You're Getting Very Sleepy 

HypnoBirthing melts away prenatal fear, says practitioner Carrie Flemming.

Becoming a parent changes everything. So that transition between nonparenthood and parenthood — those months, weeks, days, and hours — are fraught with joy and wonder and abject terror.

"My experience with first-time moms has shown me that women may fear the unknown. Birth is a mysterious and powerful experience and so different for each woman," says Oakland-based birth advocate Carrie Flemming, who will teach a quartet of classes in HypnoBirthing at BirthWays (1600 Shattuck Ave., Suite 122, Berkeley) starting on Friday, June 5. "It is more common to hear scary stories about what went wrong in a birth rather than about all the births that happen smoothly every day." These horror stories "surround birth with an aura of danger" that has, Flemming laments, "overshadowed the healthy, normal, and safe view of birth we should be instilling in women through education, psychological and physical preparation, and empowerment."

Not just a stage-magician's trick or a means of accessing past lives, hypnosis "provides a relaxed state where women can gain access to deeper self-awareness and connection to themselves." Once engaged in the process, "women are completely coherent and in control of their minds and bodies, and are choosing to focus on letting go of fears and anxieties in the mind and deeply relaxing the body," explains Flemming, who has trained as a doula and earned her HypnoBirthing certificate two years ago: "Self-hypnosis produces endorphins which are extremely beneficial for moms and babies prior to and during labor. Endorphins can act as nature's anesthesia and a relaxed mind and body allow the birthing body to move through the perfectly natural process of birth."

Developed by New Hampshire teacher, hypnotherapist, and mother-of-four Marie Mongan, HypnoBirthing has been praised for building confidence, boosting the mother-baby bond before birth, and even bringing bodies into labor without artificial chemical inducement. The latter can happen in several different ways, Flemming says: "Physical intimacy produces oxytocin, the hormone present at the onset of labor. Kissing, hugging, sexual intercourse, and clitoral/nipple stimulation are great options for bringing the body into labor. For those with male partners, semen contains a prostaglandin that helps to soften the cervix. This intimacy and deep connection is a beautiful, loving place to begin the dynamic process of birth. Spicy foods, visualization, and releasing fear are other natural ways to help produce a natural onset of labor."

Increased prenatal awareness "is the base level of birth justice," asserts Flemming, who is also a multimedia artist. "I believe it is related to all other movements for justice on the planet. I often wonder if women were routinely given the tools to birth with awareness, love, confidence, and joy in a calm, compassionate, and nurturing environment, how this might provide a foundational framework for increased justice and peace on the planet." 6 p.m., $300, includes mother and birthing partner. BirthWays.org

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