Come again? But isn’t birth always painful? Many people — friends and family, care providers, and hospital staff — will inform you of what you should expect during your labor. If you haven’t yet experienced this often well-intentioned but unhelpful form of advice, you probably will. But guess what? Only you get to decide how you will feel. This is something I always state in the first week of my six-session Hypnobabies series. It’s a fundamental principle of allowing hypnosis to work powerfully for you in creating a new perception of the sensations of childbirth and creating more comfort in the body, thereby creating an easier, more comfortable experience.
The idea that birthing people can actually exert some measure of control over the way they experience childbirth can sometimes bring up a lot of resentment in other people. “Well, I was prepared for hard work and that’s what it was!” I’ve also seen comments such as, “I have a problem with the idea of pain-free childbirth.”
But that’s just it. It’s their problem, not yours. Is hypnosis the magic cure-all making it possible for discomfort to never occur during the process of birth? No one at Hypnobabies has ever claimed this. However what we do know is that the program is quite adept at giving women the tools they need to have a positive experience, lessen their fear and anxiety, build confidence in their ability to give birth normally, and yes, even experience a more comfortable birth.
The language of birth can be so powerful. Words and phrases like “pain with a purpose,” and “hard work” and “warrior mom,” while they are certainly accurate at times if used by the birthing person to describe the experience, they aren’t helpful when used by educators, providers and supporters of pregnant people. We are authority figures and when we “prepare” women for what they should expect, we are in fact doing them a disservice.
Birthing people are in the driver’s seat of their experiences. What we should do though is help them to understand that birthing sensations are very powerful, and describe the range of ways that birth is experienced so that they recognize the signposts. I’m careful to never use the word “you,” because remember, every birth is different and while in general most women will experience certain signs prior to and during the birthing process, not everyone experiences all or any of these things.
What would happen if instead our culture were lifting up birth stories of power, peace and healing? What kind of influence could that have? Yes, we know that complications can occur. Yes, we know that birth is a powerful force that is worthy of great reverence. But we also know that birthing people are capable of embracing this power. Believing that it’s possible for them to learn to enjoy the process (and that hypnosis is one of the most reliable methods for doing this) is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give to a family.