I’ve tossed around this blog idea for a long time, but my heart couldn’t commit to it.
But now I’m ready.
I’ve tossed around this blog idea for a long time, but my heart couldn’t commit to it.
But now I’m ready.
I wanted to buy myself a bathing suit for after Wesley was born that I would feel comfortable in. I wasn’t too sure what my post-baby body would be like, but I knew for sure that I wouldn’t be comfortable right away in a two-piece. I found the perfect post-baby bathing suit on Modcloth. I don’t just feel comfortable, I feel *great* in it.
Judging by the many rave reviews, it suits (tee hee) any body shape and size, but it especially shines if you are trying to hide a little extra around the middle.
I got to try mine out this past week when we went to Steve’s family cottage. Wesley got to try out a fun outfit as well 🙂
Both Hypnobirthing and Hypnobabies are programs designed to help women overcome the fear and anxiety they might have about giving birth, and to provide women and their birth partners with tools to use during labour for pain/fear management. They’re also just all-around good prenatal preparation as they teach you the stages of labour, nutrition during pregnancy, prenatal decisions you might have to make, etc. I highly recommend either one, especially if you are planning on having a natural birth. They both teach you relaxation techniques using breathing and visualization. Not only do these exercises help prepare you for labour, but they’re also useful during pregnancy. They can help you manage stress and even sleeplessness. I’ve dealt with insomnia for what seems like most of my life and I found that listening to the relaxation tracks from both programs helped me to get to sleep – no easy task when you are big and uncomfortable and experiencing heartburn before bed! I also used the breathing techniques any time I felt stressed out or anxious. These are skills that I’ll use for the rest of my life.
On a daily basis you are exposed to hypnotic suggestions when you listen to the audio tracks provided. You practice breathing techniques as you listen, as well as positive visualizations for the birth. Throughout the track you listen to hypnotic suggestions about your pregnancy going well, about the birth going well, and in general it reinforces that birth is a natural, normal process. In addition, you and your birth partner practice together, with your birth partner reading a script or scripts along the same lines as the audio track. This is so that you also train yourself to relax in response to your birth partner’s voice and touch.
*Hypnobirthing/Hypnobabies are not like the form of hypnosis you see in performances where the participants seemingly perform embarrassing acts against their will. The Hypnobirthing/Hypnobabies programs involve self-hypnosis, where you freely and openly choose to embrace what you are hearing. You need an open, willing mind in order to succeed.
We started out by choosing Hypnobirthing because we heard about it through our midwife. With midwifery care, they not only discuss how you are feeling bodily, but they also check in with your emotional wellbeing. It came up during an appointment that I had experienced panic attacks in the past and that I worried about anxiety during the birth and not having any coping mechanisms. So our midwife suggested Hypnobirthing, and in particular the Hypnobirthing instructor/doula that we ended up using (Pia Anderson for anyone in Ottawa). When we researched Hypnobirthing on the internet (as we do), we came across Hypnobabies. However, there were no Hypnobabies instructors in Ottawa. So we didn’t bother looking further into Hypnobabies at that time.
Our time with Pia was great and we really got a lot out of the Hypnobirthing classes. They were awesome as an all-around prenatal class. We really appreciated watching real hypnobirths at the beginning of each lesson and we also liked that if we had any questions at all, whether about Hypnobirthing or labour, we could turn to Pia and she was a wealth of information. However, we found that when it came to practicing Hypnobirthing ourselves on a daily basis, we found the Hypnobirthing program lacking. It seemed very disorganized, with no clear layout of steps. The book described many techniques but never explained how to implement them into a routine or daily practice. Indeed, aside from the Rainbow Relaxation exercise, it didn’t provide any scripts with which to practice the techniques! This meant that there was nothing for Steve to read out loud to me; instead there was only a general description of the technique. We found this very difficult and as a result we only ever practiced the same script, the Rainbow Relaxation script. As well, there were only two relaxation listening tracks for me to practice on my own, one of them the Rainbow Relaxation script again. Because I was so used to hearing the same thing, I found more and more that I started to tune out what I was hearing. Apparently this is still fine and the idea is that subconsciously you are still picking up the suggestions, but I found that I didn’t trust it and wanted to feel more proactive.
