Why you need to train your “puppy” so you can birth freely!

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Years ago when I was pregnant for the first time in Luxembourg in 2010, I spent a lot of time preparing for the arrival of my little one.

Expecting my 1st baby

I was not a spring-chicken and was well-established in my demanding career as Chartered Accountant & Auditor at one of the Big 4 audit firms. I knew very well how to manage several multi-cultural teams from different offices to work together and produce neatly filed audit evidence for complex hedge and investment funds. My rational thinking brain was operating like a well-oiled machine. Yet at night, highly overstimulated I was sobbing on my pillow for the toll this career was taking on me, thinking I am not tough enough, there must be something wrong with me.

Planning for baby

I am a Highly Sensitive Person (“HSP”) and back then didn’t know it but today I believe it was this innate trait of mine that led me to meticulously plan and set myself up for a well-prepared postpartum period. I knew I was very sensitive to a lack of sleep, so I also spent a lot of time and energy to prepare for and optimise the change in sleep coming our way. And when it came to baby’s development, needs and sensory world – I was on top of it too!

Seeking meaning and connection (a typical HSP trait) but also in an attempt to live out my unfulfilled, deeper, creative side, each night before bed, I wrote poems in a tiny blue notebook to my baby in the womb, dreaming about how I would be mothering her and what she will be like, knowing I would keep it as souvenir for my child. Fast forward 9 years later, a drastic career change after my second daughter was born, I now know that prenatal bonding in any shape or form is highly beneficial to the development of baby and that babies are deeply conscious and aware beings, super keen to connect to the outside world.

“We are not surprised that the baby after birth has a remarkable degree of self-esteem and a secure access to its personal potential.” says Dr. Gerhard Schroth from the Association of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health (“APPAH) on the topic of prenatal bonding.

As organised and conscientious mama-to-be I did my prenatal fitness, ate well, cut alcohol and other nasty habits, didn’t eat too much sugar and decorated a dream nursery with my hubby after we successfully managed to search for, buy and move in to a bigger apartment during pregnancy. Everything so well planned!

Gosh and all that planning paid off. Big time. Our baby was happy, content and I found it natural to coo with her (leaving pauses so she feels seen, heard and has time to respond which builds her brain through “serve and return” I now know), massage her little body, protect her sleep and tune into her needs, even with some initial breastfeeding struggles and frustration, but we made it! All the meal prep, freezer-stocking, online grocery practice rounds, cleaning services outsourced, my hubby off with me for 3 weeks and distinguishing helpers from visitors so we can focus on bonding, resting and breastfeeding was well worth it. We were over the moon and in love.

Empowered Birthing

Except for 1 little thing. Well actually a massive thing. The birth. I mistakenly relied only on the prenatal training at the hospital to prepare for birth, which was great if you want to train how to be a good patient (at that time). Coupled with the book “What to expect when you’re expecting” I completely missed out on really understanding what’s needed if you’re interested in a natural birth, which I realised was best for my baby.

I didn’t know then that the thinking brain is not in charge of giving birth. That it needs to be trained, like one would train a puppy, with love, tons of patience and without judgement, again and again to chill out, sit back and let the ancient reptilian brain (responsible for our physiology and instincts) instinctively facilitate birth (like all mammals do) along with input from the limbic brain system (responsible for emotions, feelings, sensations).

You see, my thinking brain was in overdrive. And when you have an anxious and fearful mind the body is full of tension and the experience of birth sensations will be extra intense, leaning towards suffering. As an HSP in disguise, I was even more vulnerable to this and at that point had not yet discovered mindfulness, meditation or any personal development tool for that matter. Numbing was my only coping tool in life and so of course in birth when the epidural was presented to me by the health care system on a platter it was only “natural” (pun intended) to accept it with open arms.

I also didn’t know that I needed to practice a variety of different comfort measures for labour to help myself be comfortable, how to set up a birth-conducive environment in the delivery room (dim lighting, homey feeling etc), how to truly connect to and be fully in my body to welcome and work with sensations with feel-good movement and gravity to make more space in the pelvis for baby, how to work with my natural endorphins and birth hormones (think oxytocin, the love hormone through skin-to-skin touch, kissing and feeling loved up by my partner), how to navigate the maternity care system and interpret medical “orders” by fully understanding their impact and my rights and to ask the BRAINS questions (benefits, risks, alternatives, intuition, need time, scientific evidence).

Nope, I knew none of that. Only that I was trained culturally to see my body as faulty and that Eve bit the apple so women deserve to suffer in labour, like my mom and aunty did and like all women in movies did, so I just had to obey whatever I was told to do. Then induction via drip (for no specific clear medical reason) was what put me in the cascade of interventions that followed each other as my body could not anymore produce it’s own symphony of hormones when the artificial spanner got in the wheel so to speak. Long story short, one thing led to another and an emergency C-section later that left me baffled and secretly traumatised (I wasn’t able to admit it then) thinking that my body failed and the medical establishment saved me and my baby as we couldn’t do it.

