My “Hypnobabies journey” actually started when I was 16 years old and watching a Patty Duke movie in which she was giving birth to her baby at home, screaming in agony, and her baby was born dead. Horrified, I swore I would never have children. EVER.
Fast forward to 1988, when I watched a friend give birth to her first baby using no medication, no IV, no monitor, no episiotomy and no operative technology of any kind. She was obviously in a lot of pain, but she was able to give birth naturally which, at that time in my life I didn’t realize people still did! She had taken a Bradley Method class to prepare for her birth and told me many things she had learned about the body’s ability to give birth naturally and without intervention. I was fascinated and began researching childbirth methods, since all I had heard about previously was Lamaze.
I became “hooked” as I learned about nature’s most perfect plan – childbirth. The more I read and studied, the more I knew from somewhere inside of me that I wanted to be a part of this plan, teaching other women the truth about their own abilities and the technological machine that childbirth had become. I contacted the group that certifies Bradley Instructors and they agreed to allow me to take the teacher training even though I had not yet given birth, which normally was a prerequisite. I excitedly took the course, receiving an invaluable education in natural childbirth, and taught my initial class when I was pregnant with my first baby. I thought I knew a great deal about the body’s’ ability to give birth and women’s strength and determination, and that seemed to be enough as I planned for my natural, unmedicated, birth center waterbirth. Then I went into labor.
The incredible unstoppable power and wretched pain of a posterior baby for 26 hours of unmedicated terror took its toll and it was quite a long time until I felt I had gotten over the fact that anyone would be happier to see the anesthesiologist than their own child! I ended up being transferred from my beloved birth center to a hospital across the street. I’ll never forget the pain, shame and fear that swept through me as I was wheeled outside and across a major local throughway, with everyone staring at me in horror as I screamed with each contraction. An epidural was procured for me, from a sensitive anesthesiologist whose wife was a…Bradley instructor! After quite a few other tubes, wires and procedures, I slept for awhile, and 6 hours after my hospital arrival my baby was pushed and pulled out with the aid of a very strong nurse and a doctor with a vacuum extractor. The loss of my dream: my natural waterbirth, devastated me and I was overcome with disbelief. Yes, I had my little princess and she was perfect, but I had dreamed of, planned for and counted on her birth being the empowering, glorious experience that I felt all women deserved. It was the first time I fully realized how intensely powerful the experience of childbirth is for all women, and it was life-changing for me.
Postpartum Depression and Trauma
Almost immediately after giving birth I began experiencing deep depression, insomnia and crying spells. I had spasms of pain up and down my spine, legs and neck for almost a year from the epidural. I began jumping at noises and being unable to concentrate and sought help from a physician for postpartum depression. I have since learned that many women suffer postpartum depression and even PTSD from the trauma they have suffered during childbirth, and many remain undiagnosed and/or untreated. This has motivated me even further to help find a way to prevent birth trauma, and Hypnobabies has been a huge part of the picture for so many women.
Having received every intervention a laboring woman can have except a C-section, I was so traumatized that it was a challenge to enjoy my baby daughter as I relived her birth in my mind every day for months. I was extremely angry with anyone who even mentioned the Bradley Method since I felt it had failed me, affording me little comfort or relief, even though I had known all the “tricks” of the trade. Eventually I realized that everything happens for a reason, and that I myself had fully orchestrated my own miserable birth experience by making a series of choices that were not optimum for an easy natural birth. After coming to terms with that revelation I was able to teach childbirth education again, with a much different and more flexible outlook than before. I still believed inherently in the power of natural birth, and the Bradley Method’s techniques for getting through it avoiding unnecessary pain. I came to realize of course, that I did not want that same experience to happen again, and that there had to be another way to give birth without experiencing so much pain and what was for me, trauma.
