My (our) arrival at Natural Birthing

Birth Center roomI wanted to write a post on my journey to natural birthing, but as I began thinking about it I realized that it wasn’t really my story to tell. My wife was the one who began it, I was only riding along. So, I only think its appropriate that she tells her own story (of which I’m very grateful):

When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, I felt really unprepared for all the decisions I needed to make. It wasn’t something I thought of prior to being pregnant. I knew I wanted kids, but I figured there wasn’t anything to think about. You get an OB, when it’s time to have the baby you get an epidural and voila baby is here. Then you feed them formula, put them in disposable diapers, and put them in their crib to sleep. I picked up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, and as much as I feel that book is lacking in a lot of ways, it did make me realize their were other options. One option I didn’t really think their was a choice in was in my care provider. After all midwives are what third world countries and rural towns use, right?

I chose an OB that was recommended to me because she was open to multiple birth styles, she was pro-natural birth, but also pro-medicalized if that’s what you wanted. I had heard there was a birth center nearby, but quickly dismissed that as friends jokingly called it “the vagina cottage,” where really weird, hippy people go to birth and besides “what if something goes wrong and I’m not at the hospital!” I liked my OB. She was nice and very open to dialogue, the problem never really was with her. The problem came the day I delivered. By this point I decided I wanted a natural birth, I read all about it and was confident I could do it, even without knowing anyone who had. I imagined a happy, empowering birth. What I got was a feeling of being beat down and bullied. My blood pressure was high when I was admitted. I was made to be continuously monitored and labor on my back, while having back labor. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t take it. It wasn’t long before the cascade of intervention took hold, first narcotics and then the epidural. By time I delivered, I hadn’t slept in 36 hours, and hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours. I wouldn’t get much sleep that night as they constantly checked on us, and I wasn’t given any food either because “the cafeteria was closed.” I was mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. The nurses also did a good job of making me feel incompetent because I wasn’t following their protocol exactly. Breastfeeding was a disaster because of my lack of energy and this new baby being in basically a drug induced sleep from all the drugs I had been on during labor. None of this was what I had dreamed of, not even close.

It wasn’t long after this that I started to question what I should have done differently.  Research after the fact lead me to realize that I really wasn’t prepared the first time. I then knew real live people who birthed at that birth center or at least had prenatal care there, and it didn’t seem so weird anymore because these people were normal. They weren’t some tree-hugging person, they were just like everyone else I knew.  I’ve never been a fan of hospitals, so of course trying to have a natural birth there had been a bad idea. Naturally, the thought after this was I should have gone with a midwife as well. Like I said before there is nothing wrong with my OB,but I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers to try natural alternatives before going to see a doctor and getting medicine. I’m not anti-medicine, but I’d rather not over medicate just because it’s there.

The decision was made, at least by me, that next time I was going to a midwife and a birth center. We then moved, and when I first arrived in the new area I looked for a birth center, scared I wouldn’t find one. As luck would have it there was one only 15 minutes away. Unfortunately, it would take some time (and a little medical help) to finally conceive, and when I did, I called up the birth center with no hesitation. During a tour of the place, the first impression was it felt relaxed and home-like. At my first appointment, it was a world of difference from my OB appointments. I was shown how to weigh myself and do my own urine check (that may sound weird, but it makes me feel like I am in control of my own care). The waiting room has lots of toys and looks like a living room, giving my toddler plenty to do. We met with one of the midwives, who took as much time as we needed. She explained things and allowed us to be as involved or not involved as we wanted with the visit (for example offering the opportunity to look at my cervix during a pap smear). If I have non-urgent questions, I can contact one of the midwives via facebook, and she usually answers the same day. I remember sometimes waiting all day for the OB’s office to call back after complaining of symptoms of a UTI. When I’ve had actual health concerns such as spotting in the second trimester or the stomach flu in the third, a call to the midwife’s pager or the center usually gets a quick return call from one of the midwives. I was further shocked when the day I called about the stomach flu, that the midwife actually took the time to call back later in the day to see how I was doing.

Already, the difference between my two experiences seems like night and day. With one I felt like a patient who had a disease, the other I feel like I am being treated like an educated human being. I feel truly empowered and supported in whatever decisions I make concerning my pregnancy and birth. I’m allowed to research and decide, instead of being informed what is best. I look forward to the impending birth and truly feel ready for it this time.

