Doula and HypnoBirthing

Last Saturday Andy and I had our first official class with the doula who we hired the previous week.  Her name is Tami and she was recommended by a co-worker.  For those of you who have not heard of doulas before (we hadn’t) a doula is an assistant who provides various forms of non-medical support in the childbirth process.  I was not searching for a doula until about a month ago when I felt a lot of fear about the birthing process and started reading about it.  The stories are varied and wild but in various pieces of literature, it mentioned that doulas can greatly reduce the birth time and mothers/parents who hired doulas often reportedly have a more positive birthing experience.  I dug up the information that a co-worker, Christi Putz had sent me about her doula and I gave Tami a call.

After the initial phone call, I was still not sure if a doula and in particular, Tami, was the right approach for the big day, but after our first in-person meeting a little over a week and a half ago, Andy and I both felt like going with Tami was the right decision.  For $500, Tami will meet with us once a week between now and the birth helping us to mentally prepare ourselves for the birthing experience.  Then, once I go into labor, she will come whenever we want her to and stay with us through the birth and as long as we want afterwards helping with the initial breast feeding and settling into parenthood.  She also will do a follow up visit once we are back at home, again, when we would like her to.  She does not push herself onto us at all and is very good at reading what we are comfortable with and proceeding with that.

Tami is actually the teacher of the hypnobirthing® class at St. Lukes which Christi had also recommended.  When I looked into the class prior to hiring Tami, I was intrigued but thought it was too expensive for just another childbirthing class.  Tami has agreed to teach us hypnobirthing® in our one-on-one sessions and after reading two-thirds of the book on the subject, I am so glad that we have chosen to go this route.  It is almost as if this path was predetermined but we just had to find it.

Let me take a step back and explain hypnobirthing®.  In my words, hypnobirthing® is a way to train yourself to relax so completely during labor that you allow your body to naturally expel the baby from the your body, something that women’s bodies amazingly know how to do instinctively.  According to the book I am reading, western medicine since the time of the Dark Ages has trained women to expect medical interventions and make it very difficult and painful to labor.  The book actually says that women who follow hypnobirthing® not only labor naturally without drugs or medical interventions but do it pain-free…there is pressure, but not pain.  It describes the uterus as having vertical muscles on the top and back of the uterus and then horizontal muscles at the bottom of the uterus.  If a woman in labor can relax the horizontal muscles, then the vertical muscles naturally push the baby down and out of the woman’s body.  Taken from here: The reason that the uterus muscles don’t perform, according to Marie Mongan, founder of HypnoBirthing®, is because a culture of fear of childbirth has been developed over centuries, not due to the actual physical aspect of birth but due to the fear of what may possibly go wrong during and after childbirth. When we are fearful, we are also tense and when we are tense we experience pain. This is because the blood and oxygen necessary for the uterus muscles to work in harmony for an easy, comfortable birth, are directed to the parts of the body that are more important when needing to either fight or run for our lives. The uterus does not play a life saving role and is therefore not nourished when we are in danger and fearful.

A more complete description of hypnobirthing® can be found here.

HypnoBirthing is a unique method of relaxed, natural childbirth education, enhanced by hypnosis techniques, providing the missing link that allows women to use their natural instincts to bring about a safer, easier, more comfortable birthing in a way that most mirrors nature. Emphasis is placed on both pregnancy and childbirth as well as on HypnoBirthing . As a birthing method, HypnoBirthing is as new as tomorrow and as old as ancient times. It is presented in five childbirth classes.

HypnoBirthing® - The Mongan Method (named after its creator, Marie Mongan), is as much a philosophy as it is a technique. The concept of HypnoBirthing® is not new, but rather a “rebirth” of the philosophy of birthing as it existed thousands of years ago and as it was recaptured in the work of Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, an English obstetrician, who first forwarded the concept of natural birthing in the 1920s. The method teaches you that in the absence of fear and tension, severe pain does not have to be an accompaniment of labor.

