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I Swear HypnoBirthing Isn't a Pile of Insane Hippie BS

Photograph by Twenty20

I’ll be the first to admit that it sounds ridiculous to hypnotize yourself for a pain-free birth. No amount of deep breathing, soothing mantras and wacky visualizations can possibly make labor and childbirth easy, right?

It turns out I was totally wrong. While some of the claims are definitely overblown, HypnoBirthing worked well enough for me that I used it not just once, but twice.

After a less than ideal epidural experience with my first, I looked into alternative pain-coping methods when I was pregnant with my second. I read and watched all I could get my hands on in the natural child birthing world. But it wasn’t until I started practicing HypnoBirthing that I really started to feel like I could actually pull off an unmedicated birth in a hospital setting.

I read the book "HypnoBirthing" by Marie Morgan cover to cover and I listened to the accompanying CD every night. The book teaches you that if you embrace the sensations of labor as productive instead of scary, you can greatly reduce the pain you experience. It also gives you special breathing techniques, long calming breaths to work with your contractions and strong downward breaths to help you push without turning purple.

The audio component is essentially guided meditation that helps you relax and practice remaining calm during childbirth. You imagine things like floating on a rainbow that makes you more and more relaxed as you pass through each color. Unfortunately, I didn't really get to try it out the second time around either.

My second son was born 45 minutes after my water was broken as a form of induction. So by the time I felt the need to practice my hypnosis, it was already time to push! And while I admittedly abandoned the calm "breathing down the baby" technique described in the book, after three decidedly painful pushes, my baby was born. It really was an incredible experience and I couldn't help but think that working on not fearing labor must have helped. It certainly didn’t hurt.

HypnoBirthing gave me the tools to have the kind of birth I wanted, but more importantly, it gave me the gift of relaxation during my pregnancy and beyond.

It wasn't until my third pregnancy that I really put HypnoBirthing to the test. During this more medically complicated pregnancy, I called upon the techniques to get through stressful testing and help me mentally prepare for an impending birth that would be a far cry from the Ina Mae Gaskin ideal.

When my water broke before my planned induction and I was airlifted to the children's hospital, I was so grateful that I had practiced imagining myself being cradled in a calming rainbow. I closed my eyes and rode that rainbow through fog and turbulence until we landed in a place safe enough to deliver.

And when it was time to push, I blocked out the brightly lit, extremely crowded delivery room and breathed that baby into the world with minimal pain and a level of control that surprised both me and the attending team of doctors. I know for sure that I couldn't have done it without my HypnoBirthing practice.

HypnoBirthing gave me the tools to have the kind of birth I wanted, but more importantly, it gave me the gift of relaxation during my pregnancy and beyond. As a naturally anxious person, having a concrete breathing, visualization and relaxation plan was extremely valuable.

While the book and courses are firmly in the anti-medical intervention camp, I'm proof that the relaxation techniques can be used to shape a positive experience regardless of what type of birth you have. Remaining as calm as possible during delivery is helpful whether you have a home birth or a C-section. Yes, it sounds completely silly to imagine you're floating on a rainbow, but I swear it works—and anything that can help relieve the stress of having a baby is worth trying in my book.

And at the end of the day, what have you got to lose?

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