Dear Katherine,

During the last five and a half months, I have thought a great deal about what it was that enabled Jasper and me to birth together with such an amazing partnership. Going through the hypnobirthing weekend course with you, doing the exercises between then (32 weeks) and the birth and, finally birthing Jasper, I can say that those things that went “click” in my mind initially, were what stayed with me through the birth. The first was the re-enforcement that, as women, our bodies are built to give birth. I think innately we do know this, but face it, most of us have had a constant stream of horror stories, each worse than the last, throughout our lives. Comments about the horrific pain and the inevitable interventions that compound the pain, until we believe there is no other way to birth, lead us to believe this is our lot in life as women.

Probably the most powerful thing for me was that it was not just me involved in the birth. There are two beings involved and the harnessing of the two working together, as it is meant to be, instead of one in isolation was, I have no doubt, what enabled Jasper and me to have such a wonderful, unforgettable and incredible experience together. The knowledge of just how our bodies worked during birthing proved invaluable because, once I knew and understood the way our muscles were designed to work, I then understood how to work with and take my queues from my body. To flow with and relax and let Jasper do his thing – beautiful and amazing! The imagery that helped there were the blue ribbons and imagining them as totally elastic. This allowed for really rhythmic and effective surges. In the weeks leading up to Jasper’s birth I swam every day in salt water and because of the buoyancy of the water, I found I could really “get” the feeling of how my breathing and muscles worked with each surge.

Which brings me to the breathing. Each of the breathing techniques were really helpful, but I should say that I was probably not such a model of the silent-type hypnobirthers that we saw on the videos! I found that instead of a silent exhalation I was substituting with a deep primal low roar…?!! very effective for me as I was totally in the zone of working with Jasper in a relaxed state – each to her own!

I remarked to Webby (my support person) a little after 11pm that I had started to have quite marked surges quite suddenly. I think she probably thought that these were not so strong as I seemed totally relaxed about the whole thing and we each went to bed. I probably thought at this stage that I would be relaxing, doing my breathing and imagery and sleeping in between surges. Wrong! The surges started at 8 mins apart and quickly went to about 5 mins. I felt an overwhelming urge to squat during surges, so by the time I had laid down on the bed to sleep (!) it was time to get off the bed and squat again and I was missing the beginning of the surge. I then lay on the floor and was quickly in position at the beginning of the surge and had the breathing down pat – beautiful! About the squatting, because apparently not many women do – I like squatting and so I suppose I was more used to doing this than most. I had read also that if you were to squat during labour it could firstly, help the baby to get into the right position and secondly, could shorten the birth canal by up to about one third, so shortening labour. So I really practised squatting throughout my pregnancy – but, as I say, it was something that was quite natural to me; by the time Jasper was born squatting was a bit of a joke with everyone. Even so, though this was something I had in my armory, it was a real primal urge that had me squatting right from the word go with each surge and not something that was learned. I believe this helped Jasper enormously and the main reason that the whole birth seemed so “right” and easily natural.

At about 3am the surges were coming anywhere from between 2mins to 5 mins but were much stronger so I woke Webby. I don’t think she believed I was very far along as I was totally in control and relaxed and organising with her what to take and where things were, then just going into the surge whenever they occurred and remaining totally lucid and with-it in between times. We rang the midwife just to let her know that things were on the way. She listened to me during a surge – I told her that I had done hypnobirthing – and she said that I sounded great and that I would know when to come in. My waters broke at about 4.15am at which time Webby started thinking that it might be time to go in. The surges were coming erratically – sometimes 2 mins, sometimes 5 mins. Webby rang the midwife again and she said it sounded like the labour was trying to establish itself. I was totally in control and not having done this before, didn’t really know whether or not it was time to make tracks. I think Webby thought we had best make a move, as she was more than a little frightened of us having a home birth! (I had been joking with her previously that I would come in to wake her up when the baby’s head had crowned!)

