Hypnobirthing. ‘I felt like the most beautiful goddess and the strongest warrior’

Tenderness and freedom

Maria Hawranek: Why Blue?

Beata Meinguer-Jedlińska: Because water and waves best represent the nature of childbirth. Look at the wave, focus on it for a few minutes. And ask yourself: can such power be controlled? Tamed? What if you learned to surf on it?

The concept grew out of the idea of hypnobirthing. How did you come across it?

While pregnant, I saw an event about hypnobirthing on Facebook, I didn’t have the energy to attend it, so I started googling. That was eight years ago, two months before my first childbirth. At that time there were two hypnobirthing schools in Poland, but the materials were mainly in English. I latched onto this topic mainly because I wanted to somehow manage the pain that everyone was telling me about, and I felt that birthing school wasn’t enough for me. It worked, after giving birth I felt like the most beautiful goddess and the strongest warrior. I also decided that I was going to make it my life’s work to prepare other pregnant women so they would have the chance to experience childbirth in this empowering way.

And who were you before that?

I had worked in corporations with Norwegian. I learned it when I went to Norway after high school as an au-pair.

Where did the concept of hypnobirthing originate?

Probably the person who first used the term ‘Hypnobirthing’ is Michelle Leclaire O’Neill in 1987. Her work was based in part on earlier research by the English obstetrician Dr. Grantly Dick-Read (in Poland better known for the Read’s triad – a theory explaining how pain sensations arise in women who did not take care of adequate psychoprophylaxis of childbirth). Another Dick-Read supporter was Marie Mongan, whose childbirth experience inspired her to found the Hypnobirthing Institute. The method quickly spread across the U.S. and Canada because it simply works. Then Marie brought it to the UK in the early 21st century. Since then, it has become very common and is one of the popular methods to prepare for childbirth. It’s 2022 and I’m still trying to explain in Poland that it’s not witchcraft.

How do you define it? I know from your book that the criterion is not the degree of pain at all, because it can still be huge. Surprisingly, neither is natural childbirth.

Hypnobirthing is a state of mind, not a form of childbirth. It can be induced, by caesarean section, at home or in hospital. This state of mind comes from both preparations during pregnancy and the mindset when childbirth happens.

You write that a woman loses herself in childbirth, which reminds me of the flow state. Many of the techniques described in fact relate to meditation. Is it different? Could we call hypnobirthing simply conscious or attentive birthing?

Sure. However, no matter which one we choose, there will always be some woman who will be outraged: was my childbirth not conscious then? Was I not attentive? It’s a delicate matter. I don’t like technical names because people get fixated on them and account for them. But I think that actually the closest thing will be the flow state. The idea is to lose yourself, not to think, not to be focused, because then you use the neocortex. And on the other hand, there is also attentiveness to oneself, not to what is outside. The wonderful French obstetrician Michel Odent, in one of his books, speaks of a state resembling the one after a glass of champagne. In France, in fact, such a glass is offered during natural childbirth (although in most cases childbirth is induced there). The purpose of this glass is to relax the woman and evoke a very desirable state during childbirth: you are not drunk yet, but already let go of the brakes. It can, of course, be achieved without champagne. If we turn off our self-judgement, our censorship: it’s inappropriate, maybe I shouldn’t scream too loudly, and what the midwife will do if I kneel, we free our animalism. Then the body gives birth, not the head.

But, to make that happen without champagne, you have to practice.

Every woman will take the suggested techniques differently, some will practice more, others less. Some have support during pregnancy, others hear: go for a c-section, it will be easier. It all affects us. Even if you don’t use 100% of the techniques you’ve mastered, the very fact that you’ve prepared ensures a different childbirth experience. And that’s the thing that I put the most emphasis on, and the reason why I went beyond the standard hypnobirthing concept. It hurt me that women were terribly judgemental after giving birth: it wasn’t real hypnobirthing, as if it were some kind of exam. Women are different and the course of labour varies. Preparation gives you the knowledge, the relaxation techniques, the basics to choose your doctor, midwife, and venue wisely, but the goal is to experience and remember your birth well, not how many techniques you use. Hence the need for another term – blue. The most important thing is the sense of empowerment of the woman giving birth.

You even go further in this: regaining power in childbirth. I wonder where this sense of influence is hidden. Often women prepare and then are left with the frustration that it went differently than they dreamed. Anyway, your first birth didn’t go exactly as you planned either – you had an incision in your perineum, you couldn’t push in the position you wanted. Nevertheless, you had a sense of empowerment. What is the secret?

