The Birth of Asher Carson Curtis
by Lauralyn Curtis
When I discovered I was expecting my third baby, I was frankly terrified. I had given birth twice: once with an epidural and once without and I felt traumatized after both experiences. Early on in my pregnancy I decided to re-visit the idea of hypnosis for birth; I knew the affirmations and deep relaxation practice would help me release the fears I was carrying from my first two labors.
Rather than taking another class, I created my own relaxation and preparation program that fused prenatal yoga, belly dance and singing with hypnosis tracks and affirmations that I wrote myself. My husband, a music composer and producer, recorded and created music for the tracks, and even recorded scripts in his voice for me to practice with. I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and watched as many positive birth videos as I could find. I exercised daily, practiced deep yogic breathing, and learned to go into a state of deep, focused relaxation while remaining active. My fears about birth started to fade and my confidence grew daily, and I became so excited about what I was doing that I signed up for a Childbirth Hypnosis practitioner training and completed my certification while I was still pregnant.
At one of my prenatal ultrasounds, I began to doubt whether I could really do this again. I clearly remember the look on my doctor’s face when he measured my baby’s head and abdominal circumference. He stopped talking and sucked in his breath sharply before informing me “Well, this baby could be 12 or 13 pounds. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to give birth vaginally. You should think about scheduling a cesarean section.” I was devastated at this news, as the only thing that scared me more than giving birth vaginally again was the thought of undergoing major abdominal surgery.
It was a quote by Ina May Gaskin that got me through this crisis of confidence:
“The problem is that doctors today often assume that something mysterious and unidentified has gone wrong with labor or that the woman’s body is somehow “inadequate” – what I call the “woman’s body as a lemon” assumption. For a variety of reasons, a lot of women have also come to believe that nature made a serious mistake with their bodies. This belief has become so strong in many that they give in to pharmaceutical or surgical treatments when patience and recognition of the normality and harmlessness of the situation would make for better health for them and their babies and less surgery and technological intervention in birth. Most women need encouragement and companionship more than they need drugs. Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
And so I recommitted myself to thinking positively about my body, and I continued to plan and prepare for a healthy, normal, empowered, unhindered birth. I used my hypnosis and affirmations to help me work through and move beyond my anxiety, so that I could give birth on the other side of fear. Eight days before my due date, our third beautiful boy was born in the back of our mini-van. It was a cold, snowy night, and the experience changed me forever. It wasn’t the birth I imagined, but it was the perfect birth for me and my baby!
That evening at dinner with my family, my birthing waves started. At the time, I thought they were still just practice waves because I felt no pain at all. I was completely comfortable and relaxed, with no comprehension that my baby was on his way. Sitting at the table, whenever I had a wave I would stop what I was doing, close my eyes, let my head fall forward and breathe deeply until it was over. Dinner ended uneventfully and we went home to put our kids to bed. I continued to have these practice waves intermittently throughout the evening until finally I kissed my two little boys good night and went downstairs to have some quiet alone time. My husband retreated to his office and I sat on the couch, watching Friends and eating yogurt, using my breathing techniques, just as I had been doing for the last several weeks during all of my braxton-hicks practice waves.
In between contractions, I ate lightly and stayed hydrated. Each time I felt a wave coming on, I dropped into total relaxation and just listened to the sound of my breath. I felt no discomfort at all, but was beginning to feel some pelvic pressure. I decided to go sit on the toilet, and I sat there for a while, feeling like I needed to go… but I couldn’t do it. I remember thinking “Oh man, I am really backed up! This isn’t good! I gotta relax.” I was still having my practice waves, but they were so mild I didn’t pay attention to them or even think about timing them.
I woke my husband up and told him I was feeling weird, like really… really constipated. He suggested I get in my bathtub to relax, but I worried it would slow my labor down, as I could tell things were still very early on. My contractions were still painless. I didn’t know it at the time, but my labor was already almost over!
As soon as I stepped in to my beloved tub, I just melted into a totally relaxed state. It felt incredible. Twenty minutes later, things intensified. I suddenly felt a huge amount of pelvic pressure, like I needed to have the biggest bowel movement ever! This freaked me out because I was still in my tub, and well, you know…
It wasn’t a bowel movement. It was a baby. As soon as I stood up I realized I needed to push, so I squatted down on the floor and just went with what my body told me to do. I didn’t really have a choice at this point. My husband called our midwife and she encouraged us to head to the hospital immediately. We were in total denial that the baby was actually coming and thought I could still make it in time. As I walked from my bathroom to the car, I dropped down to my hands and knees with each pushing urge and just let my body take over.
I had a huge surge on the garage stairs and my water broke. My husband looked back and I heard him say to the midwife on the phone “I can see the baby’s head…” she told him to call 911. This was my first moment of panic, when I realized that my baby wasn’t going to be born in a nice, safe, warm hospital room full of nurses to help me, as I had envisioned. When I panicked I felt pain for the very first and only time during this birth. My muscles seized up, and I yelled “I’m so SCARED!!!!!!” My husband reassured me gently “Honey it’s ok, you can do this, you’ve got this…” I was breathing hard and shaking and felt my relaxation slipping away.
Still thinking I had time to get to the hospital I tried to climb in the car but couldn’t do it. I found myself squatting, wearing nothing but my husband’s bathrobe, in the snow on our driveway. My husband somehow got me into the back of our mini-van, where I immediately got on my hands and knees. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly… and deeply… just as I had practiced for so many months. In my mind I created a bubble of peace around me and told my baby it was safe to come out. My body relaxed, the pain disappeared again, and I found my power! In two huge waves I birthed my little boy easily into the world. I had no tearing and very little discomfort, even immediately after the birth. The paramedics arrived as I was pushing and were incredibly calm and supportive of what I needed to do. You can see my face here as I sat with my gorgeous baby in the back of the ambulance, totally stunned and amazed, just moments after the birth.
My baby boy weighed around 10 lbs. and was perfectly healthy. Despite the incredible circumstances, everything went very smoothly, and it was my easiest, fastest labor. A couple of hours after the birth, I was up walking around and feeling amazing. That night, as I held my new sweet little son and we looked into each other’s eyes, I thanked him for the beautiful experience we had just shared. I will never forget it.
Because I had been an active hypnobirther this time, the relaxation skills and hypnosis worked FOR me instead of against me. My third birth was easy, comfortable and nearly painless. Total labor time was just a couple of hours, I only pushed a few times, I didn’t tear, and he was born perfectly healthy and alert. I was able to remain calm, even when my birth took an unexpected turn. Asher’s birth inspired me to begin teaching women about the power of their bodies. I wanted to help them believe in themselves, to embrace this part of our lives instead of running from it, and to take pride in their journey into motherhood. I have now taught many, many hundreds of couples and have seen them each walk that journey with confidence and conviction.