I also found that Hypnobirthing didn’t have any techniques for maintaining your hypnosis/relaxation while moving or with your eyes open. These two situations are touched on only briefly and are not a part of your daily practice. All the daily practice involves lying down, being limp with eyes closed, but we kept hearing how important it is to be able to move around during labour, should you feel the need to move around. I had no idea how I would maintain my relaxation in those instances. So we decided to look into Hypnobabies and supplement with that as well.
We ordered the self-study course since there are no Hypnobabies practitioners in Ottawa, and since we were already doing classes with Pia. So I can only speak to the self-study course. We found the Hypnobabies course much more extensive and organized. It is a 5-week program, with a detailed breakdown each week of what to practice daily/weekly and why. Each week had its own set of audio tracks, which built upon the techniques learned from the previous week. This meant that each week I felt like I was reinforcing the techniques, as well as building upon them. I was able to practice a lot on my own and felt I didn’t have to rely completely on Steve to read me scripts in order to relax. This proved useful during the actual birth since in the first stage of my labour he had a lot of running around to do in order to get everything ready for the birth.
There were also several scripts for Steve to practice with me, as well as an entire Birth Partner’s guide. The Hypnobabies program breaks up labour into stages and provides different techniques, audio tracks, and scripts for each stage. Steve felt like he had clear guidelines for what to do during the birth, which made both of us feel more confident as we got closer to the big day.
A big part of the Hypnobabies program is being able to maintain relaxation with your eyes open and while moving around. It teaches you how to maintain two levels of relaxation 1) where your body is limp and your eyes are closed 2) where you can move around with your eyes open. I felt this was important to practice and learn; certainly during my own experience I was able to maintain relaxation even after opening my eyes (to drink water in between surges mostly) and to move around (to change positions; I didn’t find I needed to walk around or do any significant moving around).
Bottom line: I recommend Hypnobabies over Hypnobirthing. I don’t regret that we did the Hypnobirthing because our classes with Pia, and her help during the birth, were worth it. But I am glad that we chose to practice the Hypnobabies as well. During the birth it was the Hypnobabies scripts that we used, as well as the eyes-open/moving around techniques. Overall both programs have a very similar approach, so Pia’s cues during the birth were still very applicable and helped immensely. I would still choose Hypnobirthing over other fear/pain management programs.
I hope this helps anyone trying to decide between the two programs! Does anyone else have experience with either one that they can share?
Disclaimer: If you are not comfortable reading about the intimate details of labour, then please feel free to forego this post. I want to be able to share the experience because I had a positive birth and I found it helped me immensely to read other women’s positive birth stories before my own experience. *For anyone practicing hypnobirthing/hypnobabies, I will refer to pain only towards the end, but my pain was very minimal. I appreciated knowing this up front in the stories that I read 🙂 Also, FYI, in keeping with hypnobirthing I’ll be using the term “surges” instead of “contractions”.
The night before Wesley was born, I had a really hard time getting to sleep because it felt like he was trying to claw his way out of my cervix. In retrospect, this might have been what the thinning and opening of my cervix felt like and not actually Wesley at all….although he was born with quite long fingernails, so who knows! Either way, it was distracting and made it difficult to sleep. In an effort to soothe him in utero, Steve and I sang him songs until the feeling passed.
The next morning, because of the experience of the night before, I felt like we could try to kickstart things using the old-wives tale methods we’d read and heard about that may or may not work. We’d tried this earlier in the week and I had strong surges throughout the day and ended up loosing my mucous plug that evening so we felt it was worth a try! I did end up having lots of surges, but because I’d been having practice surges for weeks already, and these still felt like those, I just focussed on practicing my hypnobirthing breathing and distracted myself with making cinnamon buns and reading. I think it really helped that I had practice surges (Braxton hicks) for pretty much the whole last trimester. They weren’t like the surges I later felt in labour, but they were a different enough sensation to anything I’d ever felt before that they were a good practice (ha!) for being relaxed during unfamiliar bodily sensations, which helped me to stay relaxed during real labour.
