According to my mother, it was the worst thing she's ever experienced. And, according to the woman I met in a cafe when I was ten days over my due date: 'I'd do it again tomorrow! (she was positively excited as she eyed my bump...).
So which is it? Is it just the luck of the draw or do you just need to reach for the drugs and keep your fingers crossed? In my experience it's neither. The good news is that YOU can positively affect so many aspects of your birth, including how painful it is and how you experience this pain.
Whaddya mean how you experience this pain? Isn't pain just pain? Well, no. And that's how come you can hear all these widely differing stories. It's the biggest secret about birth that even today people don't seem to be that aware of. Our PERCEPTION of pain is what makes it painful. Example: if you're sat watching telly one evening and you feel a mystery pain in your stomach and it's like nothing you've ever felt before- what do you think? When will it stop? Will it go on forever? Is it going to split me in two? Maybe I'm dying?!! I've heard about this kind of thing and it ALWAYS gets worse. If this goes on all night I'll go mad, I can't cope....call an ambulance AND GIVE ME SOME DRUGS!!!
Now imagine the same twinge (because that's how it started) and this time you know that the feeling is going to shift and move. You've been told that it responds really well to relaxation and that if you breathe gently and stay positive it gets less. You know that it isn't going to be unbearable and that there are a few things you can take if the feelings become a bit too strong at times. You know that it doesn't stay the same but changes as time goes on. You're like an athlete who's prepared for a race and you're excited and stimulated by the challenge which you've been coached and supported to KNOW you can win, whatever happens. How is that pain going to feel this time round? Better? Worse?
This is one example of how your perception really does govern how you experience discomfort. And a hypnobirthing course actually gives you so many other ways to maximise your chances of a comfortable and positive birth: hypnotic pain relief (putting you in charge), a portable bubble of bliss (I love that one!), access to feelings of power and control (because who wants to feel out of control when you're in the buff in a strange place?!) and much, much more... And if you want drugs too, why not? You're in charge!
Jess Summers-Jackson is a hypnopsychotherapist, Certified Birthing Practitioner, Birth Coach and Post-Natal Specialist
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