I then saw a TV show about using hypnosis for childbirth and having used some self-hypnosis in the past, I began seeking out this method. I soon found a local magazine ad that said, “Painless Childbirth at last!”, and for $34.95 I could order a program that would allow me to “knock the pain right out” of my next birth. And so I got pregnant with baby #2. My “program” turned out to be a 2 audio tape set and a sheet of instructions on how to use the tapes, with admonitions that if I faithfully listened to the tapes I would have no pain during labor. The tapes had no hypnotic inductions on them, and employed a metaphoric journey through fields, visualizing deer walking nearby, etc. and a few light suggestions that “if you go to the basement of relaxation, your contractions will not bother you at all”. I wondered how well this was going to produce a pain-free birth, however I continued faithfully to listen every day and twice a day during the last few weeks of my pregnancy.
Four years almost to the day after my daughter was born, I gave birth to my son, underwater at a birth center, after 7 hours of very intense labor. Although the physical pain was just as bad as my first baby’s birth, the time it lasted was far shorter and the dynamics of the labor were different. I was shocked however, at how tremendously painful this labor was after so much “hypnosis” preparation and I was sorely disappointed that it had not worked. Only afterwards did I realize that the “program” which I had used did not contain the necessary hypnotic depth or direct birth suggestions needed to produce the desired results. Having previously used real hypnosis for other issues in my life, I realized that the power of the mind was very strong and with more effective “tools”, women could give birth so much easier than I had..
I vowed to eventually find a way that women would not have to suffer so much in childbirth and continued to teach the Bradley Method as I researched. For ten years I had attended my students’ births as a doula and although so many of my Bradley students’ births were successful, unmedicated births, the moms were always in a lot of pain which became very difficult for me to be a part of. I noticed also that often these mothers were extremely exhausted from moving around constantly during labor to get comfortable, and they had little energy left to push their babies out. There were many mothers who were so traumatized by the pain they experienced that they couldn’t even hold their new babies, and it saddened me. In the spring of 1999, I went to my last “screaming birth”, a couple that I had bonded with and loved so much. I knew I could no longer teach this. I had to find “it”.
By now I was on the Internet and began a campaign to learn more about hypnosis for childbirth, finding quickly that there were quite a few programs and methods out there. I watched an episode of Dateline NBC on hypnotic childbirth which showed 2 women going through their labors calm and relaxed, with very little birth pain. That was my goal for my future childbirth students, and I contacted a major hypno-birthing organization to begin my journey towards it with their Practitioner Training. I took the 2 day Introduction to Hypnosis class and then the 2 day Teacher Certification course. I arrived at that training course extremely excited and thrilled since I thought I had finally found a way that my wonderful, dedicated natural childbirth moms would no longer have to suffer. I saw videos of women laboring seemingly without pain, using only this organization’s techniques. I was certain my own future “hypno-birthing” students would look and feel just like that, and I already had my business cards and letterhead done, a website and other preparations. I did consider it odd however, that so many of my fellow “hypno-birthing” trainees there had no prior knowledge of childbirth education, were given little in the certification course, and yet were about to embark upon a quest to teach women exactly that. I also wondered how teaching expectant women that “since labor is a natural process it shouldn’t hurt if you just relax enough” would be helpful to them since (based on my own experience as a doula and birthing mother) that concept seemed unlikely at all, but I was dedicated and determined to teach this new class the way I was directed to.
I began teaching my hypnosis-birthing class with passion, enthusiasm and the comforting belief that these women were the luckiest ones alive; they would have no drugs and no pain as they labored and gave birth to their babies. There were 5 couples in my first class and I gave them the exact hypno-materials and information I was taught to teach, which included a book, one light hypnosis audio track and a 15 minute birth affirmations audio tracks. A few handouts were included and 2 hypnosis scripts. I added only a bit about nutrition to the class and excitedly waited for my “Hypno-moms” to give birth.
I attended my first hypno-birthing student’s birth at a birth center as her doula and I became very distressed to find that she could not stay relaxed and comfortable by herself, even in early labor at home. She went to the birth center and progressed from 3cm to 10cm in 3 hours, which was amazing, but she was suffering quite a lot of pain as she entered active labor and nothing we did or tried helped her. Her transitional period was only about an hour but she was extremely miserable during it and I was at a loss to comfort her since she had given up on the audio tracks and trying to “relax”. She finally gave birth and was reasonably pleased with her experience as we all knew that without the hypnosis training her discomfort would have been much greater. This however, was not what I had envisioned for my students at all. I convinced myself that this birthing experience was just a fluke and that the next birth would be much better.
