Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Why Hypnobirthing Didn't Work For Me

There are no positive or negative birth stories, there are just birth stories. This is the conclusion that I have reached after finally coming to terms with my labour at six-months post-birth. The funny thing is that I wasn't upset about my birth as such, the midwives and doctors did what they had to do under the time pressure of a dropping heart rate (hers) and an exhausted mother (me) to get her out alive. ALIVE. That's how serious it was. That's how...medical it was. I felt, and still feel so grateful for every single kind, compassionate and bloody-good-at-their-job NHS doc and midwife that I met. I am forever indebted to them for our lives. But immediately post-birth, and I'm talking about while the doctor was still stitching, an anger erupted from me that I could not control and that anger was aimed squarely at our Wise Hippo birthing course.

I feel like I have a responsibility to share my experience, firstly because I was a huge advocate of hypnobirthing during my pregnancy, if you scroll back far enough you'll find me singing its praises, talking about remaining calm and breathing the baby out. Believing it. Wholeheartedly. It wouldn't be right to just say nothing. We chose the Wise Hippo course, I wish I didn't have to be so specific, running someone's business down is not my intention, but it sets itself apart from the rest, so I must too.  I've been e-mailing Dany, the creator of the course, and she understands that I need to do this. She's tried to allay my fears that this will happen to other women (but says that the course doesn't need to change), hints that I am an anomaly, and I have tried to understand her point of view but maybe we'll never really get each other's stance on this. I can't walk in her home-pool-birth shoes (or rather bare feet) and she can't walk in my weary old 36-hour-birth Birkenstocks (on their largest for-puffy-feet setting).

I don't really know where to start, and I'm not even sure of the solution so I'll just tell you my story, and I'll tell you the words from the course that were ringing in my ears and igniting my fury every time someone asked about how the baby came out, and often when they didn't but I needed to tell them anyway to process it. I suppose I had better tell you the birth story (lite version) first. Throughout my pregnancy I had recited 'I'm going to breathe this baby out' at my poor midwife more times than she wanted to hear, refusing any help to 'get things started'. So at...

40+11: I finally agreed to stretch and sweep which I had repeatedly refused since 40 weeks (it was uncomfortable but fine). It kick-started my body into something but not full labour.

40+12: went to hospital 'empowered' to refuse the induction that the midwife had insisted on booking for me (this will be important later). Had a second stretch and sweep (feeling like a failure). The doctor told us our still-birth risk was rocketing, with the chilling words 'I've seen it happen'. This was the first moment that anyone had made birth feel serious. Agreed I would have the induction two days later at 40+14 but felt assured I would have gone into labour by then.

40+14: Awoke at 2 am and couldn't feel the baby moving despite cold drinks, poking and prodding. Raced into hospital where midwife found a heartbeat. The machine was showing irregular contractions but I couldn't feel them. Stayed on the monitor until 7am. The induction was booked for 9am. I felt tired. As something had started I asked to delay the induction further to see if nature would take its course. It didn't. I finally agreed to the pessary at 5pm. Contractions began that evening. I used the tens machine (that our yoga teacher had warned us would upset the natural electric impulses in our body), it was brilliant.

40+15: 8am, Patience (and she was) came back on shift, she removed the pessary. I was a few cm dilated. I asked for gas and air (again, brilliant). Contractions increased in intensity, at some point I was moved to the labour ward...

40+16: Contractions continued through the night, I was fully dilated but the baby's head hadn't descended. Eventually, midwife, concerned about progress started me on the syntocinion drip. Almost immediately the baby's heart rate started to drop. She asked Tom to press the 'yellow button'. A large party of doctors and midwives arrived, they performed an episiotomy. They tried to suck her out with the ventouse, they then 'assisted' with forceps while I pushed.

40+16: Nobody was quite sure of the time of birth, all minds were on something else. So her notes say 5.30am.  I had been awake for almost 48 hours solid.  I was stitched up, had a quick cuddle with her and fell asleep.

