Many moons ago, not long after my maternity leave finished and I was back at work, I made a passing comment on one of my blog posts about where and how I saw myself since becoming a mother. I wrote:
“I had a light bulb moment yesterday at my desk where I suddenly asked myself what I was doing here? Not in a “I should be home with my baby way” (I do feel that too) but in a “am I doing justice to my son, my skills, my abilities, my hopes, my dreams by doing this job right here right now?” way. Should I be pursuing passion and excellence? If I’m going to work and be away from my baby, should the work be really meaningful and worthy of consuming my family’s time? Or then again, do I need to embrace this wonderfully flexible and supportive workplace I’m in…and take advantage of it to the benefit of my family, at least for the foreseeable future? This is just what is running through my head at the moment and perhaps it’s fleeting as I settle back in. But maybe there’s something stirring in me. Time will tell I suppose…” Continue reading Putting my money where my mouth is→
I’m still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics and sharing it all with you lucky ducks who are probably well over it at this stage! Apart from the boxing giving me inspiration for How Long is 90 seconds?, watching the swimmers with their headphones on right up to poolside and listening to the language used by athletes of all disciplines during interviews reminded me of the similarities between sports psychology and hypnobirthing. It makes perfect sense to me that the philosophy of one could be applied to the other, given that they both involve the mental preparation for a defined, time sensitive, challenging physical event.
I used the Gentlebirth homestudy programme during my pregnancy and I’m sure this sounds hyperbolic but the programme really did change my life. Not in the tabloidy “I left behind my old life and found who I really am” kind of way but practicing the programme and internalising the thought process had a deep effect on me that has influenced my thinking in other aspects of my life apart from pregnancy and birth.
The Gentlebirth programme was created specifically for Irish users and is designed with an understanding of how the Irish maternity system works. It involves listening daily to audio tracks and using a workbook to prepare your mind for labour and birth by addressing your fears and anxieties and turning around your thinking so that you are calm, confident and in control. It also helps you to build a toolkit to keep out negative thoughts and influences and to tune into your body and its natural instincts. The workbook is particularly useful for providing information on how hospital policies operate and empowers you to get the birth that you want rather than what might be convenient for them.
Some women listen to their Gentlebirth tracks while they’re in labour and find it really helpful. I didn’t do this because I needed all of my concentration to focus on getting from one breathe to the next but it was Gentlebirth that gave me the tools to know and focus on this. If you have read my birth story, then you know that I firmly believe that the programme was fundamental in the positive experience that I had.
Just as importantly though, it really had such a positive effect on me during my pregnancy and in the weeks after the birth. It really helped me to get good quality sleep. It helped me turn Baby S when he was in a breech position. My first listen to the Gentle Induction track conincided with the day I went into labour.
I was hugely sceptical of the affirmations initially. They sounded pukily happy clappy to me but they were a great track to march along to when I was out walking and once I got into the swing of it, I found them hugely powerful. Even now, when I hear people talk about women having MASSIVE bumps and probably having a HUGE baby, straight away my brain – followed swiftly by my mouth – automatically says “your baby is the perfect size for your body”. It just comes out. I must say it a lot actually because a friend recently said to me that she has repeated it to other people after hearing me say it and realising that it’s true. I’m such a convert to affirmations that I use them daily to remind myself what an awesome lady I am 😉
I was on a high for weeks after Baby S was born. Even though my body was exhausted, my head would be racing and I would listen to a track called New Mother Meditation to help quieten my mind and relax enough to nod off. Honestly, if I didn’t have this to help me sleep I would have been walking around wide-eyed and delirious like a loon.
It was so lovely to have access to a tool that takes something that is culturally shrouded in so much fear and negativity and turn it into something positive and life affirming. Which it is, of course! I looked forward to giving birth and I believed my body could do it. These days I find that I believe I can do other things too so I just go and do them. Hurray!
