It's day 200 of pregnancy, (if the app is correct), as I sit down to right this blog. I've tried pregnancy yoga, completed a baby care work shop, an antenatal class and now it was time to give Hypnobirthing a crack.
We'd been recommended hypnobirthing by friends of ours so I had a general jist of what it was all about. However, I'm a skeptical bastard. I do believe in the power of the mind and visualisation but it's whole other thing maintaining that power when there is something the size of a watermelon trying to use your wife's nether regions as an entrance to planet Earth.
So, I'm not passing any judgements on hypnobirthing until I've tried it fully, read the workbook, listened to the audios and seen it out to the end.
What is Hypnobirthing?
I'll start with the 'Pink Elephant' in the room (the people who did the class will get that). Hypno is in the name but this is not the type of hypnosis where Claire the instructor whips out a pocket watch, dangles it in front of your faces, swinging it back and forth for the afternoon until she has all the couples clucking like chickens.
But she did have us clucking our hands in a way that looks like chickens...
Moving on... cluck.
Traditional Hypnobirthing is basically a natural birth without drugs. You know those births your parents or grandparents feel so strongly about telling you?!
"Back in my day, there were no drugs! I'll tell you now, the midwife gave you a shot of Jameson and told you to bite down on this good leather belt! All the while your father smoked 20 Rothman's down the local and waited for the call to say he was a Dad. I'd have been lucky to get a damp towel to cool me down. Epidurals...ha!"
I'll say this, a lot of hypnobirthing is directed at your wife or partner. They'll be the ones giving birth. For me and the other Dads/Partners it's about equipping ourselves with the knowledge, skills & tools to support your wife/partner to keep the calm, relaxed and those oxytocin levels high during the whole birth.
Anyway, the whole idea around hypnobirthing, well what I took from the class, is to create a positive mind frame around the whole idea of giving birth. That giving birth is not something "that" happens to you. It's about changing your wording so that you are going in there thinking...
"I'm going to see my baby boy/girl in a few hours, I'm so excited"
"Oh my god, I have to push this thing out. Christ I hope it doesn't tear me. Oh my god what if I poo myself in front of the midwife's!"
If you're not aware by now. I love sport. So, even if there is a slight sports reference in these classes. My ears immediately perk up. Now a lot of what Claire talks about at the start will be very similar to anyone who has played sport to a decent level or even just watches sport.
Things like 'trust the process', 'positive visualisation', 'learn how to make the right decisions under pressure'. Stuff like that.
Then old Sergio Garcia got a mention with the positive affirmations which led to him winning his first major.
So, I'm hoping after I do the full hypnobirthing experience. Not only will it benefit my wife during labour but also help my golf game. Which my friends will tell you at this moment in time, is total horseshit.
First Acronym of the day
Eh, come again love. Thought we were trying to use our minds to limit that one?
I jest, the idea with all this is changing the way we think about labour etc. Instead of Pain... Progress. Every contraction is one step closer to your, life as we know it ending, bundle of joy.
PAIN stands for - Purposeful, Anticipated, Intermittent, Normal.
The idea behind this is to focus you mind on the idea that a contraction is not painful but much more. It serves a purpose to move the baby down and out. You can anticipate it because well those contractions are coming like it or not every couple of minutes. They're intermittent which means they won't last forever. Lastly, they're perfectly normal and serve a purpose.
See what I did there, brought ya full circle and we're back into another contraction. Boom!
Claire suggested using an affirmation around this "I can do anything for a minute."
Again, sport pops up when trying to reinforce these thought processes around the whole idea of pain. How to focus on the end goal or result can negate these ideas around pain.
Like in an important match you might not notice an injury immediately or be willing to play, (as I think we all have at some point), through the pain as it's a cup final or whatever. You're focused throughout as there is a big goal at the end. In this case, it's giving birth to a baby.
On the flip side, if you were just having a kick about with the lads you might notice an injury straight away. And say nah, fuck that, I'm out.
A big part of hypnobirthing for Dads/partners is how to help your partner remain calm and relaxed so that the Oxytocin (love hormone) and Endorphins (feel good hormone) are flowing. The idea is to tell adrenaline it can stay da fuck away as that will only slow down birth.
First up, was a little hand challenge which made everyone on the Zoom call look like we were doing the birdie song at a wedding with our duck hands. Then it turned to, in my mind I must reiterate, the Claw from the movie Liar, Liar. Which I would have used on my wife had there not been other couples watching.
It was on then to the massage techniques and breathing techniques. Hands up the spine and out. Breathing in for 4 seconds and out for 7. Now the breathing into the stomach was a little odd at first as when I inhale my chest expands naturally. So, it takes a few goes to get it right. That will help, your partner really, and also down the line with the J breath.
Then we did a bit of hand tapping which is meant to relieve stress.
There is also this thing called 'anchoring', which is anchoring an emotion through a sense. Like sound for example, so playing her favourite song that always makes her smile and be calm when it's needed. There is some other types of anchors, but knowing my wife.
If I blast on a few Disney songs during labour, she'll be as happy as pig in shit.
Throughout the whole class, 'language' stood out as main theme after the breathing.
Things like, instead of reacting, you respond to something that might arise during the birth. For example if the midwife suggested pain relief like an epidural. Instead of reacting and saying yes/no immediately. Simply take some time to think about it, refer to your birth preferences and then respond. That sort of stuff.
Again, this all comes back to maintaining a calm state. And as we won't be doing the pushing lads. It's our jobs to remain calm and give off that sense of calmness to our partners.
Other bits of different 'language' was referring to contractions as waves or surges. Which to be fair to Claire as she said it. Might not be the greatest choice of words given the current pandemic and lockdown. However, ya get the point.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Finally, and I think this was probably my favourite technique so far with hypnobirthing, is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique to focus my wife's mind on something else rather then the kicks my kid is currently delivering to her stomach.
You basically name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and then 1 emotion you're feeling. Do this slowly and I won't lie it works. Even just for yourself looking to unwind from work.
Oh, if you were wondering, the other acronym was BRAIN. It came up before in the antenatal class? If you've been reading can you remember it?
That's it for now. It's time to get stuck into the workbook and the audios even more. I'll make sure to try hypnobirthing fully before I make a final judgement and I'll keep ye up to date with it all on social.
If you've used hypnobirthing for your own kids, please leave a comment below about your experience for any Dad-to-be's or parents-to-be that might stumble across this.
Cheers, ye legends.