Verona's Home Birth, by Richard Strauss

Proud father Richard wrote about the birth of his and Rachelle's first baby, Verona, a week after the event. Richard is a hypnotherapist, and he and Rachelle worked closely together to help their daughter into the world. Below, Rachelle writes about how hypnotherapy helped her manage the labour.

It is with great joy, and pride that I can at last write to you the announcement of the birth of our baby last Sunday, 4th March at 2.09 PM.

Rachelle, my partner sleeps while I steal these few moments to tell you how wonderful she has been, and also about Verona Juliet Jasmine Strauss, our lovely daughter. All parents languish long and lyrical at these times, and I know that you also have your own stories to tell, or will do in the future.

Rachelle has had a completely natural pregnancy with no intervention, screening, tests, scans, or the like, and we planned, God willing, to complete this with a natural home birth in water, without any pain relief etc...…

We have prepared for months in advance with hypnotherapy trance relaxation. This also included 'going inside' and allowing the mind and body to connect with all the natural resources that a woman has in order to complete the gestation in a completely positive and natural way. I was not convinced that a totally sensation free birth experience was either possible, or in fact desirable, but we were both confident that the power of the mind would accomplish all that was required.

The daily trance sessions with Rachelle had built a high level of confidence, plus the sensation that she had already done this birth in her mind, and that her body would follow the mental experience. Little did we realise how crucial this preparation would be, or how powerfully it would work for her.

Saturday 9.15 pm - contractions started. Rachelle went into relaxation trance.

Sunday 8.45 am - waters broke naturally, but cervix anterior lip noted. Rachelle had to restrain pushing for the next 1hr 45 min.

10.00 am - onset of birthing now full swing. (Second stage)

2.09 Baby born in pool underwater. Weighed in at 9lbs.1oz!!

Those are the figures put briefly. My comments go to that period of over 4 hours between onset of second stage and the delivery. By any account this I believe is a remarkable feat of endurance for any woman to go through. Rachelle, although in trance, was able to talk, move about and feel this experience, as this is essential for the internal physiology. After an hour of pushing she was exhausted, and the contractions were dying in strength and frequency. Together we worked at looking for the wave of the next contraction, literally forming it in the imagination, then releasing it into her body. Time and time again Rachelle kept looking for the next contraction, building it up, then feeling it work powerfully in her uterus.

After three hours of this, she was really exhausted, and the midwives were already whispering to each other and making phone calls in the next room. We later learned that the ambulance had been called, and was outside on standby. The midwives were just waiting for the inevitable cry of "I can't do any more!". All the way through our baby's heart beat was a steady 120-140 bpm We knew that if it dropped or raised, our hopes of a home birth would be dashed.

Rachelle decided we should go back into the pool and try again as the water gave her comfort and buoyancy. That next hour was a truly awesome experience for both of us. Once again, she found strength and determination that I thought was impossible for anyone at this stage of exhaustion. Finally the head began to appear, only to slip back again. We were so close! And yet there was so far to go to bring it all the way through.

By now the supervisor midwife had been called; she made it clear that if the baby was not born really soon Rachelle would have to go in to hospital. They were checking foetal heart rate now every 2 minutes, but still it was strong and calm.

Rachelle, however, was losing strength by the minute. She straddled across me in the water and together we dug deep into the core of her being, breathing in energy with every breath and visualising strong 'tsunami'-like contractions to surge through her body and deliver this baby. Time and time again they came, the head kept appearing and then slipping back, but ever so slowly there was more and more remaining and we could eventually stroke baby's soft dark hair.

Suddenly we realised it was finally happening, and Rachelle found one last powerful contraction and the head was born, baby's eyes open underwater. Her body followed, and she finally came to the surface and straight into mummy's arms. It was a most dramatic and intense experience. The midwives were rapturous and relieved. Rachelle had performed a miracle of strength and endurance, which was truly remarkable to witness.