Around 2:30 in the afternoon, one of my closest friends who I rarely see randomly called from a block away from our house and asked if he could pop in for a few minutes. If it were anyone else I would have said no because I was having stronger surges and felt like “this could be it”, but since he doesn’t live in Ottawa anymore and I never know when I’m going to get to see him, I said yes. He stopped by very briefly and we made plans to have breakfast together the next morning, with me warning that the baby could come at any time so I might need to cancel (a good warning since we ended up needing to cancel!). After he left, my surges were strong enough that I felt like I wanted to lie down so that I could fully relax through them (part of hypnobirthing). The surges felt more like waves now, with a build up, a peak and then a release. We decided to email Pia, our doula and hynobirthing instructor, to give her a heads-up that I might be in labour, but we still didn’t want to get too excited in case it wasn’t the real deal. I started to feel I wasn’t able to fully relax because I felt the pressure to pee all the time. Pia, had suggested that sitting on the toilet was good for getting your pelvic muscles to relax because then you don’t need to worry about the sensation to pee. So I moved to the toilet and set myself up with candles and my hypnobabies tracks (I learned both hypnobirthing and hypnobabies and will later write a post comparing them). This did feel a lot better and I was able to fully relax again. Steve came upstairs to find me on the toilet and we realized then that this was really happening. I could no longer talk during the surges but needed to relax fully. We decided he should set up the birth pool. While Steve set up the birth pool I concentrated on breathing and relaxing through the surges, which were getting stronger and more frequent. I found listening to the hypnobabies “Easy First Stage” track very helpful during this time. I wasn’t worried or afraid. The surges were completely manageable and I really felt ready to meet our little guy.
Meanwhile downstairs, Steve was having some trouble with the birth pool. It turns out Kimba (one of our cats), had jumped in and punctured the bottom. We had specifically chosen that birth pool because it had a nice thick bottom so that I wouldn’t have to worry about my knees touching the hardwood floor (something Pia had recommended). Luckily the pool came with a patch kit and although it said it needed 24 hrs to dry, Steve used the hair dryer to quickly dry the glue and hoped for the best (spoiler alert: the patch held). Upstairs I was wondering what was taking so long since when we’d practiced filling up the pool with water, it took about 30 minutes, and it seemed to be taking longer than that. Once Steve came and got me I learned about the hole. By that time, the surges were strong enough that I didn’t want to be going down the stairs when one happened because I wouldn’t be able to fully relax, so we waited until a surge had just passed before I moved to the pool.
It felt great to be in the pool. The water was soothing and I could get into whatever position I wanted. Being on the toilet that long had started to get uncomfortable. In order to be fully relaxed, I had straddled the toilet backwards so that I could rest my head on a pillow on the back of the toilet, but after awhile even that position was uncomfortable. So the pool was a welcome relief. Steve still needed to do a bunch of stuff to prepare – get the home birth supplies (a big tupperware we filled with the stuff the doula and midwife recommended), set up a mattress on the floor in case I wanted to get out of the pool and I wasn’t able to make it back upstairs to our bed, and other little preparations. I was still able to handle the surges myself, using the hypnobabies “Easy First Stage” track on repeat. Once he was done, we put on soothing music and he read me a hypnobabies script during the surges. I started to feel really nauseous and hot in between surges. Steve got ice water and cloths to put on my forehead in between the surges and that helped a lot, but eventually I was so nauseous that I needed to throw up. I still felt a little nauseous after that but not quite as bad. I needed the cold cloths on my face and forehead throughout the birth. We had a nice routine going; I would feel a surge coming on and alert Steve so that he could start reading the hypnobabies script, I would go limp and breathe and relax through the surge and then once I came out of it Steve would put cold cloths on my face and give me water. Then I would go limp again until the next surge. I found I had to tell Steve when the surges were happening because otherwise he didn’t know to read the script, this was how relaxed I seemed from the outside despite the powerful surges happening inside me. Pia later remarked that she couldn’t tell when I was having surges until Steve started reading the script. I found it distracting to have to tell Steve when a surge was happening but I needed him to read the script to keep me focussed on the breathing and relaxing. Doing it again, I would come up with a signal like me squeezing his hand or tapping my index finger so that I wouldn’t have to come out of my relaxation too much in order to alert him to a surge. I was also distracted by Steve’s worrying. I could sense that he was worried the baby would come any minute and it would be just the two of us. So when he suggested we call Pia and give her another update, I agreed. We still decided that we would wait until the surges were the standard 4 minutes apart, for 1 minute, for an hour (4-1-1) before getting her to come. It was important that I stay relaxed and I worried that having Pia there would hinder that. In retrospect, I would have her come earlier because it was hard on Steve to worry that the baby was going to come and he wouldn’t be prepared.