I now know that my 2nd daughter’s birth 17 months later also went the same way because I still didn’t know what I didn’t know and suppressing the emotional reality on what really went down…

That all changed when I switched careers after my 2nd daughter went off to creche. I knew I wanted to help expecting parents plan for the life change. I realised I was good at the practical and organisational planning aspects and others were looking for help in this area. I started my training as Perinatal Coach/educator initially thinking I only need to know about the practical, rational stuff. But in the required reading curriculum of my training, there were some books that completely shattered the limited paradigm I was operating from.

The “Thinking women’s guide to a better birth” by Hency Goer shook me up. I started realising what really happened. And so my fascination with Birth Empowerment started.

I now also know that my emotional closet was full of painful & unresolved emotional imprints starting from conception, which has the tendency to show up uninvited in times of intensity, especially giving birth, increasing the likelihood of complications. And that it can even prevent some from falling pregnant in the 1st place.

Subsequently, I went on to learn more about birth from all angles and certified as Holistic Childbirth Educator, Dancing for Birth Instructor, Fearless Birthing Professional (clearing fears for birth rapidly and effectively with reflective repatterning on the subconscious and emotional brain), Calm Birth® Teacher. And perhaps the biggest impact on me as a human being and woman was becoming a Birth into Being Facilitator, through which I was able to heal my own limiting formative imprints (including my own conception, birth and early years) as well as my trauma of giving birth, allowing me now to hold sacred and safe space for women from all walks of life towards healing and empowerment in life and birth. After healing I could fully own my experience, appreciate the gifts it did bring me without blaming the medical system.

As for my daughters, I now know that prenatal bonding, baby massage, sensitive, gentle and responsive parenting, early somatic therapies (like osteopathy), clean & microbiome boosting nutrition from the go, working with them on their own births with the Birth into Being Method once they were articulate and ready as well as my own healing helped them thrive emotionally and physically despite their difficult entry to life. And I don’t blame myself for what I didn’t know back then. I spend my energy more constructive in educating those that want to learn how have an empowered birth and standing up to a less-than-perfect maternity care system and birth culture.

I now know how to work with my puppy, my mind. One of my wise meditation teachers taught me this valuable metaphor. And I am careful to not let it run away with me. I understand the shift between mind and awareness and that it’s a muscle to train, to constantly and patiently shift out of the mind, back into awareness into the present moment. And it is deeply satisfying for me to help expecting families through the beautiful Calm Birth® meditation method, train their puppies with love and patience so they can access our greater potential in birth. It is never too early in pregnancy to start training your puppy and learn to get your calm on.

In 4 x 1.5h sessions during pregnancy you can learn the method yourself and access a greater potential in birth as well as bond with your baby prenatally as a positive start to your parenting journey. Calm Birth® birth prep classes, a recognised and evidence-based meditation & breathing program for pregnancy, birth and postpartum are currently available in group sessions via Luxmama here and are for any type of birth desired.

And I promise that no animals or puppies are harmed in the making of a calm you 😉

What others say:

Christiane Northrup, MD says “Calm Birth is a sublime gift to all of us. It contains the blueprint for reconnecting with birth wisdom on all levels…. Doing the practices will transform the birth process and imprint a peaceful beginning in both mother and child. The positive impact of this on society can’t be overestimated.”

Thomas Verny, MD, co-founder of APPPAH, sees Calm Birth as, “an empowering alternative to the medicalization of birth,” and feels that the techniques “liberate women to channel their innate wisdom into welcoming their newborn child in a truly life affirming way.”

David Chamberlain, PhD, co-founder of APPPAH, states, “Calm Birth is arriving at the opportune time in the early years of the 21st century. Calm Birth works with both physical anatomy, energy body anatomy and meditation science to access energies that are invisible but very much present. The prospect of reducing complications while increasing maternal feelings of dignity and triumph should warm the hearts of all birth attendants

Jeannine Parvati-Baker, author of Prenatal Yoga and Natural Childbirth and Conscious Conception, “Calm Birth is the childbirth method that society and I have waited for…. It heals the Earth by healing birth.”


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More about the author:

Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.

She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of Luxmama.

Trust. Breathe. Wait.

A ravishing rendition of her birth story in Luxembourg, by Anna Chieppa from Barcelona…


It is mid-August, 10 pm and Greg and I step out into the street, dragging a little bag.  I have thrown in some books, my laptop, pink baby pajamas, organic cotton bodies and my journal.

The starry night is cool and clear.  The moon is pale and flat as a coin.  At the Maternité Grande-Duchess Charlotte hospital, Sophie the midwife speaks French and we look at her with hope.  But after a quick visit she shakes her head and tells me that I am only 3 cm dilated, maybe 4.  I cannot hide my disappointment.

“Go have a walk”, she says.  “Take the stairs.  Come back in two hours”.

We go up to the terrace and watch the silent night, the stars cut in ice, the dark shapes of the cars abandoned in the parking lot.  Over the last few days I have been scared, but tonight I feel strong and I trust my body.  The contractions are becoming painful and when they surge, I grab Greg’s shoulders and breathe deeply while shutting my eyes.  What proved impossible during my first labor, is coming much easier today.

