We're into the home straights now, with Sarah 36th week of pregnancy. Which means it's time to start getting ready for the birth...
We started Hypnobirthing classes this week. Anything is worth a shot when potentially life-threatening agonising pain beyond the imaginable is five weeks away, I reckon.
Call me dramatic, but, well, you know, if you are calling me dramatic you're probably a bloke, or a Hypnobirthing teacher.
The classes, and our teacher Lisa Jackson in particular, were recommended to me by a friend going through her second pregnancy. She called me up especially to say we must give it a go, and she wished she'd done it the first time around.
After a tricky ventouse delivery with epidural in hospital for baby number one, she gave birth last week to a baby boy, at home with no intervention, bum first! His, not hers.
We rocked up at 7.30pm, Tuesday, to our class, held in Lisa's own home in Croydon.
Oh yes, it might sound like the kind of birth technique celebrities might flock too, and it is, but there was no Harley Street clinic for us.
The domestic setting put me at ease though, as did the mugs of tea and chocolate biscuits. Lisa, a qualified clinical hypnotherapist, knows how to treat pregnant women. First thing she did after making tea was tell me where the loo was. Off to a good start.
Hypnobirthing might sound like "binky bongo", to borrow a phrase from one friend, but it's a long time out of the periphery of childbirth techniques.
What is it? Well, at the simplest level it's a form of deep relaxation to aid the natural flow of birth. It's particularly good (I hope) for helping women let go of fear, release tension from their bodies and learn to trust in our ability to give birth without the kind of labour ward drama we might see on EastEnders. It's about getting the control back, by learning to let go.
Cripes, all I can say is that I hope it works for rest of my life too.
I'll spare you the history (though you can find out much more here), save to say it's been around for 20-plus years and boasts higher than average rates of low- to no-intervention births, lower incidences of post-natal depression and fewer broken fingers for fathers. I made the last bit up.
We're doing the Mongon Method of Hypnobirthing, devised by Marie Mongon. I'll keep you briefed on all the sessions - there will be four three-hour sessions in total. Tuesday's session was a mix of listening, learning and practising breathing and imagining sucking lemons. Oh, and actually sucking a polo mint to feel what it's like for my cervix to thin and open. Just hope it's as pain-free.
What stood out clearly from this session - along with why we should think of our uterine muscles as coils of blue ribbon - is that my head is currently in totally the wrong place, from the thoughts I'm having to the language I'm using. Bet you hadn't spotted that, huh? Changing the language of birthing is a big part of preparing for a Hypnobirth. Let's see what I can remember from class:
- We don't have contractions, we have surges. I like that one.
- We don't have Braxton Hicks, we have pre-labour warm-ups.
- We don't talk about pain. Hurrah.
- We don't have emergencies, we have special circumstances. Yep, ok, tell me that again if I start to haemorrhage.
- We have birthing months not, due dates. The baby will come when it's ready, which seems fair enough.
Hmm, that's not loads. Ah well, we've both been set some reading homework this week (which Lisa calls "home play"), and some breathing techniques to practice. I'm sure we'll get better at it.
Of course, the baby could still be breech, which might throw my plan for a home birth into disarray. Oh no, there I go again with the negative language; best to say "it might alter my birth plan but I will be able to flow with it".
Hypnobirthing is good for any type of birth apparently, from hospital Ceasarean to home birth, so we plan to keep at it. The boyfriend thought it was a good first session too, I think. Though after the section on how important it is for the "birth partner" to support the birthing woman, I'm not sure he'd have told me otherwise.