You will gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony–as they were designed to–when your body is sufficiently relaxed. You will learn how to achieve this kind of relaxation, free of the resistance that fear creates, and you will learn to use your natural birthing instincts for a calm, serene and comfortable birthing.

The more I read about hypnobirthing®, the more amazed I am.  This is not to say that I am convinced that it is going to work for me and I will have a pain-free natural birth…but part of the process is visualizing and truly believing the positive image of your birth so I need to set my hesitations aside and go for it.  For those of you who know me well, you know that this is against my practical sometimes cynical nature, but I honestly feel we need to follow this path.

One great thing about both the doula and hypnobirthing® is that Andy, as my birthing partner is a very active participant in the entire process.  We have both read over half of the book this week and last night we practiced the first relaxation/visualization exercise in the CD that comes with the book.  After our bodies were completely relaxed, it had us walking down a hallway into our own, “Peace Room” with furniture and configuration of our choosing.  In time, we should be able to almost immediately switch into a deep relaxation state.

There are loads of accounts of hypnobirthing out on the web.  It recently received a lot of publicity in the national press when celebrity, Jessica Alba, gave birth to her child naturally using hypnobirthing® techniques.  Her quote on the experience was, “I didn’t scream.  It was really Zen. The labor was more like meditation. I did yoga breathing. I was focused.

Okay, enough on hypnobirthing® for now but I guarantee there will be more information in future entries.

Sunday I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a bunch of little kid books.  At the urging of my hypnobirthing® class, we are starting to make more of an effort to connect with the baby and the past few nights Andy has been reading to me and the belly/baby.  The first night was my favorite childhood book, “Bernstein Bears and the Messy Room” and last night was “Curious George” or the bilingual title “Jorge el Curioso.”  Belén generally moves a lot when I first lay down to go to sleep each night, so it is hard to tell if her movement is because she likes the reading or just because that is the time of day when she is most active.

As I was driving home from Barnes and Noble, I had a total “zen mommy” moment.  I pictured reading nursery rhymes and singing to little Belén and I felt so happy and excited.  That coupled with my enjoyable time at Michael’s, the craft store, last week has those close to me perplexed.  Maybe it is the hormones or maybe I am just finally ready for this mommy stage of life, but whatever it is, I am excited.  I do think that hormones do play a part though because a few minutes after I returned home, I was tired and grumpy and the zen mommy moment had definitely passed.

Tuesday night, we went to a “Pump and Go” class at Babies R Us.  The lactation consultant who was supposed to present did not make it so one of the store clerks did a presentation on their Medela breast pumps.  It was not very informative so I turned into the annoying student who asks literally twenty questions.  I wasn’t going to waste a precious weekday night at Babies R Us and get nothing out of it.  We had brought the Medela pump we purchased at a garage sale and asked what pieces we needed to replace since it has been used before.  We bought those pieces and a few other things like breast shield and pads and wipes for the pump and are now set up to pump.

I am really amazed at how difficult breastfeeding is for so many new mothers.  I really hope that it goes well for me, but like birth we will try and be flexible if things do not go how we anticipate them.  My next book to read is on breastfeeding.  I generally don’t prepare for things by reading books on them, but I have found it the best approach lately now that I have found some books that don’t present every possible scenario and completely freak you out about all of the things that can go wrong.

Work has been busier than I would have expected this week.  A lot of people are out for spring break but there is still as much work to do, you just cannot consult with the needed people to get things done.  There have been fewer meetings and it has been nice and quiet in the office.  I am starting to feel the pressure to button up all of the projects I am in the middle of and hand them off to those who will be covering for me during maternity leave.  There is still A LOT of work to do in this arena though so I need to figure out how to get it all done between now and when Belén decides it is her time to emerge from her ten-month mobile bathtub.  So much to do and luckily fewer and fewer days to do them…a little over five weeks until the due date…although my latest book encouraged me not to focus on the due date since the baby can really come any time between 38 and 42 weeks!  Yikes, 42 weeks…that is not included in my positive visualization of birth so I will not focus on that. :)

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