Trust.  Breathe.  Wait.

Greg and I make a joke and a man appears at a window, hissing at us to be quiet.  We leave and go to “climb the stairs” as instructed.  We return two hours later.  The pain is now sharp and I can’t believe it when Sophie says that I’m now only 5 cm dilated.

Your baby will be here within five to six hours, she says.  I feel like swearing.  I can not imagine spending another six hours feeling like this.  I’m going to ask for an epidural, and sink into the oblivion of anesthesia, like I did with the first baby.

But Sophie knows better.  She asks me about my first labor and my ideal birth.  I tell her about my wishes to have a home birth that I missed out on the previous time due to my lack of pain management.  I tell her about all the reading and meditation I’ve been doing, as well as the hypnosis classes I’ve attended in Barcelona.

She listens without a word and then says: “I have a good CD, do you want to listen to it”?

Before I can even object, she turns off all the lights except a salt lamp casting pink shadows.  She leaves with Greg after popping in a CD.  I quickly enter a deep state of relaxation.  The pain disappears like foam.  Waves and waves of pain lift me up and drop me off on the seashore of peace that widens between contractions.  I have to surf those waves each time they come, I rise and rise and when the contraction stops I return to water level, floating in a sea of peace.  I do it once and then again and again, I lose any sense of time until the pressure makes me so sick that I start to vomit When Sophie enters the room my legs are soaked.  My waters have broken and the trance is suddenly over. Sophie bends over me and announces that I am seven cm dilated.

Only seven centimeter!  Still three to go!  The pain grabs at my throat and I am about to ask for anesthesia.  I’ve lost my strength and my trust.  But Sophie just smiles again.  She is a small woman, with ashy hair and a bony face, pale blue eyes behind the glasses.  Her face, I will never forget as I will always remember what she did for me that night.

She turns over and says, with her soft voice and firm smile: “Now you can go to the bathtub”.

There is a round bathtub in the room next to us, with a rope hanging from the ceiling, above the water.  Sophie tells me to grab the rope each time a contraction kicks off.

I enter the water.  It is warm.  I sit down letting the water rise up to my neck.  I let the warmth and the pleasure fill me up.  It is bliss.  I shut my eyes and float in another state of peace.  The pain arrives.  By now, I can sense it long before it comes.  It’s so strong, I cannot cry or move.  I pull the rope and wait and the entire time Sophie’s voice whispers in my ear:  “Laisse le bébé descendre.”  (Let the baby descend).

The pain stops.  Again, there is peace… and water.  I hear Greg asking something, and then Sophie’s voice:  “She’s high on endorphins”.

Time becomes water, and silence.  The world is reduced to the warm water that embraces me, to the soaked hair that somebody is brushing, the blue water, the hard bottom of the bathtub, the sound of my breathing broken by the pain, Sophie’s face next to mine and her soft voice, “Laisse le bébé descendre”.  Then it comes again, so I grab the rope, my body rises with all its heaviness and there is more whispering, more moaning, my body up and down.  Then I leave the rope, go back to the water, breathe.  It feels so good to float like this.  With each contraction this little girl is coming closer but when will this finish?

A lot of time has passed and my resistance becomes weak.  Each time that I now sense a contraction coming, panic fills my throat.  I can hardly breathe, my body is stiff from pain.  No words come out of my cracked lips.

Suddenly it is cold.  A yellow light is covering the tiles of the walls.  It is five in the morning and Sophie says. “That’s it, we are there, almost ten cm.  Only half an hour more and then your baby will be here.”  And then it hits me that there will be no epidural.  There is no going back and my body is at its limit. Now what?  I turn to Greg, I want to cry, what am am I going to do?  Sophie calmly says: “Get up and walk back to the room.  Can you do that?”

They drag me outside.  “Do you feel like pushing?” she asks.  I don’t feel like freaking pushing.  I feel like screaming.

I am lying on a bed.  For a very long time the pressure stops and I look at myself.  At the big mirror attached to the ceiling I see a fat woman.  She is naked, with wet hair, black rimmed glasses and a tired man by her side.  Outside it’s still dark, and quiet.  Then it comes.  I hear the woman howl.

I expected to feel more contractions but this new feeling is far more powerful – an intense pressure against my behind, a tension to the point of breaking.  I am clinging to Greg’s shirt, wailing.

A doctor rushes to my side.

The pressure stops.  Somebody is talking but I do not understand.  And then the pressure returns…like a tsunami.  I am afraid of pushing, but I have to. I cannot keep this pressure inside.  I push and scream and push….and  when I feel a burning sensation, a sudden surge of panic hits me.  Then I remember they say that when you feel the fire ring, it means the end is in sight.  There is no turning back anymore.  I have to push now.  I gather all my strength and push again, screaming as my pelvis turns into fire and my baby slips out like a bullet.  Everything changes suddenly.  The pressure is gone and I can only feel a numb pain.  They put something long and slippery in my arms and I look down.  It’s a wet baby.   It is six in the morning and dawn is breaking.

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The baby is at my breast but I cannot look at her.  I feel nothing.  I just want this pain to end.

