experiences which have then had a knock-on effect on their first days of bonding with their newborn baby, and sometimes even resulted in post-natal depression. I don’t say that to frighten expectant mums, but preparing yourself for YOUR birth experience is one of the best and most important things you can do for you and your unborn baby.
Want to know more?
- Kathryn offers Individual face-to-face hypnobirthing sessions in Surrey, or via Skype or Facetime for those expectant mums who don’t have the time, energy or childcare cover to get out to classes.
- Kathryn can also help with pregnancy-related ailments and issues such as breech presentation. She has mp3 hypnosis downloads for Breech Turn, Pregnancy Sickness and Reflux Relief available to buy from her website here
- She also has a fantastic online course due to be launched very soon, which will enable pregnant mums to learn how to develop their own tools and techniques for labour whilst being supported and looked after in a private Facebook group. The 4 week course will be packed with everything you’ll need to prepare for a brilliant birth experience, and features videos, webinars, mp3 hypnosis downloads and printable resources. Interested? Follow her on Facebook for updates and the chance to take advantage of her early bird launch discount!
You can find out more about the principles behind Down to Earth Hypnobirth from Kathryn’s video, where she also shares her 7 tips of how to have an easier birth, click here to view it.
Kathryn is an Accredited Member of the National Council for Hypnotherapy and is CNHC Registered
Disclosure: Kathryn Eales is a friend of mine, but I paid for my Down to Earth Hypnobirth sessions and I asked her if I could share this information on my blog as it made such a difference to my birth experience and early days with my newborn baby.