In all honesty, very few women have a natural labor at the hospital I worked at, where more than 80% of labor occurs with the assistance of an epidural. When I did have women express an interest in having a natural labor, I was always surprised at their lack of a plan for how they were going to do it.
It always seemed like they were signing up to do the Boston Marathon with the plan to just show up and run the course without ever training for it. Or maybe it is just because I am an athlete, it always seemed like getting through labor naturally was something that needed to be thought out, prepared for, and practiced. Admittedly, I was always a bit leery of natural labor after watching so many women who seemed to struggle through it. I certainly did not see all of the beauty that labor and delivery could be, if it was just fully embraced for what it was.
So when I got pregnant, I was a bit surprised by my strong desire to have a natural labor. After much contemplation, I decided to fully commit to this plan and I began researching various natural labor methods. I looked at the Bradley method, hypnobirthing, and Lamaze and decided that hypnobirthing felt like the best fit for me. It uses relaxation, breathing exercises, visualization, and meditative practices to relax the body so that labor can occur. I think it was the sense of peace that the exercises brought to the labor process that I found most appealing.
In order to learn the hypnosis techniques, I looked into private lessons, group classes, and home study. The classes really seemed like they would be time consuming, and costly, especially since I needed to spend time at home practicing the techniques on my own, which was also a time commitment. So after reading about a lot of other women’s hypnobirthing experiences, I decided to go it alone. I downloaded a hypnobirthing home study course to my iPod and started doing the exercises every afternoon, on my own initially and then with my husband.
The first few times I listened to the Rainbow Relaxation, which was admittedly my favorite, I had a lot of trouble relaxing and following the guided visualization. I was half tempted to give up, thinking that maybe this was not something I could do. But I decided to keep trying and I quickly began to relax deeper and deeper until I was taking some of the best naps I have ever had. I started to look forward to practicing, not only because of the great rest, but also because I found it to be a wonderful bonding time with my baby.
Unfortunately, my pregnancy was complicated by growth restriction of my daughter. I encouraged my obstetrician to monitor my pregnancy instead of inducing me right away, but when my amniotic fluid began to decrease I had no other choice but to be delivered. After two full days of a failed induction, I had to have a cesarean delivery (I cried the whole way to the OR). Even though I did not get the natural birth I had hoped to have, I still found my hypnobirthing to be invaluable. It helped get me through the two days full of procedures, vaginal exams, and contractions and gave me hours of bonding time with my daughter throughout the pregnancy.
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