"Yup." That's what I heard my husband yell out from the bathroom after that little strip on our pregnancy turned "positive." It had happened -- I was pregnant!
For the next few days and weeks I was in bliss mode, until, that is, the morning sickness showed up.
A few months after that all passed, and a few weeks into my second trimester, my brain finally got to thinking -- how was I going to get this baby out of my body? What was labor and birthing all about, anyway? What happens on the big day? Was it really as traumatic as in the movies? I was totally clueless!
After scouring the Internet for prenatal classes in my area, I came across something called "HypnoBirthing." The description seemed to fit my ethos and my lifestyle perfectly. It was a method that helped mom's give birth "gently, joyfully, and calmly," and in a way that Mother Nature intended.
A lightbulb went on in my head. As Mother Nature intended? That seemed perfect for me, as I've dedicated my career to helping people learn about eating whole, healthy foods that are sustainable and as close to their natural form as possible. And I wanted to apply this same consciousness to the way I would give birth. I knew I wanted to try for a natural birth, without the use of any medication or interventions -- no epidurals, no IV's, nothing except me and my birthing team. I knew this couldn't be guaranteed, but it was what I envisioned, anyway. And I wanted to give it my best try. After all, before Queen Victoria demanded chloroform in the late 1800's to lessen the pain of her labor, most all births were performed at home, without intensive medical interventions.
But what in the world was "Hypno" all about? I've never been hypnotized and definitely wasn't going to try it while I was giving birth!
After consulting with the class instructor, Rachel Yellin, and reading through her website, I realized that this wasn't the case at all. Rather, HypnoBirthing was more about learning unique breathing, relaxation and visualization techniques that would place my mind and body in a state of calm and control instead of fear, ultimately allowing my body to give birth on its own, similar to how our animal friends give birth in the nature. I could do this. I wanted to do this. So I signed up.
What I learned in the class ultimately led to one of the most rewarding experiences of my entire life.
Over the last six to eight weeks of my pregnancy, I practiced what I learned in my HypnoBirthing class at home -- breathing, affirmations and relaxation techniques -- as much as I could when I had the time. I read Marie Mongan's book, HypnoBirthing, which helped tie everything together. And I basically trained like an athlete -- visualizing how my natural birth would go down on that special day, talking through it in my head. Seeing it happen in my mind.
And on the early morning of my expected "due date," my water broke, and the time had finally come to put what I learned into action.
I didn't rush to the hospital. Instead, I took a walk on the beach with my husband and my dog. I breathed in the ocean smells and took in the sound of the waves. We came home and packed up some of the nourishing food and drinks I had cooked in the days ahead (my lentil stew recipe is below) and in about an hour, my contractions began to regulate -- I realized it was finally happening. And I felt prepared.
I called my doula (a labor coach -- mine was adept at HypnoBirthing methods) who arrived within about an hour and with her supporting me with massage and breathing, I labored outside on my patio for the remainder of the day, late into the evening, welcoming every contraction ("surge" in HypnoBirthing-speak) with the techniques I had been honing all of these weeks. Apparently, I barely made a sound as my husband reminded me the following day.
When we reached the hospital, to the nurses' surprise, I was fully dilated. There was no IV, no rushing around, no talking, just me in a dimly lit room, with my husband, doctor and doula in tow.
Things happened fast. After just a few tough pushes, in tune with each oncoming contraction, and using a few different laboring positions mentioned in class, my daughter arrived, completely alert, making her way to my breast and latching on immediately.
It was the most rewarding sight of my life. I will never forget those tender moments -- they will forever be ingrained in my brain.
HypnoBirthing had come through for me. Even though I did end up letting out a few "hollers" in the end and "pushed" the baby out instead of "breathing it down," all in all, my birth experience was more or less what this method had promised to me -- calm, natural, and above all, satisfying, although not entirely pain-free, for sure.
This isn't to say that HypnoBirthing is for everyone, but perhaps it's worth at least some exploration, especially if you're a person who imagines a natural, no, (or low) intervention childbirth.
Looking back, I'm glad I didn't write it off despite its rather bizarre-sounding name. I mean, who's ever heard of HypnoBirthing, anyway? But I firmly believe that it not only has helped change the path of life for me and my daughter forever, but it has also planted the seed for possibly another rewarding and exhilarating chapter in my life in the future -- preparing for baby #2!
Pooja's Nourishing Lentil Stew For the Big Day
Yield: Approx. 4 to 6 servings
Time: 30 minutes
1 tablespoon organic pasture butter, organic ghee, or organic olive oil
4 -5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
11 oz red or yellow onion (about one large), chopped into small dice (1/4 inch)
1 cup Puy (French) lentils, rinsed and drained
3 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth or stock
3 cups filtered water
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt plus extra to taste
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper plus extra to taste
1 to 1 ½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar or to taste
1 handful coriander, washed, dried, stems removed, chopped
4-6 beet or chard greens, washed, dried, sliced into thin stripes or chiffonade
Several cups warmed cooked brown rice or white/brown basmati rice (about 1
to 1 ½ cups uncooked rice - optional)
1. Warm dutch oven over medium-low stovetop flame. When warm, add butter/oil. As fat disperses, add garlic and onions. Cook over low heat until onions become translucent, being careful not to brown.
2. Add lentils, stir, then add broth and water, thyme, salt and pepper. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes.
3. Remove dutch oven from heat and add balsamic vinegar.
4. To serve, ladle one serving size lentils over desired portion of warmed rice into a deep bowl, and add coriander and greens to top (one large serving equates to about ½ cup rice, ½ cup lentils, about one small beet leaf or half chard leaf and several sprigs coriander). Add extra salt/pepper and balsamic to taste. Best if stirred before the first bite!
• To transform this dish into a larger, more nutrient-dense, main meal, try creating a larger bowl or plate of these lentils over rice or quinoa, along with mashed sweet potatoes/yams, a small side salad and 1 to 2 boiled organic eggs, quartered.
• To make a Basmati rice accompaniment, add 1 cup rice to 2 teaspoons of pasture butter/ghee/olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Add 1 cup organic vegetable stock/broth and 1 cup filtered water, cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. To make brown Basmati rice, cook for 50 minutes. 1 cup uncooked rice yields about 4 to 6 servings.
Pooja Mottl is a Natural Foods Chef & Culinary Instructor, Healthy Living Speaker, Healthy Eating Coach and CEO of www.PoojasWay.com and www.3DayResets.com. She is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, a leading institution for pairing culinary training with health promoting food.