I recently had an enquiry from a lady to do Daisy classes who was wondering if it was worth coming along because she was doing Hypnobirthing as well.
The answer is a resounding YES!
When you work in birth and empowering women to make their own choices, you quickly begin to realise the amount of negativity and anxiety there is surrounding labour and birth. It begins with the horror stories, perhaps from the woman's own family (stories like, all the women in our family have had to have c-sections so you will too!) or her own birth as a baby. As the woman grows to adulthood she becomes aware of the images put forward by television and films that portray birth as a medicalised, excruciating ordeal. Her friends begin to have babies and the stories come pouring forth of things gone wrong.
Grantly Dick-Read hypothesised that pain in childbirth is caused by tensing the body in response to fear. We work a lot in Daisy classes on relaxing the body and removing the fear from your mind to make birth as comfortable as possible. Dick-Read called this the Fear Tension Pain cycle and unless we remove the fear from the mother's mind before labour begins, the tension and subsequent pain will occur. This will increase the fear again and the cycle continues. This cycle can also occur at any point during labour as changes in location or midwife causes the mother's adrenaline to rise.
The subtle and sometimes overt brainwashing that women have been subjected to by their own families and the media have created a deep-seated fear of childbirth. If we expect something to be painful we are more likely to experience the sensation as such. Hypnobirthing works a lot with replacing some of the common words associated with birth, such as substituting surges for contractions. Language is powerful and has an effect on the body. In Daisy we talk about 'breathing to the top of the wave' and scatter gentle, positive affirmations throughout class so as mums are breathing deeply in labour their subconscious mind will remember the words associated with this breathing.
The fear many women have of childbirth is sometimes not always alleviated by the end of a course of Daisy or Hypnobirthing. It has built up over years. We need to work hard to replace all these negative perceptions and thoughts with positive ones so that when it comes to labour the mother's body will relax and ease her way instead of tensing up and making it more difficult. We are essentially reprogramming the mum's mind and rewiring her attitude to birth. Regaining that lost confidence in her body.
It's worth bearing in mind that although I love natural birth and believe given the right conditions and support the vast vast majority of women could achieve it, I know this is not a realistic view of the birth world yet. When you send women into that hospital environment, no matter how strong their convictions, there are more challenges they will be up against. As they reach their 'due date' and are pressured to induce. Going to the hospital in labour activates a primitive fight or flight response which affects labour. What else affects labour? A clinical environment, not being able to freely move. Strangers coming and going out of the room. Maybe not having the most supportive birth partner who sides with the medical team over the mum's wishes because they're frightened.
I have also met women who were fully informed about their choices in birth who tell me their considered choice to have the epidural was the best part their labour, the one thing that enabled them to vaginally birth, to relax and welcome their babies with anticipation and joy. Their eyes lighting up as they recount that proud moment when they met their baby after all that effort. How wonderful that this choice was made with complete awareness and control. It is so important to be aware of these choices before labour so you are informed. Whether this is from your own research, classes or a supportive medical team that give evidence-based advice instead of fearmongering.
A positive birth does NOT mean a natural birth. The term natural birth covers all kinds of ill-advised scenarios, mums on their back being shouted at to push, being given an episiotomy. Perhaps they weren't coping and their pain relief requests were refused. One mother had been told she had been given the pethidine she asked for only to be told after the birth that the midwife had lied, hoping for a placebo effect. This all instils a huge lack of trust between women and care providers.
The Positive Birth Movement defines positive birth as: "a birth in which a woman feels she has freedom of choice, access to accurate information, and that she is in control, powerful and respected. A birth that she approaches, perhaps with some trepidation, but without fear or dread, and that she then goes on to enjoy, and later remember with warmth and pride. "
I believe in informing women and the incredible power of reprogramming the mind, breathing and relaxation. When mums are approaching birth and come to their first class, the realisation that you are sending them to birth with what is essentially words and thoughts can make them incredulous. Do you remember Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Dumbledore sends Harry the Sorting Hat to defend himself against the Basilisk? Voldemort laughs at Harry that he has been sent something so useless. However, we soon find out that within the hat lies the Sword of Gryffindor. Something that seems innocuous actually has incredible power when we find ourselves in the situation of need. By the end of the Daisy term they are aware, in tune with their body, able to breathe and relax and have a bank of positive images and words in their subconscious mind. Now with the knowledge and ability to stick up for themselves and their birth and knowing what helps or hinders their progress.
When you are in labour, deeply connected to your body and your baby, undisturbed and in control, you are powerful. Gentle swaying with the rising of your contractions, using your breath to breathe to the top of the wave. Every wave bringing you closer to your baby. Feeling at one with nature and your innermost self. Doing what countless women have done before you to bring your baby into the world. This can be the experience.
While we may never know where our birth journey will take us, it is impossible to have too much positivity surrounding your birth. It will all build up in your system, flowing through you slowly and surely. When you begin to think positively, your actions will shape your beliefs. You will unconsciously begin to make decisions and choices that will fulfil your belief. We cannot say with absolute certainty how things will be but with the power of knowledge and the ability to relax your body you can make choices with a clear head and from a place of awareness instead of fear.
Whatever helps you to absorb this positivity - reading birth affirmations, positive birth stories, meditation, talking with other women on your local positive birth group, getting a doula, attending Daisy classes, hypnobirthing, it will all add up and be immeasurably helpful on your birthing day.