Looking back:

The first few months after birth is a roller coaster for any mother. The fatigue of labor, sleepless nights and challenges of breastfeeding made me wonder if I really wanted this baby.  But this baby ignored my inner voice and kept holding on to me as if I was her only safety, her only love.  I started watching her.  How she shut her eyes like seashells at night, her trembling lips while sucking, her wrinkled little hands intertwined with mine.  Little by little and day by day, my fear of not being capable of loving her crumbled like dried leaves.

Anna&Lila

For my first labor I really wanted a natural home birth but ended up having a hospital birth with an epidural.  For my second I wanted an epidural and ended up with a natural birth.

I am proud of how I managed the pain this time.  I am truly happy that I had the chance to experience this intense journey of the women’s innate strength.

If I had a third baby, I would certainly like to practice hypnosis more, as I know it is the way to a more manageable, less painful and more conscious natural birth.

The day after that night, Sophie came to see me.  “I wanted to give you the opportunity to experience just how strong you can be” she told me.

Eighteen months have passed since that day.  I’d like to tell all women out there that it does not matter how their births turn out in the end.  Each of us should look in the mirror and congratulate herself for the mere fact of having gone through this. And then you should congratulate yourself again.  And again. We should carry on for a whole day and keep on doing it for years to come.

We all have to treasure the magic experience of birth, the struggle and the fear and the excitement of labor.  What an incredible powerful event to witness. The beginning of life. Such a miracle and mystery…


More about Anna Chieppa

Anna Chieppa is a freelance writer who has been living in Luxembourg for two years.  She used to live in Barcelona and it took her a year to get over the shock of the weather.


Would you like to tell us your birth story?  Click here!


More about Luxmama

DSC_0538As mother of two, Certified International Maternity Institute Baby Planner Consultant and Maternity & Child Sleep Consultant student, Luxmama provides personalised baby planning consultation services (maternity coaching) for future/new parents & parents-to-be – setting them up for success, so they can sail into their new lives with confidence!  Also on offer is a variety of social and educational events through the Luxmama Club designed so you can make the most of becoming and being a new parent in the modern world today.

Your guide to Childbirth Methods for childbirth in Luxembourg

Childbirth.  Should you be worried?  No.  Should you prepare?  Definitely!

Completing our three-part series about the different methods for childbirth pain relief and much more during labour, below are your guide to options in Luxembourg.

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You can find our previous posts on the topic here:

It’s not the thinking brain that’s responsible for birthing!

A hypno-mom’s story! by Angelique Supka (from Mintmouse)


Meditation for pregnancy, birth and postpartum – the Calm Birth®️ Birth Prep Method

Calm Birth is based on a new model of the woman’s body and potential in giving birth. These
self-care meditation practices work with current childbirth medicine. It can be a vital complement to medical birth as well as being an ideal natural childbirth option. It is based on meditation science and mind/body medicine.

  • Helps heal the nervous systems of mother and womb child in preparation for birth;
  • Builds women’s ability to manage anxiety, fear, and pain during pregnancy and labor without medication and/or anesthesia
  • Offers labor pain management without medication and/or anesthesia
  • Strengthens the immune systems of mother and child in preparation for birth;
  • Helps women discover their inherent healing nature;
  • Quiets “mind-chatter”
  • Increases sense of well-being
  • Raises the quality of the childbirth experience.
  • Increases awareness of self and connection to baby
  • Directly reduces blood pressure and heart rate, which may lower the risk of developing gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and potential preterm brain damage.

How is Calm Birth different from other childbirth methodologies? Calm Birth is unique from other childbirth methodologies in its application of ancient and modern meditation science to the pregnant and birthing body. No other methodologies teach complete breathing, channeling vital energy from the air into the body of parents and child. While most childbirth methodologies are focused on natural birth, Calm Birth applies to all types of childbirth. Additionally, while other childbirth methodologies end with birth, Calm Birth offers tools to empower parenthood and life itself.

Who?  Calm Birth®️ Birth Prep group classes are available in Luxembourg, from Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl. Private classes for couples are offered via Marise Hyman Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula

Language?  The course is available in English.

What level of “self-study” is required for your method to be effective?  Daily practice of the audio’s are recommended

When to book?  It is never too late or too early to start the practices—from preconception to active labor! Starting early in pregnancy increases the benefits for the entire family, but benefits will still be received no matter when you start.

How long?  Around 4 sessions x 1.5 hours, either in group or individual sessions.

Feedback:  The Calm Birth book by Robert Newman includes countless stories from families of applied prenatal meditation spanning seventeen years! And thousands upon thousands of families have been empowered through the range of Calm Birth meditation practices.

A word from Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl

“…based on meditation and the best principles of established psychosomatic medicine… Calm Birth compassionately guides mothers-to-be and new mothers through carefully structured relaxation and meditation practices…An empowering alternative to the medicalization of birth, the techniques liberate women to channel their innate wisdom into welcoming their newborn child in a truly life affirming way.” Thomas R. Verny, MD, DPsych, DHL, FRCPC, founder, the APPAH author, The Secret Life of the Unborn Child and Tomorrow’s Baby.

