Accalia’s Home Birth

May 29, 2011

When I was entering my third trimester, a neighbor told me that his daughter, Laura Curtis, teaches a natural childbirth method called HypnoBirthing and that I ought to look into it.  I went home and looked at her website and felt very drawn to it.  I read a ton over the next two weeks and almost bought the book, prepared to teach myself However, I ran into Laura shortly after this and I felt something in me push that I should talk to her about the hypnobirthing.  At the end of the conversation I had all but signed up for the class! The next day I went online and paid the fee, and I knew that even though $200 was a lot of money, it was still a whole lot less than an epidural would have been, and would lead to a more positive experience.

Our first day of class was exactly 5 weeks before our baby was born (but we didn’t know it at the time!).  That first class was life-changing for both Darren and me. Suddenly, drug-free and natural childbirth was no longer about saving money – it was a philosophy we agreed with and believed in. We came away with new ideas and thoughts that lead to many deep discussions about childbirth between the two of us.

A week after starting the class we started feeling that perhaps our doctor and the hospital may not share our same views.  So, I called both my doctor and an obstetrics nurse at the hospital and asked them questions and felt our suspicions confirmed.  I have to interject here that HypnoBirth is not about making women switch to homebirth – in fact much of the class teaches how to do this within the hospital setting, but it does encourage you to educate yourself and “shop” around for a care provider who shares your same philosophies and who will be most likely to support your desires and wishes when it comes down to the end, as well as to start finding a hospital that will honor your requests.

Many doctors, nurses and hospitals are caught up in procedures and protocol that are not supported by scientific research and often tend to be tailored for the worst-case scenario, so they treat every woman, even low risk healthy women, as if they are that worst-case scenario, forgetting that childbirth has existed for thousands of years, and that if it didn’t work, none of us would be here!  Not every doctor or hospital is that extreme, but many hold to some of those old-school ideas, which is why we were encouraged to find a good fit.

There are also other elements I didn’t like about the hospital setting that I learned about through my class and personal research that I was just simply opposed to because of lack of scientific evidence on their benefit to mother and baby (mandatory fasting during labor, routine IV, wiping of the vernix off baby, continuous fetal monitoring, etc.).  Things were just not sitting right with us until we decided to examine the possibility of switching to a birth center.  My doctor said he would only deliver in a hospital.  So, we looked at hiring a midwife instead. After touring the birth center, we came home and said to each other “That felt like our house. Why not do it here?”

During the birth, I had my scented candles melting and burning in the room (I wanted one burning for the ambience that candlelight creates, and the other one on a candle warmer for extra scent).  I had purchased Bath & Body Works’ Aromatherapy candles, room spray, and lotion all in the same fragrance: “Stress Relief” (Eucalyptus Spearmint).  It smelled wonderful and that, combined with a clean bedroom, dim lighting, and Steven Halpern’s “Comfort Zone” music (the music for hypnobirthing scripts) really helped me feel calm and at peace.  I had one floor lamp on, as well as the bathroom light and that was all.  The ambiance was wonderful… it had a very romantic feel, actually.

Darren read my birth affirmations that I had written for myself, along with the other affirmations in the book.  He also read some of the scripts.  His voice and the music were very comforting and relaxing to me.  For a while it was only he and I in the room.  The midwives were so respectful of our birth plan preferences, which we greatly appreciated.  They were there when we wanted them, and absent when we didn’t need them.  The midwives always asked permission before listening to the baby’s heart, and they maintained quiet voices and a calm manner.

Everything was progressing just like an ideal hypnobirth.  I frequently went to the bathroom and drank a ton of water.  When my surges started to get to where it was harder to relax and focus through them, I decided  I wanted deep massage. Darren and my mom each massaged my legs and arms – it felt great.  I was able to relax more through my surges.

I also noticed that when I was talking, or even joking between my surges, that it was harder for me to refocus during a surge, and my level of relaxation was not as deep and took longer to achieve during the next surge. When I remained calm and quiet between surges, they were much easier to manage.

I have to say that we loved our midwife, Heather Shelley: she was a perfect fit for us. Although I didn’t have a “pain-free” birth like some hypnobirthers have, I do feel that I was very successful using this method.

The skills Darren and I were taught were immensely helpful, and I gained new insights about myself, womanhood, and childbirth.  I think if Darren and I had more time to really practice everything before the birth, things would probably have gone even better.  With only 5 weeks to prepare, we didn’t get a lot of opportunities to practice together.  We plan on using hypnobirthing again for our next pregnancy, but will be much better about the practice.

Now that I have been through the hypnobirthing course once, I think I am better prepared to use it again next time.  Hopefully I’ll handle transition better, as that was definitely the hardest part for me, but luckily, it didn’t last very long!

The pushing stage was actually easier than transition because I finally knew the baby was ready to be born, and that I had the ability to make that happen. Next time around I may not be quite so adamant about having no pelvic exams, since I know how my labors progress, and knowing how far I have dilated may actually be more mentally helpful for me than it would be for others.

As I look back, I realize that I didn’t actually feel the baby moving down the birth path all through that time I was in transition because of the intact water slowing the descent, so it’s no wonder I felt like it wasn’t very productive… like it was going to last forever!  The midwives had told me to bear down if I felt the urge during transition, but I never did feel it until I was on the birth stool and he was crowning.

Once my waters were released I did feel different, and although I can’t say I felt the baby’s body like some women describe, I can say that the pressure I was feeling had a fullness to it – that it wasn’t pressure due to my body simply opening up and expanding, but pressure due to that open space now being filled completely (the baby’s body).

I worked hard all through labor to not use the words “pain” or “hurt” because I didn’t want to dwell on that aspect… I felt that if I said those words or heard others use them, that it would make things worse, as that is what I would focus on, instead of relaxing through the pain – of letting go and surrendering to my body. Although I felt more pain during childbirth than at any other point in my life, it was very short-lived and I recovered quickly – a testimony that my body was created for the purpose of bearing children. Our brains also don’t have the ability to remember accurately what the pain felt like (we remember there was pain, but we can’t make our bodies feel it again in memory).  I consider that a happy blessing!

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