Cindy Fenn - Award Winning Hypnobirthing Birthing Australia ™ Practitioner
So today we have the absolute pleasure of talking to Cindy Fenn, award-winning Hypnobirthing Practitioner and mum to three beautiful boys. She spreads an amazing message, empowering mums-to-be with the knowledge and confidence to trust their birthing instincts and birth naturally. Today we get the privilege of being able to tap into this wealth of knowledge and unveil the truths about birth and Hypnobirthing.
Thanks, Cindy, for taking the time to chat to us today. Firstly, can you introduce yourself to our readers and maybe give us an insight into your own birthing experiences, and why you decided to teach hypnobirthing?
My name is Cindy Fenn.
My business Big Hearted Birth teaches, Hypnobirthing Australia™ courses to pregnant Mums and their birth partners, the tools and skills for positive birth.
I have had three births – a very positive hospital birth in London where my waters released during a Parent/Teacher interview and I was driven to the hospital by the parent of a child I taught at the time. Unique yes, sounds dramatic but really was just a calm and extraordinarily ordinary birth.
An undisturbed home birth where my second son came before the midwife – best birth by far – sounds dramatic again but really just unfolded in the most amazing and beautiful way.
My final birth in 2017, I stood in my bathroom after three hours of moving like a leopard and hanging from my door.
My births have always been quite quick and intense –some have said I birth easy – I don’t agree – I’ve prepared for every birth meticulously but on that day I’ve just let my body do what it needed, stayed present and this has made all the difference.
It was after the birth of my second son that I decided to train as a Hypnobirthing Australia ™ practitioner and now I get to help other women to step into their own power and prepare for their own positive birth experiences. Every positive birth experience means that the narrative about what birth is and what it can be changes. It has positive benefits not only for how women are in the world, but also for the next generation of birthing woman and their partners. We also through birthing consciously, tend to parent consciously and this is so important for current times in which we live.
When the term hypnobirthing is used, for some it conjures up images of magicians waving pocket watches in front of your eyes but the reality couldn't be farther from it. Can you clarify what hypnobirthing really is?
It does, doesn’t it… or clucking like chickens in front of an audience.
Hypnobirthing is really as Melissa Spilsted, founder of Hypnobirthing Australia ™ jokes a fancy word for “Positive Birth”. Hypnobirthing just means basically you have conditioned your mind to see birth as a normal physiological experience of the body that woman are designed to do. The hypno part refers to the use of self- hypnosis to keep a birthing Mum relaxed and grounded during pregnancy, labour and birth, and to release fear prior to birthing. There actually is a whole range of other techniques such as affirmation, visualization, touch, active movement, music, breathing, deep and instant relaxation which are also taught which assist parents to keep super relaxed which will enhance your body’s physiology for a more comfortable and efficient birth.
What will expectant mums and parents learn during hypnobirthing classes?
So…I teach the only trademarked Hypnobirthing program here in Australia – Hypnobirthing Australia™.
My business Big Hearted Birth teaches you how to be at the centre of your birth, step into your power and optimize your chances of having a Positive Birth experience because sadly not everyone does and some may even say their experience was traumatic.
So preparation is crucial.
In ALL HYPNOBIRTHING AUSTRALIA courses, you get a next level toolkit of birthing techniques and scripts to use on your birthing day all presented in easy to use parent folio as well as MP3’s for self-hypnosis tracks, affirmation tracks AND an E Booklet Little Book of Hypnobirthing.
It is independent education to help women navigate the birthing system, they choose to birth in, not just adhere to hospital policy or procedures.
Woman learn about what birth environments facilitate optimum hormone release for efficient and safe physiological births.
They also learn the why! What happens to the birthing body when it’s calm and relaxed vs in a state of anxiety and fear.
The hallmark birth game changer for me is the Fear Release Self-Hypnosis which alleviates any limiting anxieties or self-fulfilling ideas that your mind holds onto and may, in fact, sabotage your vision for a positive birth.
For me personally, in an ideal world, we will all be having home births. But the reality is that this is often not an option. So, what should expectant mothers be asking the hospitals if they decide to do hypnobirthing?