So, now you're up to date on that, we'll continue. The course took place on four consecutive Fridays in September, I didn't come dragging a suitcase full of negative birth baggage, I'd heard great things about hypnobirthing. I have a friend who had used the tools from the course and had one of those breathe-it-out-waterbirths (or near enough). By the look of this blog post written before I'd even started the Wise Hippo programme, I had already bought into the hypnobirthing trend and heard about the alleged damage that 'negative' birth stories could do. The course took place on four Friday nights in September, Tom came too. The idea was that your birth partner was there to learn to become your champion, your cheerleader, to keep you on-programme during the birth. The course leader was kind but businesslike. There were a good selection of snack bars in the break. Some of the things we learnt were quite useful, the breathing, the visualisations. In fact, all of the 'hypno' elements were great. I'd use them again. They should have left it there. If you read the first few pages of the book you'd think it was very open, very laid back. The course claims to focus on 'the right birth on the day' and to help 'whatever turn your birthing takes'. It should have been a roaring success but get past that intro and you'll find it's just like the courses that it's trying to set itself apart from. Here's what we learnt:

Beware the impact of fear
Now I can't lay this entirely at the Wise Hippo's door, I had already taken on board (I don't know where from) the idea that negative birth stories are a bad thing, that it's a good idea to fraternise during your pregnancy only with people that can tell you about babies that flew out on their own accord or swam gracefully out of the belly into the pool. The course reinforced it had a hypno-birthing script for this, to block out those negative birth stories (and other naysayers), to protect us from...from what exactly? The realities of all different kinds of birth? After mine I was longing to talk to people that shared my experience but because I had shut down any birth stories that didn't conform with the ideal birth scenario I felt that it was just me, I didn't know anyone that had a birth like mine, because I didn't want to listen. I felt like a failure. I was ashamed to show pictures of G, with those red marks on her face from the forceps because they were a glaring sign that I had failed. Failed at birth. Failed my baby. Just a quick reminder at this point that I do know now that it's all nonsense but this is how I felt for a very long time.

The practice
I'm competitive by nature, a perfectionist of sorts so when I'm told something is possible, and all I have to do to make it happen is work hard enough then you will find me obsessed with my latest fad. The Wise Hippo course puts a big emphasis on practice, and practice I did, I could recite the affirmations word for word by the time 40 weeks rolled round. This passage from the book was ringing in my ears afterwards, Dany Griffiths birth story: "It's nice for me to say first hand now that hypnobirthing really works - although a little frustrating, when people, as they have done, have said how lucky I was. I did not need luck as I simply utilised the skills I had learnt". This may be so but if you turn that around, flip it on it's head, apply it to my birth, doesn't it read: "I was not unlucky, I just didn't utilise the skills that I had learnt"? That's how it feels, anyway. I can confirm that you were lucky though, you went in to labour without an induction. Your labour went reasonably speedily. You were able to use the pool. Seems pretty lucky to me. The other line that was ringing in my ears the whole way through, the line that 'empowered' me to refuse the stretch and sweeps and induction was: 'my body and baby know what to do'. I had listened to it twice a day for months, I believed it. I can now confirm neither my body nor the baby knew how to get things started!

Writing your birth story
The course encourages you to write your birth story as if it has already happened then focus on that, 'daydream about it', this is supposed to influence positive emotions in the subconscious mind to feel that birth is something that can be enjoyed. Of course, I wrote about a calm water birth, I'm sure most people do and if your birth ends up in a similar ball park I suppose you don't give that story a second thought. What if the reality is from a different planet from your imagined birth story? This was the only outcome I practiced, this was the only outcome I knew, I had trained my brain to be entirely closed to any other options. My mum kept telling me to go into it open, to go with the flow, how could I? I had to keep daydreaming about The Plan. If I didn't, if I thought about any other outcomes my subconscious mind would 'rehearse a difficult outcome' and nobody wants that, right? I was in absolute shock in the aftermath of my birth and I can't help but wonder if I hadn't done any birth prep at all, would I have been more able to take it in my stride?