We wanted to leave the cord attached for at least 2 hours, but we were strongly advised that due to this prolonged delivery we really ought to clamp and cut as soon as pulsing had stopped. Even the placenta was large - nearly 3 lbs. We had been given just the outcome we wanted, and out baby was perfect and healthy in every way!

This story I feel is of importance to home birthing because in hospital the 2nd stage of delivery would never have been 'allowed' to continue so long. They would have soon been in there with their tools and drugs. And yet you ladies are so amazingly strong! When the chips are down, on your own territory, somehow you CAN find that strength that is beyond human ability. Deep within, you have resources that you are ordinarily unaware of. Nature has completely equipped you to ‘do the business´, providing you are given the chance - believe in yourself, trust your body and mind, connect with your instincts, follow your intuition and you will achieve miracles.

What I witnessed will always remain a tribute to the power of the woman. Something truly primal, and deeply moving. So here I am a week later. finding it hard not to empty my head of all the superlatives and praise I know to honour my wonderful brave partner. Last week she was truly the 'worrier'. Battling against exhaustion and the encroaching threat of medical intervention. Today she sleeps, still nursing the wounds of birthing, yet with softness, love and gentleness towards our child at her breast. How amazing, rich, and expansive is the female spirit! At a time like this, men can only look on in humility and awe. You truly have our deepest respect; we could never even come close.

As a hypnotherapist, if I can offer any advice it would be simply this; relax … let go, and surrender yourself to the process, trust in nature and all will be well. Every woman can tap in to the resource of millions of successful births throughout history. But you must go deep within, and there you will find that incredible feminine strength and courage that will bring you the experience that you want.

Richard Strauss

Rachelle's comments on using hypnotherapy:

I feel sure, that the 'pain' side of things must be every woman's greatest fear, and we must remember that all pain begins in the mind - sorry if this offends or sounds arrogant to anybody, but it is my belief after going through it myself.

For a start I always try to avoid the use of the word pain, and use something a little more positive, like discomfort or uncomfortable - it's amazing how just a small change like that, can result in significant change of perception and reality.

I used hypnosis throughout the last four months, but you can start much earlier - let me point out that I have always been completely against hypnosis, thanks to the Paul McKennas of the world, who have moved so far from the true skills and benefits of real hypnosis. I held the notion that no-one was going to 'have control' over me, and was basically quite scared of it, but these fears are all illusions and I would recommend it to anyone.

Basically I learnt how to take myself into deep relaxation, that lovely state you get to, just before falling asleep, or the state you get into when you daydream or meditate. Then I did things like learn how to breathe through contractions, draw on my own strength, develop a connection with all women throughout time who had ever gone through childbirth (very emotional and incredibly empowering) and things like developing faith and trust in my body and in nature that every thing would work out perfectly for me and baby.

I used to practice most days or listen to a tape, and I also went through my 'perfect birth' in order to prepare my body and mind for the 'big event'. It was really profound that when it came to giving birth, I really felt like I had done it before. Sorry, I'm aware I'm harping on a bit here - the fundamental outcome from all of this was that hypnosis DID NOT take away the intense discomfort that I went through, but it gave me the strength, confidence and courage to cope with it all, and I wasn't at all scared at any point. It taught me that we have an incredible inner strength that we can tap into and draw from.

A video that I would highly recommend to you is @How to Prepare for a Safe and Easy Waterbirth' by Dr. Mowri Gotha - she uses reflexology and hypnosis as a preparation for birth, and the video is really inspiring - lots of gentle births etc. (Details of this video, and where to get it, are on teh Home Birth Books and Videos page.)

Also, consider the use of water - it may not be something you feel drawn to, but from my personal experience I don't think I could have given birth naturally without it. I was a bit disappointed that it didn't offer as much of an analgesic effect as I had hoped, but it offered other benefits that contributed to an easier birth, like buoyancy and helping with softening the perineum etc.

I KNOW that it was a combination of water and hypnosis that got me through my birth, and enabled me to cope with the overwhelming sensations that were ripping through my body at the time.


Richard's and Rachelle's Website

For links on self-hypnosis, see 'Pain Relief at Home Births'.

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