Oct 1, 2009

the gift of hypnobirthing

One of the great gifts I received during my surrogacy was the skill of hypnobirthing.

At the time, I don't know if I really even knew what it was.  I think for a brief moment I thought that it had something to do with giving birth in water.  (Yeah, I know.)  My friends were gracious enough to send my husband and I to the class, and stayed with my kids while we were at the classes.

With my first pregnancy, I took two different classes (funny that - one with my husband, and one with my friend for whom I was now carrying her child).  They were typical childbirth education classes - taught us the stages of labor, breathing exercises, the screaming ugly birth video.

The learnings were all rendered useless when my three day labor with no progression turned into a Cesarean Section.  My naive, overly analytic self upon hearing the declaration by my doctor that surgery was inevitable, actually reached over for my What to Expect book and began frantically flipping the pages to the surgery chapter.

The next baby arrived after another three day labor, but this time I was adamant to bring her into the world without surgical intervention.  I did this with the help of a lovely epidural overdose (Push???  Doctor, I can't feel my body from the waist down.....)

One of the things our hypnobirthing instructor spent a lot of time emphasizing was the importance of advocating for yourself.  This was a very important message for me to hear, as although I am not necessarily shy about voicing my opinion on an issue, I am not at all skilled at getting what I need.  People generally blindly follow their doctor's advice for many reasons - they are supposed to be the experts.  And of course they are.  But they are not the expert at what is going on with MY body.  Which is why hearing the reminders to listen to my body, work with it, and ASK FOR WHAT I NEED AND WANT was such an important one.  It was a lesson that came into play when enforcing my birth plan and insisting on the VBAC my doctor and I agreed upon when the on-call doctor disagreed with the decision.  I respectfully yet sternly insisted that my wishes were adhered to.  (Not to mention an incredible support system that were able to stand up for me in times of weakness.  This is also a big part of the program and how it works most successfully.)

The heart of the pain management techniques were to work with your body.  It seems obvious, but think about it the next time you are getting a shot or giving blood.  Your instinct is to tense up.  Tensing and fighting what is happening increases the pain experience.  Relaxing, breathing, and working with your body can help to alleviate it.  Fighting against and agonizing over every contraction can make them more painful and less productive.  The key is working with your body to do what it is naturally designed to do.

The self-hynosis techniques that I learned gave me tools to redirect myself out of the experience and to give my subconscious mind another place to be without allowing my conscious brain to focus on the pain.  It was incredible to be able to be in full control of my experience.  It was empowering in a way that I would never have imagined.  And best of all, it was a three hour labor, completely in contrast from the bloody, painful, screaming childbirth image that most people have.  It was blessed, peaceful, quiet.  Strong.  Everything that it should be.

I have been able to use what I learned then many times over.  Whenever I am nervous I have tools to relax and calm myself down.  Whenever I need to deal with physical pain, I am able to redirect my mind away from the present and get through it easier.  If you had asked me a few years ago what it felt like to get a tattoo, I would have told you it was a dreadful stabbing experience.  When I got a new one a few months ago I was barely aware of what was happening, and felt minimal discomfort.  The same for shots or bloodwork.  I was the child who ran screaming from the examining room.  Now I don't tense, remember to breathe, and it's over before I have a chance to feel a thing.

I never dreamed that what I went into with such skepticism would end up becoming a lifelong skill.  I am very thankful for that!

1 comment:

Ralph said...

I didn't forget that you were a surrogate. I never thought I'd ever meet someone who was a surrogate mother - it was only on Lifetime. And I am so humbled by you - so this reminded me how much I admire you. I had some weird questions too. Like does a day ever go by that you don't think of what you did? Then I started to wonder if there was anyway I could see who read my blog. And then my phone rang, I figured it was my friend Jess - nope, the ex....And now I am going to re-heat my mug of thera flu for the 14th time - true story.