The beauty of Gentlebirth is that it is a universal tool for pregnant women, regardless of their birth options. Whether you’re planning a natural birth, thinking of an epidural, having an induction or scheduled for a Caesarean, there is something for all of those scenarios in Gentlebirth so that you can have the best possible outcome for you and your baby. I know that reads like a sales pitch but in all honesty it’s because I love it so much. I’m happy to cheerlead it for anyone who’ll listen!
Have you any thoughts or experiences about hypnobirthing?
There a couple of great bloggers out there who have also been through the programme. Mama.ie has a post called There Is A Better Way to Give Birth and a whole host of other hypnobirthing related articles if you’d like to check them out.
It is a rare person who is unmoved by music or who doesn’t have a soundtrack to significant memories in their lives. Even if you’re unaware of it, suddenly a snatch of a tune on the radio or a song in the background of the general hum of a shopping centre can send you back to something wonderful in your past or even something sad.
Making Your Mind Up by Bucks Fizz reminds me of dancing and peels of laughter in my parents kitchen in our first little house and all it’s gorgeous 70s burnt orange and brown decor. Sinead O’Connor’s You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart brings me back to my bedroom on the morning of my Dad’s funeral. I had it up full blast while putting my make up on as one by one my siblings were drawn in by the music to sit on my bed and just be together. Horse Outside by The Rubberbandits still makes my stomach lurch as I’m jolted back to the winter of 2010 when the country was crippled by snow for weeks and I spent most of that time on my hands and knees heaving into the nearest toilet bowl with morning sickness.
I did my masters thesis on exploring the effectiveness of the Mozart Effect on babies in utero and although the claims of the phenomenon are dubious indeed, the research is conclusive that babies can recognise music that they heard frequently in the womb, just like their mothers’ voices.
When I was pregnant, myself and my husband carefully chose a piece of music that was important to us that we would make “the baby’s song”. My husband has fond memories of his father playing The Sound of Silence on guitar and singing him to sleep and I love the gentle harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel so I played it every night to the bump and sang along so the baby could feel the vibration of my voice through my chest and rib cage and through the waters surrounding him. If nothing else, it was a few minutes of stillness together everyday.
As we came closer to the big day, my husband was very keen for us to put together a playlist for the labour and birth. I always thought that I would love this idea but for some reason I was hesitant. I think I was afraid of forcing a moment but more importantly, as I was heavily engaged in my hypnobirthing at the time, I thought I might be too “inside” myself and the music would serve no purpose.
It turns out I was totally wrong. I put off putting together some songs until I was overdue. At my husband’s gentle encouragement and as a project to occupy me, we put together 13 hours of carefully chosen songs. Many of our favourites were discarded due to their unsuitability for a relaxed, calm, gentle birth either because of the lyrical content, the tempo or the timbre. Eventually we had something we were proud of and could be described in just one word – “lovely”.
The morning my contractions started, my husband set up the stereo in the kitchen and just let the music gently trickle into the background. It’s presence set an invisible tone of warmth and calm. Then as my labour progressed, the midwife used the music as an anchor to steady me when she felt I was losing my focus and needed to be grounded. When the contractions were coming hard and fast, I distinctly remember hearing her voice say “deep breathes, listen to the beautiful music”. My mind immediately snapped onto the soaring voice of Glen Hansard from The Frames, which had suddenly appeared from nowhere to soothe and sing directly to me.
My husband tells me that our son was born to the velvety tones of Nick Cave which I was delighted to hear but blissfully unaware of as all of my focus was on those last special moments of birthing my baby.
He also tells me he was secretly delighted that S wasn’t born to Adele who had been playing just moments before! Although the joke is on him in the end…
…Adele was on heavy rotation on the radio during my pregnancy and I used to crow along to Someone Like You while I washed the dishes. A couple of months after S was born, we made a trip all together to IKEA. As Adele popped up on the shop soundtrack, I turned to my husband and said “oh, this song reminds me of being pregnant” and suddenly noticed the baby. He was looking straight at me and smiling with what I can only describe as a knowing look, like we were looking into each other’s souls. My chest welled up and I started to cry. It was a magical moment. I honestly believe he recognised it.
But it was also embarrassing…oh the emotion of a post partum woman 😉
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