“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
-Marie F. Mongan
Before I'd learned much about HypnoBirthing, I had some negative associations with it. Whenever I heard about using hypnosis for birth, my mind went straight to the cartoons: one character swings a yo-yo back and forth in front of an unsuspecting victim, whose eyes then turn into crazy swirls. (I mean, if you do a web image search for "hypnosis," you get dozens of iterations of crazy swirls.) I thought that hypnosis meant being totally outside of and separate from the birthing experience, and that wasn't something that appealed to me. I want to be present and an active agent while giving birth, not a hypnotized object.
Then, as I learned more about it, I realized that (as is normally the case with stereotypes), these perceptions were wrong.
Speaking of terrible stereotypes, let's think for a moment about how birth is often portrayed in the media: mom, confined to a hospital bed, screams and looks completely out of control. Her husband is completely helpless to do anything useful, and looks rather terrified himself. Even the birth attendants are often portrayed and frazzled and behave more like they're managing the victims of a fire or another emergency than joyfully welcoming a baby to the world.
Addressing these sorts of stereotypes and their effects is one of the main tasks of HypnoBirthing. If a woman has grown up in a culture that emphasizes pain, panic, and pandemonium in birth, it affects the way she thinks about it and approaches the birth of her child. Even if well-educated about birth, she probably expects a significant amount of pain to be involved in labor. And her body expects that, too. Mongan explains Grantly Dick-Read's fear-tension-pain cycle that affects many laboring women: They come to birth fearing pain, which causes the body to tense up, which makes laboring painful. Having once experienced pain as part of the childbirth process, the body tenses up in fearful anticipation of each contraction and feels more pain.
As I learned more about HypnoBirthing, I realized that a lot of it ties in with my interests in linguistics. HypnoBirthing takes many of the negative terms that are associated with a painful, clinical birth experience and reframes them as more positive terms: contractions are called surges; rather than pushing baby out, HypnoBirthers speak of breathing baby down; cervical dilation and effacement is instead called opening and thinning. The terms help the process be perceived more as an natural process than a medical procedure. A natural process that the woman's body was created to do and is perfectly capable of doing! What a freeing paradigm shift!
To help laboring women overcome the fear they may have of pain during childbirth and to help the body be relaxed and relieve all tension, Mongan introduces a variety of breathing, relaxation, visualization, and ultra-deepening techniques for use during labor. Many of these reminded me of similar techniques I'd used to relax and relieve tension when birthing my son, though I didn't use the HypnoBirthing method.
In summary, reading this book taught me that HypnoBirthing is not nearly as "out there" as I perceived it to be. I am hooked and interested in learning more about HypnoBirthing, and I'm grateful for Marie Mongan's work in helping many women reclaim their birth experiences as peaceful and empowering!