Book Reviews: “The Gentle Parenting Book” and “Your Self-Confident Baby”

I chose both of these books to read as I continue to ask the fundamental question: “Now that I’ve had my gentle, amazing HypnoBirth, how can I carry HypnoBirthing’s philosophies into the raising of my child?” Magda Gerber is famous as the founder of the “RIE” philosophy, which stands for “Resources for Infant Educarers,” a style of raising children from birth to the age of two. She founded RIE in 1973 in Los Angeles, and I’ve found that some of the parenting books that I gravitate towards, namely No Bad Kids and Elevating Child Care, both by Janet Lansbury, refer to her work frequently. I liked the title of The Gentle Parenting Book, and Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s name rang a bell in my mind, so I thought I would give her book a read as well.

The first thing I’d like to say about both of these books is that they are amazing in their own ways, and their material is very similar. There are a few basic differences between the books, but I am so glad I read both of them and would highly recommend them to any HypnoBirthing parents asking the question, “Ok, what next?” The Gentle Parenting Book emphasizes instinctive parenting — trusting your own instincts and basic judgments for how to raise your child while treating your child with respect as an autonomous being. It also recommends ignoring all of the people who want to give you advice or criticize you for your parenting skills. I feel like every page reinforced the instinctive parenting that I’ve strived for as I’ve raised my daughter. Sarah outlines the seven C’s: Connection, Communication, Control, Containment, Confidence and Consistency, as the ways to maintain that respect for your child, and at the end of each chapter, she details how the seven C’s come into play with every category of parenting your child. She stresses that gentle parents come in all shapes and sizes: parents who have home births, hospital births, Cesarean births; parents who nurse until their child is two, parents who formula feed; parents who send their children to public schools and parents who home school. It’s about researching your options and making the very best decision for you and your family with the life circumstances you have, as well as taking care of yourself and making sure that your needs are met too. It was a beautiful parallel of the HypnoBirthing philosophy. She even uses the acronym that I teach from the HypnoBirthing syllabus: “Use your BRAINS: What are the Benefits, what are the Risks, what Alternatives can you choose, what do your Instincts tell you, and what is the harm of doing Nothing?” The topics she covers are broad and apt: choosing childcare providers, handling tantrums, gentle discipline, toilet training, picky eaters, television, new siblings, and much more.

Your Self-Confident Baby is also about gentle parenting, and maintains the need for respecting your little ones as they explore their boundaries and challenge you. I would say that one difference between the books is that Gentle Parenting has examples of parenting from birth to age seven, while Your Self-Confident Baby has a narrower range of birth to the age of two. Another difference is that Magda also seems to create more structure and instruction for parenting skills, such as only allowing toddlers to eat while sitting at a table, or letting them cry for a little while before rushing in to “help” them to see if they can help themselves first. The pause encourages them to solve their own problems and grow competent and confident instead of waiting for someone to help them. The RIE philosophy in Your Self-Confident Baby essentially trains babies and toddlers in the skills needed to be autonomous, confident, happy children while being connected to their parents. She encourages parents to childproof sections of their homes so that the babies and toddlers can play independently of their parents without endangering themselves. In communication, she emphasizes reflecting back to children what you think they are experiencing, such as, “You both want the doll. Rikki took the doll from you, Anna, and you didn’t like it.” This is the same thing that Gentle Parenting teaches, and I love that parents are reflecting the child’s emotions back to him/her instead of trying to fix their problems or minimize their emotions(i.e., “You’re fine.”). The only thing I found unsettling about the book is that she recommends the Ferber method of sleep training, which has been widely panned as a traumatic way to train your children to sleep on their own, leaving them feeling abandoned and shut-down. I could see her perspective to it, though: if you treat your child respectfully and don’t just leave them to cry it out, you can teach your child quickly that it’s safe and ok to sleep in their bed by themselves without any tricks or techniques from their parents to “help” them fall asleep. They also learn that their parents are close by, and they feel secure when they fall asleep. While the Ferber method has been discredited, I can see that Magda’s interpretation of the Ferber method might have some gems to it, especially since my four-year-old still insists on falling asleep with either me or my husband in bed with her, and I can also see how I trained her to be this way. I also have to say that I treasure falling asleep with her, and I know that she’ll outgrow this soon enough and I’ll be yearning for the nights when I was snuggling up with my little girl and falling asleep together.

