Kimberly Love's birth hypnosis class turns pain into gain

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Giving birth to a child is arguably the most intensely painful experience a human being can have. After nine months of more-or-less blissful pregnancy, childbirth is the dark side of reproduction -- and it's understandable that many women prefer to bypass the full experience through drugs or surgery, given the cultural narrative surrounding birth, how much it's going to hurt and how ill-equipped the modern woman is to handle it. I just had my first child in November, so when I saw that Kimberly Love, founder of Soulica, was advertising classes that would help mothers achieve a "calm, natural, comfortable birth," I wanted to know more.

Love hosts a five-week birth-hypnosis class (which is different from hypnobirthing) that teaches parents coping mechanisms for the rollercoaster ride that is labor and childbirth. "When I had my daughter 27 years ago, I went into this natural trance state," she explains, and she believes that state is attainable for anyone -- if you just practice.

It sounds insane, but it's true. Love's experience parallels mine: I was in labor for a grand total of about five and a half hours, which is incredibly quick for a first-time mom, and my child was delivered naturally without drugs or interventions. I'd stop short of describing the experience as "calm" or "relaxing," but it certainly wasn't the horror show I'd been told to expect. So why is it that some women seem to have an easier time birthing babies than others? Is it a matter of physical ability, or is there something else involved, too?

As it happens, the techniques Love teaches in her birth-hypnosis class are simply meditation techniques. I've been meditating regularly for several years, so that "trance state" that Love mentions is one that I'm familiar with. And I was leaning heavily on my meditation practice while in labor.

"There is not one being on this planet who isn't born of a woman," Love notes, "but we've somehow been conditioned to believe that we can't handle birthing our children, even though this is in our DNA. Our bodies know exactly how to birth these babies."

She acknowledges that there are a lot of factors in the birthing process that are out of our control. "But what you can do," she says, "is learn how to control your mind and even control your body's sensations so you can allow your body to do its perfect work. Birth hypnosis eliminates the resistance. Most babies born with birth hypnosis are born in six hours or less."

So moms who don't have a strong background in meditation can take Love's class instead; she addresses fear and trauma factors that can sometimes throw a wrench in the works, and she instructs attendees (both moms and birthing partners) how to enter that elusive trance state.

Skeptical? So are a lot of Love's clients -- initially. "Usually after the first class, they admit that this is nothing like they expected," she notes. "They typically expect that Vegas hypnosis experience of someone controlling their mind. But this is actually extremely empowering. They are completely in control.

"What I really teach is a life skill," she adds. "Meditation is about quieting the mind, and hypnosis is quieting the mind for a defined outcome. This defined outcome is a comfortable, natural birth experience, an experience you can embrace and not fear. I use the same techniques for clients with chronic pain, PTSD or any kind of trauma in their life -- from people who have existential issues and who just aren't happy to people who are just working on reducing their stress."

The five-week class is held regularly at Longmont United Hospital; she suggests pregnant moms start it between 28 and 32 weeks. Love also offers classes through her Soulica office, where she practices "life-sculpting with wisdom." Visit naturalbirthdenver.com to learn more.

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