Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Five Recap

I’m almost done with my Hypnobabies home study course! Now, the birth partner is supposed to be reading all the courses with the mother-to-be, but week five is where the course explicitly brings in the birth partners. The slides are addressed directly to the birth partner at times, which meant that the best way to go through the course was for my husband and I to sit down and go through the slides together. Unfortunately, my husband reads a bit slower than I do, so this meant that going through the reading together took significantly longer, but it gave us a good chance to check in with each other about our feelings about the pregnancy and our preparations for childbirth.

This also gave us an opportunity to discuss scheduling some time to actually do the mini-script exercises that we were supposed to start last week. We managed to fit in two mini-script practices, which I’ll talk a little more about below. All-in-all, I liked the presentation of the information about birthing, once again. This week’s lessons focused more on the final stages of the birthing process, with emphasis on how the birth partner can help. Because I’ve already done extensive research while drafting a birth plan on childbirth interventions, I skipped a few of the extra class readings with information about specific procedures because I’ve either already found a lot of information on them and made my own decision, or I’ve already discussed them with my doctor and decided that we’re on the same page.

I also found myself continuing to love the Zenband headphones. Do you like my hypnosis practice selfie with wild morning hair and Zenband headphones? I’ve been trying to take advantage of the fact that I wake up about an hour or so earlier than I want to and use that time to get in some morning hypnosis practice. It’s still a bit of effort to get in all the daily practice sometimes, but listening to affirmations while I commute and doing at least a few sessions in my office during my lunch break definitely helps. I’ve found that if I make an effort to get as much practice done before I get home from work, I’m far less likely to fall asleep than when I do my practice after dinner, right before bed.

The new tracks this week are “Hypnotic Childbirth #2” and “Preparation for Comfortable Pushing,” as well as the two mini-scripts (one was introduced last week and one this week).

Hypnotic Childbirth #2:

This track introduces the “Release” cue and reinforces the “Peace” cue. It’s generally relaxing, and contains a mix of hypnosis with your lightswitch off and eyes-open hypnosis with your switch in center, which is nice practice. As I go through the two “Hypnotic Childbirth” tracks, I definitely can start to feel more and more like this is something I’m internalizing and will be able to use in childbirth.

Preparation for Comfortable Pushing:

This includes a brief finger-drop and eyes-open hypnosis practice, and then moves on to a breathing and visualization exercise to prepare you for using hypnosis during the pushing stage. I liked the instruction in specifically targeting hypno-anesthesia using the “Peace” cue, and I’ve actually been using hypno-anesthesia and my “Peace” cue to help alleviate pains in pregnancy, such as leg cramps and back discomfort. Additionally, the breathing practice includes something like a Kegel exercise to help you learn how to consciously relax your pelvic floor during pushing.

Mini-Scripts #1 and #2:

Mini-script #1 was actually introduced last week, but we were remiss and didn’t get to practicing it. So we practiced it this week. Mini-script #1 includes practice of the “Relax” cue, with the birth partner putting a hand on your forehead or shoulder, while mini-script #2 includes practice of all three cue words: Release, Relax, and Peace. I was really worried about how the script practice would go because I’d heard on the Hypnobabies Facebook group that it’s really common for you both to get the giggles the first few times you try to practice. But my husband turned out to be pretty natural and finding his “hypnotic voice” and having the music to play in the background helped a lot. We got through both scripts with no giggles, and I definitely appreciated how it helped me understand how the “Relax” cue would work. I was worried about it because I sometimes flinch at being touched, especially if I’m meditating, but I found the “Relax” cue paired with touch to be extremely soothing. And it definitely helped us figure out how this was going to work with the two of us together.

Week five kind of gelled things together for us, I think. Interestingly enough, this week was when we really started getting things together to prepare for childbirth and the arrival of our baby, and I think that going through this course together has strengthened our bond as a couple. See you next week for the final week of the course as I enter “maintenance” mode.

