SHARING SPACE: Evolution of a Childbirth Educator
Publication Date:December 2002
My saga started when I was 16 while watching a Patty Duke movie. She was giving birth to her baby at home, screaming at the top of her lungs as if she was 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 deliver her first baby using no medication, no IV, no monitor, no episiotomy and no operative technology of any kind. She did moan a bit and obviously had pain in labor, but she was able to do it without excruciating pain. 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, as 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 vs. the technological machine that childbirth had become. Newly married, I myself was trying to conceive and bring new life into this world. I contacted the American Academy of Husband Coached Childbirth, the group that certifies Bradley Instructors. 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 and taught my initial class when I was pregnant with my first baby. I thought I knew so much about the body's ability to give birth and women's strength and determination, and that seemed to be enough. Then I went into labor.
The incredible unstoppable power and horrific 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 was unable to enjoy my baby daughter as I relived my experience every day for months, and was extremely angry with anyone who even mentioned the Bradley Method. 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 I was able to teach again, with a much different and more flexible outlook than before. I still believed inherently in the power of real birth, and the Bradley Method's techniques for getting through it avoiding unnecessary pain. I came to realize, however, that I did not want that same experience to happen again, and that there had to be another way.
I happened to see a talk show segment on TV about using hypnosis for childbirth, and having used some self-hypnosis, I began seeking out this method. It was very hard to find anything on it but I did find a local 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-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, just the words, \"Now relax ... relax ...\" and then they led me on a metaphoric journey through fields, visualizing deer walking nearby, etc. There were a few light suggestions stating that if I went \"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. I had used hypnosis in the past successfully that had deep inductions and many compounded suggestions, however I continued faithfully to listen every day and twice a day at the end. Four years almost to the day after my daughter was born, I gave birth to a baby boy, underwater at a birth center, after only 7 hours of very intense labor. Although the physical pain was just as bad, the time it lasted was far shorter and the dynamics of the labor were different. I was still shocked at how much it hurt and was so disappointed that hypnosis had not worked. Only afterwards, with a clear head did I realize that the \"program\" itself did not contain the necessary suggestions and depth needed to produce the desired results. I wrote the program's author and complained. You can imagine her defensive response.
I vowed to eventually find a way for women to not have to suffer in childbirth and continued to teach the Bradley Method until it was indeed found. I felt like a fake as I did, because I knew there was only so much we could do with these techniques, and the pain that did exist could not be avoided. I often attended my students' births and although so many of them were successful unmedicated births, many times the mother was extremely exhausted by her frantic walking, rocking, and moving around to try and get comfortable that she had no energy left to push. In addition, there were many who were so traumatized by the pain they experienced that they couldn't even hold their babies, and this saddened me. In the spring of 1999, I went to my last \"screaming birth\". I knew that after the next Bradley class that I had already committed myself to teaching, that I would never do that again. 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 two women going through their labors calm and relaxed-no pain. That was my goal, and I contacted the HypnoBirthing Institute to begin my journey to discover how to teach what I thought was the same thing. I took the 2-day \"Introduction to Hypnosis\" class and then the 2-day \"Teacher Certification\" course for HypnoBirthing. I went there so excited and thrilled for I thought I had finally found a way for my wonderful, dedicated moms so that they would not have to suffer. I saw videos of women laboring with no pain, using only HypnoBirthing techniques. These were soon to be my students, I thought and had my business cards and letterhead made up, a website and other preparations made. I thought it odd that so many of the certification students there had no prior knowledge of childbirth education. They were given little in the certification course, and yet were about to embark upon a quest to teach women just that.
As it turned out, if I had not already had a background in childbirth education, I would not have known how to proceed beginning to teach, so I was a step ahead of the pack. I began teaching with great gusto and fervor, believing so much that these women were the luckiest ones alive: no drugs and no pain. There were five couples in my first class and I gave them exactly the materials and information I was told to teach. They got a book, one light hypnosis tape and a 15-minute birth affirmations tape. A few handouts were included and two hypnosis scripts. I added only a bit about nutrition to the class and excitedly waited for my hypnomoms to give birth. I attended my first student's birth at a birth center and was shocked to find out that she could not stay relaxed and comfortable by herself, even in early labor at home. My partner, Niki went to her house and helped her and she soon relaxed enough to feel confident to go on. She went to the birth center and progressed from three centimeters to 10 in three hours, which was terrific, but she was suffering a lot as she entered active labor and nothing we did seemed to help. Her transitional period was only about a half an hour but she was very miserable during it and I was at a loss to comfort her. She finally gave birth and was reasonably pleased with her experience. We all knew that without the hypnosis training her discomfort would have been much greater. This, however was still not what I had envisioned for my students. I convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that the next birth would be much better.
