First things first, I know that hypnobirthing works for some people, and actually, the ‘hypno’ part recently got me through a tricky dental appointment but most courses go further than just teaching self-hypnosis and perfectly useful breathing techniques. Here’s why I failed at hypnobirthing, or to put it more accurately, why hypnobirthing failed me.
Why hypnobirthing didn’t work for me
Before you jump to the conclusion that I was stupid to take it all so literally, so seriously, remember that I was pregnant, vulnerable and enlisted on a course that labelled itself as ‘antental education’. I thought, naievely, that they would paint the whole picture.
I had a pretty straight forward pregnancy so I accepted the version of birth painted so vividly in the hypnobirthing book and the calm births shown in the videos during the classes. We were taught to focus on our ideal birth, to write about it as if it had already happened, then to daydream this version of events to influence the subconscious mind to feel that birth is something that should be enjoyed. I guess if your birth is somewhere near to the daydream, you don’t give it a second thought.
I mourned for the birth that I didn’t have.
My birth was from a different planet, I mourned for the birth that I didn’t have, one that I’d have never expected if it wasn’t for the hypnobirthing classes. Each day for months I listened to affirmations that assured me that the baby would come when it was ready, that my body and baby would know what to do. This, coupled with the assertion that it is our right to refuse inductions and intervention made me feel as if Doctors were there to be challenged, that Midwives had their own agenda, other than the safe and live arrival of my baby.
Read another mom’s open and honest story: Painful breastfeeding and mixed emotions
A full sixteen days past the forty week mark, an induction and a team of expertly skilled doctors and midwives got my baby out alive, with the salad servers, after a go on the hoover. She was big, healthy but well and truly overcooked. As it turned out, neither my body nor baby knew how to get her from the inside to the outside.
The course suggested that we shoudn’t listen to any negative birth stories, to close our ears, dress ourselves in an imaginary cloak of protection. This meant that I only listened to the good ones, the easy, breathe-it-out sort, anything else was shut down because as far as I was concerned, as far as hypnobirthing was concerned, I wasn’t having one of those. ‘I’m doing hypnobirthing’ I chirpily announced to anyone who started to tell me about their medical, life saving hospitalised birth, ‘you should try it next time’.
I had nobody to talk to, I didn’t know anyone who had a birth like mine because in my hypnobirthing bubble, I didn’t want to know.
My naievity astounds me and I cringe when I think back. Apart from being down right embarrased, I missed opportunities to ask questions, questions that might have helped me in birth like ‘what happens when you have forceps?’. On the other side of an assisted delivery, with a baby that I couldn’t pick up due to pain and exhaustion, not to mention a bruised ego, I felt like an absolute failure. I had nobody to talk to, I didn’t know anyone who had a birth like mine because in my hypnobirthing bubble, I didn’t want to know.
I touched on my feelings about hypnobirthing a while ago on social media and I recieved a thought provoking email from a midwife. She said that she’s all for anything that helps women to cope with labour but is finding it increasingly difficult to support and advocate for ‘hypnobirthing’ women who are fighting her every step of the way. I was that person. To the whole team of patient, kind and bloody-good-at-their-job midwives and doctors. I’m sorry.
The last thing any woman needs, after birthing their baby, however they birthed their baby, is the feeling that they failed.
I’ve thought lots about how a course with such good intentions went so wrong for me and I think it comes down to this; in trying to take the fear out of birth they have created a rose-tinted bubble. This might make women feel more relaxed in the lead-up but when birth doesn’t go this way, when the bubble bursts, the fall out can be traumatic. The last thing any woman needs, after birthing their baby, however they birthed their baby, is the feeling that they failed.
Hypnobirthing seems to be treading a fine line between hopeful possibility and blissful ignorance. For me, it missed the mark.
I’m a 31 year old Art Director, writer and photographer, I’m also a new mum to a little girl born in December 2016. With ten years experience in the magazine industry. I am currently on maternity leave from Gurgle magazine where I art direct, design for print and web and photograph stories. I live just outside London in what an American would describe as ‘a fixer-upper’. We’re aiming to get the fixing up, err…fixed up before our baby is on the move!