With all of our Hypnobirthing training (five three-hour classes), I still experienced a bit of confusion about what I was actually going to DO when my wife was in labor.  It was helpful to hear the experiences of the other couples in our Hypnobirthing class (there were three other couples, and all of them had due dates prior to ours).  So while it's pretty obvious what the woman in labor is supposed to do (use your techniques to get relaxed and stay relaxed), I thought I'd tell you a little bit more about my experience as the Hypnobirthing Birth Partner, in hopes of helping you figure out what you're going to do - especially if you're like me and you've never been through this kind of thing before.

Important Stuff before Labor begins:

Preparation time!  Apart from the obvious things (getting a bag packed, making a list of everything else that'll need to come with you to the hospital, etc.), your job as Hypnobirthing birth partner is to assist the Hypnobirther in her preparation.  Create space in your lives so that you can listen to the Hypnobirthing CD (the affirmations AND the Rainbow Relaxation exercise).  Generally my wife and I would listen to the CD before bedtime, and I would do light-touch massage during the affirmations, then climb into bed along with her for the Rainbow Relaxation.  I felt like the more light-touch massage we could do the better, because the more that we did, the more that my wife seemed to respond to it.  Your ability to relax works just like any skill - it gets better with practice.  So keep practicing, and enjoy the generally relaxed state that will permeate your life!

We also experimented with my inducing a hypnotic state, using the scripts provided by our Hypnobirthing instructor.  It was easy to do, and my wife was definitely relaxed and hypnotized, but for us this didn't seem like an important part of the process.  I think that some couples might do this part more than we did - it's really going to boil down to your personal preference - whether the Hypnobirther needs help to actually GET relaxed, or whether she feels like she can do it on her own.  Going through the scripts is a great trust-building exercise - for both of you - since you will be learning to trust yourself with hypnosis, and see that you are capable of getting your partner to a deeply relaxed place if it becomes necessary.  You might also find some techniques that are useful for you - so try everything offered at least ONCE. 

The basic purpose of all the preparation work is these three things:

  1. The Hypnobirther develops her ability to get relaxed and stay relaxed, while also using the affirmations to reprogram herself for a positive birth experience.
  2. The Hypnobirthing birth partner develops experience with light-touch massage, inducing relaxation, and responding to the needs of the Hypnobirther.
  3. Both people learn what works and what doesn't, so as to figure out what will be the chief "tricks of the trade" that you'll use when labor begins.

Now You're in Labor - what does the Hypnobirthing Partner do?

Along with attending to basically whatever the Hypnobirther needs (food, a drawn bath, the bookshelves dusted), here are the things that I did with my wife leading up to and including our trip to the hospital:

  1. At one point I got into the bathtub with my wife, sitting behind her and doing light-touch massage on her arms, legs, and head.
  2. I helped my wife get from place to place.
  3. As surges got more and more intense, my wife needed my participation during the surges.  You have a "birthing companion's cheat sheet" with a bunch of phrases, techniques, and suggestions of what to do when.  I chose ONE phrase ("Breathe up, up, up, up....now let it out, down through Boober" - our baby's nickname was/is Boober).  I think that one phrase that works for the both of you is all you really need, so don't get overwhelmed with all the choices on the cheat sheet.  Try a few out for size, before labor begins (role play a surge or two with the Hypnobirther), and choose whatever feels right.
  4. If you find one of the phrases to be completely ridiculous, keep that one as an option too.  Laughter helps the birthing process, and if you happen to get a laugh with your one-liner delivered at the right moment, it'll be worth it.
  5. Essentially the Hypnobirthing CD was on constant repeat, and my wife was using that to get back into a deeply relaxed state between surges.  I was just doing light-touch massage to accompany her relaxation.
  6. As we went to the hospital, and walked to our room at the hospital, my wife and I would stand face-to-face during surges, and she would drape herself over my shoulders.  I would support her physically, and use the aforementioned "Breathe up, up, up..." line to keep her focused on her breathing during the surges.
  7. At the hospital - guess what?  It was more of the same!  The ideal Hypnobirth is "long, slow, and boring" - it's great to remind yourself of that because it takes away any expectation of having to be entertaining, or of things needing to be dramatic.  In my first Hypnobirthing article (link is above), I mentioned that Jessica, our hypnobirthing instructor, met us at the hospital along with our midwife.  Jessica took over the verbal "Breathe up, up, up...", and the two of us were on either side of my wife, offering her physical support during surges, and light-touch massage between the surges.  While there's not much pushing involved in a Hypnobirth, the midwife was there to guide my wife as to the appropriate time to bear down.  It was very helpful to have a midwife who had attended other successful hypnobirths - she contributed to the overall supportive, calm atmosphere of just letting things happen at their own pace.
  8. Oh yeah, and I got cups of water for everyone when they were necessary.  Staying hydrated=very important.

All I had to do was focus on my wife's comfort and relaxation.  The rest, literally, comes naturally.  Then you have a baby in your arms - and the real excitement begins!  Stay tuned for my article on overcoming your cluelessness about what to do with a baby - a review of Harvey Karp's video "The Happiest Baby on the Block" - which was probably the most important video I ever saw before my son, Dashiell (aka Boober) made his appearance.

I hope that this has helped you in your thoughts about how to best prepare for your upcoming Hypnobirth, and what it'll actually be like when labor arrives.  Figure out what works for you, and then, when the first surge comes, fall back on what you know works.  It'll all happen the way it's supposed to happen, and you'll both be nice and relaxed, which is the perfect way to experience such a beautiful, life-altering moment.