Like most first time mums-to-be, when I found out I was expecting a baby, I was terrified at the prospect of actually giving birth to a tiny human. To say that it filled me with trepidation is putting it mildly. There would be screaming and grunting (me), fainting (him), cold metallic instruments, bright lights and lots of blood. That's how it works, right? Pregnancy would inevitably ruin my stomach and ravage my breasts while childbirth would change me forever. "You'll probably tear, poo yourself and maybe puke a bit too", they warned. Awesome. Sign me up!
When I visited my GP to inform him of our happy news, as you do, his parting words to me were, "take all the drugs you can get your hands on and don't listen to the hippies". Straight off the bat the same old message was being hammered home. Birth is bloody painful, brace yourself girl! From movies and TV to idle gossip, everything we're told about childbirth from a young age is beyond unpleasant. Is it any wonder that life's most natural event is something many of us come to fear deeply?
Copyright Kirsteen O'Sullivan 2016
I've boycotted One Born Every Minute. I just know it would have deterred me from getting pregnant in the first place. I've plenty of friends who're glued to it though. Just so that they can prepare themselves for every possible outcome you understand. Seriously? We're talking about an entertainment show. It's hardly going to show normal peaceful births. That would be too boring! Also, if you've ever been pregnant, you'll probably relate to this weird rite of passage where you have to politely listen as other mums recount how horrifying their birth was. What's wrong with aiming for a nice birth exactly? A good birth? Is there even such a thing?
I'd heard whispers that there was a better a way called hypnobirthing. Up the duff with no way back, I was compelled to investigate! It's got a solid celeb following, this hypnobirthing craze. Tom Fletcher of McFly fame, Fearne Cotton and even TOWIE's Sam Fraiers are all outspoken advocates (though I think most people still baulk at the term). Immediately you have connotations of hypnosis and chanting, don't you? We did too, my husband and I, as we sat bemused in a semi circle along with five other expectant couples.
Anticipating a tree hugging teacher, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Hollie de Cruz, of London Hypnobirthing. Her courses sell out. Couples queue through the door to hear what she has to say and it's not hard to understand why. Hollie immediately challenged any preconceptions I had. Intelligent, charming and witty, she's the kind of person you instantly want to be friends with. Well used to dealing with cynicism, she helped me to unravel every negative damaging stereotype of childbirth that I had built up in my mind. Everything she taught made complete and utter logical scientific sense. It was like a fog lifting for us.
Fear can hold us back in all aspects of our lives and childbirth is no different. If you expect a difficult birth, you're much more likely to get one. If you are positive and have the right tools to help you cope, you're much more likely to have a good experience. In a nutshell, that's what hypnobirthing is all about. It teaches you really clever breathing and mental techniques to help you manage fear and enter into a calm relaxed state, with the aim of encouraging oxytocin production (that's the shy love hormone, which is key to successful labour). If you're shit scared, you'll only produce adrenaline and your muscles won't work as they should.
It also became clear to me that giving birth is not something that happens to women with our partners watching fearfully, knees trembling. We are not passive creatures. Childbirth is something that our bodies are programmed to cope with naturally and we can choose how it happens. We are in control. Having a baby isn't a one woman show either. For too long our other halves have been sidelined, made to feel like a bit part in the birth of their child. Mums need support and protection when they are going through the vulnerable birthing process. It is a team effort. Hypnobirthing actively promotes this.
Hollie has these 'yesmum cards' which have positive statements printed on them. As part of her hypnobirthing course, your partner is obliged to stick them strategically all over the house. To the amusement of my friends, if you open our fridge you're greeted by the mantra 'birth is safe'. There's no such thing as a contraction, which isn't an appealing word if you think about it. Instead, we have surges. Hypnobirthing is about changing the way we talk and think about childbirth and it works!
I've just reached the 39 week mark and I'm enjoying my last few baby-free days, without anxiety or worry. A few of the girls from my class have already given birth and each of them had an amazing experience. Imagine that! I'm not naive, I know things don't always go exactly to plan but regardless of how the birth of my baby pans out, we know that we have done as much as we can to ensure that it's a calm and peaceful experience. Hypnobirthing has been such a wonderful learning curve. Forget the fancy buggies and cute outfits, it's the best investment we've made so far.
For more information on London Hypnobirthing http://www.londonhypnobirthing.co.uk