This blog is written by Neen’s husband Simon and gives a Dad’s perspective on Hypnobirthing. Being an expectant dad can be daunting, but hypnobirthing can help too.
You may well think it has nothing to do with you Dads but you’re wrong. And it’s not just the obvious input you have!!!
“Childbirth is a time when fathers are largely overlooked. After all, the baby is inside mum, and is going to be coming out of mum, so we are peripheral. We are to be included in the room, to be there if the mum wants us to be, to hold her hand, encourage, uphold, support. But ultimately, our presence isn’t necessary. At least that seems to be how traditional childbirth professionals see it.
Biologically this may be true. But what it does is two things. It isolates us from the experience to a certain extent, and certainly distances us from it. Don’t get me wrong, this is exactly what some dads would prefer.
Childbirth is a very primal feminine process and exposes dads to a world they will never experience first hand, and this may be disturbing for some dads. What it also does is place distance between the parents at a time when they should be at their closest.
Childbirth – in my opinion at least – is an intimate family event that should bring the new mums and dads closer together, not place distance between them.
When my wife decided to go talk to a hypnobirthing practitioner, I had never heard of it as a practice. At high school – like many people of my age group – I was obliged during sex education classes to watch a video of a traditional labour and birth. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of blood, and in retrospect I think that the video was actually intended to have contraceptive purposes for teenagers. It certainly didn’t portray birth as a positive experience, and I don’t seem to remember the dad actually being present.
So, although I wanted to be at the birth, I expected my role to be that depicted in films, namely hand holding and saying supportive things only to be backhanded by a mummy-monster in rage that I had done this to her. An expectant dad being berated for helping her get in this “state”.
We went along for a talk and the practitioner explained that the dad was an integral part of the hypnobirthing process. It was to be me that would be doing the hypnotising such as it was. I was – to be fair – gobsmacked by this. I didn’t know whether I wanted the responsibility of ensuring my wife was cool calm and collected, of ensuring that the pain of childbirth was reduced through my actions.
What if I failed as a birth partner?
I left feeling very, very worried. Over the next couple of weeks I exchanged a number of emails with the practitioner so that I fully understood what my role was to be. It was more than being a taxi to the local (allbeit 25 miles away) hospital in rural Scotland. I think having a hypnobirthing coach helped us as a couple in so many ways and I was reminded during the classes that hypnosis is a tool. A strategy. A mechanism for focussing the mind.
My role at childbirth would be to press the trigger (metaphorically speaking) for my wife to go into – and remain in – the hypnotic trance state. We’ve seen the likes of Derren Brown tapping someone on the head, or saying a key phrase, and the audience member going to sleep, or thinking they are a frog and so on. What I would be doing would be this process. What we don’t see (on the tv at any rate) is the brain training process which implants these triggers into the subconscious, and that process is more what hypnobirthing is about.
In addition, I was to be the advocate of my wife. The idea being that she would be able to concentrate on her process, and that I would know what she wanted to happen and be able to present this to the midwives on the day. We had a birth plan, and although this might have differed from the way the hospital would do things for other people, this meant they would be talking to me, not distracting or bothering my wife.
Every night, therefore, we spent half an hour or so practicing. We went through the exercises, learned the various bits of writing that would help induce the trance. It became clear that, as my wife was in labour, she would be free to allow her body to do its thing while I helped control her thought processes so that her conscious mind – with all the worries, fears and conditioning that it has – would be put in a soundproof room, given a cup of chamomile tea and would be watching ducklings paddling on a calm pond with lily pads. Metaphorically speaking. If it chose to open the door and ask how everything was going, what I was doing would be to kindly close the door and reassure it that everything was fine.
As time progressed and we went through the course book, these exercises became second nature. When we were out, and the Braxton-Hicks started to happen (one of many biological terms that I had never known about before) I was able to place a hand on my wife’s shoulder and say the words that would help her to get in that calm space, breathe and just allow the body to do its own practicing for labour.
When the time came and labour started, it was straightforward enough to do our thing.
We stayed at home for most of this, I repeatedly went through the exercises that allowed my wife to remain “calm and relaxed” during this period of labour. Did she take painkillers? Yes. There’s no reason to suppose that hypnobirthing completely removes the need to take painkillers. It is a trance state, but not to the point of being completely unconscious! What it does do is take away the fear, the panic, the worry -and those things cause the body to tense up, making muscular surges more painful than they ought to be.
Hypnobirthing is not about replacing ANY required medical process.
What it does is maximise the opportunity for mums to have the best birth they can on the day, and that their wishes are honoured. It is about making sure that choices made by the mum on the day are her own, not those of the medical professionals about her by the use of leading questions and loaded information. At any given point in the childbirth process, the mum remains responsible for her own choices – she can always say no. It is only in the case of a medical emergency that the medical professionals can take that choice out of her hands.
The involvement of the dad as the advocate of his wife means that he is in receipt of information and requests from the medical professionals. He is able to ask for the facts, potential consequences and so on, and put them to his wife as part of the hypnobirthing method. There is no sudden and unprompted tapping on the arm, taking the mum out of her process and distracting her – which subconsciously is always going to be perceived as suggesting something is not going smoothly.
My wife to this day says that she enjoyed her labour. I can vouch for the fact that she seemed to. She was calm, relaxed, in her zone throughout the overwhelming majority of it. I feel proud of the fact that I helped her achieve this. Towards the end, when our son was crowning, things were not as calm – and in fact were very noisy – but by that point she and I were both very much caught up in the process, and her body and subconscious had completely taken over. As a hypnobirthing baby, our son was chilled out compared to other babies. Of course he cried, screamed, and did all the other things that babies do, but it seemed to me that he was much more calm generally than other babies on the ward and in postnatal groups that we went along to.
I recommend hypnobirthing as a method to involve you as an expectant dad, to minimise fear and worry, and to give mums the best chance of having the right birth on the day. We look back on our son’s birth without regrets. I don’t believe that there wasn’t anything either of us would have done differently – and that, I think – is the point.
Best wishes to you all out there!