Wessex Hypnobirthing Course; Was it worth it?
If you're a regular visitor to the blog, you'll know that I am now heavily pregnant with our second baby, and if you really love it here, you'll know that I've been practicing hypnobirthing in preparation for the labour and birth. I talked about the why's, who's and how's in Hypnobirthing; Why I'm doing it and how the first class went! but now I've finished the course and I've spent the last couple of months getting the hang of the techniques I learned, I want to recap on how I'm feeling and whether I think it was all worth it so far.
I took a naive approach to my first pregnancy, attending no classes and figuring what would be, would be, when it came to the birth. Though I'd heard of hypnobirthing, the classes seemed expensive and as I had no real fear of giving birth (ignorance is bliss!), I wasn't too concerned. Since having A, and experiencing labour and birth for myself, I've heard more and more about the positives of hypnobirthing and how it can help to create a calm and relaxing atmosphere (quite the opposite to my experience) so I knew I wanted to practice it when the time finally came to start thinking about baby #2.
Originally, I was simply going to purchase the book/CD and give it a go myself, but I really wanted the opportunity to attend classes if possible; mostly because I feel as if I learn better in that form and because I wanted Mr J to have more involvement (and I knew he wasn't going to read the book on his own terms). I did a little research into hypnobirthing in my area and came across the lovely Caroline of Wessex Hypnobirthing. I dropped Caroline an e-mail expressing my interest and she kindly replied with all the information I needed; how much the classes were and when it'd be ideal for us to start them (around 20 weeks).
My number one reservation was whether it'd be worth the £100-£200 courses generally seem to cost depending on where you live. It was alot of money to part with for us for something we weren't very knowledgeable about and really, we just wanted to know whether it would be worth it.
In the end, we decided to take the plunge and attend the course, so as I edged closer to the 20 week mark, I let Caroline know that we wanted to sign-up. After chatting, she offered me a discount in exchange for a review and I snapped up the offer; we had 4 x 2.5 hour classes over the span of a month covering the general ideals behind hypnobirthing, why and how it works and breathing techniques and relaxations I'd need to practice to be able to remain calm during the labour.
How did you feel after taking the course?
If you've read my previous post, Hypnobirthing; Why I'm doing it and how the first class went!, you'll know that after just the first class, the way I looked at giving birth completely changed from almost entirely negative to positive, so for me it was worth the cost almost instantly.
In the weeks that followed, I gained even more knowledge about childbirth and I was amazed to find out how much I didn't know - I feel as if all women who're expecting should be readily provided with more information because I was immediately put at ease knowing how my body actually works to labour, and it really doesn't have to be the terrifying, stressful ordeal it's made out to be.
I'd say one of the most important things we learned was about the stigma of fear that exists around childbirth and how from a very young age we are told that childbirth is an extremely painful and scary experience; Once the stigma is there, and after hearing this multiple times over the span of our lives, we're going to believe it. Fear causes our body to do all sorts of things such as tense up and produce adrenalin, in turn not allowing our muscles to relax and do their job and causing us to crash from exhaustion. If we can learn to relax and give in to our bodies during childbirth, it is possible for our muscles to do their thing giving us the opportunity to have a much more pleasant experience.
I'm aware from that whole paragraph how 'hippy-ish' I sound, but I promise you I'm not. I'm open-minded, yes, but I wasn't instantly converted, or 'brainwashed'; there have been parts I've struggled with, such as being able to submit myself to a deep relaxation and I do wonder if I'm the right candidate for hypnobirthing. Do I need to be a completely chilled-out personality? Be adamant I want a home birth? Want to capsulise my placenta so I can gain all the nutrients after the birth? I can honestly say, I am none of the above, and yet hypnobirthing has still been something I have learned a huge amount from and something I can truly see helping me through both labour and birth.
Importantly, I also learned that all of the decisions made during pregnancy are entirely ours and should be supported, not enforced by the midwives and doctors. It sounds simple, but these are things I honestly wasn't aware of. In my last pregnancy, I felt all of the things hypnobirthing discourages; the pressure of my due date passing by with no baby, the bombardment of messages asking isn't that baby here yet?, the stress of worrying about having to be induced and 'going overdue' and the pressure to have a membrane sweep. I now wonder if A would've come naturally if I'd just accepted that he would be born when he was ready and if I'd relaxed instead of being anxious about when we'd meet him (I know it's easier said than done, we're all excited to meet the one we've been carrying for 9 months).
What happens from now until the birth?
Caroline informed us that we should try and set aside the same time each day to practice our breathing, followed by a relaxation, either read out by our partners, or by listening through headphones. The more you're able to practice, the easier you should find you can fall into a state of relaxation in preparation for labour.
This has been the trickiest part for me; I enjoy the breathing and how it immediately relaxes me when I'm feeling stressed, but some evenings I'm so shattered, I end up collapsing on the bed before I can even think to stick on a relaxing MP3. Though I barely practiced from weeks 24-28, I've recently realised how close everything's getting and make sure I listen to my empowering birth statements and a relaxation most days and I am starting to feel the benefits (something I was worried wouldn't happen).
Caroline also talked about perineal massage on our course (though I'm not sure it's something I'm entirely comfortable with but it was handy to find out the benefits) and discussed the importance of practicing your kegel exercises (something else I forget to do but am starting to make more of an effort with!); she was also really helpful when I asked about the benefits of raspberry leaf tea and recommended the capsules which I'll shortly be taking in preparation for childbirth.
I'm trying not to focus on what I'm actually going to do during the labour, but on making sure I can create a comforting, relaxing environment by going with the flow and taking home comforts with me (such as pillows, pictures of my little boy etc.). My plan is to ensure I can be as relaxed and calm as possible; I've been given the tools to shape my labour the way I would like this time and I'm not heading into it completely clueless (as I did with my first - no wonder it was stressful)!
So, was it worth it?
I've gone from feeling horrendous fear at the thought of giving birth again, to actually feeling excited and looking forward to the day (that in itself made it all worth it for me). Hypnobirthing has given me the tools I need to feel empowered and positive so that I can have the birth that I'd like (regardless of the circumstances); I'm excited to see how it helps when it comes to the big day!
Even if it turns out that my baby is breech or I have to be medically induced or a variety of other things that could happen, I know I have the ability to deal with the situation as it comes and though I hope for a natural water birth, I know that birth is unpredictable but the way I deal with it isn't, and now I feel strong enough that I can cope better this time round.
I'm not naive enough to think I will have a perfect, pain-free birth because I've practiced hypnobirthing, but I at least feel confident and excited at the thought of going into labour and not anxious and fearful as I did before.
If you have any enquiries about the Wessex Hypnobirthing course, please don't hesitate to visit Caroline's website by clicking the button below, or you can find Caroline through her Facebook page; please don't hesitate to mention my name if you decide to get in contact with her about attending courses as I'm sure she'd love to know where you found out about her.