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Evolution of a Childbirth Educator – By Kerry Tuschhoff, HCHI, CHt

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My saga starts when I was 16 and watching a Patty Duke movie in which she was giving birth to her baby at home, screaming 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 and the technological machine that childbirth had become. I contacted the group that certifies Bradley Instructors and 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, got an invaluable education in natural childbirth 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 wretched 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 natural 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 saw a TV show about using hypnosis for childbirth and having used some self-hypnosis, I began seeking out this method. I soon found 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 o 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, and employed a metaphoric journey through fields, visualizing deer walking nearby, etc. and a few light suggestions 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, however I continued faithfully to listen every day and twice a day at the end. 4 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 shocked at how much it did hurt and was so disappointed that hypnosis had not worked. Only afterwards 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 that women did not have to suffer in childbirth and continued to teach the Bradley Method until it was indeed found. I often attended my students’ births and although so many of them were successful unmedicated births, often the mother was extremely exhausted from moving around so much to get comfortable that she had no energy left to push. There were many mothers who were so traumatized by the pain they experienced that they couldn't even hold their babies, and it saddened me. In the spring of 1999, I went to my last "screaming birth". I knew I could no longer teach this. 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 2 women going through their labors calm and relaxed – no pain. That was my goal, and I contacted the HypnoBirthing Institute to begin my journey towards it. I took the 2 day Introduction to Hypnosis class and then the 2 day Teacher Certification course. I went there so excited and thrilled for I thought I had finally found a way that my wonderful, dedicated moms would not have to suffer. I saw videos of women laboring seemingly without pain, using only the Institute's techniques. I was certain my own students would be just like that, and already had my business cards and letterhead done, a website and other preparations. I did consider it odd however that so many of the certification students there had no prior knowledge of childbirth education, were given little in the certification course, and yet were about to embark upon a quest to teach women just that.

I began teaching HypnoBirthing with passion and enthusiasm, believing so much that these women were the luckiest ones alive; they would have no drugs and no pain. There were 5 couples in my first class and I gave them exactly the materials and information I was taught to teach. They got a book, one light hypnosis tape and a 15 minute birth affirmations tape. A few handouts were included and 2 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 that she could not stay relaxed and comfortable by herself, even in early labor at home. She went to the birth center and progressed from 3cm to 10cm in 3 hours, which was amazing, but she was suffering quite a bit of pain as she entered active labor and nothing we did helped. Her transitional period was only about a half an hour but she was very miserable during it and I was at a loss to help her. She finally gave birth and was reasonably pleased with her experience as we all knew that without the hypnosis training her discomfort would have been much greater. This, however was not what I had envisioned for my students at all. I convinced myself that it was just a fluke and that the next birth would be much better.

Alas, each birth just seemed to get worse instead of better, with the exception of only one of my students who said it worked well for her; "It was manageable." 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 HB Institute, asking what I should do. I was encouraged me to just continue teaching the course as it was, and told, "you must not believe in it enough". Not true of course, and we were all teaching exactly the way that we had been instructed to do!

I taught 2 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 mislead; crying out, cursing me and suffering greatly. I cried all the way home and swore that either I would stop teaching childbirth education at all, 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, as well as find some excellent birth hypnosis scripts. 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 asking for ideas and 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 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 9 cm dilated. Her water had broken 3 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. One more baby is born without drugs, without violence, without hearing its 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 5 weeks later so confident, free of fear, having seen the fruits of their practice and work at home, in class sessions and in Birth Rehearsal. 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 confidently and leave it in peace. I also know that hypnosis is not a panacea; that there will occasionally be complications or turns a labor can 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.

In my zeal to teach childbirth education, 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 2 childbirth hypnosis e-mail groups, and 3 websites. Women need to know and understand that they have choices when it comes to childbirth hypnosis; Sessions with a professional Hypnotherapist, Self- Study Courses and 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 Peterson’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 has 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 belief it takes to learn the skills that will bring them to fulfill their goals, therefore education and research is 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.

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