Positive birth stories
During the course, we watched so-called positive birth videos, women having calm, easy(ish) breathy births. We were encouraged to seek these out at home, to reinforce the idea that birth is totally natural and instinctive. So I did. I watched them all. I completed YouTube. A whole noggin-full of very much the same kind of birth, in or out of water, the labour ALWAYS started spontaneously and was always over in a reasonable amount of time. Nobody collapsed with exhaustion at the end, their babies were all placed on their chest for skin-to-skin. But could this be just as bad as only watching the 'negative' births? I created a bubble, a secure little cotton-wool world in which people only had calm, beautiful births with no intervention. When I wrote to her, Dany said that the reason that they show these is because the other kind of births (ones like mine) are widely available...but hang on I wasn't supposed to be watching those ones, was I? Because I didn't.

I asked Dany about the nature of the positive birth videos and the stories in the book, she said that at one time they had a birth like mine in there but it was taken out. Why? Because it scared people. It went against the notion that you should not listen to negative birth stories. Doesn't this go against their mantra that hypnobirthing is there to help 'whatever turn your birthing takes'? My baby's birth was long, it resulted in a last minute emergency to get her out alive. But it wasn't negative.

Pain relief
Water, Tens Machine and Gas and Air get a thumbs up on the course, although it's suggested that you write on your birth plan that you'll ask for gas and air if you need it. Oh I asked for it alright. There is one paragraph dedicated to drugs, called 'Why can't I just have the drugs?' (pretty suggestive of what you should do, no?) which states that because many women who enroll on the course have already made the decision not to have drugs, they won't dwell on it. Hang on a cotton picking minute, I thought that the Wise Hippo course was to help 'whatever turn your birthing takes'? What if that turn is it going on for several days with no for so much as a wink of sleep? It does say that if we want to know about the drugs we should ask our midwife but by the time my midwife and I got to The Birth Chat I was fully indoctrinated, totally believed that I would be having a breathe-it-out birth, thank you very much so why would I want to talk about those negative ol' drugs. I remember hearing that the drugs would slow the baby down and as much as I'm sure that I heard it in those four friday-night walls I can't find any mention of it in the Wise Hippo book. In any case, I had it firmly in my head that no drugs would be coming anywhere near me or my baby, that all I needed to do was keep those pesky midwives fingers away and relax. But you reach a different head-space in labour, I think most people do and all I could do was stick with the script. The midwife asked if I wanted some pain relief. NO. How about an anti-sickness jab. A simple little jab to stop me throwing tiny bits of hash brown until there was no hash brown left, just stomach lining. 'no drugs', I said. 'But it's only...' said the midwife. 'NO DRUGS'. Bleughhhh (that's me being sick. For the whole labour). What if I hadn't done the course? Would I have accepted the anti-sickness jab and not thrown up for hours? Would the midwife have encouraged me to have an epidural? Would I have got some rest and regained some energy for the pushing stage? Who knows.

Inductions and interventions
This is the big one. This is in my mind, the really dangerous part, the thing that makes my tummy flip when I think about what could have been. The course doesn't tell you what to do. Of course it doesn't, but it plants suggestions in your mind, it focuses on your birth being a natural experience, something that will start spontaneously. To quote from the book the Wise Hippo 'does not recommend that you focus your attention too much on medical intervention'. To me, the perfectionist, the person that just wants to get it right, hears 'don't have any medical intervention'.

But the NHS antenatal classes would educate me about that part, right? I didn't listen, I closed my lug holes to it. Why? Because the Wise Hippo suggests that if you go to any classes that talk about anything uncomfortable you should use your 'cloak of protection'. Basically, switch off. Those pesky NHS classes talking about those pesky old life saving interventions.

There are nine birth stories at the back of the book, with rare mentions of induction, the co-founder of the course, Tamara, remembers her traumatic first birth where she was induced for 'no medical reason', she talks about having confidence in her body's own ability to birth naturally the second time around and writes "this time I went 13 days past my EDD as I was determined not to have anyone near me if I passed my due date this time". Her second birth was calm and completely pain free. The conclusion to this tale? Surely the only thing we can take away is that going into labour naturally equals a calm painless birth and an induction equals the opposite. Not to say this wasn't true for her, and she's not telling anyone what to do, it's just all very carefully worded suggestion.