Now I have a story to tell. Just a few days ago, my daughter’s preschool class went on a field trip to the local pumpkin patch. There is a little girl in her class who is probably about two and a half years old and cute as a button. She’s been having difficulty integrating into the class, and as a parent volunteer on the field trip, I gravitated towards her to help her feel a little more secure as she stood and said repeatedly that she wanted her mother. I thought about what the books had said, about treating children respectfully and not just saying, “There, there. Everything is fine. You’ll be all right.” I thought about how I would reflect her emotions back to her, and how I could comfort her. What I said to her was “Your mother will be here soon,” which was true because at that time, class was ending in about 30 minutes. She kept saying that she wanted her mother, and I kept saying that her mother would be back soon. Well, all of a sudden, I realized that she had been holding onto her pee and was having a pee accident. She became very upset about it. As her teacher was changing her and she was crying, I knelt down at her level and said, “You had a pee accident. That must have been scary for you.” She nodded her head. Then I said to her, “I want to apologize to you. You were telling me you wanted your mommy, but what I really should have asked you was what you wanted your mommy for.” She nodded her head and said, “To help me go pee pee.” It’s hard to say why this interaction inspired me so much, except that in just a few minutes time, I really understood that treating children respectfully and striving to get into their worlds to understand their needs a little bit better is a powerful, powerful thing. I might have just comforted her and said, “You’re ok,” but by my getting to the root of her motivation, she felt more secure with me and actually relaxed right before her mother arrived to pick her up. And I learned a little bit more about questions to ask toddlers.

So, there it is. Read both of these books. They will teach you aspects of listening to your children that will blow your mind.

My HypnoBirthing® Homebirth Story

HypnoBirthing® - The Mongan Method

Emily at three weeks

You might say that I have been preparing for my daughter Emily’s birth since April of 2000 when I took my very first HypnoBirthing® practitioner course in Redmond, Washington with my friend Kathleen. I have been teaching HypnoBirthing® childbirth classes since January, 2001, and I’ve been a Certified Hypnotherapist since 1998. After so many years of teaching, I finally had the privilege to birth my daughter at home using HypnoBirthing®, and I can say now with certainty that when a woman is properly prepared for childbirth, her body knows exactly how to birth her baby. Here is my birth story.

I had my first inkling that Emily’s birthing was beginning when John and I were playing partner cribbage with our friends Jeff and Helen at their house. They had just fed us a tasty late lunch of leftover ribs and Caesar salad and the women were playing against (and beating!) the men. I felt a tightening in my uterus and thought, “Hmmm…labor is going to start soon.” I didn’t mention it to anyone, and we continued to play. We left their house around 4:15 so that John could drop off his son Levi at a friend’s house for a sleepover. John dropped me off at home first, and I asked him to pick up chicken broth, vanilla pudding and sliced turkey at Big John’s market on his way home (I didn’t tell him I thought we were going to have a baby that night). As soon as I got home, I set to work with the pumice stone on the inside of the toilet. I was planning to spend a lot of time in labor on the toilet, and I wanted it to be sparkling!

Toilet project completed, I settled down in bed, got my iPod and earbuds out, and listened to Aaron Aldridge’s “Gentle Surge” album for the next several hours until about midnight(track 1 set on repeat). When John returned at around 6:00, he asked me if I wanted to go to our neighbor’s house to pay our respects for her husband who had recently passed away, and I said, no, I was having uterine surges, and I was just going to stay in bed for a while. I continued to nap and stay in deep hypnosis for a long time, just breathing up with the surges when I felt the tightening in my abdomen. Surges were light and about 20 minutes or so apart at that time. I wasn’t timing them at all or really paying much attention to them. I just wanted to be deep in my birthing body. And I was pretending it was just practice labor to keep my mind relaxed the whole time.