Previous Posts:

Week Four Recap

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Four Recap

This week started off a little rough. I managed not to start my new week’s lessons until the afternoon on Sunday, so I didn’t get around to listening to my hypnosis tracks at all until the evening. Luckily the practice track was the same “Eyes-Open Childbirth Hypnosis Practice” track from last week, so I didn’t feel so bad about missing a day of it, and I also missed a day of listening to my affirmations. But I guess part of the program is learning to move on when things don’t go exactly as planned, so I tried to just forgive myself and pick it back up the next day.

I wanted to talk a little bit about focus during hypnosis. Because the visualizations refer to “hypno-anesthesia” being an orange-colored light, the Hypnobabies Facebook group is full of photos of orange light as inspiration and they recommend using a pink salt lamp as a source of dim, orange illumination. Now, I didn’t want to buy a lamp, but I saw these candle holders on Amazon. They hold a tea light, which sits deep enough in the candle holder to both give it a subtle peach-orange glow, and be inaccessible enough that I feel comfortable using it during hypnosis training without worrying that my flame-obsessed cat won’t stick her face in it while I’m in deep relaxation. And I can use a flameless electric tealight if I want to bring it to the hospital with me (it’s about the size of a large coffee mug).

As far as the course goes, this week’s readings focused on the physical side of birth, describing the progression of early birthing time. It goes into the progression of Braxton-Hicks pressure waves to early birthing into active birthing time, as well as describing some of the exams or procedures you might experience leading up to your due date and when you arrive at your birthing location. It was very comforting to have a thorough description of childbirth written in a way that was specifically intended not to make it sound intimidating.

The tracks were largely the same, with the hypnosis practice being the “Eyes-Open Childbirth Hypnosis” practice track from last week, and with the familiar “Deepening Your Hypnosis” track alternating with the new track introduced this week. And of course, affirmations every day. I’m starting to enjoy listening to them on my commute in the morning to set the tone for the day. But the other day, I was feeling particularly low and worried and found that listening to the affirmations while going about other parts of my day really helped me cheer up and feel a bit more positive.

Hypnotic Childbirth #1:

This track introduces the “Relax” cue word and describes how your birth partner can use it to help you deepen hypnosis and relaxation during childbirth. It’s very similar to the other tracks so far, and provides a deep sense of relaxation as well as helping instill the hypnotic cue word in your subconscious mind. While I haven’t noticed it yet with “Relax,” I can tell that the “Peace” cue has worked it’s way into my subconscious mind when I hear the word on the affirmations track.

So that’s where I am with the program. This week starts the final content week of the course, and then in week six, I’ll transition into maintenance mode, which will continue for the rest of my pregnancy. Hopefully this not only stays a good way to maintain calm and health in pregnancy, but gets me prepared for a positive childbirth experience.

Previous Posts:

Week Three Recap

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Three Recap

Well, I’m halfway through and this week really got into the meat of childbirth and childbirth hypnosis. The readings focused mostly on interventions during birth while the tracks introduced the idea of hypno-anesthesia and eyes-open hypnosis. Plus, I found a great new tool for listening to my hypnosis tracks.

That’s me, listening to my hypnosis track with the soft peach glow of a candle in a pink salt candle holder as a visual focus, using my new ZenBand headphones from Blooming Wellness. ZenBand headphones are a set of flat headphones housed in a soft headband so that you can fully relax while listening to your tracks through headphones. I had noticed that my ears would start to hurt when I listened to earbuds, and these were actually recommended on the Hypnobabies website, so I figured I’d give them a try. The owner of the company is very responsive (there was a glitch and I didn’t get my confirmation email right away) and they shipped super fast. They definitely make relaxing while listening easier. (NB: I paid for these myself and have not been given any incentive to review them).

Now, on to the course itself this week. As I mentioned, the course reading was mostly about interventions during birth. Of course, it’s very biased towards “natural” or unmedicated childbirth, but I expect no less from pretty much any childbirth class being offered outside of an actual hospital. And, frankly, the whole reason I’m taking the course is to learn about alternatives to conventional hospital interventions. So I’m not bothered by the emphasis on the drawbacks of epidural pain relief, though I was impressed that they didn’t use some of the most obvious scare tactics. And, at the end of the day, the Hypnobabies course does seem to value the mother’s choice over any one philosophy. As the affirmations say, all routes your birthing takes are valid and good. Ultimately, they want mothers to be comfortable with any direction their birthing can take so they can maintain relaxation.

