Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hypnotizin' Those Babies

Some people have lists of things to do before they die: travel to India, complete a triathlon, make an appearance on an NPR show...I am one of those people. In fact, the above items might be on my own list of things to do before I die. Also on my list--item #3.2--is the following: "Give birth naturally." Yes, it's true: for all my cynical talk about natural childbirth, and all the acclaim I give the Holy Epidural (blessed be its named forever), I must confess that I really, really want to experience a drug-free birthing.

I want this for a number of reasons: First, it seems like a neat way to connect with my own womanhood as well as with the billions of women--from all time periods, from all cultures, from all belief systems; big, small, medium, ugly, beautiful, and in-between-- who have borne children. Second, I like to do hard things. Third-- well, maybe I should move to a new paragraph for the third reason...

Third, I feel that the way that pregnancy and childbirth have been medicalized in this country is ridiculous. I'm not going to go so far as to say that the "medical model of childbirth" is a horrible thing, or that it's doing irreparable damage to women or babies, but I do believe that it has overly complicated a simple and natural process, and that it does harm women and newborn infants to some degree on a regular basis. Many unnecessary C-sections are performed every year because of medical interventions that complicate labor and delivery...and because of medical personnel who are impatient with some people's naturally slower birth processes. (Click here for more information about rising Cesarean section rates in the United States.)

But, anyway, I bring this all up to make a confession that I find a little bit embarrassing: I'm taking a Hypnobabies class. Yes, that's right. I plan to use self-hypnosis to eliminate/reduce any birthing-related "discomfort" (I'm not allowed to use the "p" word that rhymes with "rain") and speed along my beeaauutiiiifulll (this is the way the lady on my CD set says it) "birthing time" (I'm also not supposed to use the "l" word that rhymes with "neighbor.") Less parenthetically, I'm learning techniques that will help this childbirth experience move along more quickly and comfortably.

Anyway, as you may be able to tell, I'm still a little skeptical about the whole thing, which bothers me. I feel that there is no room for skepticism when you're using your brain to alter your physical sensations. But take last night, for instance: I was sitting in the passenger's seat on the way back from a drive to SLC. I was tired, which means that my RLS was making my feet all twitchy and crazy, and my back was really bothering me. I thought to myself: "I know! I'll just use my hypnobirthing techniques to "breathe" my "powerful anesthesia" to the parts of my body that are uncomfortable! If I anesthetize my feet/back, I won't twitch/ache anymore!" So I tried breathing that powerful anesthesia, but my feet still twitched and my back still ached. This made me a little bit sad. It made me feel that I maybe should have saved the $140.00 I spent on the course and just put it toward an epidural.

Beautiful Birthing Time, here I come? I sure hope so.


Emily said...

if you want some "light" reading (in the, uh, next three weeks), check out natural childbirth: the bradley way from the library. it was the most helpful thing in preparing me for laboring drug-free.

and there really is something to be said for pushing your body to the limit to bring a new life into the world.

i admire your determination. good luck!

Rachel said...

Hey Em! Thanks for the post. I actually own Natural Childbirth: The Bradley Way. It makes me feel compelled to go out and buy some little black shorts for Abe to wear while he acts as labor support. Anyway, it helped somewhat with my last labor (for the 35 hours I went naturally!), but I've actually really been enjoying the hypnobirthing course because it incorporates the Bradley deep relaxation techniques with lots of practice, visualization, and positive thinking.

Heidi said...

Because I did happen to start reading your blog well after it was begun, I have been afforded a great gift by glorious lady luck: the luxurious and snuggle-some pleasure of reading a bit of it at a time and s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g it out... That is, until a week or two ago, when I experienced something new. Out of the blue, I was beseiged by the misery of being caught up! Maybe not "misery"--more like "unanticipated deprivation." Like Soren feels when you snatch eye-poking scissors out of his hands.

(Your blog became my bedtime story and I've missed your words! I've tried committing blog adultery & reading others' blogs--but no one I know from real life has one and it's been empty and meaningless, as adultery always is. Really--it's been no fun at all--so I truly got cheated by cheating. But I did read up on Nick and I like him, in the imaginary form that I know him, even more than I imaginarily thought I would. I graciously--and gratuitously--gift-posted him a comment of unnecessary length, of his own. I don't know what Real-life Nick thought, but my imaginary Nice Nick loved it.)

