A year ago today, my Wife gave birth to our daughter Ilora Maria. Miracles exist and I witnessed one on that day. The moment frozen in silence, like the space that exists between breaths, right there in front of me. I witnessed it and I am grateful for the grace to be able to witness the truth that was before me. That’s all we can ever hope to do. Just witness the truth. Be present to it. But there were some unique and interesting aspects to her birth that were a little out of the norm.
My Wife and I decided early on in the pregnancy to use an age-old process called Hypnobirthing. An elegant and rather simplistic approach to birthing that utilizes a form of relaxation and focus, aka hypnosis, that promotes the idea that birthing can very often be gentle…if we let it. But is that possible? Can you really give birth with no pain? Aren’t pain medications always needed? These were conditioned questions we had also and our exploration into Hypnobirthing helped to answer them. The history of Hynobirthing is fascinating.
In the early 20th century, a British obstetrician named Grantly Dick-Read, dared to believe that a woman and the unborn child had the inherent ability to give birth effortlessly and without pain. He also dared to state that women do not give birth, but abide as the stewards of the birthing miracle that is elicited by the unborn child. He completed his revolutionary coupe by explicitly stating that doctors do not give birth to the unborn baby, unless in extreme medical circumstances. It was all medical heresy at the time. Hell, it is medical heresy now. Dr Read’s story of re-discovering this birthing concept is an interesting one. I say “re-” discovering, because he did not invent anything per se, he simply observed the miracles that were in front of him and with his rational mind and pure effort, brought it together into a process for others to “see” also.
When Dr. Read was very young and early in his training, he was called to help a woman in a poor part of London who was in labor. In the rain, he pedaled on his bike, and made it to a literal hovel where she was living. He walked in the room and immediately asked the very young woman, sitting on burlap sacks, if he should administer chloroform for her, the anesthetic of the day. She calmly said no. And then, with little effort from Dr. Read, and with little to no outward discomfort, she birthed the child, all to his amazement. He assisted with the basics after the birthing was complete and prepared to leave. Upon him leaving, the woman calmly and innocently asked him, “Dr Read, why did you ask me if I would like chloroform? Is it supposed to be painful?”
Dr Read realized it was her ignorance, or lack of expectation, that kept her from experiencing pain during the birthing process. In the prominent London hospital where he worked and trained, the wealthy and educated women coming to the hospital to give birth were always panicked and in considerable pain during birthing. It was widely medically accepted that birth for women MUST be painful, sine qua non. But Dr. Read had observed otherwise and began to formulate that it was a “fear-tension-pain cycle” that existed, creating the conditions for women to have pain during birthing. Their fearful expectation, taught to them by their peers and family, within popular culture, and even through the authority of their doctors, created mental expectation and then muscular tension within the womb, the uterus, and further enhanced the physical pain of labor and lengthened the duration of the birthing process.
With his new observations, Dr. Read went on to develop a system of birthing that placed the woman in charge and helped to create the idea that the birthing environment should be calm and peaceful. He also espoused the heretical idea that woman should be treated with dignity and compassion and that pregnancy was not a “disease” that was to be “cured” by the doctor. Of course, Dr. Read did not enjoy the accolades from his medical peers that he would have liked, but he was more interested in helping others see the truth that he had seen.
Fast forward to the 1980s and enter Marie Mongan, a prominent hypnotherapist, who combined the pioneering work of Dr. Read and her own expertise as a hypnotherapist, into a codified system that could be taught all over the world to anyone. Marie Mongan brought more hypnosis techniques to the system and built on the ideas of Dr. Read. Cristina and I discovered this system and took a six week course prior to the due date. The system is easy and you have the opportunity to ease into the concepts and find out what works for you. You get to understand what hypnosis really is and how to start using it right away to help you to relax and focus. And that’s all it really is, relaxing and focusing the right messages to your subconscious to program the expectation of relaxation during the birthing process. It is very empowering for both the mother and the birthing partner.
When the day came, this very day one year ago, Cristina and I were prepared. And like the truest of heroes, Cristina bravely moved forward into herself and allowed little Ilora to begin her journey into the world in her own way. It was not “easy.” Cristina will gladly explain this. But she was able to relax through major contractions, with some simple techniques and gentle encouragement from me and her mother. It was a beautiful process to witness. We had other doctors and staff members coming in to our room to see what was going on as it was not the norm of the Obstetric Department of Scottsdale Shea. One female doctor said tears were coming to her eyes upon observing Cristina going through contractions, all with her eyes closed and breathing gently. Finally, late into the evening, the not-so-little Ilora, all 8 pounds and 13 ounces of her, passed into our world, complete with a dual solar and lunar eclipse in the sky which only comes once in a while. It was a miracle. And I witnessed it. Cristina is a true hero. Mothers are true heroes.
Happy Birthday to my little traveler. Thank you for allowing me to witness you. I love you profoundly.
To Your (Witnessed) Health,
p.s. For those of you who are interested in Hypnobirthing, for yourself or a loved one, I completely encourage you.