We would also like to recommend families to prepare the body for birth and engaging in satisfying activities that help the birthing person feel in touch with her body and womb. Our Dancing for Birth weekly classes are a great complement to Calm Birth prep.

Hypno-birthing courses:

Over the last couple of decades courses all over the world have begun to develop under different patented programs. In Luxembourg you will be able to follow courses using the Mongon Method.

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HypnoBirthing.lu

Who?  The courses are held by Cindy, previously a delivery midwife at the Maternité Grande-Duchesse Charlotte

Language?  The course is available in German, French, Luxembourgish and thankfully also in English.

What level of “self-study” is required for your method to be effective?  Participants should practice the breathing and relaxation techniques along with the CD on a daily basis to condition the body and mind.

When to book?  It is ideal to start the course during the 20th week of pregnancy so there is plenty of time to practice, however the latest possible stage that Cindy recommends one to start is during the 30th week of pregnancy.

How long?  Around 5 sessions x 2.5 hours, either in group or individual sessions.

Feedback:  Cindy estimates that roughly 65% of their course participants succeed in giving birth naturally, and that in general, compared to the rest of the births at the Maternité G.D Charlotte, “hypno-mamas” enjoy births without any medical interventions (e.g. inductions, epidurals, C-sections).

What level of “self-study” is required for your method to be effective?  Participants should practice the breathing and relaxation techniques along with the CD on a daily basis to condition the body and mind.

A word from Hypnobirthing.lu

“Gentle natural birth unlocks something primal at our very core that makes mothering easier and makes families stronger …

If parents would only realize that every single decision they make from conception onward influences the outcome of their birth, they could reclaim what they didn’t even know was lost.” – Kim Wildner

Initiativ Liewensufank

Initiativ

Who?  The courses are run by one of two certified HypnoBirthing practioners at Initiativ Liewensufank.

Language? The course is available in German, French and also sometimes in English.

What level of “self-study” is required for your method to be effective?  Participants should practice the breathing and relaxation techniques along with the CD on a daily basis to condition the body and mind.

When to book?  It is ideal to start the course by the 20th to 25th week of pregnancy so there is plenty of time to practice. The latest possible stage that one can start is at 33 weeks of pregnancy, in which case intensive training is required. This is only possible in exceptional circumstances.

How long?  5 sessions x 2.5 hours either in group or individual sessions with one extra session offered if there is a need.

Feedback:  As per Initiativ Liewensufank, more than 90% of mothers having attended the course manage to give birth vaginally (i.e. giving birth not through a C-section).  Compared to the national average for vaginal births of only 69%, according to the 2011 Perinatal monitoring report (“Surveillance de la Santé périnatale au Luxembourg) by the Ministry of Health, issued in 2013, this is no mean feat.

A word from Initiatif Liewensufank

HypnoBirthing has changed my whole life and my way of thinking, even in other contexts” – a mother

Clinique Bohler – Maternity Unit

Hypnobirthing classes are also offered, though not in English.


Other alternatives:

Sophrology – another alternative:

Sophrology is a dynamic relaxation technique, some call it the “French way of relaxing” and it is also described as “the science of the consciousness in harmony”.

Sophrology works on the person while in an active, alert state of consciousness, while hypnosis is more about relaxing and teaching the unconscious mind to let go of the feelings of tension that the conscious mind hangs onto.  Through breathing, dynamic relaxation, visualization and positive thinking, sophrology offers the opportunity to acquire new energy and better manage your emotions.  It is inspired by Eastern and Western influences.

The system was created by the Spanish-born neuro-psychiatrist, Alfonso Caycedo, in Colombia in the 1960s.

In Luxembourg, sophrology sessions are offered by a couple of providers, however only a few are specialised in preparation for childbirth.

These sessions are mostly available only in French


More about the author

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Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.

She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an NGO raising awareness for birth rights, perinatal mental health and green parenting through social and educational events.

Don’t hope for a smooth delivery but prepare for one!

In a previous article, we explored the notion that there is indeed a way to have a happy and calm birth.  How nature intended it to be.  Free from fear and pain.  With no risks for mother and baby.  Zero side affects.

That is by using meditation or self hypnosis where the inner mind is in effect trained to believe that birth will be a comfortable and joyous occasion…

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Angelique Supka had just such a wonderful experience and we sat down with her to tell us her story. In 2013, she gave birth to her lovely son, Matisse. She is also the owner of Mintmouse, a new online boutique for mums and their babies in Luxembourg.

Luxmama: Tell us about yourself, where are you from?

Angelique (A):  I come from a very international family spread all over Europe. My Hungarian Swiss father migrated to Belgium where he met and settled with my Belgian mum where I was born and raised with my brother.  I guess that would make me Belgian-Hungarian-Swiss which always sounded exotic in Belgium, as I quickly learned nothing unfamiliar in Luxembourg!  So let’s just say I am from Belgium…

Luxmama: Wow! But what made you come to Luxembourg?

