This is the week I call Big Bowe week. Two kids’ birthdays and my wedding anniversary rolled into one.
Even though I’m done with babies, I absolutely still use some of the techniques I learned and taught in Hypnobirthing. I used one of them just the other day when I was having my eyebrows microbladed.
I thought it might be interesting to reflect on what tools I still use.
If you don’t know, I used to teach Hypnobirthing through Hypnobirthing Australia and it helped with my own two traumatic births. It’s still something I endorse and use, I just think there’s a big variety in what’s taught in different programs. I’m personally not a fan of techniques that use too much frontal lobe activity – counting contractions and breathing in and out for certain counts. In birth, we want the problem-solving part of the brain to feel safe enough to turn off so that the deeper, mammalian brain can do what’s it’s designed to do.
I’m also not a fan of the cruel optimism culture that can exist within some Hypnobirthing communities. Planning for a positive birth is one thing. Getting self-righteous about ‘natural or nothing’ can be cruel and invalidating. There’s no right way to Hypnobirth – drugs or no drugs, interventions or no interventions, you should never be made to feel like you’ve failed or didn’t try hard enough.
Here’s the tools I like and still use:
1. Bubble of comfort or ‘safe place’ visualisation.
This is not necessarily a Hypnobirthing specific tool, I just liked the visual of being safe in a soft pink bubble. Sometimes I’ll add the element or a Sage or Protector guide. At the hardest part of my second birth (getting my shoulder dystocia baby out) I remember in my mind’s eye being surrounded by a circle of warrior women. Vikings maybe? I found that interesting when I recently confirmed that I have Nordic DNA.
2. A technique I just call the ‘filing cabinet’.
It’s used in Hypnobirthing for fear release and sometimes in trauma work we use it to put a lid on memories until next session. It’s a visualisation technique where you sift through the ‘filing cabinet’ of memories and thoughts and give your subconscious a direction for them. I like the metaphor that trauma memories are simply memories that for whatever reason weren’t filed properly by your brain. With support and direct teaching (not on your own typically) you can re-organise and re-assign a different meaning.
3. Anchoring with smell.
I’m a bit of a blood hound. I have a strong sense of smell and I still use the technique of releasing oxytocin to feel calm by smelling my kids’ heads, my dogs or my partner’s old t-shirt. I’ll also use lemongrass to time travel back to a holiday in Thailand where I felt peaceful.
4. Breathing techniques
The breathing I used to manage contractions and have unmedicated births still comes in handy for pain and unpleasant sensations. I used it during laser eye surgery where I wasn’t in pain but I had to stay completely still while I couldn’t see anything and felt anxious, which was triggering for me.
5. Acupressure for beta endorphins.
I still use the ‘hegu’ point in my hand for headaches or mild anxiety.
Learning that natural beta endorphins are more powerful than morphine was one of the best things I learned in Hypnobirthing.
As a bonus, I also still use my Chinese finger traps. I use them when explaining pain and the muscles of the uterus to perinatal psychs who haven’t done Hypnobirthing training, and I use them with my kids. It’s a strong visual example for how your body becomes ‘trapped’ if you tense up.