We continued our routine for another hour, with Steve timing the surges. We decided to call Pia at around 8pm because the surges had reached 4-1-1. Since we’d given her a heads-up she was able to get to our place in pretty good time. I did get tense when she first arrived and the surges felt more intense. Steve later said he could tell I wasn’t as relaxed because the next two surges after she arrived were shorter and seemed less progressive, even though for me they felt more intense. But once Pia was settled in, I relaxed again and Steve said my surges went back to being longer (and more progressive). Pia congratulated us on how great we were doing, saying that we should be videotaping it to show others. She took over the timing of the surges and with that and her presence alone I sensed Steve relaxing, which was good because things soon started to get more intense for me. However, they later told me from the outside looking in it was still hard to tell I was having surges. I can honestly say I wasn’t experiencing pain, just an intensity and power in my body that I’d never experienced before and which, at the peaks of the surges, felt overwhelming. But the overwhelm was brief and soon the surges ended again and I could rest.
Soon after Pia arrived I started to feel the bum pressure which she had warned me about. No one ever talks about how it feels like you’re going to give birth to your baby from your bum! Despite knowing this ahead of time, it was still a surprising and weird feeling. The surges were very powerful at this point and I was finding it harder to relax through them. Pia started to become more actively involved, giving me cues and reminders of breathing techniques, which helped a lot. Steve said he noticed the difference in my surges after she cued me and I noticed as well. I still wasn’t able to fully relax from this point on during the surges so they felt a lot more intense, but after each one I would go limp and relaxed again (after getting water and having my face cooled off) and that allowed me to rest up before the next surge. I never felt completely overwhelmed by all the surges because I was able to rest between them. Pia had stressed how important this would be. She explained that a lot of the time women start worrying about the next surge before it’s even happening and then they’re never able to fully relax. I started to feel the urge to push but didn’t vocalize this right away (not quite realizing what was going on) so Steve and Pia had no idea. Eventually I realized that I should probably tell them what I was feeling and at this point Pia said we should call the midwife. A funny thing happened when Steve paged the midwife. He paged her and hung up the phone and then a minute later the phone rang. So expecting it to be Diane, our midwife, Steve answered. But it was his mom on the other end of the line! Not wanting to have the phone tied up he quickly exclaimed “we’re a little busy right now mom, I’ll call you back later!” I had heard this exchange but didn’t hear that it was his mother. I worried who it was because I didn’t want anyone knowing I was in labour. He assured me it was his mom and not to worry. I actively pushed that out of my mind so I could stay relaxed.
