In early December, after 3.5 hours of a natural, drug-free* and (mostly) pain-free labor, I gave birth to my first child. He was alert, bright-eyed, and wiggled up to my breast for his first feeding minutes after being born.
What is HypnoBirthing? (in Lucy-talk)
It’s a form of self-hypnosis to allow your “birthing body” to take over the birthing process. Our muscles are programmed to know how to deliver a baby, all we have to do is relax and let it happen. Instead of pushing, you breathe the baby down. Women in comas have been able to deliver babies without pushing; it’s their natural birthing body at work. By using relaxation techniques, you rid your body of fear and tension which tighten the necessary pelvic muscles and causes pain. Relaxation also releases endorphines, a natural pain-suppressant (our built-in percoset, if you will) into our bodies.
I first heard about HypnoBirthing through acupuncturist, Jeff Weidmann, whose wife’s due date was only two days after mine. After reading about it and comparing it to the Bradley Method and Lamaze, I knew this one felt right. I’m a big supporter of going with the natural flow of one’s body. Besides, I’m a meditation and yoga practitioner where being in tune with your body is essential. Jeff (and his wife) and I signed up for the 5-week HypnoBirthing course with Yael Quittner. My husband, and my best friend Rocky participated in the classes knowing their roles were going to be very important.
For a few weeks before the birth date, my husband, BFF and I read the HypnoBirthing book, (I read it three times). We practiced the relaxation techniques daily. My body became conditioned to relax on command.
It started with a dream. I was back at the all-girls catholic school I attended in Dominican Republic, where they taught us how to crochet. In the dream, we were revisiting the crochet lessons, and we had to stand in line to pick our crochet needle. Strangely though, I don’t remember seeing anyone else there, but I recall picking a needle from a silver tray. I woke up in bed to find that my water broke. It was around 6am.
Why is this dream significant? When a doctor manually breaks the water, (an amniotomy) to induce labor, the doctor uses a tool that looks much like a crochet needle.
I had been 2cm dilated for 2 weeks. I went back to sleep after talking to the doctor. No contractions yet. The fluid was clear, and I was still sleepy. I wanted to be home for as long as possible. Besides, there were hospital issues:
Due to Hurricane Sandy, NYU Langone Medical Center was closed, and the practice I belong to had to keep moving birthing hospitals. First it was Mount Sinai, then it was NYU Downtown, whose contract was ending with the practice THAT EVENING at midnight. The next hospital in contract with the practice was St. Luke’s Roosevelt starting at midnight that evening. The doctor had called from NYU Downtown saying how crowded it was, and to stay home for as long as possible because they had women in labor waiting in the lobby for a room. Yikes.
Throughout the morning, I did the rainbow relaxation technique, meditated and watched cartoons. Thank goodness for serenity pads! Folks, water-breaking is not like in the movies. It leaks throughout the day. And it’s A LOT of fluid. Unfortunately, the fluid stopped being clear. It became a light, light, yellow. I kept hoping it was my eyes playing tricks on me.
12:30pm: I got a call from the next doctor on-call, the wonderful Dr. Luba Soskin. I love her. She has an insanely dry sense of humor, peppered with sarcasm, but with a thoughtful and compassionate bedside manner. She had delivered 1 baby from a hypnobirthing mom. Dr. Soskin said, “it was the most beautiful birth I had seen.”
On the phone, she asked me a stream of questions, “Lucy, what’s going on? So your water broke, how are you feeling? Is the water clear?”
“Well, I’m feeling great. No contractions though, and er…about that water…”
I went on to explain the light, light yellow tinge of the water (hoping that was ok), but she wasn’t having it. It might be meconium, I had to go to the hospital. “Lucy, just be ready,” she continued, “we may have to induce labor. I know you want to have it all natural, but we may have to give you pitocin if contractions haven’t started and we find meconium. Come to St. Luke’s Roosevelt, since you probably won’t have the baby before midnight which is when the contract ends at NYU Downtown.” Hah. Little did she know…
At St. Luke’s Roosevelt Triage
1:30pm: Excited about the day, and seriously ready. I kept thinking of a quote from Marie Mongan’s positive affirmations, “I look forward to birthing with joy and ecstasy.” It’s my favorite line.
I had attended a yoga class 2 days before and found a post-yoga chocolate treat still untouched in my coat pocket. I (a little more than gleefully) unwrapped it and took immense pleasure in the chocolately piece heaven of this surprise snack. These Dove chocolates have a little message on the inside of the wrapper. Mine said, “Life is Good.” I couldn’t agree more.
The staff at SLR were really great. Everything looked (and sounded) good but triage confirmed meconium.They gave me a labor room right away. Dr. Soskin made her appearance and ordered the pitocin drip. Starting at the smallest dose, and increasing every 20 minutes as needed.
