One of the things I teach my parents is that HypnoBirthing doesn’t end with birth. I’ve found that the techniques are useful in many situations–falling asleep, going through turbulence, or at the dentist, for example. Like many people, I find the experience of having my teeth drilled to be barely tolerable, and the only reason I stay in my seat is because I want to get it over with (my vision of dental work is somewhere between Marathon Man and Little Shop of Horrors). Childbirth is not like dental work–and I’m oh-so-heartened to hear mothers tell me that they’d rather have a baby than go to the dentist–but I was able to apply HypnoBirthing techniques to a recent dentist trip that made the process way better than I would have felt otherwise.
At the dentist, it becomes really, really clear to me how anticipating pain–fearing pain–leads to nothing but pain. As Robin Sharma reminds me, “[u]nderstand the anatomy of fear. It is your own creation.” The fear made me jumpy; my heart was racing, my breathing was shallow, and every little zing seemed way more painful than it really was. This was the “fear-tension-pain cycle” at work.
So, here’s what I did. Before she got started with the drill, I popped in my headphones, put on birth list, and focused on my breath. It’s funny how difficult it can be to just breath, but I promise that it gets easier with practice.
The next thing I did was to consciously relax different parts of my body. Forehead, the muscles around my eyes, my cheeks, shoulders, hands, abdomen, all the way down to my feet… This was hugely effective, and I could see that when the drill started up again I would automatically tense my shoulders and abdomen. Returning over and over to those places, it became far easier to relax. I see the same thing in birth; some women automatically tense their shoulders, others their jaws, and have to be reminded constantly to let them go.
The other thing I did was to tell myself what to do, just as I would lead someone through a HypnoBirthing exercise. During a deep breath breaths, I counted, visualizing the numbers appear before me. When I went through my body I said to myself “now let all the little muscles around your eye relax…now let your shoulders go limp…”By the end of the session, I was completely out of it and it felt like I had taken a nap.
Though I’ve been to births, I’ve never had the experience of birth myself, and so experiences like these help me to understand what I mean when I talk about fear, tension, and pain, or how focused breathing can just sort of telescopically bring one’s focus away from one experience and into another so deeply, that it somehow fades away, even as I’m completely aware of what’s going on.