One of the births I attended this year has left me even more passionate about sharing with my clients the situations they may find themselves in when they are in labour and birth, especially in a hospital environment, and showing them how well the Wise Hippo tools work in those situations and how preparation is key.
One of my potential clients recently said ‘I’m really laid back and not scared actually, so I don’t think I need your classes’. She read all about my specialisms, namely anxiety about pregnancy and birth and how I help couples recover from birth trauma from their previous birth, and she thought ‘Na, that’s not me’.
Completely fair enough. But let me explain what can happen in birth and how that may make you feel if you’re not fully prepared.
- Things that you don’t know about at all (and I’m not talking about horror stories here).
Like the choices you have, for example in terms of vaginal examinations. Most of the clients who come to me don’t know they don’t have to have VEs. They don’t know that they have a choice. They assume that VEs are the norm. They think that midwives absolutely need to know how dilated their cervix is.
No they don’t! And yes you do have a choice.
Other choices like the Vitamin K injection or oral administration of Vitamin K, like delayed cord clamping, observations of the baby straight after birth, skin to skin, the ‘golden hour’, ‘biological nurturing’, what to do with the placenta (lotus birth, encapsulation, homeopathy remedies made from it, eating it raw, etc.) and so many other things that you really need to consider before you go into labour.
The whole birthing process, from start to finish. A lot of clients don’t know that there are three stages in birth. (I’ll let you in on a little secret – I have always loved biology, my mum was a gynaecologist, and when I was pregnant with my first baby I thought that the baby was… in the placenta!!! That’s how ignorant we can be about birth sometimes!) A lot of clients don’t know what the foetal ejection reflex is. Most don’t know what promotes the production of oxytocin. A lot don’t know what oxytocin even is, let alone how to promote its release in the birthing body. Most clients don’t know how to promote the production of endorphins either, what relaxation can do for the birthing muscles, etc. etc.
- The caregivers telling you what to do, or ‘recommending’ things when it doesn’t feel like recommendations at all but more like life-or-death decisions.
Mostly this is about hospital settings.
I was staggered by the doctor’s attitude and way of talking to my client recently during her labour (I was her Wise Hippo instructor as well as her doula). By the fact that there was no individual care. By the way she only stayed with us for 5 minutes when I have known my client for 12 years, the midwife has been with us for 4 hours already and I have been with or in touch with my client for more than 24 hours regarding the progress of her early and established labour.
Doctors are busy and save lives. They don’t have time to stay with a woman in labour to see if she really needs synthetic oxytocin to ‘help her body’ (aka ‘augmentation’). Hospitals have protocols and that’s what the medical teams follow, regardless of what happens in the birthing room when they are there. As a doula and hypnobirthing teacher with over 5 years’ experience, I know how fast labour can progress. This, my expertise and my questions were completely ignored in this case. Yet I could just tell my client’s labour was progressing. She was 5cm at 10pm, the doctor came at 11.15pm, my client suddenly started making different noises, noises she hadn’t made before at all. Either something was wrong, or the cervix was dilating very well and no interventions were needed. Deep down I knew that things had moved swiftly in that last hour and a quarter. I think the midwife knew too. But the doctor only based her judgement on what the protocol was. Full stop.
I was sooooo excited when, 2 hours after the doctor left, my client was 9cm! (As the midwife put on her gloves to examine her, I told her ‘Come on, I bet you’re at least 8!!’) She had gone from 5cm to 9cm in 3 hours! I was nearly jumping around the birthing room!
My client gave birth naturally another 3 hours later, without any kind of pain relief (although she had some between 5cm and 9cm), without a graze on her perineum. This birth could have been soooo different, it makes me shiver every time I think about it. And it makes me angry. And so it makes me even more determined to paint a clear picture of the challenges my clients may face, even when labour progresses normally and they feel good and their baby is fine and they feel confident that their body ‘can do it’. This is when the role of the birth partner is essential. The mum is there to BIRTH. She can’t think, and she shouldn’t think. She’s the body, and the birth partner is the brain. The birth partner knows the mum well and knows what she wants and knows how she is doing and knows about labour thanks to the in-depth classes I provide, and has the confidence to ask the right questions if there need to be any.
