Updated: Jun 14, 2018
And why, from now on, I'll call myself a "H-BAT"...
When I said to a new friend at a baby group that my recent birth experience had been a positive, empowering, gentle and affirming transition for both me and my baby (or words to that effect ;-) I gradually began to realise that people were looking at me as though I had just sprouted a second head...
Not because I actually speak in lengthy, blog-publishable sentences, but because, as I began to realise, some of these women had never heard birth talked about in such a positive way.
Let me rewind slightly - back to the idea that birth isn't like that AT ALL - Don't switch off if you're a hypnobirthing or positive birth advocate, I won't be gratuitously describing my negative birth experience - I have a positive use for this rewind and suggestion.
All that some people, and I'm counting Dads and birth partners and the rest of the family in right here (and I'll keep them close too as they're an essential part of this journey from start to finish), all that some people have ever known about birth is the dramatised, medicalised, one-born-every-whatever... The stories of horror, blood, shit, gore and trauma that women everywhere have shared with their friends and family.
In fact I wont even trivialise this.
Too many women and their birth partners have experienced traumatic birth (surely any is too many, right?) - In fact I've seen research (summarised rather neatly by PATTch, see the link at the end) that puts estimates between 25 and 30% of women who would describe their birth as 'traumatic' - in fact, for my first birth? I'm one of them.
The rise in reported numbers of caesarean section in the UK has reached alarming levels; currently creeping ever nearer 3 times the number recommend by the World Health Organisation. And STILL, every day, women with healthy babies and healthy pregnancies are pressured into medicalised induction procedures without proper consideration of risk and benefits, and therefore, without informed consent.
Rates of post-partum mental health diagnosis have risen exponentially over the past few decades in the UK. Fortunately, our awareness no longer focusses solely on instances of post natal depression but increasingly, we recognise the impact on maternal and paternal mental wellbeing, parent-infant bonding and breast feeding relationships, all influenced by post traumatic symptoms associated with AVOIDABLE birth trauma.
As i said, this was me, once.
But not this time.
This time, I'm a H-BAT.
You've maybe heard of a VBAC?
For those that haven't come across this anacronym before, it stands for Vaginal Birth After Caesarean. Women who, following a caesarean birth, successfully go on to a subsequent vaginal delivery. Something that would have been highly UNrecommended only recently within the NHS.
Today, I read about an FBAC. A Freebirth After Caesarean! Now, that's another post in and of itself.
Anyway.. I've just coined this phrase HBAT.
So I'll just use it one more time, I'm a Hypnobirther After Trauma.
So, it's true, difficult birth scenarios do happen.
And sometimes, this can be nothing short of traumatic. If there's a medical emergency. If you're not properly prepared by your healthcare professionals (and I count antenatal educators in this category), if you don't understand what's happening to you or why. If you're uncomfortable, overtired, unsupported or worse, frightened.
BUT ~ This is only part of the story ~ and for an increasing number of women, this is NOT a part of the story at all.
Things ARE changing.
Women everywhere are hearing more and more stories like mine (see birth number 2), they're accessing appropriate, person-cantered, evidence- based antenatal education, they're taking charge of their maternity rights and they're making choices that until recently they weren't aware they actually had.
That's what I want for you..
So what does that look like? Exactly.
If you take a hypnobirthing class, either privately or in a group, what is it that you're buying exactly? Are you buying your own personal perfect birth? Are you imagining water and candles and maybe some lavender right now?
Myth #1 of hypnobirthing really should be ~ There's no such thing as a "HYPNOBIRTH".
Then why on earth should anyone PAY (yes, sadly, thorough, evidence based, birth preparation through antenatal education is not free in the UK - yet) for hypnobirthing if they don't even get a guarantee that they go on to have a "HYPNOBIRTH"??
Well, let's clear that one up, once and for all...
You absolutely can have your own personal private HYPNOBIRTH ~ if your definition of what that actually is, isn't narrowly defined by birth scenario ~ such as that forest-based, water birth with lavender growing between the trees.
Anyone who has researched hypnobirthing, applied the principles through repeated skills practice to relaxation, breathing and visualisations, learned the physiology and psychology of what their body is actually doing during labour, included their birth partner in their central roles, informed their care givers, made autonomous, evidence-based decisions about their care and THEN subsequently given birth, has HAD a HYPNOBIRTH.
Is that what you thought hypnobirthing was all about? I hope so.
These women have had planned and unplanned caesareans, instrumental deliveries, home births, water births, frank breech presentations and vaginal deliveries of all shapes and sizes of new born - what they have in common is that they ALL knew what was happening to them, at all times, they weren't passive recipients of generic models of care. They made evidence-based decisions and gave fully informed consent to any and all procedures. They KNEW which birth-location was best for them, their baby and their birth partner, they created a fluid and well researched birth plan that, when the time came, effortlessly moulded to their birthing needs. They were listened to and respected by health professionals and they were supported, in the most profound and loving way by their birthing partner(s).
These women, had empowering, positive, powerful birth experiences that saw them into their new role with energy, a sense of fulfilment and the power of achievement.
These women ALL had "hypnobirths".
Hypnobirthing is about taking the science that informs our medical professionals and applying it directly to our own personal circumstances. It's about releasing fear by building absolute confidence in your decisions and then working with your birth partner(s) and care givers to labour in the most comfortable and natural way for your own unique set of circumstances.
As Katharine Graves herself says, it really is quite "simple, logical and profound".
Some useful contacts:
If you've been affected by anything I've written here, or you have experienced birth trauma, please don't suffer alone, support is available, visit birthtraumaassociation.org.uk
Pattch.org Have collated some of the statistics I referred to.
If you'd like to know more about Hypnobirthing and plan your approach to evidence-based antenatal, visit my website Paratoi.co.uk
Or check out the legendary Katharine Graves, founder of the UK leader in Hypnobirthing, delivering Royal College of Midwives Accredited Teacher Training kghypnobirthing.co.uk
If you're pregnant and want some positive inspiration, check out the positive birth movement and visit one of their many thousands of FREE UK antenatal discussion groups positivebirthmovement.org or just search 'positive births' for beautiful videos of birth, the positive, supported, gentle, calm, confident and evidence-based way.
And finally, for some truly evidence-based writing on all things pregnancy and birth, visit Dr Sara Wickham at sarawickham.com