I’ve been trying to think of a way to say that while under hypnosis, I time-traveled back to a moment in my life and hugged myself without sounding 1) like I’m joking, or 2) like I’m out of touch with reality. But I can’t find a way to do that, so I’ll just say it: I totally hugged myself while I was in a hypnotic state, and it was life-changing and important.
How I got to hug myself involves almost eight years of totally irrational guilt and resentment that I felt over the birth of my son. I wanted a drug-free hippie birth with as little medical intervention as possible, and I ended up with almost every medical intervention there is, except for a c-section.
Intellectually, I knew that no matter how I had my kid, I still got a healthy baby either way. But deep-down, I felt as though my body had failed me, and I carried around feelings of anger and resentment and guilt for years.
My situation is not uncommon among women who want a natural birth and do not get one -- ask my friend who was planning to give birth at home with her midwife, but ended up being rushed to the hospital for an emergency c-section. While she was recovering from the surgery, she told me that she was having a hard time coming to terms with it all.
Luckily for me, I happen to know a really awesome hypnotherapist, Jessica Porter, who not only teaches the Hypnobirthing techniques I used for childbirth, but who also does birth-trauma-clearing hypnotherapy as well.
We started my hypnotherapy session with me telling Jessica about my birth experience: how my doctor wanted to induce me, even though it wasn’t a medical emergency and she knew it was against my wishes; how I went along with it anyway; and how I felt completely out of control of my body and the birth of my son.
We identified the moment I first felt scared and out of control: I was 40 weeks and four days pregnant, and I had been to the hospital that day for a non-stress test and an ultrasound, where the labor and delivery nurse said I had plenty of amniotic fluid and that Oliver was head-down and “locked and loaded.”
I then went to see my doctor, and upon giving her the good news that everything was fine, per the hospital nurse, she decided to do her own ultrasound, whereupon she announced that my amniotic fluid was low. Then she asked me if I wanted to have a baby that day.
I remember feeling panicky -- this was not what we had discussed. My doctor knew of my birth wishes, and she had promised not to talk about inducing labor until a full week after my “due date” (which is really just a loose approximation anyway -- but that is a whole other post).
I convinced her to wait another two days, which would put me just shy of one week “overdue.” Two days later, however, a nurse in labor and delivery called to inform me that they had no beds available, so my induction would be scheduled the following day. Obviously, this was not a medical emergency, right?
During my Hypnobirthing training, I had been taught to ask two very important questions when doctors begin to talk about inducing labor. One is “Is this a medical emergency?” and the other is “Am I in danger? Is my baby in danger?” If the answer to these questions is “no,” then there is probably not a medical reason to induce labor, other than your doctor not wanting to be sued for malpractice, just in case something goes wrong.
But I did not ask those questions. I went along with my doctor’s plans to induce me, even though there was no indication that anything was wrong with me or my baby.
So this is where Jessica and I started with our hypnotherapy session. I did some deep breathing, and she led me into a hypnotic state.
And BOOM, I was in my doctor’s office, the lights low, my maternity shirt hiked up to expose my giant pregnant belly, as my doctor used the ultrasound to measure a pocket of amniotic fluid. I identified that I felt scared, because I knew she was going to say that it was low, even though just 30 minutes before, a labor and delivery nurse had told me it was fine.
And we paused there. Jessica asked me to take myself out of the scene, and view it as I am today, as an outsider. I saw myself on the exam table, looking scared.
“Is this pregnant woman a medical doctor?” Jessica asked.
“No,” I answered.
“Does she just want what’s best for her baby?” Jessica asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
Then Jessica asked me to forgive this frightened, well-meaning woman, and give her a hug. I GAVE MYSELF A HUG, YOU GUYS. Then I started crying.
The next moment we identified was the moment Seth urged me to call our Hypnobirthing instructor for guidance, and I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it because I felt like I had somehow done something wrong by agreeing to the induction. I felt embarrassed, and as if I had done something wrong. Like I didn’t stand up for myself the way I should have.
And this is the moment when things got really, really real: I realized that the reason I couldn’t stand up to my doctor was because I was afraid she would abandon me, and that I would be without medical care for the birth of my child. And hello, I have some abandonment issues on account of my absent, good-for-nothing father. Which, like, whoa.
So then I started crying uncontrollably. Still under hypnosis, but aware that I was weeping like I was mourning the loss of something. To say the experience was cathartic is an understatement.
And then I hugged myself again.
We made stops along the way in the hospital after I was induced; at the moment (24 hours into my labor) when I asked for an epidural; at the moment where I was surrounded by half a dozen people from the NICU, just in case something went wrong. I forgave myself and my caregivers.
Then Jessica led me through the birth experience I wanted to have, which was without the medical interventions. I gave birth to my son and held him in my arms.
“This is the energy template of your birth,” she told me.
No, that imagined birth it’s not what actually happened. But it is what is now written on my heart and in my soul -- me, without the guilt and anger, holding my newborn son, who goes on to be the most amazing person I’ve ever known.
Do you feel any completely irrational guilt over not having the kind of birth experience you wanted? Did you feel medically-intervened-upon without a good reason, like your doctor was just trying to cover her own ass? Do you want to hug yourself? It’s pretty amazing. If so, I just found out that Jessica Porter does remote hypnotherapy sessions.
Somer does not usually talk about hypnosis and stuff on Twitter, but you never know: @somersherwood