Trying to prepare for a natural childbirth this time, I spent a good deal of time studying different "approaches" and found that most of my friends who had a good natural childbirth experience did it using HypnoBirthing, so I read the book.
I agree with a lot of it, and like a lot of what they do.
I did wonder how the author could go into great detail on one page about not going out of your way to walk while you're in labor (it's unnecessary, she says) and then not 5 pages later include walking on her list of ways to keep labor going strong?! There were several contradictions in the book like that (saying we don't push to deliver a baby, but you have a get a good rhythm going on your bearing down.....isn't that just a synonym for pushing? Most nurses use it that way!; Saying we follow our natural instincts on delivering a baby, but that we shouldn't push, but then using that terminology anyway when reporting that hypnobirthing moms say things like "Is it common to feel the need to push at this stage?"....).
I wondered, too, if the author had ever WATCHED an animal give birth. Much of her philosophy is centered on "Animals don't have painful births, why should we?" But people I know who have watched animals birthing have said the animals don't look comfortable, relaxed, and happy about what they're doing. Not to mention that many animals don't give birth to large babies--Panda babies come out the size of a stick of butter, and kangaroo babies are the size of a jelly bean when they're born!
Obviously, the editor in me won't let me read ANYTHING without the red pencil going in my mind. But that doesn't mean I didn't like the book. On the contrary, I really liked most of what it says, and I plan to use a chunk of it--probably most of it.
I have found there are a few things that EVERY natural birthing program uses that I just can't stand:
1) The idea that you can fail at childbirth. They never say this overtly, but it's infused into the philosophy that if you decide you want medicine, you've failed; if there are complications, you've failed; if you feel any pain at all, you've failed; if you let a nurse touch your baby, or it gets whooshed off to the NICU to save its life, you'll never bond with your child and they'll be damaged for life, so you've failed. I just don't think that talk of success or failure should have any part in childbirth at all. Period. Plus, I think it's possible to have beautiful, happy, medical childbirths (I know--I had more than a couple). Even if it's not what you planned. None of the natural programs talk much about being flexible, and flexibility seems to be the key to happiness in so many situations, including childbirth. You can choose to be happy with what you got, rather than spending time mourning what image you projected for yourself and then bought into.
The overall idea of most childbirth philosophies seems to be that if you're doing things right, and your preparation is sufficient, and your mind and body are in sync, then things will go the way you visualize them, and if they don't, then you weren't sufficiently prepared (so it's somehow your own fault, not the fault of circumstance or--gasp--our methodology). That's just baloney. Life doesn't work that way--and the people I know who believe it most strongly also abuse children and believe things like you can fly to Hawaii--without a plane.
(To be fair, HypnoBirthing addresses this better than any other natural birthing program I've looked into, but the hints are still there.)
2. Breathing exercises. I can't stand breathing exercises. They don't help me relax. They don't distract me. They make me tense and angry. Can't see how THAT will help childbirth any! Don't tell me what to count to while I'm breathing in and out, or whether I'm supposed to be taking long or short breaths right now. Makes me crazy beyond crazy. I can't even express how utterly and completely irritating being told how to breathe is. I guess it must be effective for most women because ALL childbirth programs use breathing exercises, but I'd really rather trust my body to breathe like it does most days: without me thinking about it. I think part of my hangup about breathing is that, because I have asthma, any time in my life I've been forced to think about breathing has been associated with a great deal of fear and trauma--an asthma attack. Why would I want to take those associations and pin them on childbirth? No thank you. (Again, HypnoBirthing breathing exercises are better than most--they focus on natural breathing and maintaining that. I just can't stand breathing exercises at all.)
3. Affirmations. This isn't strictly a childbirth thing. I have a hangup about affirmations in any circumstance. You can say something all you want, and it doesn't necessarily make it so. So I can say loving and sweet affirmations to myself every day, and a part of my mind will be back there saying, "Are you kidding? You can't trick me that way. What a bunch of bunk. What about if _____ happens?" Kinda lessens the impact of the affirmation if you really don't believe it whole-heartedly, doesn't it? Consequently, saying over and over to myself in childbirth some sweet little thing WON'T help me relax. It will just make me angry that someone, somewhere is trying to manipulate me and I bought into it!
4. Birth Partner Scripts. Just like I don't do affirmations, I don't want Tim telling me things during labor that he wouldn't say in real life. I showed him some of the scripts we've found over the years, and we both had a good laugh. What on earth would possess someone to think that my goofy, down-to-earth, brilliant and straight-speaking husband cooing "Ocean waves roll onto the sand. A kicking, squirming being that has been part of you for a long time is going to be freed from your body....." would make me happy and calm? Might get him a nice palmprint on the cheek....Some of you know how much loathing I feel when missionaries used to give their homecoming reports in that "waterfall" voice? Yeah--birth partner scripts can't be read in any other way. I DO want Tim there supporting me. I just want HIM there, not any of the myriad characters he could play, and certainly not a poorly-scripted one that someone else defined as "THE Ultimate Birth Partner, played by Tim Jones".
5) The one-size-fits-all approach. How can we say that one way is the best way for everyone? Every body is so different, and anyone who has had more than one baby will tell you every baby and every pregnancy is different. So how can one way work for everyone? Some of the things they advise in some of the programs would be downright painful for me, even if I wasn't in labor, because of fibromyalgia (including sitting on a birthing ball or staying in one position for a long time like an epidural requires). Some things I just can't buy into because of the way I think and view life. Some things my body just doesn't like. Isn't it better to go with my body than try to fit myself into a mold? I think so.
That said, HypnoBirthing was MUCH MUCH MUCH better than most books I've read. I will most certainly adopt a big chunk of it and, as they actually advise in the text, skip the things that make me uncomfortable. I actually read it wishing my doctors had read the book.
I am tempted to say "I absolutely recommend this to other moms"--I liked enough of it to say that, I think. But, having not TRIED it yet, I can't really recommend anything yet.
What I'm not sure of is if any method actually works if you don't embrace it whole-heartedly. Can you just adopt little bits and pieces from many different methodologies and still have it work to your benefit?
We'll find out sometime in the next 4 weeks!