So what do they actually say about inductions? Apart from not to focus your attention on it, they remind you that you can choose to decline it, no mater how far overdue you are and go into the hospital for monitoring each day. I remember on the course that the leader talked about a chain of events that started with induction and ended with an assisted delivery or cesarean, a suggestion that if you have one, you're signing yourself up for a difficult birth. That correlation may exist but I strongly suspect that my birth would have been much the same had I waited for nature to take its course. That's if she had survived, she'd have been even bigger and even more stuck.

When I asked Dany about this, she said that they have written a separate session entitled 'preparing for inductions'. Our teacher didn't mention this to us and I wish she had, even if I couldn't have spared the extra cash to enrol on it, just to feel that inductions aren't the devil may have helped slightly. Although a big part of me wonders if they couldn't somehow fit it in to the main course, I don't know the stats but out of my friends, over half of us ended up being induced for one reason or other.

Are you still reading?
It might surprise you to hear that I'm over it, I'm fine about my birth, I look back on it as a wonderful experience which brought my healthy, beautiful baby into this world, into the hands of unbelievably competent, experienced, wonderful NHS heroes but I need to leave this somewhere, on the internet and hope that the right people find it:

This is for you, the mother who's just given birth, whose labour didn't follow the plan and who feels like an absolute failure. I need you to know that you're not. I need you to know that NOTHING you could have done would have changed the sequence of events, I need you to know that whether your baby was given to you for skin-to-skin or whisked away to be looked after, whether you breastfed in that first hour or you're bottle feeding instead, no amount of visualisations, chanting or breathing would have changed that. You weren't doing it wrong. It wasn't your fault. You are not a failure. I am not a failure.

And to the mum-to-be that I was six months ago. I need you to know that birth is what it is. The best you can do is go with the flow. Be open, find out all of your options. Fill your toolkit with whatever you can and know that the doctors and midwives are on your side. Sure, practice some hypnobirthing but not at all costs.

But the most important reason that I'm writing this is a fear that keeps me awake at night. That someone, as I did, will feel encouraged, empowered to refuse intervention, to go overdue and they might not be as lucky as we were. I would say that I don't want to scare you, but maybe I do, if that's what it takes. I needed to put that somewhere because in my first letter to Dany, raw from my experience I wrote these words: "I was lucky. I fear that somebody else might not be, a baby will die and I feel a strong desire to warn other mums-to-be about the risks of refusing induction". It still scares me.

So what would I do next time? I hope that I go into labour naturally, but if I don't I'll be asking them to start their stretching and their sweeping as soon as possible. I hope that I can use the birth pool but if I can't I'll have a bath and know that it's not the be all and end all. I hope that I won't need the drugs but if it's going to help me to rest to deal with the sprint at the end then I'll take them. I hope that the meditation and breathing part of hypnobirthing works next time but if it doesn't I'm ok with that too because as much as it would be lovely to have one of THOSE experiences, all that really matters is a healthy baby. I know that now.

P.s. I'm not pregnant. 

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts. 

Further reading! If you'd like to read the e-mail exchange between Dany, the co-founder of the course and me, click here (you might want to go for a wee/get a fresh cuppa first).
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29 comments

  1. Hi Nicola thanks for sharing your experience. I had a very similar birth to yours 9 months ago with my daughter and now I'm 6months pregnant with my 2nd baby I had been worried about the next birth. I had a Birth Reflections with my Midwife (an NHS service) and I'd recommend that to anyone who has any niggles about a traumatic birth. I also agree there is no such thing as positive vs negative birth, birth is just birth and we do it and we wear the scars after! I was quite upset after my birth even though I didn't have a plan (and I took all the drugs offered!) but I felt like a failure because my body couldn't handle the 2nd or 3rd stage but in hindsight I still managed to get a 9lb 4oz baby through my pelvis (eventually and with help!) which feels me with relief as I look on to my 2nd delivery in November! Whenever I feel negative or sad about my daughters birth I just focus on the fact that she is healthy and here with us so it all worked out in the end. But yes, thank god for the NHS! X

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    1. Thanks for taking time to share your experience. The birth reflections session sounds like a great idea, although I did chat to my midwife it wasn't a dedicated meeting about it, I think this would have helped! Best of luck with your next delivery, wishing you a safe and healthy arrival! x

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  2. This is a hugely important post. Thank you for writing it.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, I just hope that it reaches the right people!