I started needing to get up from time to time to go to the bathroom, and I felt a little cramping that felt like mild menstrual cramps. I passed gratitude on to my prostaglandins for softening my bowel movements and opening my cervix. Then I passed what seemed to be a small blood clot a little before 7 pm, and I texted my midwife (Colette) to let her know. We texted back and forth, and she decided the blood clot was normal, and then we talked on the phone at 8:45 and decided that my mucous plug had released. By this time, I was alternating between lying in bed (listening to my iPod), and sitting on my sparkling clean toilet. Colette decided to come over and see how I was doing, and she arrived a little bit after 10 pm, listened to Emily’s heartrate (it was perfect!), and we discussed whether she should check me or not. I decided that checking me would be some useful information. Plus she’d never checked me before. My cervix was 2 centimeters open, 50% softened, and very stretchy. With that information in hand, I went back to bed to listen to my iPod, and Colette left. I kept pretending to myself that I was in practice labor.

Then at 12:20 I went to the bathroom and threw up (it felt great!). John filled our small bathtub for me and checked to make sure it was around 100 degrees. John texted Colette to let her know I had thrown up (Yay, birthing hormones!), and I texted her to let her know she could come back and we had an extra bed in case it was practice labor. Then I got into the bathtub and lay down on my left side with my inflatable bath pillow under me, and went into self-hypnosis again. The reason I lay on my left side was because Emily’s back had been a little to the right for the last few months of pregnancy, and I wanted to make sure that she spun fully to the front with her butt to my belly button during the birth. I spent a few hours in the tub. The surges were still irregular and just felt like tightening, but they were getting closer together. Colette arrived around 1:30 in the morning. She decided I went into active labor around 2:00 or so. That’s when my surges were coming regularly and getting closer together.

During my pregnancy, I had visualized where I would like to labor with Emily, and I got to spend a little bit of time in each place: several hours in bed in deep hypnosis, a few hours in the bathtub, an hour or so getting on and off the toilet, an hour on the bedroom floor (while John was taking a nap in our bed), an hour in the birthing tub, and about 30 minutes on the bed birthing Emily.

Labor was amazing! It was everything I hoped it would be. I loved the HypnoBirthing® surge breathing. I would take a deep, slow breath in to fill my belly, and then on the exhale, I would moan it out at a low pitch. I had warned everyone ahead of time that I was planning to be fairly vocal during labor because it’s such a wonderful way to move energy through me. It was also a good signal to them when I was having a surge. Did I mention that labor felt great? At one time, when I was lying on the floor, my legs started shaking like crazy. John asked me if I was cold. I said no, it was only birthing hormones. Then Colette came in to check on me. I looked at her with a big smile and said, “This shivering feels GREAT!” It was like energy moving through me in an amazing way. I knew from the shaking that I was transitioning from opening my cervix to birthing the baby. I never felt fear — just a calmness and trust in my body. Poor John kept trying to read the birth companion’s prompt sheet, do light touch massage, feed me, and use the glove relaxation on my arm and in general be a fabulous birth partner. I told him, “No massage, just constant pressure feels great,” as well as, “Just silence, please.” What I didn’t tell him was that I had listened to my HypnoBirthing® birthing affirmations CD so much in the car that the affirmations were a running soundtrack in my mind all night long (“I breathe up every surge to the fullest.” “I see my breath filling a magnificent balloon.” “I work with my body.” “I trust my body to birth, and I follow its lead.” etc., etc.). So, even though I had no music playing and no HypnoBirthing® soundtracks playing from midnight onwards, the Birthing Affirmations soundtrack was with me in my mind all night in a very powerful way.