The fact that childbirth is not an isolated event. In childbirth, we behave and react as we would in life. When we fail at something, do we consider it our failure and criticise ourselves, or do we say to ourselves: ‘Okay, I’ve learned something’? If you start treating childbirth as a part of life, you know that everything you do affects how you give birth. In that situation, it’s much easier to come to the realisation that even when something didn’t go according to plan, I still did my best. On a daily basis, you don’t have control over the weather, but you do have control over your clothing. You have no control over what your mother-in-law is like, but you do have control over where you place boundaries in your relationship. There are things you have control over during labour – you can learn about the physiology of labour and techniques on how to help yourself, but you have no control over how the midwife behaves, for example, especially if you don’t know her.

Childbirth is a part of life, you say. And we usually treat it as a one-time, necessary and scary event to end a pregnancy. We go to birthing schools to get used to it somehow, we read about it, but at the same time we try not to think about it too much. Do we have to do this every day?

It’s not about learning something about childbirth every day. It’s just about realising that the things we do from the beginning of pregnancy affect how that childbirth can go. What doctor do you go to? They also have their beliefs. Does your doctor think that the woman needs help, because she can’t cope on her own, or will they say: ‘a standard case, everything is okay’? The very fact that we usually go to them once a month, even though there are no such guidelines, affects us. The doctor in our culture is associated with illness. And even when we don’t consciously perceive it that way, we get a message that, for example, in anxious people with a strong sense of control, a tendency to play it safe, to fear that something will happen, deepens such an attitude. Then it’s hard to treat labour as something normal, right? Preparing for childbirth is a process. Pay attention to the people you talk to about childbirth. Some people you can’t push out of your life, but you can learn to set boundaries, to tell your friends: I don’t want to hear about your traumatic childbirth, I don’t need that right now, I want to get in the right frame of mind.

Telling pregnant women about terrible childbirth is a favourite pastime of many young mums, isn’t it?

Yes, it is! They do so in good faith, convinced that they help by preparing for the worst and reducing the potential for disappointment. Let me tell you from my experience and that of other women, if you have a good childbirth, like I had, you don’t even have anyone to tell about it! I say: it was fun. But how come? People don’t connect it at all: childbirth and something cool.

Tell me some good birthing stories then.

One couple from Chabówka was to give birth to their third child in Kraków. The morning they wrote that contractions were frequent, I suggested they get in the car. There were terrible traffic jams, the action was progressing, and I suggested that they look for the nearest hospital, otherwise the woman would give birth in traffic. They drove down to the nearest one in Myślenice. They rushed in, I joined them right after, and in the ward I see only him. After a while he shows her to me. She was sitting right next to him in the wheelchair, breathing, relaxing, so self-contained that I didn’t even see her, and the staff were convinced that the lady was weak and there’s a long way ahead of them. In the room, it turned out that she is at 10 cm. She made no sound, was in very deep relaxation, and after two or three pushing contractions the baby was with us. I was impressed with how she did it.


I recently accompanied a woman to her first childbirth; she wanted to do it at home in water. They bought a standard rubber pool because the birthing ones are quite expensive. They inflated it in the living room, water poured for half a day. The wonderful thing about home childbirth is that it’s so normal – there’s a kitchen, food, you can jump in the tub, there’s freedom.

That pool water must have gotten cold fast.

We added boiling water from the kettle. But the girl didn’t manage to get into the pool. Her waters broke quite early and the midwife thought we should go to the delivery room. In Poland, the recommended time from water breaking to delivery is relatively short due to the risk of infection, usually 6 to 12 hours, but it can be shorter. Everything depends on the condition of the mother and the baby, the colour of the amniotic fluid, the duration of the pregnancy, the result of the smear for streptococcus, etc. However, this is not a universal practice, in other countries there are different guidelines – waiting one or two days, but without internal examination, so as not to expose the woman to infection. I was impressed with the way this woman accepted the information that was not easy for her – after all, she had set her sights on giving birth at home. And she was a beacon of calm, in full acceptance: okay, I have no control over this, I take it as it is. This also comes from being prepared and nurturing a sense of empowerment. I am always so proud of these women for taking things on the chin in a feminine way. Another woman I prepared, one of the first trainees, gave birth at the main train station in Warsaw. On the platform, calm and happy. The husband assisted her.

In your third childbirth your husband also assisted you, didn’t he?

My midwife was on duty, and I wanted to give birth at home this time. I tried to tell myself that I would get over it soon. And then it got too late to go anywhere. It was shocking.

I remember from the book: your husband grabbed the baby and asked: what to do now, and you said: fucking cuddle!

