Thursday 18 December 2014

'I took the labour out of having a baby by practising a drug-free hypno-birth'

She already has two hypno-babies, and Emily McElarney can't wait for her third

Emily McElarney

Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30

Emily McElarney with her boys Seimi,5, and  2 year old   Sonny,at home in Rush
Emily McElarney with her boys Seimi,5, and 2 year old Sonny,at home in Rush
Emily McElarney at home with her two boys.

They say having children changes you - but no one was more surprised than me when it unleashed my inner hippy.

I was once a stressed-out journalist. With the habit of always taking the challenging route, I had worked my way up into a national radio newsroom from local radio.  I'd worked seven days a week between two local stations for two years when I landed a plum job on the national airwaves at the tender age of 24.

Unfortunately, the plum turned out to be a bit of a prune and I found myself becoming a very stressed-out and up-tight person.

I started practising yoga around the time I sussed the negative physical effects that the early morning shifts plus the constant stress were having on me. Having been a loud sceptic and unashamed cynic when it came to anything holistic or 'airy fairy', I kept my new hobby to myself.

Fast forward a couple of years and I'd left journalism to follow a career in public relations, starting my own online PR consultancy.

I'd fallen in love, and we'd bought a house and got a dog. Lo and behold, next thing we knew we had a positive test. Having wanted to have kids for quite a while I was so thrilled but also pretty naive about what to do next.

Emily McElarney with her boys Seimi,5, and  2 year old   Sonny,at home in Rush
Emily McElarney with her boys Seimi,5, and 2 year old Sonny,at home in Rush

After all, you don't really think about these things until you're there.

My sister-in-law had a couple of home births and I'd be lying if I said I had supported her - I thought she was nuts, reckless even. In my ignorance, home birth was definitely not an option for me.

I opted for public care in Holles St, because that's where I was born, and that seemed as good a reason as any.

Once I'd had a taste of the cattle mart that is the waiting room for antenatal visits and experienced the cold and tone of the consultant I'd won in the antenatal lottery that day, I went for midwife-led care.

I wasn't particularly afraid of giving birth, but I'd suffered from a back condition since about the age of 15 and I knew I did not want anyone to stick a needle near my spine. But, like everyone else, I figured if I was going to shun the epidural, I'd need something to replace it.

A couple of my close friends had babies in their late teens and early 20s and I remember going in to visit them in Holles St.

One girl had spots all over her face and eyeballs, which I later learned were burst blood vessels from forced or 'purple' pushing and that had stayed with me.

So, my ears pricked up when my pregnancy yoga teacher mentioned something called Hypno-birthing.

I'd never heard of it but it sounded interesting, so I started to read up on it and the more I read, the more I liked.

The possibility of a relaxed, stress-free, spinal-free birth and a happy, healthy baby, not zonked by whatever drugs had been administered . . . where do I sign up?

Emily McElarney at home with her two boys.
Emily McElarney at home with her two boys.

We found a teacher and took the course over two weekends. My other half was sceptical and was definitely just going along with it because I wanted him to.

We learned about the biology and anatomy of birth, we learned about how we're conditioned to assume labour will be horribly painful but also how we could change our mindset about labour and accept the possibility that pain wouldn't be a feature.

We also learned how to work with the hospital to achieve our goal of a calm and relaxed birth.

In my spare time I diligently practised relaxation, working to achieve a deeper level of relaxation in a faster amount of time, with or without distraction.

I practised my breathing exercises, I listened to birth affirmations every night and on November 13 2009, at around 11am, I arrived in Holles St, in labour, feeling confident and excited.

Seven hours later I was holding my beautiful baby boy in my arms. All 8lb 10oz of him. My experience was amazing. I certainly wouldn't call it an easy birth - my baby was posterior, resulting in back labour, which anyone who's been through it will tell you is challenging, hard work and will take every ounce of your inner bad ass to conquer.

But it was an amazing, empowering experience and one in which I can tell you hand on heart was not painful. Throughout the birth I remained in my own little world - I spoke to no one, only my baby from within.

I needed nothing but encouragement and I got that in spades from my partner and from the staff. I came out of that hospital saying: "I can't wait to do that again," to my wincing partner.

I was sold. I wanted to tell everyone about Hypnobirthing and how a positive birthing experience is possible in hospital, but actually no one wanted to hear it. I soon realised that other mothers instantly hated me when I mentioned it.

That was until I brought my beautiful little bundle along to try out mum and baby yoga.

I quickly discovered yoga people got it. They believed me and accepted birth could be like this. Oh my God, am I turning into a hippy?

Well, whether or not I am a hippy I don't know, but the birth of my son definitely unlocked a new part of me - a part of me that's really shaped who I am and what I believe in today.

Two-and-a-half years later I gave birth to another beautiful, huge, hypno-baby. This 9lb 7oz bruiser was also not what you might call a walk in the park to birth. Firstly, he was fast - crazy fast. He was born three hours after I arrived in Holles St, not even officially in active labour.

But fast isn't always the ideal people think it is - he was in such a hurry to come out that his little shoulder got stuck as he hadn't given himself time to rotate once his head appeared. But with the help of the wonderful team in Holles St we got him out with little fuss - again, completely drug-free.

Since becoming a mother - and possibly a hippy - I've totally turned my life around.

I closed my growing PR consultancy and trained as a hypnobirthing coach. I work with couples all over Dublin, Louth, Kildare and Meath dispelling the myths and opening minds up to the possibilities of hypnobirth.

I travel to couples' homes and feel very privileged and honoured to work with them over a five to 10-week period prior to their babies' arrival.

Some are first-timers, some have had unpleasant experiences of birth in the past. I've worked with a couple on their fifth baby; I've worked with home births and hospital births.

Some are terrified, some are traumatised, but the turning point for everyone is that moment when they decide to accept that a woman's body is built to grow and give birth to a baby. If the body is let do what it's built to do, in its own time, without feeling under threat or unsafe, then it usually carries out the job beautifully.

It's about not trying to control it and surrendering to the process of birth.

When I'm not working with couples, I'm teaching pregnancy yoga and being an-all round birth nerd. I read books about birth, I talk about birth and I can't wait to give birth again, in the company of my still wincing husband, this coming December.

Emily McElarney is a certified Hypno-Birthing Mongan Method teacher and teaches pre and post-natal yoga and yoga to children and children with additional needs. You can contact her at www.naturalbirth.ie.

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