30 years of hypnobirthing

“When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
-Marie F. Mongan

The 14th July 2019 is World HypnoBirthing Day!

This year we will be celebrating 30 years of HypnoBirthing. I find it very emotional to think of all the mama’s and the babies who have felt the positive, empowering effects of reconnecting to our birthing bodies over these 3 decades, so it quite rightly deserves a bit of celebration!

As we reach this milestone it feels right to acknowledge the woman who developed the original theories and techniques which are the foundings of all the HypnoBirthing philosophies today. Marie Mongan believed that her body was designed for birth and she recoiled at the heavy medicalisation of childbirth in the US with which she found herself surrounded by in the 1950’s. At this time women were, generally, anesthetized whilst giving birth, but Marie gave birth to her 4 children without any medication. She saw and felt a different, instictive way of birthing, “My dream is that every woman, everywhere, will know the joy of a safe, satisfying birth for both her baby and herself - one she’ll not need to forget.”

I often think of the courage and, possibly, slight rebellion, of the early birth pioneers who began to stand up against the repeated medicalisation of birth at that time. With just the feeling & knowledge that they could trust their bodies and their abilities to birth their own babies, they began the ripples of change.

This lead me to think about the mum’s, the real birthing women who put their faith in HypnoBirthing at a time when the movement was rarely even spoken about, if only then to disrgard or laugh at the theories. I wondered, what was their motivation to birth differently, to step outside of the norm. What did it feel like to empower themselves and what might their families have thought of them and their choices.

So, I spoke to a few lovely ladies who had experienced HypnoBirthing at the real tipping point of this movement toward positive, instinctive birthing, and i’d like to share their words with you.

Kelly Pietrangeli is the founder of My Project Me, I recently read her book and began to follow her inspiring posts on instagram. After a short insta-chat I felt really inspired to learn she had used HypnoBirthing techniques with the birth of her second son, in 2002, and she agreed to share her birth story with me;

“After a very traumatic first birth in 1999, I tearfully told my husband I could never go through it again. I’d always been terrified of childbirth and nearly passed out in the one childbirth class I’d attended.

When I fell pregnant again I very seriously considering a planned caesarean. Then a small advert  in a local parenting magazine caught my attention. It said in bold letters: Looking for a better childbirth?

I rang the number and spoke to a private midwife company, ultimately deciding to hire a private midwife to get me through it.  She was lovely and helped me address my fears, loaning me books by Sheila Kitzinger, and helping me to see birth as beautiful and empowering.  She’d just heard about something new on the scene called Hypnobirthing and although she’d never assisted anyone who’d used it, she had the name of a Hypnobirthing instructor named Annie McCue.”

How did Hypnobirthing help to change your own birthing experience?

“Hypnobirthing helped me to have a completely opposite experience to my first birth. I ended up so calm and in control that when my midwife arrived she didn’t think I was anywhere near ready to move to the birthing unit.  She settled down into a chair to have a nap and was shocked when I suddenly sat up in bed and announced “He’s coming!” 

I can honestly say that I had a pain-free childbirth. I felt incredible pressure and like I was a powerful inferno, but there was no pain. I welcomed each surge as I knew it would bring me closer to meeting my baby. During transition my husband was prepared and he took me to my special place as we’d learned from Annie. He was amazing at getting me over that brief hurdle. 

My midwife was so in awe that she grabbed her camera and shot incredible photos of my baby boy as he was born in the sack. My waters never broke! “

“Afterwards she ran a bath for me and I as I lay down in the warm water, my legs were shaking uncontrollably. She told me I’d just run a marathon and in that moment I realised I’d just had my greatest achievement of all time. I’d overcome my deepest fear of childbirth and had my son at home with no pain relief! The next morning, our three year old son climbed into our bed and was amazed to meet his new baby brother.  It was the most special moment of my life. “

Wow, an incredicle birth story! I hold my hands up to you as a real birth pioneer! How did other people react to your birth at that time?

“I do feel like a Hypnobirth pioneer because back then, in 2002, nobody had heard of it. I got so many comments from people thinking Paul McKenna had come over and said ‘Look into my eyes, look into my eyes’!  My husband who would have never agreed to a home birth, especially given our first experience, has told countless people about the magic of hypnobirthing. Our son is 16 now and he’s tired of hearing me tell the story of his birth!”

What might be the biggest thing Hypnobirthing has taught you?

“The experience taught me about the great power of the mind. Fear = Pain.  When we can master our minds, we can achieve absolutely anything. I’ve since walked on fire at a Tony Robbins event, again with no pain and a great sense of accomplishment. “

Locally to me a few years ago now, I met a wonderful artist, SaraJane Ferris as we were both helping the Save Leith Hill campaign. Last year, when I told family & friends about my new venture as a Hypnobirth Practitioner, I had a little message from SaraJane, “Well done you, I used hypnotherapy during labour when I had Guy at home”. My instant reaction was wow! Again, that growing feeling that I just wanted to learn more about her drive to birth outside of the typical parameters of the time. I had given birth to my daughter at home in 2017 and I did feel a certain level of negativity and fear around my decision to birth at home, and so can imagine this being even more compounded at a time when most women were sadly experiencing a lot of medical intervention within hospitals as a standard practice of care.

SaraJane kindly agreed to share her story with me;

“I have two sons, the first was born in 1996 and the second in 2000. I planned to have a water birth and didn't want to take the drugs and interventions offered as pain relief, so I started to explore alternatives.  I went to see a hypnotherapist who taught me how to use self hypnosis which I practised a lot. “

What did HypnoBirthing bring to your own birth experience? 

“I used it more with my second birth which was a home birth. My midwife went home for a bit and told me to contact her when the contractions got closer, my husband went back to bed! I laboured on my own for four hours and used hypnosis in a very natural way; I focused on an image that appeared in my mind and as the contractions came I pushed the image away until it appeared small, this also helped me to focus on my breathing and to keep calm. “

If there was one thing you could say to a mother who is pregnant today & struggling with fears about her own upcoming birth, what might that be?

“Use whatever technique works for you, trust your body and take strength that it knows what to do. The best tip I had....Relax your jaw during the birth as it mirrors the birth canal!”

I would like to say a huge thank you to Kelly and SaraJane for sharing their beautiful birth stories, and for taking a leap of faith nearly 20 years ago to empower themselves for their own birth journeys. I honestly feel that if they, and other women at the time, including of course, the Hypnobirthing founder Marie Mongan, had not found the courage to take a different path for their own birth experiences, that I would not have felt the empowement of these teachings for the births of my own children.

I feel there is still a long way to go before we fully return to instictive, connected ways of birthing, but these ladies certainly raised the pedestal up for us. I hope the birth stories from our generations will lay as inspiration for the mothers ahead of us.

Emma x