My main point: I can't believe your first post after my own first experience of R-blog drought was so awesome! Why? There's a short story behind it, which I will unnecessarily lengthen:

I am slightly... avoidant of giving... an extraordinarily easy birth. It involves mild nothings I've forgotten in order not to interrupt your great hypnotraining.

I say Hooray to Hypnotherapy! It's the ONLY thing I've ever thought of, including medication, that would make it not-just-possible but... um... Blissful for me to give birth. I had a brilliant psych prof in college, an experienced and effective clinical psychologist, and he commented repeatedly that the invention of Hypnotherapy was THE breakthrough in psychology... Milton Erickson being, to Freud, what Einstein was to Galileo.
The mind, in the end, controls all bodily experiences... All perception is filtered through the mind, all reality... It's the switchboard. Mind isn't over matter--it shapes our very experience of matter. The mind-bending power of the mind is not silly to learn to use, but scientific. Not that I blame you for feeling silly. (I'm being MUCH more pedantic than I normally would... Certainty seems called for!) You're brilliant, it's a brilliant plan. Brilliant minds say so.
(By the way-- blissfully and miraculously birth-releasing a child is Not the reason I/we want to adopt-but it doesn't discourage me from adopting. But I admire you for welling & swelling with the tide to effortlessly continue the human race.)

I guess you must know I've mind-directed every cell of my body to breath ease and hope your way, in this moment & throughout the month... Heidi

There IS going to be some sort of award for longest comment, right? Which is compounded if the author of said longest comment is ALSO the author of the Top Ten longest comments?
Or has my luck come to an end? :0

repeat-heidi said...

p.s. I wasn't entirely serious about having a belief in my power to "mind direct my cells to breathe you ease" but I was, literally, intending to wish you well with this genuinely-felt metaphor. But I WAS serious about the previous stuff about how the Hypnotized/Prepared Mind directs the self's perception of "hard" reality.

Lindy said...

Rachel, this is hilarious to me only because I'm doing THE SAME THING! Or something remarkably similar. I have not experienced the holy epidural, but the closer I come to delivery, the more I wonder will I really be able to pull off all this hypnobirthing stuff I've studied...but have not practiced nearly as much as I ought.

And I completely agree with your reasons to do hypnobirthing, as they are what led me to take my own class here in Seattle. But I have the same problem of skepticism. It's been hard for me to get through some of the relaxation techniques I've been taught. They just seem so absurd to me...even though I agree with them in principle. Actually envisioning myself twirling and swirling in a strawberry colored mist and floating down through the rainbow of colors makes me more uncomfortable than calm--and I think, "Oh I hope this strawberry mist doesn't smell like someones warm breath who has been sucking on a strawberry flavored candy. Yuck." So, needless to say, I've had to find my own methods of relaxation, and I'm not sure I've ever gotten to the point of self-hypnosis using them. I've tried to let go of my more cerebral side that taunts the side of me that takes hypnobirthing classes, but those two parts of my brain are so hard to reconcile!

I do hope your hypnobirthing experience goes as smoothly and beeeauuutifully as you've been working towards. And just remember, you're taking a hypnoBABIES class...not a hypnoRLS class. No matter how holistic your view on human anatomy, I'm pretty sure RLS and giving birth largely unrelated biological processes...although I am sorry your powerful anesthesia didn't work to calm down those restless legs.

Ginger said...

I am a HUGE GIGANTIC fan of hypnobirthing. I took the class when I was preparing for my VBAC with Daniel (which ended up being another C-section). I loved it so so much. It was one of the huge disappointments of my life that I didn't get to birth a baby that way. I say if you still feel like it may work for you do not give up! For me I found that practice (and lots of it) was really essential for getting to that magic place.

Also, I agree that childbirth has become way too medicalized (is that a word?) but you have to remember how many women used to die in childbirth. I don't know of too many nowadays. Speaking as someone who definitely would have been one of those dead women I think we're pretty lucky to have access to the medical care we do.