A:  As my father later moved to Poland for business I would often travel for weekends to spend quality time.  One day on the flight back to Charleroi Airport I was immediately conquered by a charming man sitting next to me…  Three years later I find myself living with him in Luxembourg where he moved for work reasons three months before meeting me on that plane.  I fell in love with Luxembourg as our love story evolved here and the fond memories will always remain.

Luxmama: Was this your first baby?

A:  Yes (smiling), Matisse is our first baby so he teaches us as much as we teach him.

Luxmama: Tell us about your birth preparation. What made you decide to try hypno-birthing?

A:  When I came to Luxembourg I was already in my second semester and had so far been followed by a very gentle gynecologist and his midwife assistant in Belgium who were all for natural birth and also supported home births.  The consultations were held in a homey atmosphere in a house and not in a hospital.  The longest I have ever waited in the waiting room was thirty minutes.  From what I know now, this was heaven!

So when I finally moved to Luxembourg and had a first appointment with a doctor at the Bohler Clinic, randomly picked from the list as I did not know any better, I was in shock. We waited two hours to be seen and were out after only five minutes because the doctor had to run for a delivery. From those few minutes, all I remember are these words: “I would suggest an epidural but if you want to scream and be in pain, be my guest.”

I felt that the idea of a natural birth that I’ve become used to was just not supported here and that scared me immensely.

After this horrible experience I immediately decided I would actually do some research first, before heading to another doctor. It was on Youtube where I saw hypno-birthing being practiced by different women giving birth in complete serenity.  To my great surprise I quickly found a website in Luxembourg with hypno-birthing specialists. “Why not try it then?” I thought.

I called and poured out my heart explaining my situation and fears as everything was being so new to me.  Cindy, the midwife and hypno-birthing trainer on the other end of the line immediately relaxed me and invited me to meet to talk about it. I was saved! Cindy then recommended a very nice gynecologist to me.  I still had to wait long hours before each appointment and we never had much time to discuss lots of details besides the really important things.  It seemed like the service I got used to in Belgium was a real exception. Nevertheless, I felt that my wishes would be respected with this doctor and he would only intervene if and when really necessary.

Luxmama: So you were very determined to have a natural birth.

A:  Yes, I was determined to have a natural birth and would have done anything to achieve it!

I believe women are naturally created to have babies and didn’t see any reason to interfere with this beautiful process.  I am a reasonable person and at the end, bringing a healthy baby into this world was most important to me.  I never wanted to take unnecessary risks that could affect Matisse in any way.

Luxmama: Have you used any other hypnosis techniques before?

A:  Before giving birth I have only remotely heard of hypnosis and never really explored it any further.

Luxmama: At what stage in your pregnancy did you start the hypnosis classes?

A:  I started the classes around the end of my second trimester.

Luxmama: How many classes did you attend and how long were the classes?

A:  We had five classes of two and a half hours each after which I felt confident I would do well and manage it on my own.

Luxmama: Did you receive material to do self-study at home and how regular did you practise this in your own time?

A:  Yes, during the first class we received a book from Marie F. Mongan which we had to read as soon as possible.  Throughout the classes I have used the book as a “manual” to fall back on for whenever I felt like I needed some reminders. With the book also comes a CD with 2 tracks to listen to with a soothing voice helping you to relax, gain confidence and visualize the birth that you are preparing for.  I used to listen to the CD quite regularly in the evenings before going to bed and noticed that I was able to clear my mind and get into the “relaxation mode” a bit faster every time I would listen.  This way, I conditioned my mind to relax and focus in a controlled way when I wanted to.

In the beginning it is indeed difficult to focus and I used to get very distracted by outside noise. After some practice I was able to completely disconnect from that, still being aware of what’s going on around me but remaining totally focused.

Luxmama: Did your husband also attend the classes and what was his experience or involvement in the process?

A:  My husband attended each class and supported me all the way. He was very happy and proud that he could participate in our son’s birth. He often even tells people “we gave birth” instead of “my wife gave birth”!

husband

His presence was crucially important because after the classes, he was the one to take over the role of the Hypno-Birthing specialist.  He was the one that understood me, knew my wishes, and make sure the hospital staff would understand and support it too as they might not be familiar with Hypno-Birthing.

He was my rock and it would have never been the same without him…

Luxmama: Take us through the process of what a hypnosis class is like.

A:   The beginning of every class usually dealt with any questions, fears or new symptoms we wanted to discuss and give an update on how the pregnancy and our exercises at home were progressing.  Each class however was quite different and would cover specific subjects combined with a variety of visualization exercises.

Topics I can recall that we’ve discussed, are the physiology of late pregnancy and birth, the effect of mental state on muscle tone and the baby and the delivery process, to be ready to change a birth position at any time and that our bodies will tell us what the best position is when the time comes.

We were taught to see it as a normal and natural process, rather than trauma (the way it is often portrayed in general).  Overall, the focus was most on relaxation techniques, cooperation between me and my husband and the important notion of expecting something wonderful.

Luxmama: Did you feel uncomfortable at all during the sessions and did you find it difficult at first to do the visualisations?