The tracks focused on hypno-anesthesia more than previous weeks, which I’ll admit was a stumbling block for me initially. Dan had made a comment that while he was open to the general concept of self-hypnosis, he thought the term “hypno-anesthesia” was corny. And I see his point. But through the reading and the tracks this week, I’ve come to realize that they’re using that term for a specific reason. The program is about using your mind to feel as though you’ve been anesthetized in some way, rather than just trying to give you mental tools to overcome pain. So, in that context, the term makes sense.

Creating Hypno-Anesthesia:

This track introduces you to the idea of hypno-anesthesia and helps you feel how it manifests in your body, as well as introducing the idea of eyes-open hypnosis. In previous weeks, you learn about your mental lightswitch; this week, you learn that it’s a three-phase switch — it can be “on,” “off,” or in the “center.” I found this particularly useful as a visualization because I used a lot of three-phase switches in the lab and I even liked the comparison to electronics when they talk about the signal being filtered when your lightswitch is in “center.” I really liked this track and I’m finding it easier and easier to drop into hypnosis as the weeks go on.

Eyes-Open Hypnosis Practice:

This track is a practice track to help you practice turning from “on” to “off” to “center” and practice being in hypnosis while your eyes are open and you can move around. It includes five practice sessions and takes about twenty minutes. It’s a nice practice. I never tried practicing without the track this week, so I’m curious if it works as well without the recording, but oddly enough I found it occasionally difficult to stay awake during this track. For some reason, when I’m in “center,” I find it hard to keep my eyes open and not just go back to “off.” It’s possible that had something to do with the lack of sleep I’ve faced over the last week, though. Who knows.

So that’s my weekly progress with the Hypnobabies course. I’m more than halfway through the main course and starting to feel more confident about birth with every week that goes by. Join me in the coming weeks to find out how the rest of the program went for me.

Previous Hypnobabies Self-Study Posts:

Week Two Recap

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week Two Recap

The second week of Hypnobabies definitely delved a little more into the meat of the program. Week one was a solid introduction to both their style of guided meditation and the difference between relaxation and hypnosis. But week two really brought in more of the serious work on the actual hypnosis portion of the course.

The weekly slides and reading were mostly about staying healthy in pregnancy. There was a little bit about nutrition, some of which I agreed with, but mostly presented in an innocuously vague manner. They do recommend you start tracking your protein intake, so I used the week to actually monitor my food intake. Interestingly enough, I discovered that, while I’m getting plenty of protein, I tend to eat fewer calories on days when I mostly stay home, which could be one of the reasons that I sometimes get a little dizzy on Sunday evenings. It’s actually been a nice motivator to remind myself to eat earlier and heartier on weekend mornings and (despite being sick) I felt better for it this weekend. I also found out that I could afford a couple more treats than I usually allow myself, hence the pain au chocolat selfie above!

They also give mild recommendations on exercise, mostly gentle stuff like yoga and walking, which are both backbones in my prenatal exercise routine. But they also provide recommendations on specific daily exercises to help prepare your body specifically for birthing. I don’t do the exercises every day, but most of them are exercises that are a staple in my barre and yoga workouts (I’ve just started adding some cat/cow stretches to my barre workout when I’m modifying the ab routine).