Yeah! We were all in shock, my younger sister, the midwife on the phone, my husband and I. In this third pregnancy, I didn’t want to know the gender, it wasn’t until a while later that we checked what was born. It was Mieszko. You know, even waiting for that birth is different once you settle that it’s a normal occurrence. That you may experience premonitory contractions, pelvic distension, and pubic bone pain. You feel it and you live on, and when it starts, it starts. That’s why I say that a good birth starts in the head – that’s where you have to put everything in order.

What else affects having a good birth and when is a good time to start preparing?

Obviously exercise, diet, but also the psychological things I mentioned before: the people around us, what we read on the Internet, what we watch. Most birthing scenes in films and TV shows portray the exact same image of medicalised childbirth. This deepens our belief that it must be so. The ability to achieve a state of deep relaxation, which we practice through a variety of techniques to take with us into labour, influences good birth. It is optimal to start practising in the second or third trimester, depending on whether you have had contact with similar practices – conscious breathing, yoga, meditation. If someone is completely new to this, they will need more time to assimilate this so that it becomes natural. Because we don’t study like we’re taking a test, we integrate these practices into our lives. How do I breathe every day? What do I do when black thoughts come or when I panic? Can I notice it and do something about it?

Tell me, please, what the techniques are.

Breathing, deep relaxation, visualisations, affirmations, or positive sentences that you look at or repeat to yourself, anchors.

You call them relaxation ‘on the go’.

Yes, I do. Each woman chooses them for herself, you can act on any sense, and you can combine them. I listened, smelled, and my husband massaged me. My sister, on the other hand, danced to the song ‘Elena’s Dance’. After she played it in the delivery room, she started to relax so much that she went from 4 cm to 10 cm dilated within an hour. She went into a trance and gave birth soon after.

If you are preparing to use an anchor in childbirth, you need to be authentically relaxed, and really feel safe and joyful while using it – sniffing the oil, dancing, massaging. The actual emotional state makes your whole body remember it, and if the sense of security and joy is strong, it triggers the production of oxytocin and endorphins needed in labour. This, of course, needs to be repeated many times, then the reaction to a given smell, touch or taste will happen faster. It cannot be mechanical: this is an oil, I smell it, and this will be my anchor. Scent has perhaps the strongest effect on us. Most of us have childhood scents that evoke an emotional state.

To sum it up: choice of doctor, midwife, location, relaxation techniques and environment. Anything else?

It is also worth taking care of the vocabulary, of what is being said around you about childbirth. Words also affect our attitudes. Plus working with beliefs and fears – i.e. how I think about childbirth, what the attitude in my family is. It’s worth looking at and disenchanting some things based on current knowledge. Knowledge is another important element in childbirth: how do these mechanisms work? It’s also worth taking care of your body. Fortunately, the latest guidelines are reaching Poland and some people already know that even with a shortening cervix you should not lie down, because it does not affect dilation, but only weakens the muscles, which is not recommended before childbirth. It’s also a good idea to learn how to breathe with your diaphragm.

I’m wondering about the language. I understand that it’s cooler to say ‘waves’ than ‘contractions’, but why replace ‘delivering a baby’ with ‘assisting’?

All childbirth activists react vividly to the phrase ‘deliver a baby’. Mainly because, metaphorically speaking, for a long time childbirth was taken away from us: women had no control, no say. The idea is to sensitise that each of these phrases carries with it a history and a mentality – the midwife is there to welcome the baby into the world, not to take that moment away from the woman.

And in the field of knowledge, I was surprised to learn that there is such a thing as the Ferguson reflex. Can you elaborate on this?

This is the mechanism by which mammals can give birth on their own. Humans have it too. If the woman feels safe, doesn’t think, doesn’t analyse, isn’t instructed, in other words, gives birth as she feels, then a series of unstoppable contractions occur, literally pushing the foetus out of the uterus. There is indeed little discussion of this.

So is it possible to give birth without the famous: push, push?

Yes! In the first phase of labour contractions are still local and you can relax your body during a contraction, but not during a pushing contraction: your whole body pushes the baby out. Of course, a physiological position using gravity is necessary for this: kneeling, standing or squatting. You breathe. It’s not easy, but breathing alone is enough. There is no need for pressure, intentional pushing. It happens on its own. With my third child I even felt the head moving, it was magical.

However, we can’t help but mention a report from the Rodzić po Ludzku [Childbirth with Dignity] Foundation according to which more than half – half! – of women in Poland experience discomfort or violence during childbirth. You can get the feeling that we’re here talking about oils and massages, and then reality will come.

