Neither of Lucy Atkinson’s births have been smooth sailing.
Her first pregnancy, seven years ago, ended in an induced c-section after Lucy developed pre-eclampsia. Her second - two years later - ended in a c-section again, after her baby boy was found to be breech.
But despite the hiccups, Lucy says her memories of giving birth are wonderful ones and she would even go so far as to call them enjoyable.
It’s a stark contrast to how the mum-of-two felt when she first discovered she was pregnant.
“I’ll be the first to admit the idea of giving birth terrified me,” says Lucy, who lives in Greenhill with her husband and their two children.
“I’d heard all the horror stories and was dreading the actual birth - and then somebody introduced me to hypnobirthing.”
Hypnobirthing - a birthing method involving self hypnosis, relaxation and breathing techniques - wasn’t as well known then as it is now, but Lucy attended classes with a lady in Chesterfield and says her attitudes to birth and labour changed virtually overnight.
“It changed everything,” she smiles.
“I began to look forward to the birth and enjoyed every minute of my pregnancy. I practiced the techniques and felt strong and in control of my body, the fear just melted away. I became so confident, in myself and in the method, that my husband and I decided on a home birth.”
But things didn’t go to plan, starting with Lucy developing pre-eclampsia in her third trimester.
“My home birth disappeared and I ended up in hospital being induced and delivering by c-section, but I still consider it to be a successful hypnobirth. Hypnobirthing isn’t about a birth happening in a particular way, it prepares you to handle whatever your birth may throw at you. Throughout everything, the techniques we’d learned enabled my husband and I to stay calm and make informed decisions; at no point did we feel the situation had been taken out of our control.”
And the experience inspired Lucy to spread the word on hypnobirthing.
“My thinking was that if it had been such a big help to me, in that extreme situation, it should be able to help anyone!”
Lucy, already a teacher at a special needs school, decided to train up as a hypnobirthing teacher while on maternity leave with her little girl. She studied her materials online, and attended courses, learned the basics of the method, of birth and self-hypnosis.
Two years after her training began, Lucy was pregnant again and began, for the second time, to plan a homebirth.
“Everything seemed to be going smoothly and we had a wonderfully supportive community midwife, but my son was breech. In the end we weighed all the risks and decided on a second c-section in hospital.
“It may not have been our ideal birth, but again it was a very calm birth and, I still think, a perfect hypnobirth.” Lucy and her husband are not planning on having any more children, though she admits to feeling a desire to give birth naturally.
“I loved both my labours and births, and I do have a hankering to give birth naturally, I’d love to experience that, but our family is complete.”
So instead - and because of her own wonderful experiences - Lucy became determined to give as many mums as possible a positive birth. Three years ago, she decided it was time to put her hypnobirthing training to good use, joining The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. She has just celebrated the birth of her 100th hypnobirthing baby in Sheffield and says she has the best job in the world.
“I’m thrilled with the career change I made,” says the 43-year-old, who recently expanded her practice into life coaching.
“It’s great to work with so many fantastic pregnant couples and help give them the tools to have the right birth for them on the day. I work from home, running hypnobirthing classes for couples, as well as ‘relax, breathe and birth sessions’ at Greenhill library. I also train other Wise Hippo teachers in the city and am running my next local course beginning in March.
“I absolutely love the Wise Hippo programme and the way it’s presented, I think it’s very fresh and modern. I also think it’s great that so many Wise Hippo teachers are women who’ve had positive hypnobirthing experiences themselves and want to share their knowledge.”
And Lucy insists that, despite common misconceptions, there is nothing new-age about hypnobirthing - just the opposite in fact.
“It’s about taking birth back to what it was and should be, without all the fear,” she says.
“Being a hypnobirthing mum doesn’t mean a home birth, or a natural birth - we always say the ideal place for a woman to give birth is the one where she feels the most comfortable and safe.
“Hypnobirthing is about putting women back in control and teaching them to listen to their own bodies. It’s nothing new, it’s about getting us back to allowing our bodies to do what they know how to do.
“We have great links with local maternity services too which is great, as they really see the benefit of what hypnobirthing has to offer.”
And Lucy says the best part of her job is the emails and photos she receives from happy new families.
“I love hearing how peoples’ experiences went,” she says.
“So many people come back to us to let us know how the hypnobirthing techniques kept them calm and in charge.
“It’s such a personal way of supporting people and I can honestly say I look forward to each and every day.”
Visit The Wise Hippo for details.
* Read Nik’s column: My own hypnobirth didn’t quite go to plan