One thing I wanted to point out is that, as I said previously, this is not a short time commitment. Once again, the reading (slides and extra PDFs) took me about an hour to get through, and I’m a fast reader. The additional daily tracks you’re supposed to listen to are the “Joyful Pregnancy Affirmations” track (40 min.) and the “Finger-Drop Technique Practice” track (15 min.) daily, plus alternating between the “Learning Self-Hypnosis” track (40 min.) and the “Deepening Your Hypnosis” track (45 min.). So, altogether, the daily listening is between 95 and 100 minutes per day, although the 40-minute affirmations track can be listened to while you’re doing other things, and they do say that the hypnosis tracks can be listened to while you’re going to sleep (although I like to them at least once a week when I know I won’t doze off). So between work, going to the gym, and making dinner, I’ve sometimes struggled to find the time to listen to everything. I’m fortunate to have a private office and a full hour of lunch break, so I actually listened to my hypnosis tracks at my desk twice last week. It’s absolutely worth it (Saturday evening when I was feeling absolutely dismal, my hypnosis track was the only thing that helped my achiness all day), but it’s worth noting the time commitment. As far as the specific tracks go, here are my thoughts on the new tracks this week:

Finger-Drop Technique Practice:

This is a practice track, which will apparently become a weekly thing from now on. You start with this track, which helps you develop the response to the hypnotic cue called the finger-drop. The idea is to train your mind and body to react to a conscious action (raising and dropping one finger) to trigger you to fall into deep hypnosis. After listening to the “Learning Self-Hypnosis” track, where you learn the full idea behind the hypnosis tool of the mental “lightswitch,” you use this short track to practice mentally turning your lightswitch off and falling into deep hypnosis easily. The idea is that you will eventually use this technique to fall into self-hypnosis at the drop of, well, a finger when you need to. It’s a really interesting idea and the only problem I’ve had is overthinking whether or not I should be practicing with both my right and left hands, or just use the hand that feels most natural to me.

Learning Self-Hypnosis:

This track introduces you to the concept of self-hypnosis and “hypno-anesthesia,” which is a state where your body is so completely relaxed that you can’t move (although it’s more like you don’t want to, rather than some sort of terrifying sleep paralysis). In the track, they introduce the idea of the mental “lightswitch,” which is visualized as a switch at the base of your skull that controls all the electrical impulses between your brain and the rest of your body. By visualizing this switch, you can visualize turning it off and switching off all impulses to the rest of your body. This way, you can be aware of your surroundings, but feel completely relaxed and relieved of all tension. It’s a very relaxing track to listen to, and is a good introduction to self-hypnosis. My only complaint is that this, and all the tracks, tend to rely on a lot of repetition, which I suppose has some basis in the practice of hypnosis that I just don’t understand yet. That said, I find myself skipping the first several minutes of this track because it seems like mostly introductory stuff that I only needed to hear once.

Deepening Your Hypnosis:

This track is one that you take with you beyond week two, and that I’ve heard women use during their actual birthing time. Rather than focusing primarily on teaching you a hypnotic cue or tool, this track primarily serves to send you to the deepest level of relaxation and hypnosis. After performing the finger-drop and putting yourself into hypnosis, you are led through a series of hypnotic suggestions to drop you deeper into relaxation. It kind of reminds me of Inception when they dive into deeper dream levels (in fact, I found myself visualizing being dropped on a beach at the deepest level of relaxation more than once). It is profoundly relaxing and very easy to fall asleep to. The script even allows for you to use the track to fall asleep at the end if you wish, instead of counting back up. They also teach you the hypnotic cue “Peace,” which is meant to help serve you both in birthing time and whenever you need a moment of relaxation. I will admit to using my “peace” cue a couple times during the week when I was feeling frazzled, too.

So those are my thoughts about week two, and the specific tracks introduced. My only complaints thusfar are the sometimes-lengthy introductions to each track. It would be nice if the introductory remarks were added as separate short tracks that you could choose to play before the main track or not, but it’s a relatively minor complaint. I’ve also started playing with my posture and location while listening to the tracks. I realized that I won’t be having my birthing time upstairs in my bed (I wouldn’t want to get to a point where I don’t feel safe descending the stairs!) so I’ve tried to spend more time in my living room. I even borrowed a yoga ball to try sitting on for some of my sessions. But now that I’m two weeks in, I’m starting to feel even more confident about my preparations for birthing and my pregnancy in general.

