So if you’ve seen my latest post, you will know that I’m now a Mummy – our little baby Sebastian arrived a little earlier than expected. Because the delivery was so unexpected, I didn’t get chance to get this post up before birth, but I wanted to share more about what the husbear and I learned on our hypnobirthing course.
If you’re not sure what hypnobirthing is, check out my first post here that explains why I wanted to try it to allay my labour anxieties.
Our hypnobirthing course
We had four sessions with our practitioner, Shona, from Empowered Hypnobirthing. Each session was a couple of hours long and took place in the comfort of our own home. Each session followed a similar structure: check in on how we are doing that week; a brief recap of what we learned last week; this week’s learning and finishing with a 20 minute meditation. We had “homework” each week – to practice the techniques that we had learned that week.
Week 1 – learning the ropes
Week 1 was all about getting to know each other and learning the “basic” hypnobirthing techniques. Shona asked us loads of questions about how we were feeling about labour and birth and took copious notes about the specific issues we raised. She included both of us – acknowledging that labour is not just about the Mum, but the Mum’s partner as well – something that became really important to us as a couple.
We talked about the biology of labour and what the female body goes through – I learnt more from our conversation than I had in five weeks at NCT! We talked about the fight or flight response, hormones and our body’s innate ability to pause labour if threatened. I got a little goody bag which included The Calm Birth Method book, which I started reading to complement our sessions with Shona. We talked about the negative language surrounding birth and how to counteract that with some simple changes – e.g. talking about waves instead of contractions; waters releasing instead of waters breaking. We were also introduced to affirmations and provided a pack of cards with positive statements on.
It’s amazing how much this positive language and changing the way you think about labour and the process of it can help you get into the right mindset for what’s to come.
We were sent away with homework – to practice our breating techniques, listen to the hypnobirthing mp3s, get cracking with reading the book and run through the positive affirmations first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. It sounds like a lot, but it was quite easy to slot it all into the day, and it did help me feel much more relaxed.
Week 2 – embedding the techniques
In our second session, we reviewed everything from week 1 and chatted over anything that had come up for us in the week in between. New learnings this week included visualisation, a trick I found really helpful, as I have a very visual memory. Before doing this, I had never really thought about what a delivery room looked like and I certainly hadn’t envisioned myself in that situation. We spent a bit of time creating our perfect birth scene in our minds and that made the thought of labour much more real for me. It became important to me to sort out things like what I would wear during labour, because it helped that visualisation become stronger.
We also addressed negative thoughts through visualisation, which involved imagining our nightmare birth scene. Through this process, I realised that I wanted my birth to feel as non-medical as possible, with as little intervention as possible, so I knew I had to take steps to create that environment for myself.
Homework this week was to continue everything from week 1 and add in the visualisation, concentrating on the positive scene we wanted and ridding ourselves of the negative associations we had.
Week 3 – practical birth preparation
Our third session was a really practical one. We talked about the birth partner’s role and language and tips for managing healthcare professionals. We learned to ask anything we wanted to of our healthcare providers to ensure we felt comfortable with the way labour was progressing – another thing that became really important to us on the day.
We also talked about birth preferences and how to create an easy to understand list to share with our midwives. Shona gave us some examples from other women, which was really helpful. It was also getting close to the time to pack the hospital bag, and Shona had loads of tips and tricks to support us with that process. One of the things we got into was essential oils, part of creating a relaxing an positive birth environment.
I was feeling quite tired and emotional by this point – the third trimester hit me quite hard. I was swollen, I was big and I just felt like I’d never last to the finish line. Little did I know what was to come! I was quite tearful at the start of the session and Shona was really supportive, giving me time to talk about my fears and the stress I had been feeling as I was winding down at work. We talked through finishing work earlier and I found the confidence to admit I was struggling and rearrange when I wanted my maternity leave to start. Luckily my work were really understanding (and also not at all surprised!)
After all of that, my homework was just to RELAX! Keep practising the breathing, the affirmations and reading the book. That I could handle.
Week 4 – final preparations
And just like that, four weeks had flown by and we were at the end of our course. In this last session, we reviewed everything we’d learned and had the chance to ask questions. We’d built up a great rapport with Shona over the past month and really looked forward to the weekly sessions, even though we were far too busy and sometimes regretted filling our evenings so full! It was a great time to give to ourselves to de-stress, talk about what had been bothering us and opening up about our worries for the coming events. Shona became like an agony aunt for us!
The four week course was just the right length and even though the sessions seemed long when we booked them in, they flew by so quickly. I really enjoyed our conversations and everything that we learned together. It was such a positive experience for my husband and I, and helped us make sure we were on the same page with our birth plan and how we were feeling about the delivery.
Couldn’t I just buy the book?
Yes, you totally could, but I promise you won’t get the same level of care, attention to detail and consideration as you would if you did the course with Shona. You spend a fortune on buying things for the baby and I believe it’s worth the investment to spend some money on your own mental health. Pregnancy and labour are big, big things to go through and can really ramp up anxiety and depression if you don’t tackle your fears properly. I’m really glad we did the course and would definitely recommend it to others.
Shona offers private and group courses, as well as pregnancy retreats. If you’re interested in finding out more about hypnobirthing, take a look at Shona’s website and Facebook page. Shona uses techniques learned from The Calm Birth School – another great resource to look at. And feel free to ask me any questions – I’ll always give my honest response!
Thanks to the beaut Chloe Witty for the pics!
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