When our Editor Extraordinaire reminded me that it was time to write the Winnipeg Parent article and that the theme of the edition was Baby on Board, I was very excited! My days of baby-making are over, but my partner at Mind Matters Clinic – Dr. Jay Greenfeld is having a baby in May. For a while, I have been thinking that the time has come to pass down the pen to the next generation. I thought that it would be a perfect opportunity for Dr. Jay to reflect upon what it was like to be having a baby. He was a little too busy nesting, and he reminded me that we had both discussed the cessation plan last year – with the target date of Father’s Day. So here I am, for one last show, trying to share my knowledge and perspective on one of the hardest jobs in the world. Actually, having the baby is the easiest part of the package!
Knowing what to do with it once you open up that gift is a challenge that never ends. Knowing that I use hypnosis for treating some of my clients, Dr. Jay’s wife jokingly asked me if could hypnotize her for childbirth. For those of you that are only familiar with hypnotists onstage, hypnosis is a valuable tool that Psychologists use to help people cope with physical or Psychological issues (e.g., pain, anxiety) or break bad habits. It is an altered state of consciousness, in which the individual is able to direct their focus very intensely on a specific image or memory, and block out distracting thoughts or feelings (kind of like the children you see who are playing a video game so intently that they are almost inside the game – to the point where they fail to notice bodily functions such as hunger or having to go to the bathroom). For childbirth, the goal would be to teach a woman how to induce her own state of trance (because you never know when you’re going to need it), and then visualize/experience the sensations of childbirth in a way that is different than what we typically label as ‘pain’. The practice of Mindfulness has some of the same elements. If you practice Mindfulness meditation, you can learn to relax your body and focus your mind so that you can experience bodily sensations without having to react to them.
I told Dr. Jay’s wife that it would be a great plan to learn self-hypnosis, and that if she needed me to be on call for guidance during the delivery, I would (after all, Dr. Jay might be busy writing next edition’s article when she’s in labour). In fact, I myself had studied hypnosis as part of my training when I was pregnant with my first-born, and the fact that I practice a form of self-hypnosis daily is my personal saviour. It has helped me through the toughest of times – physical pain, emotional surges of frustration and anger, exhaustion. And when my children sucked more of my physical and emotional energy than I had on tap, it allowed me to dig deep into my resources. So if there’s one piece of wisdom that I could impart on you (both moms and dads), it is this – preparing for a child is exactly the right time to commit to developing a strong habit/practice of self-care that you maintain each and every day for the rest of your lives. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it one last time – it’s like the warning about emergencies on airplanes – put on your oxygen mask first, and then help your child. Because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you will not be able to properly care for your child. Self-care takes many forms – exercise, playing music, art, and other hobbies. Although all of those are great – there will be many days when you don’t have time, when your body won’t permit, or when you just can’t get up off the couch to get going. BUT, you will always have the bodily capacity and twenty minutes to meditate. AND when you want to scream at your child or your partner, it will be difficult to imaginatively access that feeling of calm that you get after running for ten miles or playing your favorite music piece. However, if you maintain a daily practice of retreating to your inner place of calm through breathe and guided visualization, you will be able to close your eyes for a moment, take one or two deep breathes and access that calm place so that you can create a space between stimulus and response. It is that space where the history of dysfunctional family functioning can be broken, and where your pattern of less than stellar reactions can be changed. By the way – my relative who is a Psychiatrist defined Family Dysfunction as a family in which there are more than one members!
So now that you know the secret to successful birthing and parenting in theory. You just have to start the practice. If you want to go the hypnosis for childbirth route, and have time and a few hundred dollars, I noticed that there is a program called Hypnobabies that you can purchase online. It will guide you through relaxation and visualization in a manner that can help you in those crucial times. I have to admit, although I now practice self-hypnosis, Mindfulness Meditation and Transcendental Meditation – thirty years ago I was one of those people who was way too hyper to stop thinking. So I bought a cassette (we didn’t have CDs back then) with a guided meditation, and forced myself to stay focused by starting the cassette over each time my mind wandered. With practice, I was able to go into the most beautiful state of serenity that I still go to today. Now, I am able to get there without guidance – although often if my mind is buzzing too much I use a guided visualization (I actually produced my own set of CDs with my voice, so in fact, it’s a self-hypnosis of sorts). If you can learn to get there through meditation – great! With the addition of some prenatal classes, you can skip the hypnotherapy and apply those skills to better enjoy the most beautiful experience of your life…. and the wonderful journey that lies ahead.