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  3. Hi Nicola,

    I'm so pleased you have now posted this, I've been waiting to read it. I didn't do hypno birthing in the end, I wanted to but I ran out of time. It is something I have always regretted, well thought I did anyway.

    I had a waterbirth, in the birth center at St Marys in Paddington, the team there are phenomenal. The encourage a water no drug birth gently but will step in as soon as it is needed and get you straight to the labour ward.
    I remember on my last appointment Anna my mw mentioned induction. I panicked, induction means horrendous contractions your body can't deal with, slower labour and always ends up with intervention....so said the Bump and Baby classes I went to. I was adamant I wouldn't have one.
    I like to think that had I needed I would have seen sense and had one but I am sure I would have been terrified as all I knew was negative. If I had done hypno birthing I would have been exactly like you. Head first, all or nothing I will be the most hypno at hypno birthing! I know that could potentially have been detrimental to me. So as a new mum who didn't do but did in the future I am so pleased you shared this as I can see now it wouldn't have suited me and if I have a second one I don't think I will go down that path. AI am sure this was hard to write but rest assured a mum to be will read this and will find it massively helpful.
    Sorry for typos in a dark room willung my 8month old to sleep.
    Thanls again for sharing.
    Millie.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story. I know that feeling, my baby is always grabbing my phone and deleting whole comments!! Interestingly I got the same impression of inductions from my course but I really do think that it's because they're linked. In general you need an induction because the baby is staying put for a reason. I do think some elements of the hypnobirthing are good but perhaps it depends on personality type too. Definitely all or nothing over here!!

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  4. Thank you for writing this, I feel exactly the same and had a very similar experience in terms of how our labours went ie induction, vontouse, episptomy and those lovely forceps! I read the book, did the breathing exercises and visualisations and had my heart set on a normal natural birth. The difference in our stories is that my sister is a midwife and told me the risk of srillbirth is far higher when the baby is late and refusing an induction is dangerous. She was also there at the birth and knew i needed some painrwlief to rest my body for pushing after over contracting for 5 hours! I do think pregnant women need to understand the risks before refusing an induction and a good hypnoborthing teacher/book should state this. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your story. I wish I had someone close to me with the authority to tell me that what I was doing was stupid too! I agree, they should be much more explicit with the reasons for induction and how important it is to follow medical advice!! x

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  5. Thank you for writing this. My son is 4.5 months at the moment and I am still in the I feel like a failure stage after a forceps delivery. I didn't go for hynpobirthing but was aiming for that lovely pool labour in our local MLU, ended up with a blue light ambulance transfer to a 'full on' hospital 25 miles away and a forceps delivery in operating theatre. I am yet to make peace with it. But it is so nice to hear other women's experiences of this type of birth - I find it very hard to articulate my feelings about it all, it's nice to see it written about it so clearly that it helps me have a moment of clarity. I hope I get to a similar state of acceptance as you eventually. x

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    1. I hope so too because you are absolutely not a failure. How can you be, look what you made and carried safely for all that time! Someone on my instagram made the point that like the 'fed is best' when it comes to the breast/bottle debate, alive and healthy is what's most important when it comes to birth. I liked it!

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  6. Thank you, thank you for writing this - I had every intention of a lovely, breathe-the-baby-out water birth, and naturally, as these things go, I ended up with an emergency c-section at 40+13 following a failed induction. I definitely felt a certain sense from some people I spoke to before and after my little boy's birth that having a c-section was a 'fail', and even that having an induction meant I'd somehow failed. I also did a lot of hypnobirthing practice (I bought and downloaded a couple of tracks from The Yes Mum, Hollie de Cruz, so I didn't have the experience you did of the controlled classes), and totally agree with you - the 'hypno' bit of it definitely helped, even at the worst parts. I still recommend hypnobirthing to mums-to-be, but heavily caveat it with the fact that I felt it mainly works for you as the mum, to keep control of your own (entirely all over the shop) emotions, and definitely doesn't offer a guaranteed 'pop it out in the pool whilst listening to whale music' kind of birth.
    Love your blog and Instagram, G is such a cute little bean!
    All the best,
    Helen

