There are lots of different kinds of childbirth prep classes. There's Lamaze, Bradley Method, and other classes that you can take at hospitals. However, when we were expecting Zosia, our midwife strongly recommended that we take hypnobirthing, assuring us that the births she's attended that were prepared for using hypnobirthing were much more peaceful, successful, and easy than others-- there seemed to be a strong consensus on this point with the whole practice of midwives, and they were a pretty sciency bunch. So we signed up for hypnobirthing not really knowing what to expect (but having visions of a therpist with a pocket watch).
As it turns out, the fundamental premise of hypnobirthing is that fear leads to tension which leads to pain, and therefore if you get rid of your fears about childbirth, you ultimately get rid of tension and pain. The way that you work towards this end is regularly participating in relaxation exercises (which either consist of listening to a cd, or having your partner read you a script that puts you into a deep state of relaxation). That, paired with the heavenly phenomenon called "light touch massage" (think light tickles on your back), when practiced during the labor make your body relax and do what it's made to do. And through taking hypnobirthing you learn about the process of labor and delivery and realize that there's absolutely nothing scary about it-- every stage is simply your body doing something very effective to bring this baby into the world. Surges (or "contractions," as they're called more commonly) are your uterine muscles opening up your cervix so that the baby can easily descend. Breathing the baby down (or "pushing") is simply the baby gently descending down the birth canal. And then voila, you have a baby! During the class, you get to watch lots of videos of hypnobirths taking place, and they are so beautiful and peaceful that they alone are huge in reversing the images of childbirth that we've been given as contemporary women (I still can't watch A Baby Story without laughing).
Hypnobirthing worked like a champ with Zosia, so we've always known that we want to prepare in a similar way with number two. But in the tumult of the move, we lost our cd and book, and then with all this craziness around the house, we haven't gotten around to getting everything together to prepare for another hypnobirth. A couple days ago, however, our materials finally arrived, and yesterday I finally listened to the CD for the first time. I didn't know how I would feel about hypnobirthing this time around-- whether it would be effective this time, etc. But, I must say, the effect was quick and dramatic. Maybe it's because I already used the method with Zosia, but I felt like within seconds of beginning the relaxation exercise, I was limp as a noodle and totally suggestible and at ease. By the end of it, I felt like I had just returned from a week long vacation. There were a few new unsubstantiated "fears" that I've developed through this pregnancy-- minor things, like remembering that I wasn't crazy about the sensation of my water breaking. But just allowing myself to be guided through an ideal version of this baby's delivery truly helped melt those fears away, and made me even more excited for that day in the near future that I get to watch my body do something that is among nature's most spectacular shows.
The only bad news is that I'm totally hooked on the hypno-CD. I feel like I'm tempted just to pull it out and use it as a quick fix to any minor stress in my life. There's a warning on the cover that says not to listen to while operating machinery/ driving, and I'm realizing that I'm the person it's geared towards.