Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review: HypnoBirthing

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method

Summary (Courtesy of Goodreads): Childbirth is not something to be feared; it is a natural expression of life. With HypnoBirthing, your pregnancy and childbirth will become the gentle, life-affirming process it was meant to be. In this easy-to-understand guide, HypnoBirthing founder Marie F. Mongan explodes the myth of pain as a natural accompaniment to birth. She proves through sound medical information that it is not our bodies but our culture that has made childbirth a moment of anguish, and that when we release the fear of birth, a fear that is keeping our bodies tense and closed, we will also release the pain. HypnoBirthing is nature, not manipulation. It relaxes the mind in order to let the body work as it is designed. The HypnoBirthing exercises - positive thinking, relaxation, visualization, breathing and physical preparation — will lead to a happy and comfortable pregnancy, even if you are currently unsure of an intervention-free birth. Your confidence, trust and happy anticipation will in turn lead to the peaceful, fulfilling and bonding birth that is your right as a mother.

So, my first book review since February, and it's a pregnancy book? And not just any pregnancy book, but perhaps the most hippy-dippy crunchy-granola pregnancy book on the market (okay, probably not).

But you guys. I'm pregnant. This is just where my brain is these days. Feel free to skip if this is not your phase of life right now, or cup of tea, or whatever.

Because that summary up there is a little bit weird, let me add some clarity. First off, this book is somewhat of a text-book of sorts that is supposed to accompany a pre-natal course with a certified Hypnobirthing instructor. In the course, you go over all of the breathing and relaxation techniques talked about in the book (I assume, I haven't actually taken the course). The focus is all about having a natural, drug-free, medical-intervention free labor and delivery. And yeah, it can sound pretty weird to the average person.

I'm almost 90% certain that I read this book at some point in my first pregnancy, but my dear, sweet, super mainstream husband thought the whole concept sounded way too weird. I mean, isn't hypnosis for late-night cruise shows and other creepy entertainment venues? Also, my husband is totally on the "doctors know best" bandwagon. I, on the other hand, was intrigued by the idea of it all (it's not really side-show hypnosis, it's more like self-meditation to help manage the pain of labor), but I wasn't super sold on the idea of an un-medicated birth and, coupled with my husband's resistance, I didn't push for it. Plus, we were poor college students at the time, so forking out a couple hundred dollars to take the course, when the hospital's pre-natal class was free, was just too much to swallow.

However, one super traumatic C-section later, and I'm looking for ANYTHING that will allow me to have a more positive birth experience this second time around. So here I am, devouring everything this book has to say, eagerly buying their promises that no medication will make everything go so much smoother this time. Once again, I'm not actually taking the course with an instructor (the nearest instructor I could find lives about an hour away, which is just not feasible with my husband's work schedule), but I've got the book and accompanying cd's (full of relaxing music and relaxation scripts), and I have a feeling I will be rereading this multiple times before the big due date in October.

Even my super mainstream husband is on board this time. After watching many of our "normal" friends and family use this technique with great success over the past two years, and after witnessing the trauma I went through last time with the stupid epidural (seriously, hated the epidural more than the pain of contractions), he's promised to be my supportive companion with this whole thing.

Unfortunately, my chances of having a C-section again are still pretty high. Even though I'm working with a doctor who is very supportive of VBAC's, if the same perfect storm from my first pregnancy happens again (I'll spare you the details, but my doctor told me it was either a C-section or they would have broken my hips...) I will likely end up with another scar. But in the off chance things work out and this baby cooperates, I am 100% committed to a natural birth this time around.

Regardless of what happens for the actual delivery, I'm finding many aspects of this book to be helpful now, just in managing this pregnancy. For instance, there is a chapter discussing how negative emotions and speech can adversely affect a fetus. While the scientific support behind that may be questionable, I realized that I really have been quite negative about this whole pregnancy. I have just been SOOOOOO sick for so long (and still not feeling quite over it yet), that I've found myself adopting a "grumpy pregnant lady" persona, accepting that I will just hate life as long as I am pregnant. And whenever anyone asks me how the pregnancy is going, I immediately launch into my long list of complaints and grievances about everything I hate about being pregnant. While this attitude may or may not be affecting my baby at all, I realized this attitude was totally affecting me. I was victimizing myself, trying to convince other people that I had it so hard and was so miserable. So, my new resolution has been to change that, because I don't really want to be the grumpy pregnant lady. In reality, I AM happy to be pregnant. I AM thrilled to be having another little baby. And it probably wouldn't hurt anything if my attitude reflected that.

Second, I am LOVING the relaxation exercises. Every day, as soon as I put my kid down for nap time, I go in my room and turn on the Rainbow Relaxation track (I know, isn't that a terribly hippie title? It makes me think the next track should be about unicorns, but whatever) and you guys! The BEST naps of my life. I wake up an hour or two later in this completely zen state. Yeah, I'm not actually using nap time to be productive and get things done (thus the lack of posting recently), but I don't even care. For a few hours after doing those relaxation techniques I don't feel nauseous, I don't feel body aches, I just feel good. It's amazing.

So, to sum up, I don't buy everything this book is selling. I don't necessarily believe that birth is naturally meant to be painless (maybe for some lucky few with nice wide hips, but even then...) or that everything about the medical maternity ward is evil and meant to thwart the natural birth process. There's still a lot of hippie-dippie crunchy-granola language in this book that I just sort of looked past. That being said, I do firmly believe in the underlying position that the mind-body connection is a powerful thing, and that a woman can use her mind to manage what is going on in her body during labor. I do believe in the power of a positive attitude. And I'm certainly converting to the benefits of these self-relaxation techniques.

So yes, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman of child-bearing inclination who is even remotely interested in the idea of natural child-birth.

1 comment:

  1. I took the class twice (from different instructors) and read the book and used the CD's, and I agree with what you said about it helping all aspects of life, even if it's doesn't take away the pain of labor (but it's always nice to hope that that is possible!). I think the classes were most helpful for my husband because it forced him to practice techniques and be engaged with something he felt a little removed from. With this last baby, I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which, believe it or not, was even more "hippie-dippie-crunchy-granola" than HypnoBirthing. Good luck with this pregnancy and birth! I hope it will be a much smoother ride than last time.