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    1. Thanks so much for reading and all your kind words! We really need to change this attitude around births don't we. I agree with you, I recommend going on youtube and learning the breathing or even using some of the scripts to relax during pregnancy but it's certainly not the be all and end all! Thanks for following our journey x

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  7. If you wish to see my response please click on the link below https://www.facebook.com/thewisehippo/photos/a.134165273452739.1073741828.116521021883831/751824828353444/?type=3&theater
    (also please do read my reply to Nicola's comment on my post). I will also be writing a more in-depth blog focussing on each specific points that Nicola has made in this blog and in our email conversations. Dany.

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  8. What a fantastic post amongst a Insta world which flowers up pregnancy and beyond. I have had two births both very different however the yellow button was pressed on both occasions. I still go over and over it in my mind as to how I could've done things differently and the what ifs... xx

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    1. Thank you v much. I try to be honest but it did take me a while to process it before I could share! Sorry that you're still going over it and thinking you could have done things differently. That blooming yellow button, I think Tom just thought it was the light switch when the MW asked him to push it!

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  9. A really important post about balancing hypnobirthing with changing circumstances and medical risks. I did a hypnobirthing course and did find it super helpful. The teacher was always clear about using the techniques in conjunction with the doctor/midwife advice for the best outcome - she even kept saying a hypnobirth can be induced or caesarean, the techniques are to sustain yours and baby's wellbeing, bond and sense of security. As it was I had an early induction due to unexplained bleeding and was able to use the techniques to quell any panic and anxiety I felt about this. It sounds like some course providers are not always as clear and realistic. Well done ��

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    1. Thank you. That's brilliant. I genuinely think the WH course's intention is to be that way but unfortunately it just didn't come across that way. I'd definitely use some of the techniques again. They help at the dentist!!

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  10. Thank you for writing this! After my first birth nearly 4 years ago now I beat myself up as I told myself that it all went horribly wrong. I ended up in theatre having spent over 48 hours in horrendous pain (until I had the epidural!), I pushed for hours after letting the epidural wear off to feel the contractions. I was told in theatre that I had 4 chances to push him out otherwise they would give me a c-section. Baring in mind I'd already been given an episiotomy! Thank god on the second push they yanked him out. I had a 3rd degree tear and was also cut. I felt terrible after and it made me feel like a failure. I hated hearing about other people's more relaxed and natural births as it made me feel like I'd done something wrong. The whole, 'I only had a paracetamol' made me feel angry!
    It took me years to decide that I could maybe have another baby and when I did get pregnant I spent a whole 9 months in termoil with the thought of having to go through it all again. So much so I booked myself in for a c-section. I actually went into labour 5 days early and before my booked c-section. This time it was very different. I still had a spinal block to ease the pain, because my god my hat goes off to anyone who can do that on 'just a paracetamol' but now I know it was nothing I did! I had no control over my first birth, and in fact it's Mother Nature that grows the baby and it's Mother Nature that decides on how that baby comes out (with help from those amazing NHS staff!).
    I feel it's such a shame that women feel like they've failed because they had to have an epidural/foreceps/induction or whatever they needed! They've delivered a baby at the end of the day and that should be celebrated in its own right!

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story and I'm glad you're at a place where you know that it's nothing you did! I do think people feel it differently too. My pain was all in my hips as far as I remember. also someone said to me, I think on Instagram that when they use forceps you're still pushing and although its obvious because we've been through it I don't think I even knew that before! xx

