My Hypnobirth: How Natal Hypnotherapy Helped Me and My Baby

I shared my birth story from Quinn's birth (here), and I touched, in that post, on how I used hypnobirthing techniques throughout my labour. However, I didn't really go in to that much detail of what my hypnobirth experience involved and how it helped me.
Quinn's eight months old now, but I'm still grateful every day that I discovered hypnobirthing and that it gave me the birth experience that it did.
When I was pregnant, I sought out stories of natural, calm births, as this is was everything that I envisaged, especially as I was set on giving birth at home. I found that overwhelmingly, most of the women who had the sort of birth experience I dreamed of, had used hypnobirthing, so naturally I did some more research.
I first read about the Mongan Method which is one of the most popular forms of modern hypnobirthing. I found most of the language way too dated (and American) for my liking though, and actually found the focus on very specific breathing exercises to be slightly overwhelming. I worried more about whether I was "breathing correctly" than I managed to relax with this method. There were different breathing exercises for different stages of labour and I just couldn't see myself being that regimented whilst giving birth - it didn't seem very intuitive at all!
There was a lot that I liked about the Mongan Method, and the reading that I did gave me a good understanding of how hypnobirthing and self hypnosis work, but I knew I wanted something a little more intuition focussed.
After being grumpy about the fact that hypnobirthing classes were too expensive for my budget, I came across Natal Hypnotherapy on Twitter, after seeing a midwife discussing the four pieces of advice she'd given her pregnant daughter (use natal hypnotherapy, turn down induction, ask for delayed cord clamping, make sure you get an hour's skin to skin after birth).
Natal Hypnotherapy gave me the option to "self teach" myself the necessary relaxation techniques, no classes necessary, and what's more, there were no fancy breathing exercises to master... it's a British programme too, so the language used was familiar. Sounded perfect.
I was saving up to buy the full set of Natal Hypnotherapy at home products, when my best friend offered to buy them for me as a pregnancy gift - which was amazing. Plus she's now pregnant and has borrowed everything back from me!
I read the book that came in the pack "Effective Birth Preparation" by Maggie Howell, from cover to cover with great enthusiasm, it was basically everything that I wanted from a hypnobirthing approach. The book was full of positive hypnobirthing stories, but was also realistic and unlike some other approaches, didn't try to make promises about totally pain free birth, nor did it ignore the fact that not everybody has a beautiful, serene natural delivery. The book covered how hypnobirthing could help hospital deliveries and even women experiencing induction and caesarean sections, which was really refreshing. I got Boyfriend to read the book too and he was totally on board with everything it suggested; which gave us a great base on which to prepare for our baby's arrival.
From about 20 weeks in my pregnancy I began listening to the Pregnancy Relaxation CD from Natal Hypnotherapy as often as I could. This is a pregnancy specific guided meditation and it's just lovely. I found that it made a huge difference in how much I was able to enjoy my pregnancy. I felt a much deeper, more spiritual, connection to my baby as our daily meditation allowed us to connect with one another, and for me to take time out to really focus on her and on my own body. I also found that when things did get stressful, my daily meditation kept me grounded and I was totally chilled out throughout most of my pregnancy. I was also very active, I didn't really suffer too much with extreme lethargy, as my mind was well rested, even if my night time sleep was disturbed with frequent toilet trips and discomfort. 
From about 30 weeks I began listening to the Effective Home Birth Preparation CD which whilst another guided meditation, introduced me to the affirmations that I'd carry with me into labour. As I entered a state of deep relaxation listening to the CD, I'd absorb messages about my own ability to safely deliver my child at home, how my birthing environment was the perfect place to give birth, and how my body was ready for this process.
Honestly, I fell asleep every single time I listened to the CD and when I woke up I couldn't remember what I'd heard. Still to this day I couldn't tell you how the CD ends! I got as far as a section where I'd imagine myself walking along the edge of an orchard. It's a real life orchard, close to where my Grandparents used to live, which I visited a lot on dog walks as a child. The CD told me to envisage somewhere relaxing where I was surrounded by nature, and the orchard instantly came to mind and stayed with me. When I reached the end of the orchard I would find myself looking down into a valley - with more fruit trees rising up on the other side, and in the bottom of the valley was a huge oak tree (this image was planted by the guided meditation on the CD) - at that point - without fail - I'd fall asleep, so I've no idea what happens after that!
