Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hypnosis and Babies, Part II

I have a very good friend, Sheetul, from law school who got pregnant in our third year. She was frequently miserable and slept with about 16 pillows because she couldn't get comfortable at night. We loved to tease her relentlessly by telling her that certainly, without a doubt, she was the first woman ever pregnant. I felt really bad about how we treated Sheetul when I got pregnant myself the first time because, compared to me, Sheetul was indeed a valiant warrior unfazed by the horrors and gassiness of pregnancy.

I was a truly awful pregnant woman.

A total wimp.

I was nauseous from almost the moment I found out I was pregnant until I delivered. But in hindsight, I never threw up or had to be admitted to the hospital like other women I know. I did gain 50 pounds with my first pregnancy and got a nasty nasty rash in a bad place (not that bad place . . . the other one . . . under my [if I use the real word here, my site will get blocked when people want to see it from a library computer or at work, so insert a word here that rhymes with "rests"].) There's a good reason only one photo exists of me when I was pregnant with Casey. I looked like I felt and I whined and whined and whined. Such a shame that I just could not locate that photo to post with this riveting narrative.

Hand in hand with misery, in my case, went abject terror . . . of childbirth. So pretty early on I decided that I wanted to use all possible tools at my disposal for getting through childbirth -- drugs, birthing tub, drugs, lamaze, drugs, a doula, drugs, hypnosis, and drugs. Unfortunately, you can't use drugs and have a water birth (though doesn't that sound absolutely perfect?), but you can combine drugs with a doula and hypnosis. A few months into my pregnancy, when it was time to talk to my obstetrician about the actual birth, he asked me if I'd thought about a birth plan and I told him yes, I wanted to try hypnobirthing. He looked at me sideways and tried to keep a straight face as he encouraged me to keep an open mind and not rule out drugs altogether because I wouldn't know how I would really feel until I was in labor blah-bitty-blah-blah-blah. I interrupted him and said, "Oh no, you misunderstand . . . I want to use hypnosis AND lots and lots of drugs." So he shrugged and said the doctorly equivalent of "whatever."

Flamingo Joe was a good sport and went along with the hypnobirthing plan. But wouldn't it be strange if he wasn't up for any plan where he learned how to hypnotize his wife? I found a hypnobirthing center in south Tampa where we could go learn how to hypnotize me for labor. A doula taught the class and she was . . . well, do you already have a picture in your head of what a woman who calls herself a "doula" and teaches a hypno-birthing class looks like? That's her. We were in the class with two other couples, I think, but I only remember one of the couples because they seemed semi-normal and I was surprised. They were both accountants.

The "center" had its own birthing room (that under no circumstances did I intend to use) where moms who wanted a truly peaceful, natural birthing experience could walk around humming and listening to soft music while their baby came into the world with no screams or tears sporting an extremely high IQ.

The doula basically taught me how to relax myself into a stupor. If you are wondering how that helps you in childbirth, this is the theory: the more uptight you are, the more pain you feel because your muscles are all bunched up, and the more pain you feel, the more uptight you get, which just means you feel more pain; so if you can totally and completely systematically relax all the right muscles you will feel no pain whatsoever and your baby will come skipping into the world ready to explain the theory of relativity.

To practice this form of hypnosis, the doula gave me cassette tapes with some music on it and a woman talking with a soothing voice. First, the tape instructed me to breathe in and out very deeply in certain patterns. Then, I was invited to imagine myself floating on a strawberry colored cloud and then I think my cloud changed colors as I was floating along. Next, the voice instructed me to systematically relax my body starting with the top of my head and working my way down. If I remember correctly, the tape was about half an hour long, but after I got really good at following the instructions on the tape, I was out like a light in 3 minutes or less. I rarely got all the way to the first strawberry cloud.

Given all the discomfort I was feeling in my pregnancy, practicing hypnobirthing was the highlight of my day. I started putting myself to sleep every night by using the hypnobirthing tape. I would put a Breathe Right strip on my nose, pee three or four times (by the time I was 8 months along I couldn't make it back to the bed from the toilet without feeling like I needed to go again), put some baby powder under my word that rhymes with "rests," adjust the 7 pillows, put on the headphones, turn on the tape, and three minutes later it's possible I could have had triplets and wouldn't have realized it.

But I wasn't really sure . . . would the hypnosis work in the delivery room? I figured I could use the hypnosis to get me through the early stages of labor up until the point I could get the epidural. The problem was that in the class with the doula, epidurals were pretty much roundly blamed for ADD, ADHD, childhood obesity, and freckles, so it wasn't like I could ask the doula whether, for example, the hypnosis would work too well and that I would be so relaxed that I simply passed the point where early labor became hard labor without noticing and missed my opportunity for drugs. I did not want to miss my opportunity for drugs. This doula, I should tell you, does not use drugs for dental work -- she uses hypnosis -- so she was not going to be cutting me any slack on the epidural. So I just kept hypnotizing myself to sleep every night and hoped for the best.

Casey was due between Christmas and New Year's Day. On the day after Christmas, I went to the doctor for my weekly visit and noting that I had gained even more weight in the preceding week, the doctor sent me down the hall for a sonogram. The sonogram revealed that Casey was enormous, well over 9 pounds they thought, and that he had not turned, much less dropped. He wasn't budging. The doctor was mildly alarmed at the thought of coming back from his ski vacation (scheduled to begin the following day) and finding me still hanging out, growing an elephant, so he gave me the following options: 1) wait until he returned three or four days later and if Casey had turned head down, he could induce labor and I could attempt to deliver an extremely large baby; or 2) schedule a C-Section for the following morning before he left town.

That night, I used my hypnobirthing tape for the last time to ensure that I would be well-rested for my C-Section the following morning.


  1. Even without mentioning anything that rhymes with 'rests', your blog is blocked from the st pete public library. I think it's the word 'frolicking' that has deemed you inappropriate. Lol

  2. And this is a classic example of a doctor pushing a patient to deliver on HIS schedule... no offense.

  3. October Mom, you're probably right, but I can't deny culpability. I was all for getting that baby out of me, the sooner the better. I like to think that if I had said, "I'll just tough it out and wait," he would have handed me off to another doctor in the practice during his absence. So while I'm not a poster child for natural birthing, I definitely admire the stronger women who go the distance without the drugs.


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