- You can have the right birth on the day, no matter what path your birthing takes.
People telling you what to do (in the guise of ‘recommendations’ in an urgent and forceful voice sometimes) can make you feel disempowered and that you had a negative birth experience, and this can impact your postnatal period dramatically, and therefore your life and your baby’s and husband’s/partner’s life. And you can’t know the extent of this until it has happened to you.
I’m on a mission to educate couples so that it doesn’t ever happen to them. In my birth trauma sessions, I see the results of negative, difficult and traumatic births, and believe me, you do not want to be one of those people who has a horror story to tell.
With preparation for a positive mindset, with as much knowledge as you can take in, with the practice of powerful tools that keep you strong, calm and relaxed, you can prepare for a great birth, and if things don’t go according to Plan A, you can turn around anything that can happen in labour and birth and look at it in a positive light (there is one exception to this, and while it can’t be ignored, it definitely can’t be focused on in this post – this s way beyong the scope of this article). So for example, if your body doesn’t dilate and you need a(nother) C-section (as happened to me), having prepared for this possibility and having practised all the tools that keep you calm makes the difference between a negative birth experience and a positive birth experience (and all the consequences this has on your postnatal period, yourself and your baby).
With the practice of reminding yourself that a positive experience isn’t linked to how your birth unfolds but how fully you participate in your birth and in the decisions made, keeping the Wise Hippo mantra ‘the right birth on the day’ at the forefront of your mind, you can come out of your birthing experience feeling fantastic, powerful and happy.
So if you don’t know anything or much about what I have mentioned above and don’t prepare for this and all the possible ways that things that can be done to you and disempower you in the process, how can you birth serenely? Yes, if you are laid back and have a textbook labour and birth, you don’t really need to prepare for it. But who can tell you what your end of pregnancy will be like and how your labour and birth will unfold?
So tell me, if you were going to run a marathon in 9 months’ time, would you just turn up on the day, having not trained your mind or your body? Would you turn up not having practised any kind of visualisation for how you want your run to unfold? Would you turn up not knowing what could happen to your muscles if you did x or didn’t do y? Would you turn up without a water bottle because you didn’t know that your body would get dehydrated and would need a lot of water during that run? Would you turn up and suddenly realise how many people are going to recommend x, y and z and you wouldn’t know what they’re talking about? Would you let them tell you how to run, regardless of how you’re feeling in your body? Would you just run super fast for 3 hours just because they tell you? Would you let them inject something into your body just because they think your body needs help? Would you not want to know as much as possible about running and the physiology of running? Wouldn’t you want some tools to combat the negativity of certain people and ignore what they might tell you when you’re training (‘You won’t be able to do it, you’ll collapse half way through, your body will need help, you won’t win, you’ll fail, you’re not made to do this’)? Wouldn’t you want to know how to use these tools and practise them any time you need them, not just for your run (for example, the ‘Thought Exchange’ and the ‘Cloak of Protection’ in my Wise Hippo classes)?
If you are the type of person who wants to be fully prepared and wants to stay calm and positive no matter what happens during pregnancy, labour and birth, and you would like to find out more how to be 100% prepared to have the right birth on the day, then contact me here and we can have a chat (I offer free 30-minute consultations), or you can book onto my next Relax, Breathe and Birth taster session (see side bar for the next date) or just book onto my next group class (see side bar for the next dates) or we can just arrange some dates for private classes 🙂
PS: I wrote this post 2 weeks ago and have only just had a bit of time to edit it and publish it. Three days ago, the laid-back mum I mentioned at the beginning of this post booked one of my classes 🙂 She did a lot of research and realised the benefits of hypnobirthing, and in particular of the Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. She is well on her journey of information, knowledge, birth preparation and empowerment, I am so pleased for her 🙂