PJ and I started our Hypnobirthing classes and I have formed a couple of thoughts about it already (as I am wont to do).
If you’re not already aware of it (as most people aren’t) the concept is simple: Most couples approach the process of labor with fear and anxiety (and in a lot of ways rightly so: It is a major event). When you get scared (fear/anxiety) the physiology of your body causes everything to tense up (good ol’ “Fight Or Flight” reflex) and makes the opening of the uterus and cervix difficult and painful. If you can relax and control the fear and anxiety, the birth can be if not pain-free, at least not the huffing and puffing screaming scenario that most of us associate with the idea of childbirth. Matt briefly touched on it in a previous post.
First of all, I kinda think “Hypnobirthing” is a lousy name, because it automatically conjures up visions of corny magicians and some joker holding a pocket watch in front of your eyes until you cluck like a chicken. I wish they would have called it “Focused Birthing” or “Relaxed Birthing” or “The Mongan Method” (after the woman who popularized it). If you say the word “Hypnobirthing” at a party, you automatically feel stupid, and I think the new-age cheesyness of the name could turn people off before they give it a shot.
Second, people who I know who are science-minded natural born cynics have done it and have had great success. Matt’s wife Jackie wrote about it a bit and in conversations with her PJ and I were very convinced (unless you were lying, Jackie. You best not be lying). We’ve seen a lot of videos of these couples giving birth and throughout the whole thing they are focused, calm, often smiling. There is obviously a lot of work when the baby is actually being born, but it isn’t screaming, sweating, “I Hate You!!! What Did You Do To Me!?!” kind of labor, it is relaxed and calm birthing with patient quiet coaching from their birth partner, often whispering in the woman’s ear. The babies are born (sometimes quickly, sometimes after 36 hours of labor) wide-eyed, not crying, calmly aware of their surroundings…not red-faced and screaming like what I used to imagine a newborn to be like.
Thirdly, I really believe it works after going through this simple exercise in class: Relax. Take slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes. Picture a kitchen. A nice kitchen. Somewheren you have been before and have fond memories of. Look at the countertops and the appliances. Feel the textures of the surfaces. Smell what’s cooking on the stove. Feel the heat from the burner and hear everything in the kitchen.
Look down on the cutting board and you will see a lemon.
A perfect lemon. Yellow. Waxy. A little stem on the end. Pick it up and feel all of the pores on the surface. Feel how it is cool to the touch and gives a little when you squeeze it. Bring it up to your nose and smell the tart citrus smell of the skin. Now pick up a knife and cut the lemon in half slowly.
Now bring the lemon up to your mouth and bite into it.ï¿½
Man oh man, my mouth salivated, my jaw burned and tingled, my lips puckered…and why? Was our Hypnobirthing instructor secretly filling the room with lemon Pledge? Did she silently squirt lemon juice into my closed mouth? IT WAS ALL IN MY BRAIN, MAN!!!
The power of her suggestion and my own experience of what it is like to bite a lemon told my physical body how to react, and react it did.If I just told you “Hey bro, imagine biting into a lemon” you might go “Yeah, that would be sour” but to be relaxed and focused, and really involved in the experience made it that much more potent and real.To take this to its obvious conclusion, you can use the power of your mind and the control you have over your physiological system to monitor and modify your pain and anxiety impulses and shut them out to a large extent. I have a first-class bullshit detector, and I really feel as though there is validity and merit to this system.I hope our birth goes as smoothly as Oscar’s did.If not, I want my money back.