We arrived at the birth centre at around 5.15am with the surges at the very strong stage. With each one, I did the slow balloon breathing as well as I could, I would probably have to say I had at least two breaths and sometimes more during a surge. What it did do, is allow me to concentrate on working with Jasper, practice the opening blossom visualisation, which was another one that really clicked with me, and remain totally focused, relaxed and calm. During the next half-hour or so, the surges were very strong and close. My midwife remarked that I was sounding expulsive and asked whether or not I was trying to push because I thought that was what I had to do. I said that I wasn’t trying, that I was just going with what my body was telling me. At that point she had a look and could see Jasper’s head. Without even thinking about it I had switched some time ago to birth breathing and, was using the ‘J’ pattern with the thrust of my out breath, going right down to the bowel area as you had described and I had practiced. So no real pushing as such, just a great breathing down of my baby with Jasper doing his bit perfectly! (Just about that- after I had been to your weekend I was telling a girlfriend all about it and she said to me that if only someone had told her that giving birth was like doing a poo she would have had her first one out in half the time and, that it was only with her second child she realised that was what she had to do!). Webby did some light touch massage, which was incredibly soothing.

I was still squatting as this was the most comfortable for me and allowed a really effective use of each surge, but my midwife had to ask me to change to all fours as there was no room for her to deliver Jasper (his head would have hit the floor!). That was a hard thing to do! I was nearly welded in that position! So just before Jasper’s head came, she asked me to stop pushing for a moment to minimise tears which I was able to do without any trouble. Another push and Jasper’s head was out, another two pushes and Jasper was born. Amazing! We were all in awe and just sat gazing at my beautiful, perfect little boy.

So, only an incredibly minor tear which didn’t need stitching, and I left the Centre mid-afternoon feeling very well physically and mentally. I did do the perineal massage you recommended (not one of the more pleasant things I have done, but totally worth persevering with) and plenty of pelvic floor exercises. All invaluable. As we were going down in the lift a woman who worked in the Delivery Suite section of the Hospital remarked to us that she knew we must have come from the Birth Centre because a new Mum was walking out of the Hospital and not having to be wheeled out in a chair and how healthy and normal Jasper looked with his “normal vaginal birth” head. Jasper is a delight and we really have a very special bond.

I first learnt about HypnoBirthing from my Naturopath when she gave me a bundle of information leaflets about everything from foods to avoid during pregnancy to ultrasound’s to hypnobirthing. The leaflet sat with all the rest of my accumulating wisdom on pregnancy and beyond. After a cursory glance for some months, I started reading through totally different and unrelated sources, about hypnobirthing and different women’s experiences with the method. I was intrigued, because not one woman seemed to be able to put her finger on what it was exactly about hypnobirthing that helped her through the birth of her baby – or rather that each woman had taken something different from the hypnobirthing method. However, the overwhelming message from each of them was that it had helped them all birth their babies with control and calm. To the extent that some women experienced little or no pain at all and that all seemed to have really experienced the birthing rather than just getting through the dreaded experience we are all taught to expect. Definitely worth more than a cursory glance! After some research through the net and other reading, I decided to book into your weekend course. I mentioned this to my midwife and asked her whether she had any experience with hypnobirthing. She told me that there had been about 10 women through the Birth Centre and that each of them had had incredible birth outcomes. She thought it should be mandatory for every woman to do it without her really understanding at all what it was all about. I heard later that this birth centre has asked a hypnobirthing practitioner to give a lecture to them about the method – this after initially telling this particular practitioner a few years before they had no interest at all in what she had to offer…small steps!

Since Jasper’s birth, I have been telling everyone about my experience. Most women, especially (younger) women who are yet to have children, do not believe it is possible to relax at all when birthing a baby and therefore a lot of them dismiss the whole scenario as too far out of their belief system; end of story. Such a shame. The deeply engrained, negative experience stories are ever prevalent and in some ways, worn like a bit of a badge of stoicism and the inevitability of being a woman. Many women who have given birth listen and are quite receptive to “new” ideas and then go on to tell their too awful to forget experience.

I know this is long-winded so feel free to use however much or little of it you wish. In any event, if it can help just a few women, that’s great. My apologies for taking so long! If anyone wants to contact me about hypnobirthing, I would be more than happy for them to do so. If I can help further in any way please let me know.

Finally – thank you for all your imparted wisdom and care. It truly guided me in the direction of having an unforgettable and empowering experience, which I don’t doubt for one minute, will stay with me for the rest of my life. The birth of a baby means that life will change unreservedly and is a joy beyond imagination. Having the knowledge which you gave to me to be able to birth Jasper in such a way compounded that joy and will be with the both of us for the duration.

Kind regards and best wishes
Bettina and Jasper

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