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07th May 2017

Why my no-drugs birth was pretty much the highest I’ve ever been

If the title of this piece doesn’t tell you a little something about how effective self-hypnosis can be for managing pain… then I don’t know what will.

As a rule, I never dole out advice to pregnant people. Or come to think of it any people as I am not particularly distinguished at this whole life business, however now, whenever I meet a pregnant person the first thing I do (after having a quick uninvited feel of the bump) is ask her if I can just give her one teeny tiny piece of advice?

I see her face momentarily clouding with irritation before she rearranges her look to one of barely maintained tolerance. I do not blame her. I hate foisting advice on pregnant people because they’re the target of so much unsolicited advice already. However I plough on because Seriously Every Pregnant Person Needs To Get The GentleBirth App NOW.

I did not have high hopes for the birth of my second child. I just presumed I’d have a 19 hour labour with forceps, a dud epidural and a fifth degree tear. Also NO DRUGS was not high on my agenda AT ALL.

Then I went into labour and it turned out to be the most incredible experience of my life. Now I totally respect that a lot of readers might want to punch me for that last sentence. I know, I know – I kinda want to punch me too. I firmly believe that a ‘good’ birth is completely the luck of the draw but I do think that the GentleBirth method did one powerful thing for me: it took away my fear.

Even now I was recently asked to recall a happy memory and the birth is the first thing that came to me. This is such a contrast to my first birth – for months I couldn’t think about my caesarian without feeling very anxious and sometimes physically sick.

GentleBirth (founded by Irish midwife, Tracy Donegan) was suggested to me by nurse, midwife and doula, Emma Lally who I saw during my pregnancy.

After some introduction to the course from Emma, I got the GentleBirth App and did the daily homework that the App suggested. It’s all tailored to the individual so I had hypno sessions pertaining to vaginal birth after c-sections.

It must be said, I am a deeply cynical person and I have to admit I found some of the affirmation tracks hilarious but on the whole I loved doing the hypnosis. I found it really relaxing and could hardly ever stay awake all the way through, so much so that I worried I wasn’t getting the full benefits.

The day before my due date I went to my usual clinic for the routine visit. The doctor even said see you next week when we’ll probably book your section.

I headed home and sat on the bouncy ball, chatting to my husband and had a cup of tea but I was feeling really really stoned.

I went to bed with mild cramps (like I had every night for the four weeks previously) put on my GentleBirth track and went to sleep. I then had a dream that a woman I know was telling me she would look after every second contraction to help me. So nice of her. I started awake at 2.30am to a strong surge, though I was still uncertain as I’d never felt a contraction before.

I started the timer on my phone and four minutes later a second strong surge broke my waters. I dispatched The Man to get a Tupperware and even managed to catch some water (whenever they suggested that in antenatal class I always scoffed thinking: “how are you supposed manage that?”) I timed the next half hour of surges and it seemed to be happening a lot faster than I’d imagined it would.

I rang the hospital then and they told me to come in. At this convenient juncture we had to get the hospital bag packed. I’d been so convinced that I’d go over my due date and have a monumentally long preamble to the labour, I hadn’t bothered to pack the bag yet (you see what I mean about my being unqualified for advice-giving).

When we arrived at the admissions office, The Man had yet to even introduce us when I spectacularly spewed everywhere. At this point we put the TENS machine on and did a couple of laps, then after that I hung out on the ball. The husband says I had virtually stopped talking, didn’t want to be touched and seemed to be in a trance.

The next time I was checked, I was 3cm at which point they offered me the gas and air but I didn’t feel I needed it, I was completely high already – either from the hypnosis or my own natural chemistry. I had expected that I’d want to listen to the app during the birth but I was actually deep inside my own head at this point and didn’t want any distractions. It was like being in a dream.

The birth was about four and a half hours from arriving at the hospital and this totally flew by for me. I absolutely credit Tracey Donegan’s GentleBirth method along with a bit of luck from the birthing gods. What really amazed me was how at no point, even for a second, did I feel fear. Even when they asked me if my caesarian scar was hurting (this would usually have really freaked me out) I didn’t give it a thought. And when it seemed like the pushing was taking long I stayed in the moment and didn’t even have to try and stay calm. It was amazing.

Emma Lally is the only practising midwife who teaches GentleBirth in Ireland. Couples can take Emma’s class in Temple Lodge and Spa, Moate, Co. Westmeath (just under an hour from Dublin by car) for €99 per couple which includes breakfast. Special overnight rate of €99 B&B available to GentleBirth clients. Reservation by phone and please quote GentleBirth. This overnight stay includes full use of spa. Visit Emma’s website. Get the GentleBirth app here.