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  11. Nicola I just came across your blog after seeing @iamalisonperry mention it on insta. I did a hypnobirthing course but not WH. I am still not recovered from the birth- it was traumatic physically and mentally but the absolute very worst part of it has been feeling like I failed at birthing my baby. I felt like I'd failed in theatre when they pulled him out, and I still feel like that. I probably won't have another one because of these feelings. Thank you thank you for your post, I've been too ashamed to ask anyone else I know who has done hypnobirthing if it worked for them in case they ask me the same.
    I was almost crying in frustration at the fb and email exchange with that dispicable person who ran the course. I hope you have mananged to get some closure though, despite her comments.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading and your comment. It made me cry. I have been lucky that for whatever reason my brain has chosen to process it in the way that it has, but we don't have a choice, just like we don't have a choice about how our body responds to birth! It's taken me a while and I can absolutely understand why you feel it all, because I felt the same. Nobody should ever feel that they failed at birth. I've asked lots of people that have done hypnobirthing their feelings, some good, some bad and some indifferent. The stories like mine was what gave me the confidence to write to her, and probably what helped me heal too. It's not easy telling the truth about this stuff but I'm so glad that you've put your feelings out there, someone will read this comment and feel less alone. I hope that you find a way to process it, and that if you want another, you won't be scarred by your experience. I don't want to be patronising but there is help/counselling available, I just want you to be ok! I am so frustrated by the exchanges with the WH, not only her but the other instructors, it worries me that none of them can see it how I do. It should never have gone this far. Her first e-mail should have said: That's not what we stand for, something went wrong, we'll fix it. That would have been enough. Sadly she's chosen another route.

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  12. Totally agree. I did a "relaxation" course on the NHS, which was basic hypnobirthing run by a professional midwife - it was GREAT; all the positive "labour doesn't have to be awful", "ride out the contractions" stuff but with a healthy dose of "lots of births don't go to plan - here's how to feel calm regardless of what situation you find yourself in". I am SO GRATEFUL for that.

    I'm expecting my second just now and I'm on some Positive Birth Facebook groups; in a lot of ways, they're very helpful, but there are too many people insisting that pregnant women should only ever listen to or read about positive birth stories and I just don't see how that can be healthy. I read something recently (wish I could remember where so I could link to it) about a study indicating that, the more somebody has focused on only having a perfect birth, the more likely they are to be traumatised by their experience - it makes complete sense to me. It seems irresponsible to tell women to ignore possible complications which - no matter how positive their attitude - are outwith their control; much better to tell us "you can cope with whatever you need to do to get you and your baby through this safe and well".

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    1. That course sounds fantastic, just what we all need! Congratulations on number two, I absolutely agree with you, balance is what we need, not scare stories, just practical realities, things that you don't think to ask. I don't think I even knew before I gave birth that you still had to push while they used forceps, that's not staying positive, that's just ignorant!! I googled like mad to try to find that study, it makes a lot of sense, please drop me a message if you remember.

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  13. Dear Nicola, I started following your Insta feed while you were still pregnant however i seem to have missed the feed on attending the WH course.
    Where do I start?, I suppose here, I too am a mum, I have had to have 2 induced labours due to being diagnosed with Gestational diabetes in my pregnancies. This meant that the home birth dream went, the Midwife lead care in the birth unit went and I was under (fantastic) consultant care both time. My decision to attend a hypnobirthing course was taken as i still wanted to be very much part of the birth, not to just be instructed by 'professionals' as the induction continued to labour. I am a huge advocate of our amazing NHS and had brilliant midwives in attendance both times, their advice and experience plus support was invaluable. They understood that I was a "hypnobirthing mum" and maintained a calm environment even with the three IV's, constant monitoring, interference from higher beings checking in etc. I am waffling I know, I suppose what i really want to say is that I still found my Hypnobirthing course invaluable, it helped me focus and remain engaged with my labours and births, I also agree that the midwives aided this. I am sorry that you have not received support from WH and only a feeling that they are in the right.
    Having a baby is not about being right or doing it right, it's about being treated right and feeling what you are doing is right.
    I am training to teach Hypnobirthing myself, not with WH but a long standing reputable organisation and when I teach it will be with an open forum that the birth is 'your birth' and you have every right to feel supported at every turn. Nobody in whatever capacity when dealing with pregnant mothers should condemn or demean but talk through all available options and support those as much as possible. For the record I took advantage of TENS, gas & air, epidural and even a last minute spinal block for a ventouse procedure regardless of hypnobirthing, i gauged what i needed and what was advised as i went. I know it can work together as i've done it. I agree there are many aspects of ante and post natal care and attitudes that needs changing, let's hope that comes without too much of a wait. I want to wish you many more happy times with your beautiful daughter and wish you all the happiness possible with another birth should you add to your family.