Previous Hypnobabies Posts:

Week One Recap

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study Course: Week One Recap

Well, I’ve finished my first week of the Hypnobabies self-study course at home, and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts thusfar. I’m finding the program really interesting, and I think it will be helpful for my childbirth experience, regardless of whether it’s the only comfort measure I use. Specifically, I’m finding that I really appreciate the daily relaxation and meditation break that the practice involves because a fair amount of my pregnancy has involved worry about both the pregnancy and the birth at the end. Week one is really more of an extended introduction to the Hypnobabies program, and to the idea of self-hypnosis in general. It’s interesting because the week one slides hint at things to come, but don’t really delve into the specific self-hypnosis techniques that you’ll learn later on.

The main takeaways from week one, for me, were the importance of focusing on positive birth experiences, retraining your mind to think of childbirth as a positive, empowering thing, and using the special Hypnobabies language around pregnancy and birth. It definitely seems hokey at first to call “labor” “birthing time” and “contractions” “birthing/pressure waves,” but as someone who has used meditation in the past, I understand the necessity to challenge and rewire your brain on a deeper level. And it’s nice for me, as someone who has anxiety, to take concrete steps towards reducing my anxiety around the idea of having to actually birth the baby at the end of this. I will say that I think the two hypnosis tracks from week one, plus the pregnancy affirmations track, would all be appropriate to use earlier on in your pregnancy. I think if I ever have another baby, I’d probably start listening to the three tracks from week one earlier on, and start the official course with week two later on in my pregnancy.

Joyful Pregnancy Affirmation:

Now, affirmations are seriously not my thing. But I was able to find a meditative space where they were helpful. Oddly enough, I’ve used mantra meditation in the past, but it was always in Sanskrit, so there was less involvement from my conscious/analytical mind when I repeated a mantra. It was merely a way to focus my mind and keep it from wandering. So by treating the pregnancy affirmations the same way, I found a kind of meditative benefit from them, except that rather than listening to them only while sitting in meditation, I would listen to them whenever I had 40 minutes to do so. I listened to them at work while eating lunch, while commuting, while falling asleep at night, and any other time I could snag a chunk of time. I definitely feel more calm and positive about the idea of giving birth after listening to them, even if I don’t always pay attention to every word. Similar to my comments about the positive affirmations in some of the Circle + Bloom meditations, there is a sense with these that you have to accept the positivity and not try to argue with it, which is easier if you’re not fully paying attention and analyzing them the whole time.

Your Special Safe Place: 

This was the first self-hypnosis track that I listened to during the program, and it’s really more of a guided meditation and visualization, although I imagine the visualization is going to come into play later on in the program when you get into the deeper hypnosis tracks. I enjoyed this track more than I thought I would, probably because I realized that my “special safe place” is actually a real place that I go semi-regularly and just makes me feel happy and relaxed. The photo above is from it: the deck of my in-laws’ lakehouse early in the morning when most everyone is still asleep and it’s very cool and quiet. So having a guided visualization to take me there was a profoundly relaxing experience during my pregnancy, especially since later pregnancy has made the 5-hour-plus drive to get there sound less appealing.

Easy, Comfortable Childbirth:

This hypnosis track is more of a guided deep relaxation, followed by an explanation of the benefits of the Hypnobabies course, in my opinion. I enjoyed the deep relaxation, and I could see how hearing the course material while in deep relaxation could help, but I’m pretty sure the main point of this track is to get you used to entering and being in deep relaxation to prepare you for the physical sensation of hypnosis later on. But it’s a nice way to relax, at least.

So that’s my recap of the first week of Hypnobabies home-study. I’ve already moved on to week two, as I realized that reading all the slides and course handouts on Sunday helps prepare me to more fully focus on the hypnosis recordings the rest of the week. I’ll check back in next week to let you know how it’s going.

Previous Hypnobabies Posts:

Starting the Program

Hypnobabies, pregnancy

Hypnobabies Self-Study: Starting the Program

So first of all, I wanted to start this by saying that I am not a die-hard “natural” (i.e., unmedicated) birth advocate. In fact, I went into my pregnancy fully accepting that I would probably end up getting medical pain relief. Now, as I learn some more stuff about options for pain relief, I’m starting to realize that I actually want to make more of an effort to avoid an epidural, but that’s neither here nor there. The main reason I started looking into unmedicated birth techniques was because, if everything goes as planned, I will certainly not have the option of having pain relief at the beginning of labor (I have heard that you can get an epidural before starting pitocin if you get induced, but for the most part, everyone starts labor unmedicated) and I don’t really want to be floundering because I just assumed that “epidural, please” was sufficient thought to give to pain in labor.