I'd read several testimonials from women who'd also slept through a majority of the Natal Hypnotherapy preparation and then gone on to totally benefit from it at the time, as they'd absorbed it all subconsciously - so I tried not to worry too much. In the run up to birth I had absolutely no nerves or worries, thanks to listening to the CDs and doing plenty of reading of positive birth stories and surrounding myself with positive people, including my doulas. 
I've no doubt that this complete lack of anxiety contributed to me going into labour spontaneously in my sleep. Chances are I laboured for several hours, cosy and warm in bed, wrapped up against my boyfriend in total peace, before I woke at 5am needing a wee and realising that my stomach and pelvis were uncomfortable. I would imagine that my subconscious mind, completely used to being absorbed in the messages of the natal hypnotherapy meditation, simply adopted these as labour began, and didn't even wake me up.
Once I was awake, and not entirely convinced that I was in labour, as I was uncomfortable but in no way in pain, I used the visualisation of the apple orchard to keep myself calm, and scrolled through Twitter in between the gentle contractions.
Later on after my waters had broken, I spend at least 40 minutes in the bath, using these visualisations to keep myself happy and peaceful, and until my contractions became very intense I was completely and utterly relaxed.
There was a point when I couldn't for the life of me remember anything I'd "learned" from Natal Hypnotherapy. I was on my knees on the bedroom floor, biting my boyfriend's arm through a particularly intense contraction and he told me to remember my visualisations and I just said "I can't remember any of it."
I was convinced at that point that I was failing miserably and that I wasn't going to be a hypnobirthing success story after all (I had imagined being in my birthing pool, listening to gentle music and imagining myself under that oak tree, when in reality, we hadn't even had time to inflate the pool). 
However, I'd read about the "self doubt phase" of labour in Maggie's book, so I had this bizarre internal conversation that went something like:
"oh my God, I can't do this, this is terrible, I'm shit."
"Ahh, but you're only saying that because you're in the self doubt phase of labour, which all women experience, and it's a good sign, it means baby's nearly here."
"No, no, I definitely can't do this, I'm not even getting a break in between contractions. I can officially confirm that hypnobirthing doesn't work."
"The book said you'd say that though didn't it?"
"Fuck you."
Just as the book predicted, the self doubt phase came and went right as my baby began to descend into the birth canal. And that's when I was enveloped by a complete sense of calm again. Back under my oak tree, Sun beating down on my back. Even as I realised that Quinn's head had emerged and we hadn't even called a midwife, and my five year old son came in to ask what was going on, my Natal Hypnotherapy preparation allowed me to totally relax and enjoy every single sensation.
Thanks to this sense of complete bliss (borderline euphoria - just amazing) I didn't push once, and Quinn just gently descended into the birth canal with several waves that surged through my whole body,. She turned, and she was born, with seeingly no effort from me. My whole body just relaxed to allow her a smooth easy passage into the world.
I planned a calm, gentle birth. I actually got something a million times better than that - yes there was that bit in the middle where I had all of Mother Earth's contraction in one go, and the self doubt phase of labour was very real for me, but I realise that if I hadn't been prepared with Natal Hypnotherapy, this is the point that I'd have panicked, and my labour would probably have stalled. Had I been in a hospital there's a very real chance that I'd have declared I couldn't cope and would have asked for drugs, even though I wasn't actually in pain I was just off my face on hormones and the intensity of the experience. A midwife, had she been present, would almost certainly have wanted to examine me at that point, which has been shown, beyond any doubt, to slow, stall, or even completely ruin, labour and a woman's chances at a vaginal birth. I'm so glad that I was alone and totally prepared to feel that scared and vulnerable in that moment, because despite the moment of fear, I completely understood what was happening to me, and if anything, it spurred me on.
Not many women get the experience of the Foetal Ejection Reflex as it can only really occur in completely quiet and undisturbed surroundings, which are rare these days in the birth room, so the fact that Natal Hypnotherapy means I'll always have that memory, is something I really treasure. I'm also so grateful to Maggie for giving that birth to my daughter, how could I have wanted anything different for her, than to glide in to the world without any stress?


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