That’s why it’s so important to check out the place where we will be giving birth. Usually women are guided by the criteria: closest – may be a failure; where my doctor works – unwarranted unless you have a prior indication for a surgical delivery. You are unlikely to see them anyway – they will come at the very end if they are at work that day. I feel that this belief is strong because the mentality from the communist era that our doctor will whisper something to the midwives persists. You have to look for a place that is good for you. Women do it, which is why birth tourism is booming.

Birth tourism?

Girls know that in the nearest hospital all the women are laid down and incised, and they do not want this, so they go, for example, to Warsaw, Oleśnica, Mysłowice, Bochnia, Stefan Żeromski Hospital in Kraków. The sad thing is that those that can’t afford to leave will be stuck where they are. However, I feel that preparation gives them room for discussion, they don’t blindly agree to everything that is proposed to them.

What kind of women come to you for support?

Women preparing for their first childbirth, because they heard about Blue Childbirth from a friend or are curious and open-minded themselves. Or those with another childbirth ahead of them saying: ‘I want it to be better this time’. Before that, there was a caesarean section or interventions that were very difficult for them. There is a variety of lifestyles – I don’t urge girls to have a home birth, I say: choose a way that makes you feel comfortable. Hippies, doctors and midwives come. I admire them for seeking a different path despite their environment.

And does it happen that despite the preparation, the woman still experiences disappointment and trauma?

Sure, there are no guarantees. In conversations after childbirth, they often mention some event from their past, childhood or adult life that influenced them to feel threatened during childbirth or have a very strong need for control. As we give birth, all the things from our subconscious come to the fore. In fact, highly controlling people are generally anxious, aren’t they? I don’t work as a therapist, but if a girl feels she needs to bring up deeper topics with a therapist during her preparation, I always encourage her to do so.

So again: childbirth is not separate from our lives. In one of the recordings, you said that a good birth translates into better relationships with your baby, your partner, your family, at work. I immediately thought: so if I have a sad birthing story, I’m screwed.

It’s so personal and subjective that such mechanisms are always activated.

But what power does a good birth give?

Just preparing for childbirth makes women begin to see their relationships differently, their boundaries, what they want to allow themselves and what they don’t. They have time to reflect on what they are doing with their lives. Later, there is childbirth. If they feel good afterwards: they feel like it was a blast or that it was hard, but they made it, then I can see what an incredible kick it gives them. Very often they change jobs, they state: I’m not going back behind a desk, I’m going to do what I’ve always dreamed of. This process also sometimes verifies relationships – suddenly it turns out that the partner is no support at all.

Are there any young mums out there who part with their partners? I guess you have to be some kind of superwoman.

Well it doesn’t happen in the postpartum, after a year, two or several years. This is a process that often begins in these thoughts about oneself related to childbirth. It’s important to give yourself time to sort things out in your head, to accept that some things are beyond your control. Childbirth stays in the body and mind, like any powerful experience. It’s worth reworking it for yourself, not hiding it if it wasn’t the way I wanted it or if it was difficult. And if you have a grievance, you need to release it in the form that is closest to you. Certainly not to other pregnant women. In Poland there is such a belief: you have a healthy child, you should be happy. So if you don’t give yourself the time and space to work through that grief, no one will. It’s important to disenchant it. If you feel bad, you can talk about it. You are supposed to be mentally healthy too, not just your child.

So I think that, like yoga, forest bathing that I do, or working on good sex in a relationship, preparing for childbirth might just become an opportunity for self-development.

Yes, because we then ask ourselves: what do I want? What am I afraid of? What do I care about? Of course, not every woman gets into it, some treat it as another task – they learn the techniques and that’s it, without deep thought. But I feel like that kind of questioning ourselves about things works in us anyway. Women get to know themselves more, notice their own lives.

‘Allow yourself to be the way you want to be’, you write in the context of childbirth. And I think that’s a goal for life.

Exactly! And sex is a good clue: see how many things affect how we feel about sex. Not just this particular act and this partner. Body condition, relationship condition, what we think about ourselves, what we think about our bodies, what experiences we have. Sex can also be compared to childbirth on other levels – the same sequence of hormones is released during childbirth and sex. Neither will be successful if you don’t feel safe and intimate. Once there was an experiment in which two recordings were played: one of a woman during sex and another of birth given by a woman who was comfortable with it. They were indistinguishable.


Beata Meringuer-Jedlińksa – perinatal coach, hypno-doula, initiator of the idea of the Blue Childbirth and the course attended by over 700 women. She has over 15,000 women in her Facebook support group. She gave birth to three children in a state of deep relaxation – self-hypnosis

Author: Maria Hawranek

Photo: unsplash.com

The text was published on wysokie obcasy.pl on 8 January 2022