Alas, each subsequent birth just seemed to get worse instead of better, with the exception of one of my students in class # 2 who said it worked well for her; not pain-free, but manageable. I was happy for her but confused as to what to do. I was in contact by then with fellow HypnoBirthing teachers who were saying that they were having the same results with their students and didn't know how to help them. I appealed to the HypnoBirthing Institute, asking what I should do. They encouraged me to just continue teaching HypnoBirthing as it was, and told me that if painful labor was happening, \"you must not believe in it enough\" and \"you must not be teaching the right way.\" I knew that this was not true, as no one could have believed in it more than me and we were all teaching exactly the way that we had been instructed to do! I taught two classes this way and the births were 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 misled: crying out, cursing me and suffering greatly. I cried all the way home and swore that either I would stop teaching childbirth education completely, or I would find a way that my students would be able to be successful in their efforts to have a pain-free, fear-free birthing. I did not stop teaching.
It was clear to me that I needed to know much more about hypnosis itself and how to help these women with personal issues and hypnotic depth problems. A local hypnotherapist allowed me to sit in on a few classes and only then did I really realized how much I did not know. Immediately I took a course in hypnosis and hypnotherapy which helped me tremendously to understand how and why real hypnosis would work for childbirth. In addition, I began contacting hypnotherapists from around the world who had childbirth hypnosis methods and begging them for help. Help they did, and with such a positive spirit of sharing and giving. I began writing my own 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 ... Still not good enough!
The day that I found Gerald Kein's Painless Childbirth Program is a day of infamy for me, as when I studied it, all the missing pieces were found. I began creating Hypnobabies, a program that used his techniques along with several other great ideas and concepts. Every class I taught I changed the course, improving it and refining it until the results were even to me, astounding! I watched in awe as a doctor sat on a bed and stared, open-mouthed at a first-time mom who was sitting very relaxed in a chair nearby, completely at ease and feeling only pressure as she had a contraction, and fully nine centimeters dilated. Her water had broken three weeks before her \"due\" date, yet she and her wonderful husband had no fear of the natural processes that took over. Without pain even when her baby crowned and was born, she had a wonderful birth experience and I knew that now my dreams had been realized. Every time a woman has a great birth experience, she can go on and teach other women how sweet and lovely it can be, instead of the nightmare tales usually told of childbirth. Of course it is also one more baby that is born without drugs, without violence, without hearing his/her mommy scream. Gentle birthing at it best. This is \"it!\"
Now I see my hypno-couples coming to class # 1 and being skeptical in different degrees, yet leaving five weeks later confident, free of fear, having seen the fruits of their practice and work already in class sessions and in Birth Rehearsal. I know that they need to learn how to take responsibility for their birthing, so I teach them consumer issues and many ways to get what they want in a positive way. This has become invaluable to those who want to enter labor and leave it in peace. I also know that hypnosis is not a panacea; there will be occasional complications and turns that a labor might take that cannot be predicted. Yet hypnosis 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. I am grateful for the many ways it can help my wonderful students.
I have also dedicated myself to educating women on their birthing options, becoming very visible on the Internet with articles and message board posts, as well as a private childbirth hypnosis e-mail group, and three websites. Women need to know and understand that they have choices when it comes to childbirth hypnosis. These are: (a) sessions with a professional hypnotherapist, (b) self-study courses, and (c) classes taken from an instructor. Each choice brings with it a specific set of dynamics and will yield different results, but a good childbirth hypnosis program is invaluable for a truly empowering birth experience. There are many good \"Hypnosis for Childbirth Programs\" now; Michelle LeClaire O'Neal's \"Hypnosis for Childbirth,\" Gayle Petersen's \"Body Centered Hypnosis,\" Dr. Richard Widmeier's \"New Concepts in Painless Childbirth,\" \"New Way Childbirth's\" beautiful video and audio presentations for home study, and the many programs modeled directly from Jerry Kein's work. Each had its own merits and each appeals in a different way. Ultimately, women need to spend time discovering what their own goals for childbirth are, and make their decisions based on what a program will offer them to achieve this. For some, it will be 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 strong belief in the process that it takes to learn the skills that will bring them to fulfill their goals. Therefore, education and research are key in this area.
My own personal pain, evolution and self-growth brings to me now to be able to help so many more, but each woman's strength and power comes from within as she gives her child life, and that is what I've learned the most about. 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.
Author's website: www.hypnobabies.com
Hypnobabies E-mail Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Hypnobabies
Hypnosis for Childbirth Message Board: http://www.pregnancy.org/phpBB/viewforum.php?forum=434
Michelle LeClaire O'Neil: http://home1.gte.net/birthing/
Gayle Petersen: http://www.askdrgayle.com/bch.html
Dr. Richard Widmeier: http://www.healinggift.com
New Way Childbirth: http://www.newwaychildbirth.com/
The HypnoBirthing Institute: http://www.hypnobirthing.com
Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI
Kerry Tuschhoff is Operations Director of Hypnobabies Network in Cypress, California. She taught the Bradley method of natural childbirth from 1989 to 1999, at present teaches Hypnobabies Hypnosis for Childbirth, Pregnancy Nutrition and Breastfeeding classes, and gives seminars in her community on natural pregnancy and childbirth options. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.