Each of my “hypno-birth” students’ births that I attended after that however, just seemed to get worse instead of better with the exception of only one of my students who said it worked well for her; “It was manageable.” I was in contact by then with several fellow hypno-birth practitioner trainees who lamented that they were having the same results with their students and didn’t know how to help them. I appealed to the organization that I had been trained by for help and advice, thoroughly confused with the results our hypno-couples were having. I was encouraged to just continue teaching the course as it was, and told that my students were “experiencing failure in hypno-birthing because you as their instructor don’t believe in it enough”. Wow! This had been absolutely not true of course, and all of us Practitioners were teaching exactly the way that we had been instructed to do, yet most of our students were extremely unhappy and unsatisfied with their birth experiences.
I taught 2 classes this way (10 couples total) and the births were almost all the same. The last one was the one that changed my life. I attended this woman’s birth and she was clearly in agony and feeling mislead; crying out, cursing me and suffering greatly. I cried all the way home and swore that either I would stop teaching childbirth education at all, or I would find a way that my students would be able to be successful in their efforts to have a much easier, much more comfortable and fear-free birthing.
I did not stop teaching.
Deep, Somnambulistic Hypnosis
It was clear to me that I needed to know much more about hypnosis itself and how to help expectant women with personal issues and hypnotic depth problems, as well as find some excellent birth hypnosis scripts. A local hypnotherapist allowed me to sit in on a few hypnosis classes and only then did I really realize how much I still needed to learn about hypnosis and its uses for actually eliminating pain. Immediately I took a course in hypnosis and hypnotherapy which helped me tremendously to understand how and why real hypnosis would work for childbirth. I could now teach moms successful pain-elimination, not pain-management!.
In addition, I began contacting hypnotherapists from around the world who had childbirth hypnosis methods that really worked, and asked for ideas and help. Help they did, and with such a positive spirit of sharing and giving. I began writing my own hypnosis scripts and replacing the tapes in the classes with deeper and longer ones, and soon many of my students were having wonderful births. Sometimes completely pain-free but mostly the pain would only be at the very end when the baby was crowning, or for 20 minutes during transition. Much better… but still not good enough!
The day that I found Gerald Kein’s Painless Childbirth Program is one of joyful commemoration for me, since so many missing pieces were found. Master hypnotist Gerald Kein had actually sat down with a group of pregnant women and asked them what they wanted and needed for a comfortable natural birth. Their answers gave him the information he needed to create a hypnosis program that women could easily use to eliminate pain and fear from childbirth, yet be able to move around freely during labor, eat and drink, and communicate their needs to others. Fantastic!
I then began creating Hypnobabies, a complete childbirth program that used Gerald Kein’s main Painless Childbirth techniques (he was thrilled!) along with several other great ideas and concepts. I decided to do what Gerald Kein had done and listen to women so that Hypnobabies could include even more techniques, cues and “tools” for a comfortable birth. I have consistently asked for feedback and suggestions about what works and does not when it comes to hypno-birth experiences, and have received thousands of phone calls, e-mails and online posts from women who have used other birth hypnosis programs, as well as Hypnobabies. Their personal experiences, reactions and birth stories along with the emotions associated with them and what they consider a “successful” birth hypnosis experience have been invaluable as Hypnobabies has been evolving.
As I taught my first Hypnobabies classes, I noticed that my hypno-couples may have arrived in Class #1 feeling skeptical and fearful to various degrees, they all left Class # 5 so confident and free of fear, having seen the fruits of their practice and work at home, in class sessions and in Birth Rehearsal. They needed to learn how to take responsibility for their birthing, so I included birthing choices; risks, benefits and alternatives to common interventions. This has become invaluable to those who want to enter labor confidently and leave it in peace. Adding excellent nutrition and exercise information as well as stages of labor, fetal positioning and avoiding back labor as well as other important issues rounded out Hypnobabies, and helps make it so successful. Knowledge is power!