A:  In the beginning it was definitely more difficult.  It requires skill to distance your mind from your daily routine for a few hours each day and not to think of your to-do list for the rest of the week.  It all came about with practice and I never felt uncomfortable.

Luxmama: I understand you gave birth at the Bohler clinic. What was the staff’s reaction to your Hypno-Birthing plans. Were they supportive?

A:  The midwife on duty and following me that day was not familiar with HypnoBirthing and neither was she very supportive in the beginning. I had to be induced because my son was not in a hurry to come, even ten days after the due date.  The midwife told me I should better take an epidural because after being induced it might be very painful. Luckily we had expressed our wishes beforehand to our gynecologist and he respected that, which was most important.  He promised not to take any unnecessary action unless it was really needed.

BF

So to start with I was given half a tablet of Oxitocin in the morning that would gently put things in motion.  We were hoping that with only that little push my body would react and commence labor.  After a whole day of contractions without much dilation, I was still given the choice to wait until latest the next morning before inducing with the drip (which is more aggressive and could make the baby come in the next few hours).  The midwife told me the contractions I had that day would be nothing compared to what was coming and I should better take an epidural now that I still could!

That night I sat on my birthing ball and went into deep relaxation having contractions every 3 to 4 minutes. It is a natural reaction for the body to also contract the pelvic muscles during a contraction because of the tension.  I used the visualization techniques I’d been taught to imagine my pelvis opening up like a flower and had to remind myself at every wave to relax those muscles in order for the baby to go down.

My husband was reading texts to me to help me with the visualization exercises. Then at three AM he fell asleep and stopped talking, I lost my focus for a moment and suddenly fell the contractions significantly more intensive.  That made me realize how much HypnoBirthing was helping me

birth

The next morning the midwife was very surprised to see that I was seven cm dilated and almost ready to “push”, so it worked!  At that point I asked the midwife when I would reach that ‘unbearable’ pain she had earlier mentioned to me.  Her answer was that now should be that moment…

Suddenly, her attitude started to change.  She was very surprised at how calm I was talking with her and that I was even still smiling.

Soon thereafter, I went into the birthing bath and our son was born completely naturally.  Our gynecologist was kept up to date throughout the whole process but only showed up in the last ten minutes to “catch the baby”.  I loved giving birth in the water because it was soothing and felt completely natural to me but mostly because I then felt in control and not stuck on a table with my legs up (to provide easy access to the doctors) not knowing and seeing what is going on there.  I liked the water to be not too hot and felt comfortable with just a third of the bath filled up.  I was sitting upright for gravity to work with me.

The next day, the very impressed midwife personally came by to tell me she doesn’t witness births like mine every day.  Later, we actually heard that she had switched her shift with a colleague to be able to attend my delivery.  How flattering!  I was so thankful that they had given me the time to do it my way just like I had requested without unnecessary intervention.

Luxmama: What tips can you give mamas-to-be wanting to try HypnoBirthing?

A:  I would definitely do it all over again for the next baby and I am sure the skills will come back to me in no time, whenever I need it.

I would say to keep an open mind at all times and believe in yourself that you will manage just fine.  Sometimes things may unfold differently than what you had imagined if there are complications at your delivery. HypnoBirthing can help you in any circumstances. It also helps you to stay in control of your mind and stay confident when doctors need to take control of your delivery process/body.  You are the only one who can control your mindset and how you cope with accepting changes.

Don’t hope for a smooth delivery but prepare for one!


In our last article in the series, you will find your guide to birthing methods in Luxembourg.


More about Angelique:

For the last two years, Angelique has been enjoying life in Luxembourg with her little family and has just launched Mintmouse, an online boutique offering mummy and baby/kid’s items for parents who are looking for unique products not seen before in Luxembourg.  She is always on the lookout for new challenges and believes that life is too short to do things you don’t like.

When entering the entrepreneurial world she has set up a group for Mumpreneurs in Luxembourg to meet and gather like-minded mums.  The group has been a platform of support but also a source of joyful meetings and new friendships, where entrepreneurial and open-minded women can meet to exchange ideas, experience and customers.


It’s not the thinking brain that’s responsible for birthing!

Childbirth is unpredictable, but that is all the more reason to prepare for it and embrace it. You will never have another chance to give birth to this child…

For some women, birth is a truly fearful event.  For those that learn the skill to calm their minds, it is merely a challenge…

Calming the mind is essential, since the prefrontal cortex is where rational thinking takes place which is not the space in the brain responsible for birthing! Indeed, the limbic brain (recording feelings & sensations starting from conception) and the reptilian brain (the most primitive part of the brain responsible for our physiology) is where women can tap into their true potential in childbirth.

Getting out of the thinking brain and dropping into the body for the average Western woman is not a common talent unless you have actively been practising this skill regularly. Another big contributing factor to a woman’s birth experience is her emotional history and level of fears (conscious & unconscious) in the body-mind. Therefore, safely processing any unresolved emotional energies within her limbic system & subconscious can greatly increase her capacity to cope with challenges as well as decrease the likelihood of encountering complications during conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum. This includes her own conception, gestation and birth experience, which is all stored in the limbic brain.