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    1. Hi Liv, thanks so much for reading and taking time to tell me your story. The WH's intention is clearly the same as you describe but there's a disconnect somewhere along the way. I do definitely think that the tools that hypnobirthing teaches are brilliant but in our case, our understanding of what we were being taught was different to the message that Dany is sure that she's putting across. It led us to making (in retrospect, frankly scary) decisions that I wouldn't have otherwise made. It's such a shame. My intention is definitely not to put people off hypnobirthing but rather have it as one of the tools that you might use (amongst all the others!). I'm glad that as a hypnobirthing teacher in-training you can see my point of view on this. I don't think it's just this course, as you say, many aspects of antenatal care could benefit from honest feedback and improvement. Lots of people who did other courses are reporting the same perceptions and feelings. Thanks so much for your message & well wishes, I send you all the best in training for your new role, may you enjoy great satisfaction from helping women through this pivotal moment in their life! P.s. please give me a wave on insta so I can connect the dots! x

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  15. I've just stumbled across this and wanted to thank you so much for writing it!

    I did hypnobirthing, only listened to positive birth stories etc and went into labour feeling incredibly positive and with 100% belief in my body's ability to birth my baby. However, the reality of my daughter's birth was absolutely horrendous, 5 days long and very traumatic, resulting in a forceps, a 3rd degree tear and episiotomy, my daughter not breathing initially (although very quickly resolved) and what looks to be a permanent forceps scar on her little cheek (she's 18 months old now and it's still very visible).

    It left me feeling so shocked and angry at society for lying to me about how birth could be. I felt totally betrayed by my hypnobirthing teacher, NCT teacher, family and friends for not warning me or preparing me for what could happen. I do see that going into birth full of fear and anxiety would not be a good thing, but I think there needs to be some balance in the messages that are out there about birth. Like you, I didn't feel able to talk about my daughter's birth because it could be seen as scare mongering to other women who might have children in the future but I think it's so important as part of the healing process for us to be able to voice our stories.

    Sorry for the long post!

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  16. thank you for taking the courage to write about and share your experience.
    I also attended "natural birthing" classes and also went overdue. My son was eventually born (after 10days of contractions) via induction which took 12hours and ended with episiotomy and forceps (and a postpartum haemorrhage)
    I have actually been coming to the same conclusion recently - that there are probably several women who have done these types of courses and not had the "breathe-the-baby-out" experience they signed up for.
    The classes I attended did have useful components - detailing the physiology (including the relationship between adrenaline and oxytocin, how the uterus contracts etc) and different physical positions which would be optimal at different stages of labour and birth for opening up the pelvis etc.
    However, the "positive affirmations" were not useful.
    I remember the post-it notes stuck around my house ("my birth will be powerful / positive / beautiful / peaceful / etc", "my body is the perfect fit for my baby and my baby is the perfect fit for my body", "my birth is not stronger than me because it is me" and so on)
    As I tried to explain to a friend, you spend x number of weeks or months constructing this thing of what the birth will be like. When labour and birth finally comes round and it's not like that, then what is your only conclusion? The only logical explanation is that "i failed / I didn't do it properly / my body failed and so on" (Of course, the real explanation is that birth doesn't follow any sort of rule book - but to my perfectionist mind, *logic* told me otherwise)
    When I look at their website now, their emphasis has changed and they also state that the classes are to prepare for any sort of birth. (Which, being somewhat cynical, makes me wonder if this is a result of them being contacted by women who have not had the birth they anticipated or hoped for)
    I would be interested to find out the statistics of the number women who attend these sorts of classes and then go on to develop any sort of perinatal illness such as PND.
    (Incidentally, I used hypnobirthing techniques (learnt outside of the classes) during labour as a way of controlling the pain and found them really useful. The midwives commented on how calm and focused I was throughout.)

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  17. (just wanted to add - I never gave any feedback to the course instructor. Why would I? After all, it was me who "failed" so what would be the point?)

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