When I was admitted to the hospital unexpectedly with my first son several years ago, I had no idea that more than 24 hours of pain-killer-free, Pitocin-induced labor were ahead of me. If you’re planning on a natural birth and want to use self-hypnosis to help you stay focused, here’s what I learned.
Nix the word pain from your vocabulary. To successfully use hypnosis techniques, you have to completely re-frame everything you learned about labor from the movies. Don’t say or think pain -- use "pressure" instead. And instead of contractions, think "pressure waves." The most helpful thing I learned in all of the instruction and practice was to think of them as waves when the pressures hit. I visualized a wave that rolled in and peaked and knew that -- just like a wave -- the pressure was going to roll right back down and away. It made what could have seemed unbearable into something reasonable and even manageable.
A labor and delivery with self-hypnosis is centered on relaxation techniques and a complete trust that your body was made for the task at hand. This was my first baby and the process of learning how your body works and how women have birthed for centuries without medical interventions made me feel trust with the process and helped keep fear at bay.
Most hypnobirth courses have tracks you can listen to while you labor. Use them. I used the Hypnobabies® program and that woman’s voice soothes me to this day. I had very few people in my room, kept the lights low, covered the clock with a hand-drawn happy face photo (thanks, mom) and kept the tracks going, mixed in with songs that I loved. A little Jack Johnson goes a long way to put you at ease! The tracks walked me through the intense pressure waves, reminded me that I was prepared for this and had continual affirmations about letting go and relaxing.
This one took a lot of practice, but it’s also something I use to this day -- when you hurt, let go. While it’s a normal reaction to immediately tense up when you’re experiencing pain (I mean, "pressure"), with this approach to birthing, you’re taught to let go. Breathe out, go limp, completely let go.