Luckily there are various methods helping women in pregnancy do exactly so to prepare for birth. Meditation, Self-hypnosis as well as Sophrology are some options.

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Isn’t meditation just for gurus?

Most definitely not!

In meditation science traditions available throughout the West, people learn to shift out of the overactive mind, resting into a state of relaxed awareness in the face of challenges enabling a deeper connection to the body and its functions and bringing about numerous psychological & biological benefits due to the mind-body connection.

Ken Wilber says in his important book, The Marriage of Sense and Soul, that meditation science is a good model for Western medicine today because it’s based on thousands of years of work with methods that are highly refined, that are repeatedly tested and proven and shown to bring about the same results again and again and again.

Meditation practices have been used successfully in oncology, cardiovascular care, and pain
management programs for over 30 years to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain; to restore balance; and to improve function of the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems.

The Calm Birth program is the first to introduce practices of meditation during pregnancy,
childbirth, and the early postpartum period. The biological and psychological benefits of meditation are imparted to a womb child through the pregnant woman’s bloodstream and through sympathetic resonance. The same benefits may be imparted to the child after birth through lactation and breastfeeding and energetic resonance.

Another important benefit derived from meditation is increased tolerance of pain based on
psychological factors. Extensive research conducted at the UMMC (Murphy & Donovan, 1999,
p.77-78) demonstrated statistically significant reductions in the following: present moment pain,
negative body image, inhibition of activity [natural movement potential], mood disturbances,
anxiety, depression and the need for pain-related drug utilization.

Additional observed benefits of meditation with significant implications for childbirth are: (1) Benson, 1996, noted cesarean section surgery reduced by 56% and epidural anesthesia use reduced by 85% among those practicing meditation; (2) Tsai, 1993, found reduced work stress levels in nurses after meditation training; (3) Astin, et al, 1987, concluded that mindfulness meditation may be an important cognitive coping strategy for transforming the ways in which we respond to life events.

The body will not work well if it is constantly overexerted and overstressed. Meditation is an opportunity to replenish the body’s stores, regain strength, rest and heal.

What about hypnosis?

My first encounter with hypnosis was several years ago in non other than…Las Vegas. (Yes, the era before our family’s child-rearing project commenced.)  The hypnotist was decked out in a shiny ensemble. His perky helpers sported less garments..actually way less…

Needless to say, the show involved several audience members being hypnotised on stage and finding themselves in peculiar situations (sometimes involving bananas) once Mr. Shiny snapped his fingers. Even right after the show was apparently over, one lucky participant who had returned to his seat experienced uncontrollable impulses upon each applause from the audience!

Nowadays, it is common for hypnosis to be used therapeutically in many areas and with great success in medical and dental procedures.

During labour, a mother uses self-hypnosis to go to a practised trans state during the birth experience in order to manage the sensations.

My experience

I fell in the trap of our modern western culture. Believing I need to do everything in my power to eliminate this “expected pain”.  I won’t bore you now with too many details.

40 weeks pregnant and trying to be a trooper...
40 weeks pregnant and trying to be a trooper…

Instead of having the awareness that I can draw on my natural resources and learn new skills to empower me through the experience, I eagerly opted to avoid this expected “punishment” by accepting all and every medical intervention proposed to me by the default highly medicalised (yet paid so can be very misleading if you’re not aware) maternity care system.

So why, didn’t I choose to use meditation or hypnosis for childbirth as pain management?  To be honest, I did not know enough about it and did not realise and understand the enormous impact it can have. Where would I find it in Luxembourg, would I even find it English?

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Today, following my career change in 2013 and subsequent extensive studies in preconception, pregnancy, birth and parenthood, I have new insight! I can not deny the fact that the mind-body connection is real! I have seen enough evidence. My aim now is to educate expecting families that there are highly effective childbirth preparation methods that indeed works, without further risks for mother or baby.  With no side affects. All that is required is an open mind and time to practice the skills so you are empowered on this wonderful joyous day of your baby’s birth.


Read part II & III:

The beautiful hypno-birthing experience of Angelique Supka from Mintmouse

Your guide to childbirth methods in Luxembourg by Marise Hyman


More about the author

Mother of 2 children born in Lux, Preconception, Prenatal & Parenthood Doula, Marise Hyman provides worldwide coaching, healing and education in preparing for an empowered conception, pregnancy, birth, life and parenthood journey. She is an IMPI Perinatal Coach/Educator, IMPI Holistic Pregnancy & Child Sleep Practitioner, Happiest Baby on the Block Educator, “Becoming Us” Facilitator, Dancing for Birth™ Instructor, Holistic Childbirth Educator, Reiki Practitioner, Head-trash Clearance + Fearless Birthing Professional, “Birth into Being” Facilitator (level 1-3) and Calm Birth® Teacher.

She understands that we need to “heal birth to heal the earth” and is therefore also a passionate Birth Advocate and founder of the Luxmama Club & ParentPrep asbl, an NGO raising awareness for birth rights, perinatal mental health and green parenting through social and educational events.