Antenatal classes can be funny things. You start hoping to feel more informed, less afraid and you can come out feeling more confused or worried about your birth than ever, even if you have made a great group of new friends. I've heard that some antenatal classes can be biased towards natural births and be discouraging of drugs or interventions. And then I've heard the opposite too. I've seen and listened to the criticism directed at antenatal teachers when birth experiences don't quite turn out as planned.
I'm a firm believer in taking responsibility for your birth and making the best plans you can with the information you have. I also don't believe that you need to dwell on and become overly familiar with all the medical options you will have if your birth path starts to look a bit less usual. Instead I teach couples the skills to communicate and make educated decisions at the time, even though I won't be there to help.
I sing the praises of hypnobirthing so often, it might also be good to balance things out by giving some of the potential difficulties that I see with hypnobirthing couples too.
Achieving the “perfect” birth
It's worth saying right here, right now, there is no such thing as a perfect birth. Only what's right for you and your baby. Although it's tempting to compare yourself to other mums or want what they had, there are no guarantees. You can get yourself in a good place but Mother Nature will have the final say in the end.
I've seen women take the power of hypnobirthing and the possibility it provides and flip it, turning the options for empowerment and positivity into a way to control their experience and manage their emotions about birth. It's easy to let it become a way to deny your fears and worries about lack of control.
If you start to feel like this, it's worth reminding yourself that you don't need to hang on with a vice like grip. Your baby will have it’s own part to play plus your team of caregivers, including your birth partner, are there to share in decision making and will be great supports to you.
Disappointment if your birth isn't natural
One of the most common bits of feedback I hear from mums is over the strength of the sensation that their surges generate (the pain from contractions in every day birthing language). For many, it's the first time they ever feel something this strong and once they do experience them, they begin to doubt their ability to continue without pain relief.
The advice I always give is that you might need to focus more strongly and work a little harder on your up breathing than you had expected. Whilst I had hoped to be a zen like statue in the corner, I'm pretty sure I was a loud, slightly sweaty, pacing mama. I also ask women to remember that in this case, the sensation isn't a sign that something is going wrong, in fact, just the opposite!
If you get to the point though where these two ideas aren't doing it for you, have the drugs and don't feel bad about it. You will make many many more choices for your child and will quickly learn that a lot of the time, what's right for you is also best for them, no guilt required.
If your caregiver has suggested a procedure to you and you're not sure about it, you need to ask for more detail and begin the process of negotiating your care with them. Hypnobirthing gives you the skills and confidence to do this well but we would never ever advocate resisting the help you need.
Once you have spoken about the risks, benefits, alternatives and the option to do nothing, only then can you be confident that you've made the right choice. Hopefully up can avoid unnecessary interventions but the ones you truly need? I'd be so glad they were offered.
Being combative with caregivers
One mama to be told me recently that her friends who'd had babies before her had told her that she needed to be pretty assertive with her caregivers during labour to make sure her wishes were respected.
Wanting to participate and feeling like you can is great but this made me wonder a little. When I had my little girl, I was assertive in the run up to the birth but I smiled, asked for help, shared my hopes. During labour itself, I spoke very little. By that point, I had built a great rapport with my midwives and my husband know just what I wanted to happen. I disappeared off into my birth bubble and instead of needing to worry and stay alert, I could focus on keeping my oxytocin flowing.
Assertiveness is great; setting up a relationship of tension with your midwives, not so much.
For me the common themes of all these issues is a basic lack of trust. It's so hard, I know. Part of hypnobirthing is learning that you can trust the people around you to care for you but also that you can trust yourself to know what to do when the time is right. You can release the burden of needing to micromanage your experience.