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Soft and relaxing HypnoBirth – a birth story from Gabrielle

A soft and relaxing but very long lasting birth. A feedback from Gabrielle who gave birth in Zurich to her lovely daughter Helena.


Helena was born at Klinik Hirlsanden, Zurich on Sunday 25th March at 8.54am.

She is my second child. My son Andre, who is now 2.5 years old, was born in London in 2009. Andre’s had been a pain relief free, water birth and I was hoping for the same for my second child.

I used hypnobirthing for Andre’s birth, but wasn’t really convinced that it was effective. Andre had been induced and it was a very rapid (6 hours) and intense birth; in the second stage I dilated from 5 to 10cms in an hour.

While hypnobirthing had been helpful in staying calm for the first 4 hours, I couldn’t seem to stay relaxed in the second stage and didn’t use it at all. I felt that I had somehow failed.


I met with Nadine Ballmer from HypnoBirthing Schweiz in Zurich to “refresh” what I had learnt on a HypnoBirthing course I took a few years back in London and to ask for her help in getting rid of some fears about birth.

Lese hier den Blogbeitrag zum Thema Mentale Geburtsvorbereitung.

At our first meeting, I explained to Nadine that I felt some of Marie Mongan’s suggestions hadn’t worked for me. For example, I didn’t like visualising filling a balloon with air when “slow breathing” (during contractions); it made me feel anxious and breathless. I also didn’t feel comfortable about my husband Olivier reading relaxation scripts and affirmations to me; they didn’t feel like his own words and felt artificial.

„Nadine encouraged me not to think of HypnoBirthing as a set of rules, and to take only what I found helpful from it.“

She gave me a copy of the Rainbow Relaxation CD to listen to. In the lead up to Andre’s birth, I used a CD with a visualisation about floating under the sea amongst different coloured fish which I didn’t particularly like (it made me feel claustrophobic).
I also spent time visualising a “safe place” (a beautiful garden) to help me feel relaxed (not really a HypnoBirthing concept), but on the day I never felt calm enough to really enter my safe place.

This time around I decided that if I was going to have a shot at it, I needed to keep things simple. With a toddler, I just didn’t have the time to lay around listening to relaxation CDs. I started to prepare relatively late in my pregnancy – about 6 or 7 months pregnant. Every evening, while my husband was putting my son to bed, I carried out 20 minutes of gentle yoga in my bedroom during which I played the birthing affirmations. At Nadine’s suggestion, I visualised the birth I wished I would have during the yoga. I could see myself in the hospital birthing suite, lying in the water with Olivier close by. It was a very comforting thought. Once I had finished the yoga and lay down for savasana, I put on the Rainbow Relaxation track. Since I was so short on time, at Nadine’s suggestion, I skipped over the relaxation part to the part about visualising a rainbow, which only took 5 minutes or so. This small routine soon became the most lovely and relaxing part of my day.

At our second meeting, Nadine and I had a session to encourage me to release the fears I had about Andre’s birth. Nadine helped me to relax and visualise myself in a green/blue room, sitting on a chair looking over a photograph album filled with images of my life experiences. I took out the negative images associated with birth and burnt them until only beautiful, positive images were left in the album. On the last page, I visualised a photograph of my husband and I and our new baby. This last visualisation was very powerful and I felt overwhelmed with emotion. When I left the session, I felt uplifted, calm and confident. I often reflected on the session and the image at the end of my album during my yoga in the evenings; it became a sort of “safe place” for me.

Helena’s birth

On Friday 23rd March 2012, I had been carrying out my evening yoga and feeling big and uncomfortable (I was 39.5 weeks pregnant) when I got a show. I didn’t have any contractions but I was a bit shocked by the amount of blood so I went into the hospital to be checked.

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, I had a couple of contractions which strangely came up as strong ones on the monitor but I couldn’t really feel. The midwife suggested I stay in because I was 1-2cms dilated, the cervix was soft and this was bound to be the start of labour. She reminded me that second children „come very fast“.

We were so excited, contacted our doula to let her know what was happening and checked into the birthing suite with our LED candles. But nothing happened. The contractions stopped and all I got was a terrible night’s sleep on an uncomfortable bed. In the morning, I got ready to check out, no point in waiting around. Although the doctor thought what happened was a sign labour could start in the next 24 hours, I wasn’t convinced. I’d actually been having shows and period pain for 2 weeks anyway, since I had been having acupuncture to thin the cervix.

After a nice long nap on Saturday 24th March in the afternoon, I went down to the lake in Kilchberg with Andre and my family. I made my Mum power walk with me and ran around huffing and puffing with Andre for a good hour or so, I was determined to get the show on the road! But still no signs. Olivier and my parents kept reminding me that I could be in hospital that night, which made me feel under pressure. However, as I quietly carried out my yoga stretches in my bedroom that evening I noticed that I felt more supple and flexible than ever. I wondered whether I must have a lot of oxytocin in my system and had a strange feeling that the birth could be just around the corner. So at 10pm I went to bed to get some rest.