Our midwife, Diane, arrived at around 10pm. Again I got tense when she first arrived and I came out of my relaxation enough to become aware of my surroundings for the first time in hours. I realized how dark it was and how Pia had set up fake candles in addition to the candles we had going to help light the room. I had no clue what time it was (it was in our birth plan that no one was to mention time) so I was quite surprised by how dark it was. Also I saw for the first time that Dante (one of our cats) was lying on the arm of the couch, just hanging out watching. Later he made himself comfortable by sprawling out on the resuscitation area the midwives set up). I said hi to Diane and then worked on getting back into my relaxation. The whole time I could hear her setting up, asking where to put things and where things were from our birth kit. At several points Steve had to break his concentration with me to aid Diane, even leaving my side at one point to help her move one of the chairs out of the way to make space for the resuscitation area. This stressed me out a little because I felt acutely in need of his support at this point and I felt I couldn’t handle the surges as well without him. After he had left my side once he realized that he really had to pee and so he went upstairs to do that. Pia helped me through a surge while he was away, but I was grateful when he came back. Poor guy barely drank any water, ate only two muffins the whole time, and only went to the bathroom that one time throughout the whole birth. Once Diane was set up she used the doppler on me to check Wesley’s heartbeat, which was nice and strong. I didn’t know this at the time but Pia informed us later that usually midwives insist on doing a vaginal exam to determine how far along things are but Diane didn’t, respecting the calm, relaxed intervention-free birth experience we were aiming for. A vaginal exam would have brought me out of relaxation for sure and disrupted the progress of the birth. As it was, the birth progressed quite quickly from that point on. The pushing urge was undeniable at that point and the surges were the most intense. I was vocalizing through the surges, and was quite tight in my jaws. Steve noticed this, aware that I put stress in my jaws in general (I grind my teeth at night) and he mentioned it to Pia. I wasn’t aware of his tip-off but did hear Pia tell me to open my mouth and relax my jaw, which helped through the next surges. At 10:30pm, half an hour after she arrived, Diane decided they should call in the second midwife. I knew this meant that things were getting close, and certainly it felt to me like things were progressing – my urge to push and the amount of bum pressure I was experiencing were very very strong. The second midwife, Suzanne, arrived at 10:55pm. I heard her arrive but was so in the zone that I didn’t see or greet her until after Wesley was born. I hadn’t met Suzanne before so I had no idea even what she looked like at this point. I heard everything that was going on around me but focussed on staying relaxed between surges and trying to let my body do its thing during the surges. I felt like Wesley was close to coming out and Diane told me to feel with my hand to see if I could feel his head coming. When I felt inside I felt what seemed like a bubble. It turns out my membranes still hadn’t released and so Wesley was still “in the caul” – this is a very rare phenomenon (1 in 80 000 births) and there are lots of stories and myths around people who are born “in the caul”. They are thought to possess special abilities and that they are destined for great things. In terms of birth, the experience is much more gentle for the baby since he is cushioned by the membrane as his head pushes through the birth canal. We feel very blessed that our special little guy got to have this special birth experience.
After the next surge or two (I can’t remember), Wesley’s head started to emerge. I did feel the burning sensation that I’ve heard described as “the ring of fire”, but I think because I was in the water it might not have been as bad. I remember asking if they could do perineal massage, so it definitely hurt, but unfortunately because I was in the water I don’t think it was possible for them to help. Even though I knew this would happen, I was disappointed when his head went back in again after each surge and I expressed my disappointment. Everyone encouraged me and told me this was ok and exactly what was supposed to happen. In retrospect, it would have been better if his head had taken a little longer to come out because I ended up having a tear, which is more likely to happen if the perineum doesn’t have the time to stretch. After two more pushes his head was fully out. The midwives suggested that I catch Wesley myself and at first I said I shouldn’t because I was worried I would do something wrong, but they encouraged me to do so. They had me switch positions to facilitate this. The next push I was so excited to “catch” Wesley that I don’t even remember if I felt anything at all. He slid out and the membranes (the caul) released at that moment. I lifted him up out of the water and he gave two sweet little cries and then settled and calmly stared up at me in my arms. It was absolutely amazing. I will never be able to describe how beautiful, and empowering that moment was. He was born at 11:17pm, approximately 7.5 hours after active labour began. I feel so very fortunate to have had the natural, home birth experience that we’d planned.
*A note on pain. I know it will seem crazy and unbelievable to many of you that I didn’t experience a lot of pain during my birth. But it’s true. And it is possible. And if it’s possible for me, it’s possible for anyone. I worked to prepare my mind and body ahead of time using the principles from hypnobirthing, and I believed that it was possible to have a calm, relaxed, natural birth. This last part is key. Even if you practice hypnobirthing, if in the deepest part of yourself you doubt that it is possible, then it won’t happen for you. That’s why I wanted to share my story. We’re bombarded by the media, by family, friends, and even strangers (I know because strangers did this to me) with stories of painful birth experiences. Painful birth is the norm. But it’s the norm because that’s what we think birth is supposed to be like. I urge you to read and inform yourself as much as you can about positive birth experiences, about midwifery care vs. traditional (in North America) hospital births under obstetric care. You’ll be surprised and amazed at what you learn!
