That is to say you're aware and awake but operating on a less-conscious level. A trained practitioner can access this state to reinforce positive messages and undo fears.
Colin Christopher, a hypnotist in Edmonton, Canada employs hypnobirthing to help women manage the whole pregnancy process, from nausea and stress, to post-partum depression. To prepare for the delivery, he'll try to shift their thinking about the experience with messages like, "You're going to be calm," and "Things are going to go well for you."
For her part, Nicholson guarded her pregnancy with positive thinking, wearing a large button that read: "PLEASE only happy birth stories ... My baby is listening." As she says, "Our bodies follow our thoughts." So, a relaxed mindset can help a woman achieve an optimal physical state for childbirth.
Nicholson teaches her clients the visualizations and breathing (roughly four counts on an inhale and eight counts on an exhale create "calm breathing") they can use to feel relaxed and confident whether it's delivery day or an hour in traffic. "These tools and techniques we teach are life skills," she says.
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For Laine Douglas, 27, of Centreville, Va., Nicholson's teaching helped her relax, as she visualized her cervix as a lotus flower gradually opening for her newborn daughter. That and a hypnotic CD kept her calm for the first few hours of labor. But those last two hours? "I turned into a screaming banchee," she says. She delivered at a birth center in Chantilly, Va., where "they had a canopy bed, and thank God the canopy was strong enough, because I was hanging from it."
She notes, however, that her distress spiked whenever she focused on the pain, and that her partner's coaching helped her calm down. "We've practiced this," he would tell her. "This is what we've been waiting for, and once this is over, she'll be here."
Women can also celebrate their own arrival, in a sense. "A mother's being born every time a baby's being born," Nicholson says. "It's a very special rite of passage."