Rachel said...

Heidi: Thanks so much for your support. It's good to know that hypnosis isn't as crazy and "out there" as I thought it was. Also, your certificate for longest blog comments should be arriving in the mail soon. :)

Lindy: Let's be best, best friends if we ever live close to each other again. We're so samesies. I love that there's strawberry/rainbow imagery in your hypnosis program! That's fantastic. I think that would just make me giggle...or maybe through something at the CD player. I, too, have not been practicing as much as I should. I was so faithful for, like, five weeks....but haven't been able to bring myself to touch the stuff for the past two weeks. Let me know how your hypnobirthing experience turns out.

Ginger: It's a super bummer that your VBAC didn't work out. I read about that on your blog and was sad. So much preparation...and then: surgery. Sigh. I am also glad that some medical intervention exists for us childbearing ladies, as my own mom would have died long before I was born had it not existed. I just want them to tone it down a bit, eh?

Heidi said...

After re-reading my comment--and also after reading Lindy's and Ginger's comments--I wanted to revise mine, but my computer wouldn't let me. Maybe because I used my Name & not a Google-I.D. Anyway, I'm forced to now revise myself publicly. I suppose that's good for the soul. And the humility organ.

So, here's what I wish I could change: I AM still in love with the idea of hypotherapy, esp. in relation to baby-birthing... I had NO IDEA that this is a strategy that people use all the time! I thought using hypnosis for this was an application I had conjured up myself! I really have not been up close to this pregnancy thing much...

But... I ignored the thing Lindy honed in on, that you and she both noticed... the difficulty in applying it. Really, in my enthusiasm I just swept right past this. But Erickson's use of hynotherapy--and the more conventional uses of it in psychology--are generally oriented to helping to expand inner awareness, accomplish therapy-related goals...and using it to quit smoking seems popular, which I know not from psych texts but celebrity testimonials. What I was talking about doesn't involve discomfort reduction, and it does involve someone else inducing the trance. I just ignored the insignificant stuff you mentioned... and by insignificant stuff I mean: THE DETAILS! I responded not to what you wrote but what came up for me. This isn't wrong or evil, but--not what I had intended.

Alan Alda wrote a book containing talks & lectures he's given over the years--and called the book something like, Stories I've Been Telling Myself. The idea being, we tell stories, lectures, etc--and repeat them, because WE need to hear the great inner wisdom we've been ignoring! I think... I may have done exactly that; told a story to you but really to myself; wrote to convince MYSELF. I need to know there's a workable back-up plan should my plan of never becoming pregnant fail. (What I wrote is what I understand to be true--hypnotherapy was and is a huge breakthrough--and the mind does direct/control our experience of "reality"--but why tell YOU my wise wisdom when you're brimming with your OWN wise wisdom that is specially tailored to YOU?)

I dug deeper & thought of something more truly meant for you...something authentic & not in the least tainted with trying to advise or be of help! Here it is--
I realized, I have a close connection with a real life story that involves the use of auto-hypnosis to transcend discomfort. My-father-in-law does it! (But not for giving birth)... Paul's dad is one of those logical, scientific types--SKEPTICAL to the BONE. But he's got some kind of heart condition that makes novocaine not allowed; so, his whole adult life, he's done ALL dental work with no artificial substances. And with no training in it. (I can't see him doing anything therapy-related, even AROMAtherapy.) He just, somehow, puts himself in a trance and has a fine time with little discomfort.
I've take no conclusion from this story. I just thought it was cool; and connected with your topic. If you think this sort of stuff is crazy, it is--and if your mind decides otherwise, it's not!:)

The thing was, it was so interesting to me to hear about your foray into an area I've read so much about, and thought about--but NEVER TRIED!

I feel ridiculous adding to my already lengthy previous length but... what I wrote wasn't what I really meant. You know? I often don't know what I mean 'til I've written or said it... and then, sometimes, like today, I realize that even if I did throw my heart into it, and spent over an hour in an already sleep-deprived state trying to nail the perfect words (and, in this case, words that are properly "suggestive" of ease) --I still may not have said what I meant.

Ridiculous or no--I was pedantic in public so I should rescind that publicly.

