Thursday, 31 August 2017

Post Birth Feelings: The Hypnobirthing Debacle

I'm lying awake again. Not thinking about my birth experience but how I've been treated by the people that I paid and trusted to help me prepare for it. I'm more confused than ever over how I feel about G's birth. I had come to terms with it, I knew what happened was absolutely the right thing and I knew I felt really angry towards the Wise Hippo 'hypnobirthing' course that we did. I thought that writing to the course founder would be cathartic, I thought
that she would say sorry, something went wrong in the way that you were taught, that I'd know they they were taking steps to fill the holes in their teaching that allowed me to feel like an absolute failure after the birth. But she didn't, she defended it. She told me that her instructor "wouldn't" have said things that we heard on those Friday nights in that tiny room. She called me a liar. And she lied about the things that I wrote. She insinuated that it wasn't possible to have the feelings that I had if I'd listened properly if I'd not 'chosen' what to take from it. So I wrote a blog post about it and so many women wrote to me to tell me that they had done the same Wise Hippo course and felt the same feelings of failure that I did (almost all said they didn't feel brave enough to tell their teacher the truth). But the course founder continued to defend her course, to tell me that's not what her course is about, to say I chose to perceive it in the way that I did and to say that nothing about the course needs to change.

She wrote about me on her Facebook page, other Wise Hippo instructors chipped in. They told me that there is no possible way that anyone could feel a failure after doing their course. But I did (and judging by the emails that I received, lots of you did too). They told me that I picked and chose which parts of the course to take on board. They told me that I had written my blog post for clicks. They told me that I probably had PTSD and they hinted that there was in fact something I could have done to change things. One of the instructors told me that she was being 'sarcastic' in her response to my story, goodness knows I didn't need that. After all of this, after everything I tried to explain in my blog post they continue to insist that it's my fault. I'm not talking about what happened, I'm talking about the feelings. And the feelings are big, this side of pushing the baby out. These are the professionals that are supposed to be all about supporting pregnant women. The founders of this course claim to want the best for the women they teach, and if it all goes well they're happy to shout from the rooftops about their success stories but those of us who have less than glowing feedback are treated with contempt. Last week was birth trauma week and in lots of the stories that I read, I found a common thread, healing came when women were believed. When their feelings about the birth were validated, recognised, when they knew that lessons had been learned so that their experience would not be repeated. I wonder if by engaging with the WH, I have done myself and my confused ol' noggin more damage than good. 

Sadly, through writing to the Wise Hippo, through responding when they took the decision to write about me on their Facebook page I learned that the problem of the seemingly single minded defensive attitude within this organisation is wider and bigger than I thought. Did I deserve to be named and shamed on their Facebook page because I've chosen to write a blog post about it? You decide. Yes I have a tiny platform where I talk about things that affect us mums but really I'm just a woman that did a course that made her feel utterly shit about her birth. That made decisions that she'd never had made pre-Wise Hippo that negatively impacted on her experience of birth, hung like a cloud over those newborn days and doesn't want it to happen to another woman. That wrote a personal letter in the first instance and only wrote about it publicly when it was clear that she wasn't being heard. All I ever wanted was a message back that said we're sorry, this is not what we're about, we admit that something clearly went wrong within our teaching for you and for others, it's not coming across as it should and we're going to take steps to fix it so that this never happens to another mum. It's pretty standard customer service stuff. Acknowledge, apologise, move forward. It's all I expected. 

On the bright side, the messages that I've had from you telling your stories of your Wise Hippo experiences have been comforting. At one point, while deep in the Facebook debate with their accusatory, defensive instructors I started to question again whether indeed it was my fault then Tom told me to re-read your messages and I remembered that this is happening to lots of women, the problem is within the ideology of their organisation that they are too blindsided to see the other side of the coin. Another parenting blogger, The Honest Dad wrote about his Wise Hippo experience last week in a piece for Babycentre entitled "Did we fail at hypnobirthing or did hypnobirthing fail us" (read it here). There are so many similarities in our stories, the outcomes were slightly different but the feelings were all there. I thanked him for writing it, I wish I had read it while on the other side. 

I still know that what happened in my birth was the right thing, I'm not anxious about doing it all again if we're lucky enough to make a sibling for G but the memories of my birth are now entangled with a David and Goliath argument on a public forum and the waves of anxiety are getting higher. I need to stem it because if and when there is a next time I'd like to be able to tap into a few hypnobirthing techniques but right now my relaxing place has a dark cloud hanging over it. I'm not sure how I move on from here. I know it's not healthy to continue to engage with them and I have left the infuriating environment that is this post on their Facebook page but I can't get it out of my mind. I was in a really good place mentally before I wrote to the Wise Hippo with my concerns, with each exchange I've fallen further into despair. Someone wrote to me to tell me that they were almost crying with frustration while reading the Facebook exchange. I am too. I didn't even intend to write this post, I started to write our eight month baby & me update and when I got to the 'me' bit, this all fell out on to the page. But talking is good, I know this. So I'll keep talking. 

Oddly, just as I was going to get the link for the Facebook post on their page which I had unfollowed (for obvious reasons), I noticed that they've posted about inductions, perhaps my words have hit home after all? I feel just a little bit relieved. I hope the instructors read and teach this too. 



  1. I'm finding the Wise Hippo reaction to the totally honest and open account of your experience so disturbing. The fact that they've made a public post on their Facebook page taking quotes from your writings out of context and using the motto "you must take responsibility for your own birth" I find such obnoxious and bullying behaviour.
    I hope you know that any sane person who sees it will be equally disturbed and disgusted by them and compassionate toward you. Onwards and upwards. They don't have rights to your happy place!

    1. Thank you so much, it's good to hear that. It's a very odd way to respond to criticism but I hope that something has been learned, even if they're not seen to admit it! Onwards and upwards indeed!


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