Second, if you’re familiar with Hypnobabies, you’ll notice I’m using “unapproved” language to refer to labor. That’s mostly because it’s the words that my general audience will be most familiar with. But more on that later.

I was given the suggestion of Hypnobabies from my doulas. They suggest it over other self-hypnosis techniques because they consider it a more complete course on childbirth. I found the technique of self-hypnosis intriguing because of my past experience with meditation and deep relaxation. I’m already familiar with a lot of the breathing and relaxation techniques used in hypnosis, so I figured it would be a pretty natural progression, plus I know I’m personally willing to accept that I can effect changes in my body through a mind-body connection. I chose to purchase the Hypnobabies self-study course because my doulas’ recommended class is pretty far away from me, and I know my husband tends to giggle when he hears the term “hypnobabies,” so I can’t really take him anywhere.

I purchased the class around 26 weeks pregnant, and recently started downloading parts of the course. I went ahead and went through the Introduction last week, and spent the weekend downloading the first week’s audio files, and started going through the course material this week. Starting at 28 weeks means that I will finish the six-week course around 34 weeks, giving me 3-6 weeks to maintain my progress. This week, I’m going to give my general impressions, mostly from the outside, after having read the introductory material and listened to a few audio tracks. Then, each week, I’ll do a recap of how I found the previous week’s work.

So the introduction is mostly an introduction to the structure of the course and the concepts behind self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis involves putting yourself into a deeply relaxed state, where your subconscious mind is more suggestible to changes in your thinking about a specific topic, in this case childbirth. So Hypnobabies training ultimately aims to reset how your brain thinks labor will go. The idea is that you can change your thinking from assuming childbirth is a scary, painful thing, to thinking that it will be more manageable. From there, you also learn specific techniques to put yourself into a self-hypnotized state to help you cope with any parts of childbirth that are less than completely pleasant (i.e., painful). So when you go into labor, you can use self-hypnosis to get through specific contractions, while still being present mentally and able to interact with others between contractions.

The structure of the class is a bit more intensive than I expected. By way of comparison, if Circle + Bloom was a “get fit in 30 minutes a day” kind of program, Hypnobabies is a little more like meditative P90X. You will spend an hour or so each day listening to specific audio tracks, one that trains you in a specific self-hypnosis technique, and one track of birth affirmations. At least the birth affirmations don’t involve deep relaxation, so you can kind of listen to them any time (I like to listen to them at lunchtime at work). You also get a slideshow of each week’s lesson, which probably takes at least an hour to get through, if you do it all in one sitting. Personally, I’m going through one or two chapters per day of the weekly course slides right now. There is also a downloadable booklet that has an overview of the Hypnobabies techniques, plus a supplement specifically for the birth partner, which you can print out and take with you to the hospital (or wherever you give birth). It’s a lot of material, but you take at least six weeks to get through it.

One final note: Those of you who remember my post from last week about complaining about pregnancy might wonder how the positive thinking message of Hypnobabies meshes with my personal belief that you shouldn’t be afraid to complain about your pregnancy. Well, even the Hypnobabies material says that you should never consider that self-hypnosis requires you to ignore or overcome what you are currently experiencing. Yes, they want you to focus on positive feelings and thinking, but first you should accept where you are. Then, the self-hypnosis techniques can help you train your brain to help you move past fears and complaints, similarly to how cognitive behavioral therapy helps you move beyond anxiety. I actually find the techniques and affirmations pretty compatible with how I feel, given that they’re up front about the fact that you’re not actually expected to completely believe all the affirmations from the get-go. That’s the point of training for six week!

So that’s my first impression of starting Hypnobabies. Join me next week to see how my first week of the course went!