My Hypnobabies Team and I have modified and updated our Hypnobabies course over the last few years, improving it and refining it until the results are even to me, astounding! One day quite a few years ago, I watched delightedly as an obstetrician sat on a hospital bed and stared in awe, open-mouthed at one of our Hypnobabies moms who was in labor with her first child. Karlene was sitting very relaxed in a chair nearby the bed, completely at ease, feeling only pressure as she had a contraction, and fully 9 cm dilated. Her water had broken that morning, 3 weeks before her “due” date, yet she and her wonderful husband had no fear of the natural birthing processes that began, because they had taken my Hypnobabies class. In very little discomfort even when her baby crowned and was born, Karlene had a wonderful birth experience and I knew that day that my dreams had been realized. She was one of the very fortunate mothers who chose Hypnobabies for their first baby’s birth; not having to endure a first traumatic birth and now fully able to pass her “childbirth joy” on to her children.
I soon came to realize how regenerative a Hypnobabies birth can also be for moms who have previously had a difficult birth experience; a true Healing Birth. Every time a Hypnobabies mom has a great birth experience, she can also go on and teach other women (and attending birth professionals) how sweet and lovely childbirth can be, instead of the nightmare tales usually told of “labor”. One more baby is born without drugs, without violence, without hearing its mother scream. Gentle birthing at it best. This is “it!”
I also know that hypnosis is not a panacea; that there will occasionally be complications or turns a labor can take that cannot be predicted. Yet Hypnobabies continues to be a part of that process, allowing both the mother and the father to remain calm and relaxed throughout any scenario. Breech and posterior babies can be turned, blood pressure, body temperature and heart rates lowered, insomnia, hip and back pain eradicated and nausea eliminated with hypnosis. I am grateful for the many ways it can help our wonderful Hypnobabies students.
I have also dedicated myself to educating women on their birthing options and empowerment, becoming very active on the Internet with guest articles, online social network and blog posts and on our Hypnobabies websites. Many moms asked for a comprehensive and structured self-study birth hypnosis course and I created our Hypnobabies Home Study Course, which has been used successfully by tens of thousands of women all over the world. I also began being approached by doulas, childbirth educators and midwives who were distressed at seeing woman suffer in childbirth and looking for something different than the usual natural childbirth classes could provide. They wanted to teach Hypnobabies and bring it to their communities, and so our Hypnobabies Instructor Training Program was born. It has been very successful, and each instructor is hand-picked by me for her background, training, dedication and heart. It is wonderful for all of us to be a part of such an amazing, life transforming event in a woman or couple’s life, knowing that childbirth is so much easier with Hypnobabies.
Moms who choose Hypnobabies
Ultimately, women need to spend some time discovering what their own goals for childbirth are, and make their decisions based on what their birth preparation will offer them to achieve this. For some of our expectant Hypnobabies mothers, their goals are “empowerment and being in control”, for others “a more relaxed and comfortable experience than last time”, and for still others, it will be “a completely pain-free birthing”. They will need to understand the kind of dedication and belief it takes to learn the skills that will bring them to fulfill their goals, therefore education and research is key in this area. Women need to know and understand that they have choices when it comes to Hypnobabies classes or home study, their caregivers and their baby’s birth place. Each choice brings with it a specific set of dynamics and will yield different results, but a good childbirth hypnosis program like Hypnobabies is invaluable for a truly empowering birth experience.
As I have evolved as a childbirth educator, author, doula and lecturer, I’ve found that each woman’s strength and power actually comes from within as she gives birth and they simply need to learn how to tap into it. These special women who have stepped “out of the box” to prepare for birth in such a different way and give their babies the gift of a gentle, unmedicated start in life inspire me…every day.
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt, CI is the Founder and Director of Hypnobabies in Cypress, CA, a Certified Hypnotherapist, Childbirth Educator and Hypno-Doula.
She teaches Hypnobabies Hypnosis for Childbirth classes, Pregnancy Nutrition and Breastfeeding workshops, Birth Hypnosis Specialty Courses and gives seminars in her community on natural pregnancy and childbirth options.
She is also an author, international conference speaker and lecturer, and trains childbirth educators, doulas, midwives to become Hypnobabies Childbirth Hypnosis Instructors.
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