About 11.30pm I was woken up by a contraction. They started coming every 20 minutes or so but were really quite mild. At midnight I texted our doula to let her know what was happening. The contractions were just annoying enough that I couldn’t sleep. At about 3.30am I finally fell asleep again, but awoke 20 minutes later with another contraction. I’m not going through this all night, I thought, so I got up and made myself some toast and started doing a few yoga positions (may I add that Olivier is peacefully snoring away at this point!). Within half an hour the contractions suddenly started to come strong and fast. It helped to lean over the bed and breathe through them. The shows were getting stronger too. I woke up Olivier and told him to time the contractions on an ipad app I’d downloaded that day. It showed they were coming 3.5 minutes apart and were 50 seconds long. I was shocked as we were supposed to leave for the hospital when the contractions were 5 minutes apart, because it was on the other side of Zurich, about 25 minutes drive away. It was 4.30am and Olivier called the hospital and my doula to tell them we were coming in.

The funny thing is there were a few last minute things to put in the hospital bag which I’d told Olivier not to pack that evening as I felt he was putting me under too much pressure that I’d go into labour in the next 24 hours. So he was pfaffing around finding laptop chargers, brushing his teeth etc, and generally looking like he was in a daze. I yelled at him to get himself together or this kid would come out in the car. I was starting to panic and wasn’t sure how I was going to deal with the now strong, fast contractions all the way to the hospital.

But when I got in the back of the car I put my Rainbow Relaxation track on on the iphone with headphones and started to relax. It felt like a very short journey and strangely, I only had one contraction in the car and one in the car park when we arrived, which were fine now that I was breathing in and out „a beautiful violet mist“. On arrival I was 3-4cms dilated and the cervix was very, very soft. The doula arrived and the midwife ran the bath. I had forgotten I bought a TENS machine for this special occasion but didn’t feel like using it. I left the HypnoBirthing track on with my headphones on and breathed through the contractions, which had slowed down to 5 minutes apart. I felt very relaxed and the contractions weren’t painful at all.

By that time it was around 5am and I got into the bath. Within an hour I was 6cms dilated. The room was dark and the LED candles looked lovely. I decided to leave the HypnoBirthing track on with headphones in while I was in the water and I just relaxed listening to the track and breathing through the contractions which remained at about 5 minutes apart.

I was quite tired due to the terrible night’s sleep in the hospital the night before and on a few occasions in between contractions I almost fell asleep. I know this sounds crazy but some of the contractions I barely felt, I was so relaxed. The midwife said this could be because I was in the water; outside the water the contractions would feel much stronger.

Now and again my doula gave me rescue remedy and arnica and spritzed my face with water. I was just a bit confused as to why everyone had told me second births were so quick and Helena’s was taking hours but I wasn’t stressed about it as this birth was a treat compared to Andre’s. I felt spurred on by my midwife and doula who said how relaxed I looked and that everything was going so well.

At 7am a new midwife came on duty. About 8am she told me I had been dilated to 8cms for some time and wasn’t progressing. She wanted to give me syntocinon to speed things up though it wasn’t really clear why as the baby’s heartbeat was perfect. She seemed to be saying that a baby could become stressed if labour remained static for too long. My obstetrician was waiting around outside so maybe she was also keen to move things along. However, I really didn’t want to go down that path when I’d come so far on my own.

My doula suggested we change positions in the bath first. That seemed to get things moving, as finally the contractions became stronger and closer together (about 3 minutes apart). Even so, the midwife still wanted to either kick me out of the bath to walk around or give the syntocinon to speed things up. I asked her to check me again before I got out of the bath because I’d had those few strong contractions since changing position and felt like things must have progressed. I was still hooked up to my iphone at this stage with Olivier repeating the Rainbow Relaxation track each time it came to an end, and breathing mists that were „all the colours of the rainbow.“ I realised that the thought of asking for pain relief hadn’t yet crossed my mind. At the height of the strongest contraction, with Olivier supporting me from behind, I visualised myself looking at that final page of my photograph album in the green and blue room, and seeing the photograph of us and our new baby. I felt an incredible, beautiful rush of emotion and wanted to cry.

When the midwife checked me she said she could feel the baby’s head but because my waters had not broken it must be preventing him or her from coming down. She took out a little hooked device and said she wanted to break the waters. She must have found me a very annoying patient, as I told her I was really against intervention and asked for a moment alone with my husband so we could discuss. But by that point, I was tired and a bit over it. It had been 9 hours since the contractions had started and I wanted to move things along. My doula said she had had her waters broken with one of her children and it didn’t hurt. So the midwife broke the waters in the middle of the next contraction and all of a sudden I felt as if Helena’s head was about to pop out. With two pushes, Helena moved down and on the third her head was out. On the fourth push, at 8.45am, her body came out. I still had the Rainbow Relaxation track playing in my ears as she popped up and out of the water and onto my chest and had to ask Olivier to take my headphones off!

I had watched a short video of a woman giving birth with HypnoBirthing at a Geburtshaus in Luzern in one of my sessions with Nadine. She looked so calm and peaceful that you couldn’t imagine she was in labour. I really felt as though the same had just happened to me. I was shocked, delighted and so grateful that Helena’s birth had happened just the way I had dreamed and visualised it would in all those evening yoga sessions.

Gabrielle Van der Haegen April 2012


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