I think the best part of the midwife/birth center model is the personalized care. The mother doesn’t feel like a commodity moving through the baby factory, but an actual living being with their own thoughts, feelings and expectations. At every step along the way we’ve felt the support of our birth center family. This has led to a calm, relaxed pregnancy and I can only imagine the birth will be the same. I only want the best possible experience and outcome for mother, child and family, and I know we’ve found the best place for it to happen. What was your experience?


What is Hypnobirthing?

Hypnobirthing logo

© HypnoBirthing Institute

I’ve mentioned Hypnobirthing® a few times before, so I decided to dedicate a post to explain it to those who may not know about it.

When my wife signed up at our local birth center they informed us that we would need to take a birth education class. I can’t say that I was entirely excited because and I figured I knew everything I needed to know, but I want to be a supportive husband so I gave it a try. Then, my wife tells me that it’s called “Hypnobirthing” and I had mental images of creepy hypnotists telling us to do all sorts of strange things. I had fears for a moment that we had gone down some sort of dark, ultra-crunchy granola road. I remember the first evening as we drove to the birth center telling my wife something to the effect of, “I’m worried this is going to be some sort of hawkward (our code-word for super awkward) experience and I’m going to be really uncomfortable.” Being the wonderful woman she is, she assured me it would probably be okay, and by the end of our first class I realized my expectations were far from reality. So, what is this HypnoBirthing thing?

Hypnobirthing is:

  • A natural childbirth method enhanced by self-hypnosis
  • Family centered–The mother, father (or partner) and children are all included and encouraged to participate in the birthing experience
  • A method that teaches the woman that her body is not broken, but that in the majority of cases is capable of a natural birth without medical intervention
  • Focuses on positive thoughts and outcomes to overcome fear and pain (A major teaching of Hypnobirthing is that fear causes tension in the body which then causes pain. If one learns to release that fear, pain becomes a non-issue).

Hypnobirthing is not:

  • The hypnosis you see portrayed on TV and in movies–It is a method of self-hypnosis. You are in control of you body and thoughts at all times and are never asked to do anything that w0uld put you, your birthing partner, or your baby along a harmful path.
  • A path to forget the “pain” of birth–As stated above, the woman is very aware of what her body is doing and she has a memory of the entire experience.
  • Anti-hospital or doctors. Only 13% of Hypnobirthing woman birth outside of the hospital. (For more stats see:

Having completed the classes a few weeks ago, I realize that the Hypnobirthing method is not far off the path of normalcy. It is actually how woman have birthed for centuries before modern medicine. It did not have a name, but many of the practices came from times of old. It is structured on the research and writings of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an early natural birth advocate.

I also love the positive focus of Hypnobirthing. My undergraduate degree is in music education and my principal instrument was voice. The positive focus and fear release go right in hand with my vocal training, so when I learned about the breathing methods and fear/tension release it made perfect sense. As a singer, if I have fear about a particular approaching passage (or for me, the dreaded high note) I would often tense up, making it much more difficult to be successful negotiating in the passage. I also know that if I was particularly tense, it actually would make singing painful and much more fatiguing. In contrast, if I was properly prepared and had any excessive tension in check, then I was much more successful.

We are taught in Hypnobirthing, that pain is the product of our fears. Everyone has seen that TV and movie scene where the laboring woman is screaming in pain and cursing and hitting her husband because, “You did this to me.” Women hear the birthing story of every person they know (usually unsolicited) and how painful, long, difficult, etc. it was for them. Women in American society are conditioned from an early age to fear birth, and it approaches (just like my high-notes) they become tense, their muscles constrict, blood flow is slowed, and they feel pain. The typical medical professional is not equipped to teach women to release those fears, but rather, is equipped to offer medication and other interventions to save them from the pain of childbirth. The medical professionals are only treating the symptom (pain), and not the root cause (fear).

I am very excited to share the results of our Hypnobirthing journey in the coming months. So far, it has been a very joyful experience. Are there any other Hypnobirthing parents out there? Please, share your experience or comments below or by send me an email and I’ll include you in an upcoming post. If you’re interested in Hypnobirthing classes, look here for a local practitioner.

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This YouTube video is an excellent example of Hypnobirthing at a birth center. Notice how calm and relaxed the mother is during the whole experience.