Nothing brings home to you the importance of preparing for birth like suddenly finding yourself on a window ledge on the ninth floor of the maternity unit, screaming in panic that you’re “GOING TO F***ING JUMP” if they don’t “CUT IT OUT OF YOU RIGHT NOW!” You realise (far too late) that you’re completely clueless about giving birth. What the hell are you supposed to be doing?
Giving birth again? Yikes, I’ve got to start preparing NOW.
So, a few years later, when I peed on the stick again and went back into the bedroom to share the good news with my over-the-moon boyfriend, my feelings were mixed. Giving birth again? Yikes, I’ve got to start preparing NOW. Last time, with my then-boyfriend, I felt super ready after reading just one book. I had a strategy! We were way too cool to bother with antenatal classes and, surprise, surprise, I wrote an obnoxious birth plan, which we tore up into confetti and scattered somewhere near that window ledge I told you about.
“You’ve written that you don’t want an epidural and you want everything to be as natural as possible,” the midwife hesitantly pointed out at the time. “I DO WANT IT!” I yelled. And stepped down from that window ledge. Well, “step” might be stretching it a bit: anyone who’s been pregnant knows you don’t exactly “step”. You sort of lumber forwards. Like a sack of potatoes rolling downhill in a headwind.
I decided to take a hypnobirthing course
Anyway, somewhere in the middle of my second pregnancy, with my next boyfriend, who was about to become a first-time dad, I read an article in a pregnancy magazine. It was penned by a reporter who’d tried out different ways of preparing for birth, including hypnobirthing. And she warmly recommended it. This time around, I decided not to be too cool for school, and I signed us up for a hypnobirthing course.
Before we knew it, we were seated on chairs, face-to-face, in a conference room. My boyfriend and I were breathing in harmony. We were lightly massaging each other and practising affirmations. We were learning all about the power the mind exerts over the body, and the way fear can prevent a fully functional female body from doing what it’s perfectly capable of doing, even when lying in a coma: giving birth.
Hypnobirthing is highly focused on the interaction between mum and baby, and the way their bodies work in harmony during childbirth. “This is natural. Your body instinctively knows what it’s supposed to do. Trust your body. Natural, natural, natural. Serene and safe.” The course taught us a wonderfully effective relaxation script, which my boyfriend and I practised almost every evening.
The most important aspect of hypnobirthing is practising how to cope with unexpected developments.
Most importantly, the course taught us how to manage all the uncertain parameters of childbirth. There’s no way to tell in advance how it will feel – every birth is different. You don’t know how events will unfold. You don’t know how long you’ll be in labour. The one thing you do know for sure is that you’ll stay strong. Together with your baby. And most of what you’re doing is entirely natural and nothing is wrong. You learn how to nip any niggles of panic in the bud.
5 hypnobirthing tips for a more comfortable birth
1. If a hypnobirthing course is unaffordable or unavailable, you can read books, watch YouTube clips and listen to relaxation music on Spotify.
2. Practise relaxation and positive reinforcement as often as you can. Find music, scents and “happy places” in your mind that give you a sense of calmness and reassurance.
3. Involve your partner/birthing companion as much as possible. The two of you are a team!
4. The most important aspect of hypnobirthing is practising how to cope with unexpected developments. Things never go according to plan. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
5. Let go and allow your body to show you the way. It may sound incredibly hippy-dippy, but your body knows what it’s supposed to do. Your brain could stall or slow down your labour: learn how to disconnect it!
In retrospect, I have to say that hypnobirthing paid off for me.
It’s quite painful to give birth. Quite horrendously painful, to be honest. But don’t panic. In retrospect, I have to say that hypnobirthing paid off for me. It soothed me and my partner into the right state of mind. Once we reached the delivery ward, everything went quite quickly and we didn’t have time for much of our relaxation script. I asked for an epidural straight away, even though it was too soon, and it worked brilliantly. I’m so glad that I had the guts to stand my ground. Towards the end of the second phase of labour, I felt a sense of rising panic, but I focused on my baby, talked to him and kept feeling his head.
I felt the reassuring presence of my boyfriend at my side. And despite all the preparing for birth I’d done this time, I still moaned at least ten times, “Hooowww could you be crazy enough to do this AGAIN?” – but, you see, that’s entirely natural too.
Family: My partner Kjell, 47, son Sam, 10 weeks, and daughter Betty, 5 years.
Lives: In a tiny (but delightfully cosy!) one bedroom sublet flat in Stockholm, while waiting for a new build.
My top tip for new mums: Get a baby bouncer with a calming rocking movement. It’s truly a life-saver if you want time to yourself to grab a meal/take a shower/check Instagram/sit staring into space.