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Birth Works graduate Lori Grande, 33, of Atlanta recalls a moment while laboring with her daughter Sophia, who is now 2: “I was in the shower and I suddenly told my mom, ‘I don’t know how to take care of a baby.’ I just needed to say it; I was still struggling.” This admission may not have shortened Grande’s labor, but it lessened her distress. “I felt safe and supported,” she says. “I knew that I could ask for whatever I needed.”
A world of alternatives
If all of this leaves you wanting more information, keep reading. Maybe you’ve heard rave reviews about hypnosis. Or you’re curious about water birth or prenatal yoga. Finding the help you need has never been easier.
If hypnosis piques your interest, two competing programs with the same buzzword in their names — hypnobirthing — are your likeliest bets. The Leclaire Hypnobirthing method, created by psychologist Michelle Leclaire O’Neill, Ph.D., R.N., offers intensive one-day pregnancy-preparation classes on using hypnotherapy to achieve relaxation and alter the woman’s perception of pain during labor. The HypnoBirthing program, created by hypnotherapist and counselor Marie Mongan, M.Ed., M.Hy., covers traditional childbirth-education topics as well as self-hypnosis techniques, usually in a multiweek format.
Ellie Shea, a childbirth educator in Torrance, Calif., who has taught Lamaze for 30 years and HypnoBirthing for nearly two, says students find the deep relaxation achieved during hypnosis invaluable — not just for coping with pain but for helping them to deal with labor itself. “Through hypnosis, women are able to relax at a deeper level than they might be able to using other techniques,” she says. “That gives them a wonderful kind of confidence.”
Water birth is another alternative that is becoming more popular in the United States. Many women find that the warm, gravity-free environment not only comforts and relaxes them but also seems to help labor along. In Gentle Birth Choices (Inner Traditions International, 1994), Waterbirth International founder Barbara Harper, R.N., says that women have referred to the pool as a “wet epidural” and that the reduction of anxiety helps them focus inward on the birth process.
Cultivating a wide and diverse base of knowledge will allow you to make the right choice about your own labor. Learn about water birthing on the Internet. Take a prenatal yoga or water-fitness class. Have your partner learn prenatal massage. Read books. Talk to new mothers. Spend time cradling your beautiful expanding belly — whatever it takes to get comfortable with the awe-inspiring, life-transforming big bang to come. That’s the best preparation you can get.