I’ve wanted to write about our decision to have a natural home birth for a long time, but having experienced people’s reactions in-person to this decision, I decided I’d rather tell the story after the fact, when other people’s thoughts and opinions wouldn’t affect me quite so acutely. Actually this is the main reason why I stopped blogging all-together. I just felt that I couldn’t freely express myself and so I lost all desire to write at all. And as much as I missed writing and had a gazillion posts written in my head throughout that time, it was nice to unplug for awhile! But now I’m eager to get back into it.
We spent a lot of time researching the different options for prenatal care. I knew in my heart from the beginning that I wanted midwifery care, but I wanted to know the facts about the differences so that I was making an informed decision, and also to help Steve get on-board. He was quite open to the idea from the beginning, though, so it really wasn’t a matter of convincing him. I also knew in my heart that I wanted a home birth, but that too, and perhaps even more so, we wanted to make an informed decision about. If you spend any amount of time researching the routine care in hospitals in North America, you won’t think we’re so crazy for wanting a home birth. Many people have told me that I’m brave for having a home birth but I think anyone having a hospital birth is brave. That’s not to say that you can’t have a great hospital birth. People do. But it requires being informed about your choices and knowing that a lot of the standard procedures in the hospital put you and your baby at risk, and reinforce the idea that labour has to be a painful experience. Most people trust the medical system wholeheartedly (they really should be able to, I agree), but unfortunately a lot of what happens at births in hospitals is not what is best for the mother and baby.
I feel like I could write a novel about what I’ve learned about birth, but I’ll just give the main points of why we chose to do a natural home birth. I do not, and will never, judge anyone that makes an informed decision to have a medicated hospital birth. This was just the very personal choice that we made for ourselves.
All of our research and preparation paid off for us. We got to have a natural home birth, and I experienced minimal pain. It was an amazing, empowering experience. I sincerely hope more women will come to realize their options so that they too can enjoy their baby’s birth.
I thought I would share some of the resources that helped us:
This book really was our definitive guide. It explains midwifery care vs. obstetric care, birth at home vs. birth centre vs. hospital, the various medical procedures you may encounter in the hospital, and much more. I highly recommend this book to anyone preparing for birth.
Ina May is a famous midwife and proponent of natural, intervention-free births. This book is more on the hippie-dippie side but is a great source for positive birth stories. The second half of the book covers a lot of the same things as “Creating Your Birth Plan” but I preferred the above for that and skipped that section in Ina May’s Guide.
This comes with the book by the same title but I managed to find the film online so I didn’t read the book as well. The film includes interviews with midwives and physicians and includes six actual births which demonstrate the various birth options (home birth, water birth, vaginal birth, and VBAC). I tried to watch as many positive births as possible to retrain my thinking that birth can be a positive experience.
Most people who take any time to inform themselves about birth come across this documentary produced by and starring Ricki Lake. It’s a good introductory into why you might want to consider your options. While it is centred on the American health care system, Canada is very similar when it comes to the management of birth so it is still worthwhile to watch. I found the births depicted still focussed on birth being a painful experience so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re trying to re-envision birth as a positive experience. I watched it early on in my pregnancy so I still had lots of time to focus on positive birth stories.
This website includes 250 positive birth stories. I liked that they were categorized so that you could avoid stories mentioning pain if you chose to.
We welcomed our baby boy, Wesley, into the world on July 6th at 11:17pm! We are all doing great. I am looking forward to getting back into blogging, so expect to see more posts featuring this little cutie soon!
We had our first ultrasound yesterday!
We found out that we are having a baby boy, not a velociraptor! What a relief! 🙂 We learned that he likes to put his legs up over his head a lot. He had hiccups during the ultrasound and we could see his tiny little belly twitching each time. We also got to see all the little tiny details, like his eyeballs, the chambers of his heart, and ventricles in his brain – whoa! We knew there was someone inside there because I’ve been feeling kicks for about a week and a half now, but it’s still nice to see the confirmation on the screen and watch the little tiny heart beating away.
I’m *so* excited to learn more about this little guy!