As I did the full-term pregnancy waddle from triage to my assigned labor room, the nurse followed close by saying, “You’re just a little thang!”
Now, in the room where I will birth my son, I put on my birthing gown. My best friend, Rocky, set up a few pillows for me and my wonderful husband turned on my birthing soundtrack on my iPhone. We were ready to go.
Seven Centimeters and Still Smiling
5:30pm: Pitocin drip was administered.
Contractions began at around 6pm. They increased the dose two times and stopped when my contractions were every 2 minutes. I did the slow breathing technique as I learned in HypnoBirthing classes, and it was working! No pain. It was only uncomfortable when I wasn’t doing the proper breathing due to interruptions from the nurse. Finally, I started ignoring her not out of disrespect, but self-preservation. She kept asking, “On a scale of 1 through 10, 10 being the worst, where’s your pain level?” I shook my head and with my exhale said, “No pain. Just pressure.”
Thankfully, although I was IV’d up with the pitocin drip, I was allowed to stand and walk within a small perimeter around the machine. My most comfortable position during labor was standing in a soft horse-stance. I didn’t like the feeling of sitting and having any pressure “down there.” So I stood, with knees slightly bent, swaying side to side. Husband and BFF held each of my arms swaying with me and giving me ice chips between contractions. (Side note: Those ice chips are AWESOME. They are just the right size and right consistency. I kinda want that machine at home.)
I felt more pressure and asked to be checked. 7 centimeters! I was getting close! The nurse was so confused, and exclaimed, “7 centimeters and still smiling!!?!”
I was getting a little tired of standing, and tried changing positions. I got on the bed on my hands and knees, and this was when things got a little…primal.
I was incredibly hot, and Rocky comforted me with a cold towel on my neck and forehead. I felt it was time to breathe the baby down, but my body started doing something else! It felt convulsive…this desire to push–but not bear down, it’s like my body was pushing on its own and I had no say over it. This was not hypnobirth-y, but I was just going with how it felt.
I turned around and got into the “J” birthing position. This was the final countdown.
These last few minutes were not as graceful as the women in these hypnobirthing videos are, but I did indeed let my body take over. Rocky called the doctor, reading my expression and body language, saying “I think she should get checked.” Dr. Soskin didn’t think so, since not too long ago I was 7 centimeters. She said she’ll check a little later. Rocky came back to the room, looked between my legs, (our friendship has reached new and very special levels), and exclaimed, “No doc, I SEE THE HEAD!!!”
All I heard next was a whole lot of scrambling. Nurses running, the doctor yelling, “Lucy, don’t push! I need to wash my hands!!”
And me replying, “I can’t help it! It’s coming now!!!!”
There were pockets of HypnoBirthing calmness and then complete awareness of the immense pressure I felt between my legs. My husband and Rocky were soothing me with cold compresses, sweet words and light touch massages. At this point I felt more physical pressure than I ever had in my life.
In the HypnoBirthing book, Marie says that there will be one point while you’re breathing down where you think you just can’t take it anymore. When that happens, that means you’re almost done. I know EXACTLY when that moment happened: I moaned, “Oh God”, and burrowed my head in my husband’s chest. And just like that…out came baby at 9:02pm.
Joy and Ecstasy
I don’t think words can explain the joy and the ecstasy I felt when the baby slid out. It was beyond an orgasm. The relief from all that pressure released so many endorphins, I can’t imagine a better natural high in the world. I felt the joy and ecstasy throughout every inch of my body.
Darius was put on my chest, bright eyes, calm, looking up at me. Then a moment later, he wiggled up looking for a breast to latch onto. He found it. We were in harmony. True joy. True ecstasy.
The nurses were wow’d by how quick and smooth the birth was. Dr. Soskin was extremely pleased. The vibrations in the room were magical.
For those of you asking if I had a tear: I got 1 stitch. Dr. Soskin put the stitch in for good measure, but she said the tear was so tiny. In the post-partum floor, I walked easily and comfortably as soon as I was allowed to stand. Not only do I attribute this to HynoBirthing, but also the almost daily perineal massage for 5 weeks before the birth date.
I felt extremely happy about how all my preparations payed off. I know not everyone would chose this method, but I do feel strongly that every pregnant woman should at least consider it. Don’t get me wrong, I love and believe in science and medicine. But I also believe that there is such a thing as too much medicine, and it’s always advisable to explore natural paths first. Birthing is a natural process, and only in special circumstances should there be medical intervention, (ie: meconium in water!)
I would absolutely use this method again. Maybe next time I’ll even be as graceful as those women on YouTube.
*Pitocin was administered to induce labor. Read on to find out why.