Wednesday, August 27, 2008

In which I get hypnotized, not terrorized

So I don't remember if I mentioned this before, but I have what I might call an actual phobia about childbirth. I think that's one reason I was able to convince myself for some eight years that I actually didn't want to spawn at all, despite a lifelong obsession with babies. When it became clear that, having left the relationship with SeƱor Spawnless and found a (surprise!) willing partner, I did want to conceive, I found that the very idea left me sweating and trembling. 

Literally. I went to see my OB-GYN for a pre-TTC checkup, and I literally, literally shook and trembled on her table as tears sprang to my eyes. This is not like me, people. I am not a delicate flower. She actually hugged me and said "We're going to give you some good drugs, don't worry! We're all about having you use all this again [waving her hand around my crotch] after you deliver your baby!" 

My regular doctor told me that, with 9 months to get used to the idea, I'd be fine by the time I delivered, but now that I'm halfway to B-Day, I'm somewhat better -- but nowhere near where I should be. I can't watch the movies or look at photos. I have to squint at drawings. And if anyone mentions tearing, cutting or -- other stuff, I really do almost pass out in a dead faint. I've discussed this with my therapist, but heard good things about a very California concept that I just had to try: Hypnotherapy.

I know, visions of human chickens and blurted-out bank account numbers danced in my head, too. But I also know that "light as a feather, stiff as a board" really worked in seventh grade because we were highly suggestible adolscents. If pregnancy has taught me anything, it's that I'm emotionally still barely a post-teen. I took the plunge.

As it turns out, my hypnotherapist is from the Bronx and is haimisheh like me. I felt instantly at ease, though dubious. I really just didn't think I would go under, and she said that's okay; in the worst-case scenario, I'd be deeply relaxed and meditative, which would still help me in my quest for lower blood pressure and conquered fear. Okay. I'll buy that for ninety semolians. 

Going under, I tried to put aside my skepticism and really put myself in that highly suggestible slumber-party state. I did feel a physical frisson as she counted down from 5 to 1, but my monkey-brain (as we call it in yoga class) was still fussing, albeit more slowly than usual. Still, I bravely lay on the ersatz beach (yuck! I hate sand), hopped onto the imaginary cloud, and rode it to my woodsy safe place, squelching my instinct to ask if there were deer ticks in my woodsy safe place and requesting some pinchbeck Deet. I really tried to see the cool fountain and stick my feet in it. I just finished reading The Keep, so ancient stone fountains were on my mind; I managed. I really did.

But when it was time for my spirit-guide to show up, I remained alone in my woodsy safe place. Aggravating. "What's going on?" my hypnotherapist asked. "My spirit-guide didn't show," I told her. "How do you feel about that?" she queried. I sighed. "This is just so typical," I complained, from deep in my meditative state.

She led me through another visualization that was supposed to bring me to said spirit guide, and when I opened the door of the white room with the white shag carpeting (my hypnotherapist was clearly a child of the '70s, like me) and looked on the couch she said was there, I saw Jingles, my childhood dog.

I always see Jingles. She was the best dog ever, but really, she was my sister Sarah's dog, and there is no way she is really my fricking spirit guide! A black cocker spaniel-mix mutt? That was what my unconscious mind came up with? Someone else's dog? Guh, I can't stand my unconscious mind! I am so goddamn stubborn! 

I know what this was about. I hate, hate, hate depending on people; it's been the hardest part about being pregnant, feeling so physically helpless that I have to ask for assistance and can't do the simplest thing, like take out the garbage or run for the bus. Asking for advice, even from a spirit-guide who represents my superego, is anathema. Alternately, it could be this: Asking anything of my spirit-guide means depending on my own instincts. Well, my own instincts have proven themselves to be total assholes time and again; they were what told me to stay with the abovementioned Mr. No-Baby, and that was a total nightmare of a disaster wrapped in a burrito of crap. Spirit guide: FAIL.

Anyway, I did my best, talking to Jingles, and came away from the conversation with two very interesting conclusions:
  • Fear of childbirth, for me, is bound up with fear of losing my sexual self, which is the only self I've always been able to depend on. The only time I've lost it was when I was on antidepressants, and that was all part of the worst, most helpless and lifeless year of my life. 
  • I'm using my favorite body-parts as a baby highway. This would freak anyone out. 
Obvious as these points may seem, they had not actually occurred to me. Acknowledging them hasn't abated the fear, but has at least given me a way to get a handle on it. That's got to count for something.

I am pretty sure I'm mostly just plain neurotic and a lot of this is down-home wimpyness on my part. But I'm also pretty sure that if I go back a couple more times before B-Day, I might be able to at least not make things harder for my various doctors and midwives, which is really what I'm scared of doing. When I had deliriously bad menstrual cramps in high school, my mom taught me Lamaze breathing to keep myself from making it work; if it worked then, it's got to work now.

So, all this to say: I'm nuts. But I'm working on it! And it's a good thing there's doctors and hospitals and anaesthesiologists. YAY. 

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