It’s October of 2022, and I’ve been teaching the Morgan Method of HypnoBirthing® childbirth classes to hundreds of couples since January of 2001. I just wrapped up a private HypnoBirthing® class and a group class in September. Now that my daughter is 9, it’s time to step down from teaching and focus on family time in the evenings and on the weekends. It’s been an amazing journey and I love the birth stories that I keep hearing from my moms and couples. Thank you for including me in your birth journeys! If you’re looking for a nearby practitioner, visit the HypnoBirthing® Institute’s Find an Educator page.
The above link is an article I found from March 16, 2018 in Mothering Magazine about a woman’s story with HypnoBirthing®. Kathleen Fleury writes about how HypnoBirthing® appealed to her: she liked the idea of learning to “breathe, visualize, relax, and tone your mind and body to anticipate a calm, easy birthing experience.” She writes about creating a “cave” for herself for her birth and fantasizing about a pain-free labor. Then she gives us a reality check by saying she didn’t actually make it to the cave. She was busy watching “Return of the Jedi” with her three-year-old and relaxing while feeling her uterine surges come and go. Her baby was born on the living room floor. She says that she didn’t achieve a pain-free birth, but from her description, her labor was shorter and more comfortable than her first two births, she deeply relaxed in between uterine surges, and she was able to cope with her surges much better. This is HypnoBirthing® in a nutshell!
Plan for Success in Your Birth
Kathleen does a great job of explaining the HypnoBirthing® philosophy. She quotes Christiane Northrup, who says that our culture has already been hypnotized to expect birth to be a “horrendous emergency.” HypnoBirthing® is about planning for success and visualizing the gentle, calm birth of your dreams. She even quotes Mickey Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing®:
“Why do we plan on the flaws in birth?” asks Mongan. “When you plan a vacation the travel agent doesn’t say ‘it’s going to rain every day and here are the statistics for airplane crashes.’ Birth is the best journey that a woman will ever take. We want to help them turn their greatest fear into their greatest achievement.”
Easier, Safer, More Comfortable Labors with HypnoBirthing®
What I’d like to say about HypnoBirthing® is that any HypnoBirthing® instructor who promises you a pain-free labor is setting you up for disappointment in your birth. HypnoBirthing® never promises a pain-free or even a sensation-free labor. What it promises is a shorter, easier, more comfortable labor when you relax, trust your body to birth, and tune into your body’s natural birth instincts, which is exactly what this birthing mom did, in spite of having two children running around, a full-time job, and a hectic lifestyle. Kudos to you, Kathleen Fleury.
The above article from Midwifery Today, published in Issue 98 in the Summer of 2011, speaks wonderfully to the Natural Expulsive Reflex that HypnoBirthing® refers to (a.k.a. the Fetal Ejection Reflex). This article validates instinctively letting your body bring the baby down instead of following all of that annoying coaching for forced pushing.
The Quietude Phase
The author, Alison Bastien, writes that often, when a woman’s cervix is fully opened, a doctor, nurse, or midwife will immediately coach her to begin pushing, even when she’s not feeling an urge to bear down. I’ve certainly heard this story from my HypnoBirthing® students. This can lead to frustration and exhaustion as the “pushing” goes nowhere. And if you don’t have an urge to push, there’s something wrong with you. This article speaks of an interim phase between the time when the cervix is thinning and opening and the descent and birth of the baby. Midwife Whapio Diane Bartlett calls it the “quietude” phase and Sheila Kitzinger calls it the “rest and be thankful” phase. Alison calls is the “still pool,” that period of calmness before you meet your baby for the first time. For some women, this phase is short, and for others, it’s longer. What do you do during this phase? Nothing. There is nothing to do. Rest, sleep, connect with your baby, and restore your energy. Listen to your body. It will tell you what it wants to do. Ignore the coaching.
Our Microfocus on the Cervix
Another gem I pulled from this article is our obsession with the checking the dilation of the cervix in the United States. Alison quotes a Russian doctor as saying, “We do not ask a woman to push until we see the baby’s head.” And then a wrinkled old traditional midwife in rural Latin America speaks about checking a woman and says,
“‘Why would I want to feel the dilation of the cervix? I’m feeling for the babies head! If your finger goes all the way to here (indicating her second knuckle) then it’s still got a ways to go, and if you can only get it in to here (tapping her first knuckle), then here it comes!’”
This is so different from the attitude in the United States, where we routinely check the cervix to see if a woman is “ready to push” or not. It’s a simpler, gentler way of looking at the birthing phase.
Trust in Your Body’s Wisdom
The wisdom from this article is this: leave a birthing mother alone. Her body knows what to do with or without your meddlesome interference. Don’t coach her to push. She knows how to bring her baby into the world.
“Let’s let the babies tell us when it’s time to push!”
Here is a short film with Mickey Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing®, explaining instinctive birth.
Many years ago, in September of 1999, the television show Dateline published a segment on birthing with hypnosis. They featured a doctor in Florida who was using hypnosis with his childbirth patients. The segment caused quite a sensation, because the women birthed without pain, and were very relaxed and calm throughout their births. While this wasn’t the Mongan Method of HypnoBirthing®, what Dateline did was post a link to the HypnoBirthing® Institute on their website. The next morning, Mickey Mongan, the founder of HypnoBirthing®, had over 1000 emails in her inbox from pregnant moms all over the country who wanted to birth like the women they saw on Dateline. I’ve searched for the original segment on YouTube and posted it for you if you’re curious.
Dateline — Birthing with Hypnosis Video: Part 1
Dateline — Birthing with Hypnosis Video: Part 2
You might say that I had 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 was a beautiful baby and she’s an amazing little girl(she’s 5 years old now). 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 was very alert and calm, and spent a lot of time lifting her head looking at the world around her (especially trees). She was nine weeks old when I originally wrote this birth story. We enjoyed each other quite a lot in those first weeks and months, 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.