Colette checked my cervix again sometime around 5:00 when I was lying on my side on the bedroom floor and discovered that I was 8 centimeters open. I had already known that I was going through transition(because of the shaking legs), so it was great validation for me. I thought to myself, “Oh good, I’m going through transition right now and it’s easy.”). Colette said I was so relaxed she couldn’t tell when I transitioned from opening to breathing the baby down (and I didn’t tell her, though I knew when it was). Then I got into the birthing tub and John squeezed my hips with fabulous counterpressure while I bore down. That was great! I didn’t want to get out of that tub. I squatted a bit and laid on my left side with my right leg over the side of the tub for a bit. However, I did get out of the tub and onto bed for the birth. Again, amazing. I lay on my left side and held onto John around his torso (he was kneeling on the floor next to the bed) and rested my right foot on Colette’s shoulder. And I birthed Emily that way. The only two not-so-fun parts were that my hip ligaments were very sore during the last part of birthing as they were spreading and making room for Emily’s descent (but John squeezed the bejesus out of them and that was incredible) and crowning was very stingy, which disappointed me because I had hoped that that wouldn’t happen with me. But I knew that if it stings, it’s your body telling you to slow down and let the tissues unfold and open around the baby. So I slowed down the descent, and let my perineal tissues open around her for about 10 minutes. I focused on moving her down only with my breath. With this technique, I was able to keep my pelvic floor intact with only 3 itty bitty superficial tears on the labia and outer perineum that my midwife sewed up for “cosmetic reasons” only. So, according to my midwife, I was in active labor for 3 hours 5 minutes and breathed the baby down for 1 hour 46 minutes. Not bad, eh? And no tearing of my pelvic floor (yay!). Did I mention that this is my first baby?

Emily is a beautiful baby. She started turning over onto her side within 3 days of being born, and onto her stomach 7 days after birth. She started smiling after the first week. She’s very alert and calm, and spends a lot of time lifting her head looking at the world around her (especially trees). She’s nine weeks old right now. We’re enjoying each other quite a lot, and I attribute her sweet personality to her months inside me when I spent my days in peaceful relaxation, listening to the Rainbow Relaxation at night and the Birthing Affirmations in the car. I feel very blessed and privileged to know her and to be her mother.

Turning Breech Babies with Hypnosis

Almost a year ago, a new client came to me for hypnosis. She was hoping for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and a home birth, but her baby hadn’t turned yet and she wouldn’t be able to birth at home with a breech baby. Her midwife and a few other people referred her to me to help her turn her baby. Within a week, her baby was head-down and she continued on with her home birth.

This might sound miraculous to the many moms who have tried other techniques to turn a breech baby. Actually, turning breech babies with hypnosis is easy. I’ve been helping moms from my HypnoBirthing® childbirth classes do it for years. About half of the time, babies are head-down the next morning. My success rate is about 95%. I strongly believe that most of the time, babies haven’t turned yet because the mom is experiencing some kind of tension, fear, or upset that the baby is picking up on and deciding to stay where it is. The HypnoBirthing® classes that I teach dramatically reduce the possibility of having a breech baby, mostly because the moms in my classes are identifying and releasing any fears they might have that could get in the way of their ideal births.

In 1992, Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona performed a study on 200 women who had been diagnosed with breech babies at week 36+ of their pregnancies. 100 of the women received standard western medical care, with external cephalic version (manually turning the baby from the outside) performed on moms who were good candidates for it. The other 100 moms received hypnotherapy sessions, including guided visualizations to encourage the babies to turn. The results of the study were phenomenal. 81 of the 100 moms in the hypnotherapy group had their babies spontaneously turn into the head-down position. Only 26 of the 100 moms in the non-hypnotherapy group had their babies spontaneously turn, and another 20 of them had successful external cephalic versions. The average time spent in hypnotherapy was 4 hours, and half of the moms in the hypnotherapy group had their babies turn after just one session. Wouldn’t you like to be in the group of 81 moms?

In my hypnotherapy sessions, I focus on a few things. I do fear release work with the mom to clear out any emotional baggage that might be getting in the way of her baby turning. I love to use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to clear out negative emotions. The results of the EFT are rapid and powerful. Within minutes, I’ll see a change in the mom’s demeanor as she releases her fears. Then, when the mom is in hypnosis, I talk to the baby and encourage him or her to move into the head-down position as soon as possible. I reassure the baby that mom is ready for birth and it’s time for the baby to prepare for the birth as well. I also talk to the mom’s subconscious mind and request that her mind relax all of her abdominal and uterine muscles so that the baby has plenty of room to turn. The results speak for themselves.

If you’ve been diagnosed with a breech baby at week 36 of your pregnancy, there’s no reason to panic or to schedule an elective c-section. Find a hypnotherapist who will work with you to turn the baby and to release your birthing fears. You’ll go into your birth feeling empowered, relaxed, and, chances are, your baby will be head-down as well.

For more information on EFT, you can visit EFT Universe.