ON HYPNOBIRTHING, SLEEP, MOM-GUILT AND SELF-TRUST
The day I had my first child, Willow (4), was the day I stopped sleeping for a long, long time. I know that my situation isn’t unique and I know that it also isn’t shared by everyone but what I know most of all is that TODAY I am over the MOON! A few weeks ago, while we were on vacation, BOTH of our kids officially began sleeping through the night. To be honest, it took about a week for my body to adjust to it. I guess I was in such a state of anxiety during sleep mode that my body forgot how to truly relax and really SLEEP.
When I had Willow, everything changed for me. Before her, I was a strong, independent, self aware, focused woman of 36. The moment she was born I became anxious, second-guessed almost everything. I became insecure about my mothering style and choices.
My birth plan included a birthing pool at our home, close friends and family all around, my partner pulling the baby out and having a completely natural, divine experience. We even did hypnobirthing sessions (http://www.childbirthjoy.com) to prepare us for the experience. All around, we were so grounded and so ready to begin our new life with this brand new human.
As it turned out, I was 15 days past my due date when we went to a scheduled mid wife appointment, (after dropping my Mother–in –Law at the airport). While we were listening to the heartbeat, it sounded “off”. Off -beat, or just slower, either way it was disconcerting. The midwife called another midwife who told her to check in with the hospital just in case. They told to come in for some tests.
At 7pm I arrived at the triage desk and got my first contraction. AHHHHHHHHH! I asked them if I could leave, told them I had a pool at home, I begged. I was certain I could make it home.
Next thing I knew I was admitted, in a room with a monitor hooked to my baby’s head through my vagina. She was fine, just big and very late and VERY comfortable.
As the contractions started to deepen, my partner, Doug, gave me the iPOD with my hypnobirthing tracks on it. (An important point here is that Doug manages all the electronics in the home because I am notorious for never charging anything and always being stuck with dead electronics. This was one of those days that I was left with a dead electronic device.) My iPOD was dead. The contractions were SO painful. Anyone who has given birth naturally knows exactly what I am talking about. OMFG is all I can say. I tried everything, the Pilates ball, the shower, the bed, massage, deep breathing…and then it occurred to me. I didn’t need the Hypnosis tracks, I KNEW this shit! I could easily do it on my own. So I did. Doug held my hand as I slipped into self-hypnosis. By this time my contractions were about 2 minutes apart and would last about 45 seconds. I was only 4 cm dilated, my water hadn’t broke and there was no end in sight. The miraculous thing was that the Hypnosis tools I had were working. The whole idea of the practice is that you become ONE with the contraction, so that instead of it moving against you it is moving with you, it is about having no fear. It worked. For a couple of hours I even slipped into such a deep state that the pain actually subsided.
When the midwife broke my water it was dark brown. I knew all about this because I had read so much in the months before. I knew that it was meconium and that my daughter had been sitting in her first shit for – who knows how long. That bothered me. I suppose it was my first anxious thought. My mind started spinning. Bacteria, infection, disease, discomfort, poison. If I trace it back, THAT is where I started to doubt myself, to be overly anxious.
But instead of allowing the anxiety to get the best of me, I slipped into another round of hypnosis. I think I even slept a bit – THROUGH the contractions!
By 4am not much had changed. Although the contractions felt deeper and more painful they were still about 2 minutes apart, lasting for 45 seconds or so. The doctor came in and I asked her to explain the situation to me.
She laid it all out. She told me that at the rate I was going it was likely that I would be in labour for another 24 – 36 hours. She said there was absolutely no harm in continuing BUT if I was interested or tired or couldn’t take the pain, she would give me a C-Section and I would be holding my baby in 20 minutes. I asked for some time to process.
My internal banter began. “Jen, you planned on having a natural birth. Your whole belief system is centered around having a natural birth”. So I thought about it. Would I continue to labour for the next day or so because I was stubborn and wanted to stick as closely to my birthplan or would I consider another option and not think of myself as a failure.
I did not want my baby sitting in there, covered in her own shit for a minute longer. PLUS – my mother-in-law (who is intuitive and a bit psychic), had a dream that I would have the baby in the hospital on the night we dropped her at the airport.
So I reached out into my own spirit and all the spirits in the room and asked, “what should I do?” The message I received was, “have this baby now, she wants out but needs your help”. Call me crazy. Sometimes I think I just might be.
As I sat on the operating table, naked, 190lbs, tired and emotional, I looked around me and came to terms with my decision. I made a promise to myself that I would always put my daughter’s safety first and do my best to be intuitive to her needs.
As I write this, I feel a bit sad. I know there are many times that I haven’t been intuitive to her needs. I know I’ve only done my best but still…
The moment I saw her (and I am sure every mother can relate), I went forward and backward in time all at once. My past and future flashed before my eyes. I was overwhelmed by emotions I had never felt, ever. It was also the moment that I looked at Doug. At that moment, he became more than my best friend, my confidant, my roommate and my lover. He was now the father of my child.
I know that the sleeping issues could have been resolved on the first night, but I am a huge proponent of co–sleeping and attachment parenting. It was my instinct to NOT put my child in the bassinette beside my bed but to keep her with me, cuddled close so she could free feed. That night, I could hardly sleep. I was so anxious about rolling over onto her. PLUS – No one told me about the gagging and coughing and mucus puking that happens to babies when they are delivered via c-section. Willow would appear to be choking then she would puke up so much mucus. The nurses would come in and be aggressive with her and then she would cough out even more mucus. I was like WTF! It was actually traumatizing. I was unsure if I could manage all of this at home. I got really, really scared.
My anxiety was compounded by so many doctors and nurses coming around, whispering and measuring and asking me a million questions. To be honest, I was not prepared for any of it.
From that first night at the hospital until a few weeks ago in Florida, I did not get a full night’s sleep. I honestly do not know how I survived, was I only half awake for 4 years? I was also working full time immediately after giving birth, I now know why women take maternity leave but I am a television producer and anyone in that industry knows that it waits for no one. Production is production and that’s that. Even when we decided that Doug would “do nights” I still could not sleep. Every single time Willow cried I was awake. Heart pounding. Oh if I could do it all again…..well, I wouldn’t.
I believe that all of those experiences made me a stronger, more forgiving, self-loving human. I have grown more since Willow was born than I had in all my 36 years leading up to her. Life is imperfect as am I and I am okay with that. I think I was my unhappiest when I strived to be perfect. I now know it doesn’t exist. All that is real is Love. Everything else is just a by-product of the societies we live in. I can say this now with great certainty and clarity because for three weeks I have been SLEEPING through the night and my mind, body and spirit are FINALLY adjusted. I have been writing for the first time in a long time and it feels good.