Sunday, 13 June 2010

Natal Hippy-no-therapy

Like a lot of women, I was fairly petrified of giving birth. I'd heard all the stories, all the catchphrases which seemed to have been invented especially to scare the bejesus out of anyone who would ever consider attempting to pass a baby out of their body. Worse pain than you have ever experienced or can even begin to imagine. Tears, episiotomies, haemorrhaging, howling, weeping of biblical proportions. Oh, and the pain? Did we mention that already? Pain. Pain pain pain. PAIIIIIIIIN.
So, yeah. About 5 or 6 months into this pregnancy I realized that I waas actually going to have to give birth to this baby at some point. Now, Despite the hysterical rantings in the last paragraph, I'm actually not that much of a wimp. I can generally handle pain, and think I have a fairly high threshold. I've done a lot of competitive sport in the past, have hit the wall, and felt the burn, and pushed myself to the point of projectile vomiting more times than I particularly care to remember. And I've had injuries, operations, illnesses, and have lived through them, just about. But still. I had never attempted to pass a bowling ball through my lady hole before. And, hey, wasn't this pain different? Worse then any other? Unimaginable, even? How was I supposed to prepare for that?
At best I saw it as the ultimate physical challenge. My chance to prove just how hard I was. If I could get through it without an epidural, a ceasarean, or dying, I would have won. Otherwise, I would have failed. Failed at birth.
You see, I'm a bit of a twat, at times. An extremely competitive twat. The fact that I'm fit, strong, and can take pain are all closely tied to my self image. So I started to steel myself for this, the ultimate physical trial.
But I was still petrified. Petrified to the point where I secretly hoped something would happen to mean I needed a ceasarean, so that I wouldn't have to face the pain. So I wouldn't have to be responsible for failing.
And all this time, a little voice in my head kept going on about how weird this all seemed. Why were women designed so badly, that this supposedly natural thing, the way we all had to come into the world, was the cause of such pain, horror, and fear. We couldn't really all be suffering the curse of Eve, surely? Just because that silly tart couldn't resist a nibble on a juicy apple, every child that was to be born was doomed to cause his mother unthinkable pain? It made no sense.
And so I went onto Amazon, and tried to find a book to teach me how to do it. I like books. I like knowledge. And I realized I didn't actually know all that much about giving birth, so happy had I been to buy in to all of the horror stories. I don't know whether I really thought I'd find the solution, but I figured it was worth a try.
The first book I found was , I would later discover, a classic. Grantly Dick-Read's Childbirth Without Fear. Linked to it, I came across Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. Despite the positive reviews, I was still sceptical. But it was my birthday coming up, so I added them to my list of demands.
I sent my sister this list, slightly bashfully, it should be said. My sister is a pretty no nonsense character, about as unhippyish as it is possible to be without veering into active fascism. But to my surprise, instead of derision, she responded to the birth books with huge enthusiasm. A friend of hers at a previous workplace had done hynobirthing workshops before having her baby, and had had an amazing experience, needing no pain relief, and even enjoying the birth.
Enjoying the birth? Was this witchcraft?
Just hearing that an actual, real woman had got through birth without pain and horror was enough to pique my interest. And I remembered that actually, my strident sister had given up smoking by attending a hypnotherapy course. She hadn't wanted to go (hadn't wanted to give up smoking at all, if truth be told), but her then boyfriend had paid for her, so she'd thought why not? She'd maintained her skepticism throughout the course, and in particular during the actual 'hypnotism' bit. But she walked out of that course and never smoked a cigarette again. Maybe there really was something in it.
So I turned to the Internet. And on one of the baby web boards, hidden amongst the stories of horrible births and hideous complications, I found a mention of Natal Hypnotherapy, the UK version of hypnobirthing. A few searches further and I found they ran courses.
I raised the issue with Mr Badger, expecting derision at such a silly, hippyish, yoghurt-knitting type of suggestion. But no. Once again, my expectations of my nearest and dearest were pessimistically wide of the mark. He was enthusiastic, revealing that he'd actually been interested in hypnotherapy for a long time (stemming from its links with sport's psychology, and his many years coaching rowing). Neither of us expected miracles, but we were prepared to give it a go. We booked in to a class.
And to cut a long story short (TOO LATE!), I'm really very, very glad we did. Okay, I still haven't had this baby yet, and who knows what that experience will be, and how far I'll be able to put what I've learned into practice. But the last few months have been so much calmer and happier than I thought they could be. I actually feel positive about the birth. I don't imagine it'll be easy, I don't claim I won't feel any pain, or even go through moments where I think I can't cope. I may still end up having an epidural, or a caesarean. Who knows? But I don't see it as a horrifying gore-fest that I somehow have to try to survive. It makes sense now. I believe that women aren't actually fatally flawed and badly designed. I understand that the fear of birth is the problem, not the birth itself.
I'm not scared any more.

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