But I still am wishing you/sending you (if that's possible--I'm not sure but I'm giving it a try right now anyway)--hope and ease.--Heidi

p.s. I thought about just e-mailing my second thoughts to you but then, I felt... that wouldn't be as symbolic a retraction. But what really decided me was this. Something I want to publicly share is that, since getting addicted to your blog, I've been, for the first time ever, wanting to create a blog of my own. But, for one purpose only: to celebrate YOUR blog. I have urgings to start a FANS-of-RACHEL'S-blog BLOG. I'm curious if anyone would want to join. Because it's more a possibility of something I could do, now--because I NOW know what I could post on it! My comments to your posts--and my own retractions and revisions to said comments!

Very deconstructionist, don't you think? Or maybe just "not constructive." But I like it. I hope, if it gets started, that you'll join the fan club blog of your blog. And post un-comments.

Karen said...

Rachel, having never given birth, but hearing endlessly about how painful it is, I greatly admire you for your efforts. I honestly think you are so brave for even trying it. I don't know if I'd be so brave.

My older sister was planning on a natural birth with her second child, if only for the fact that they owned their own business and only paid for emergency medical insurance. They thought they'd save some money by not getting an epidural and doing a natural birth. She had actually planned on using the money they saved on the birth to buy a new couch (they aren't poor by the way, just frugal) :) Anyway, I guess when she really got into the labor she cracked because it was so much harder than she had thought it would be. Long story short, she ended up getting the epidural. I wonder if she would have been successful she had used some sort of hypnotherapy instead of trying to "tough it out". I like to think so. Anyway, good luck, I hope you're successful!

Rachel said...

Heidi, a blog for Fans of Rachel's Blog would probably draw approximately one faithful reader: my mother. Though I do feel that you should start your own blog. You're very prolific!

kate said...

Hi, you don't know me, I'm a friend of Natalya, and I think you got on my feedreader when I was checking for her to see if I could get it to work. (I introduced her to marvel of the feedreader.)

Anyway, she and I both took Hypnobirthing, so you should talk to her about it. It helped me have a fantastic, easy birth with my 2nd. (My first was an epidural with the works--I didn't even consider any alternatives at the time.) I only wish I had someone around here to give me a refresher course for this baby. But I've finally pulled out my cd's and I'm going to be practicing my relaxation for the next few weeks. We're doing this one at home, so there's no chance of changing my mind, so I better get prepared!

Anyway, good luck, girl! You can do it, your body was MADE to do it!

Natalya said...

I did hypnobirthing, like Kate said, with all 3 of my children. I took a class before the first two, the 3rd one was me just kind of trying to remember the first two. Yes, my class had the strawberry mist image and I wanted to SQUIRM each time the voice was saying it. Squirming doesn't help labor any. But I guess by the 2nd one I decided to ditch the strawberries, and my husband wanted to make up his own relaxation imagery scenes anyway.
I'm sorry I didn't have time to read all your posts Heidi, so I'm sure I'm about to repeat something in them. Hypnosis helping with discomfort is a real thing, as I've found. (P--N not being allowed here.) One time I had a headache and I thought, like the other girl, "I know, I'll hypnotize it." I did and it went away! My question is, does it actually get rid of the p--n or does it just mask it? My class leader didn't know.
I wish you all the best. Just don't feel like a fool about "believing" in hypnosis. You kind of have to get rid of the skeptic part of you just for this tiny part of your life and totally believe in it like a zealous follower of a cult. Then you have the baby naturally and it's all over and you can forget hypnosis till the next time.
Did you already have the baby?!?

Rachel said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Karen.

And you too, Nat. I know that you did hypnobirthing with each of your births; that's one of the big reasons I decided to try it on on this one.

Jennifer said...

Good luck to you. Since Edwin is a Dr. who frowns on medication we tried natural with my first. The second was complete induction, and well....since my husband has now help deliver dozens of babies he is singing a different song. If you can do it naturally than great, but from his stand point, "modern medication makes the whole process a lot more enjoyable, so enjoy it." With number three approaching this fall I'm just hoping to go into labor naturally and counting my blessings I haven't had a C-section. Enjoy your day and good luck!!


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