All in the Mind
Self-hypnosis can help you achieve goals, and it can also prepare mums-to-be for a confident birth. Robyn Cowling explains her joyful and profoundly connective experience
I heard people mention about hypnobirthing, but hadn’t paid it much heed until I became pregnant last year. I didn’t really know what was involved, and since I’m a bit of a hippy I thought I should at least google it. The more positive birthing stories I read, the more I wanted to pursue the idea.
I found local hypnobirthing practitioner Leonie Garner from Mindful Mammas, and my husband James and I booked a private session for late in my second trimester. We were sent a book to read aloud together ahead of the session, and while it very informative it was a bit of a chore to read it every night. Nevertheless, we did.
At that point, we were interested but not entirely committed. That all changed when we met Leonie and heard firsthand how amazing self-hypnosis can be. In short, self-hypnosis is a way to control your fight-or-flight responses, and allow your subconscious to take over your conscious self. After that initial session, I listened to some short recorded tracks on my phone during my commute to work. I had a longer track, which I saved for bedtime (because I would inevitably fall asleep listening to it!). I quickly blossomed with confidence, and I had never felt so positive or capable.
James and I were encouraged to have ‘sensory anchors’ (such as music or smells), which would become familiar with the feelings of self-hypnosis. The scent of lavender reminds me of our wedding in the South of France, with our loved ones around us and excitement in the air, so every bedtime I’d pop the diffuser on with that essential oil, sync my chosen songs with the longer self-hypnosis track and fall asleep listening to it.
I did that pretty much every night for three months, and wasn’t really aware that I was learning. however, my subconscious was soaking it all up whilst I was getting some well-needed rest after a long day of baby-growing.
When I awoke one morning in September, in the early stages of labour, I calmly put the songs and diffuser on and sent my husband to work with a promise to keep him updated. I let the familiar feeling of relaxation and control sink in. It was wonderful, I was beyond excited – I felt my body was built to do this! Don’t get me wrong, I was uncomfortable and I was sick a few times, but it wasn’t painful.
For successful hypno-birthing you need your birthing partner to be on board. My husband was unbelievable; he was my eyes and ears in the hospital, he made sure the room was prepared and that the staff supported our choice to have the our music on and the lavender smell, so I could stay in the zone. After being in labour at home for five hours, pushing in hospital for another six, baby Grayson arrived happy, healthy and very chilled.
I was exhausted but I have never been prouder of myself. I have more lumps and bumps than before, but I also have a new love, respect and appreciation for my body and my mind. Self-hypnosis showed me that I was capable of having a pain-free, calm birth. It’s amazing what you can do when you set your mind to it.
The science bit
Leonie Garner from Mindful Mammas explains how self-hypnosis works
“Our subconscious mind (sometimes called the ‘Body Mind’) is what we use to learn, make decisions and make sense of the world around us. It’s also the part that knows how to run all of our bodily functions and of course, grow and birth our babies. By gently accessing the subconscious through hypnosis with repeated positive messages, a mum-to-be can release any fears she may have and access her ‘Birthing Zone’; a naturally calm and empowered state of mind. This allows her to give birth more naturally and easily, sometimes even pain free, so that positive birth hormones and endorphins flow, and the beautifully synchronised system of birth happens as it was perfectly designed to.”