With a few days to go till Christmas, I thought I’d share my thoughts on how Milli Hill’s The Positive Birth Book (PBB) can complement hypnobirthing practice. (Particularly as it is currently available for under a tenner on Amazon and can still be ordered in time for Christmas.*)
I’ve recently started reading the PBB again, with the fresh eyes of 'the pregnant', and was struck by how well the book does what I try to do in my own classes, namely bring birth to life in its many shapes and guises – using real-life examples, often in women’s own words.
The language used in the PBB is different from that used in the KG Hypnobirthing book. For example, Milli talks directly about ‘contractions’ and ‘pain’, rather than hypnobirthing’s ‘surges’ and ‘strong sensations’. But I think it is important that even those mothers who prefer to use and hear the language of hypnobirthing wherever possible, can occasionally come into contact with these more mainstream terms without their practice going completely out of the window. No-one grows and births their baby in a bubble, and our control over our environments will never be complete. We do not want to avoid the word ‘contraction’ for six months, only to hear it for the first time on the day of our birth, and have it totally discombobulate us!
The importance of hearing a range of birth stories, and appreciating that there are many different positive ways to give birth depending on women’s individual circumstances, can counter one of the more unfortunate potential side effects of hypnobirthing (and one that I don’t think is at all inevitable): that women think hynobirthing is the guaranteed path to a particular kind of birth, and that their individual birth experience depends entirely on how much they want and prepare for it. A mother I recently met said that she had felt very responsible for how her birth, which didn’t quite follow plan A, had turned out, and this had come in part from her hypnobirthing course – after the birth, she had felt disappointed with herself, and this is something we want to avoid at all costs.
In the introduction to the PBB, Milli writes that her least favourite birth mantra is, ‘She believed she could do so she did’. Because this suggests that mothers who want a certain kind of birth only have to ‘click their heels together hard enough’ to get it. Of course, there are many things mothers can do to increase their changes of having the birth they most want. But, as a friend of mine whose baby went from a breech (bottom down) to transverse (sideways) lie in the last few days of her pregnancy knows too well, sometimes all the will and preparation in the world is not enough to guarantee a preferred physiological birth. And at these times, when our plans suddenly change and options can become limited, calming hypnobirthing techniques are be just as valuable as if we were labouring quietly in a pool.
I love the PBB, because it paints a vivid picture of what birth is really like – as a midwife, I find it summarises a lot of what I’ve seen and heard during my work (with a healthy dose of humour), and I really would recommend having a read.
And what does hypnobirthing bring to the table? My sister summarised this well for me, having done hypnobirthing for her second birth. Before the first birth, she was well prepared, her environment was ready, she had good support in place, and had made informed choices that she felt were right for her. But, as she put it, once things really got started she had nothing to do. Her husband felt the same – in the full intensity of birth, he just didn’t know what to say and do. We cannot practice birth (other than by having lots of babies), but we can practice simple and specific techniques that might just come in handy on the day. And, of course, the more we practice these techniques, the quicker and more easily they will come to us when we most need them. Including, crucially, during what Milli terms the ‘ramping up’ and ‘cracking on’ phases of childbirth – a time when it can be particularly comforting (for both a woman and her birth partner) not to have to be original, but instead to fall back on well-practised words and techniques!
*I get nothing for plugging this book, I just like it :-)