Words by Ray
It’s been 16 months already since I gave birth to my second little man; Gus. His was a healing marathon of a birth which taught me more than I can explain in one blog post. It taught me so much about myself and about the way I teach the mums and dads who come to my classes. But over time, as I’ve considered his birth there are a few bits I’d do differently should I ever get enough sleep to contemplate another baby.
Mistake #1: I watched the clock.
I touched on the first mistake I made in my post about long labours. From far too early on once my surges began I clock watched. I personally timed each surge using my phone. Honestly it didn’t even occur to me that this was an issue, I think perhaps because I was so convinced that this labour would be shorter, so convinced that my labour would be a linear event that picked up speed in a pleasingly timely way. I teach women that this isn’t true, month in and month out. There is a now largely debunked (and hopefully rarely mentioned) myth that once in established labour a birthing mother will dilate 1cm an hour. I often joke in my classes that this would have meant after two long labours my boys could have walked out. So why I thought that measuring each surge and their regularity was a good plan I will never know. It caused me much stress and frustration to notice the irregularity of those early surges. I fixated on it and created a mental struggle for myself, once I eventually gave up on and guess what - labour progressed - once I stopped trying to quantify it.
Mistake #2: I wasn’t as open minded as I could have been
One of the things we teach on our courses is ‘light touch massage’ it’s a wonderful tingle inducing form of massage which works by activating the nerve endings on your back (or bump, or arms). This in turn releases endorphins which are your bodies very own hormonal pain killers (and much more powerful than morphine). You can watch a video of the technique here . I knew all of this. I teach it but I didn’t try an LTM in my labour. I was offered massages by my doula and my husband but at the time I felt like it wasn’t something I wanted. So maybe it’s a bit harsh to call this one a mistake. However I feel like I was perhaps a little stuck in my ways about what I did and didn’t like. I love me a bit of LTM when I’m watching the tv, or just chatting and it’s something my husband and I had practised in the run up to the birth. However when it came to the actual event I was very stuck in the mindset that ‘I don’t like to be touched in labour’, and for some women that’s true. However when I think back to Gus's birth one of the things I found most helpful was burying my head in my husband’s neck and smelling a very specific part of his beard (totally weird, I know!) but what I was breathing in, in those moments was pure oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone that is an essential part of how labour works. In my first labour which had been a much more fearful one I hadn’t really wanted to be touched. This time, from a more confident place where my hormones were working as they should have been, I instinctually wanted to breathe in oxytocin. In retrospect I can’t help but wonder if adding some more endorphins to the mix may have also been a winner. Mostly I suspect I could have tried it.
Mistake #3: I didn’t rest enough afterwards
And lastly, and this was a biggie. After my birth I felt like superwoman! If strangers asked me a question about my new baby - ‘How old is he?’ ‘Is it a boy or a girl’ I just wanted to reply ‘he was born at home without any pain relief, I’m kind of a big deal!!’ I felt invincible. As a result I didn’t rest enough and ended up getting myself a bit fainty. Again I stress the importance of a quiet period after birth in my classes for bonding, establishing breastfeeding and for recovery. What is it they say, teachers make the worst students? So don’t do as I did, carve out some real time with your brand new little being, switch off your phone (or put it on flight mode so you can still take a gazillion identical pictures of your beautiful new little one!). Limit visitors, make sure you have plenty of energy promoting, tasty food and hunker down. Seriously, hunker down! Pregnancy is not an illness, and it may well be that your birth is not a medical event but you have used a whole lot of resources to grow and birth a whole human being, you deserve some time to get to know them and allow your amazing body to recover. In many cultures mums are cared for up to 6 weeks after the birth. All they really do is feed the baby - the rest is covered by family members. Traditionally in Japan mums are even spoon fed their food for a 4 week period. However in this country we are expected to brush ourselves off and entertain 20 different relatives everyday. it’s not ideal. Be the change and put yourself first.
So there are my three mistakes (there may have been one or two more but we’ll just gloss over those for now). But I want to make it clear that I had a very positive birth. Yes I could have tweaked and done a few things differently but even without using every tool in my tool box I totally owned my second birth. Like I mentioned, I felt utterly invincible, I recovered incredibly quickly and I’m left with such positive memories of bringing my second little boy into the world. So worry not dear ladies, hypnobirthing works whether you use every idea we give you, whether things work out how you expected, or not. The change it brings to your mindset and the confidence that it gives your brain and your body are what's key. All the different tools are great add ons but if you don't get that brain straight in the first place, you are far less likely to get the birth you are hoping for.
If honest antenatal classes, where the teachers share their mistakes as well as their wins sound like your thing, then why not join our free facebook group or have a look at what we offer in person here.