Me too – my favourite births have been at home so don’t get me started on loss of opportunity for women to access homebirth. Hopefully, we don’t lose homebirth as an option for women however I do think the best place for a woman to birth is where she feels safest and for many that will be in a hospital.
In the Hypnobirthing Australia course, we get our parents to discuss with their caregivers as early as possible what their preferences for birth are.
What you request the hospital will depend on the couple but generally, parents may request…upright positioning for labour and birth, spontaneous onset of labour (no pressure of induction for post dates), only offered intervention if medically necessary, physiological third stage. letting the birthing mother birth undisturbed without time pressure, mother directed pushing (yep – we actually get excellent signs on what to do at birth time) and informed consent for everything that happens to your body – not all women would like vaginal exams for example.
These are all important for all birthing women but specifically, when women are using self- hypnosis they have a heightened sense of awareness so they may request no unnecessary chatter. Couples will often request specific language around “pain” and “contractions” for example because we know words are powerful and we want to use language that supports thinking that birth is a normal physiological event and the strong sensations we feel are our bodies doing the job it is designed to do.
When you do Hypnobirthing it is best to do face to face classes because a practitioner will go through all the theory and join all the dots which sometimes doesn’t happen when you solely read or a book or hear from your friends how they did it.
Now the BIG question…Can birth really be pain-free?
Perception of pain is very subjective and no two women would probably describe the same pain in exactly the same terms. In Hypnobirthing Australia™ we reframe the pain question – If you think pain that’s what you get – It’s the same if you try NOT to think about a pink elephant – that’s all you can think about. We rephrase the language in the mind so the body perceives pain differently. It was theorized in Dr. Grantly Dickread’s Childbirth Without Fear that when the body is in fear or has tension there will be pain or conversely no tension or fear, no pain.
From personal experience – I have birthed three babies – my second birth was pain-free so I know it’s possible. The other two were “ no walk in the park” – I worked hard with my body and I would do it again in a second but they were by no means pain-free
They were full of crazy, strong, awesome sensations. Some even took my breath away.
Call me crazy, but I actually like the intensity – It’s my body being powerful.
Anyway – Don’t think of a pink elephant! See …told you.
What is the partner's role in a hypnobirthing birth?
Your partner is hugely significant- they represent love and home. If you are birthing in a hospital when your eyes are closed and you hear their voice it can anchor you into that moment and make you feel safe which helps the body open up. Some mums talk about staring into their partners' eyes and feeling connection and love which is great as this releases oxytocin. Birth partners also massage, apply acupressure points, read scripts, whisper prompts and phrases to remind the unconscious mind all is well, hold you up and help a birthing Mum sink deeper into relaxation. When the birthing mothers says “I cant do this “ the birth partner reminds her that she is strong and she can. They protect the birth space so that the birthing mother can go within and listen to her birthing instinct.
They do many other things but I suggest booking into a class for the full run down.
I think Hypnobirthing is just as much for birth partners as it is about mums. The more confident a birth partner is will ripple through on the Mum’s labour. Conversely, birth partners who are scared or not confident actually can have a negative effect on the birth space also. So many of the birth partners say after doing their classes, how confident they feel to understand what childbirth is and have some tools to assist their partner in birth.
For women out there thinking about adopting hypnobirthing philosophy and techniques, where can they find resources?
It is best to book into a course – to have a trained practitioner go through the process with you and explain the theory and techniques. Although there is a Hypnobubs online course when face to face is just impractical.
If you go onto the Hypnobirthing Australia™ website, there’s a free MP3, information and closest practitioners. That’s where I would start with resources.
I’ve listened to the Hypnobirthing audio visualisations and they’re very calming. Why are they such a big part of the practice?
Hypnobirthing scripts are designed to make you feel VERY calm. They have specific prompts and birth messaging, guided imagery, affirmations and breathing prompts that go straight into the unconscious mind.
Every time you listen you are re-wiring the brain to think and feel and respond to the script which you will respond to positively on your baby’s birthing day.
I know you used Hypnobirthing for your own birth, how do you feel it supports you as a mother?
Ok, I could write a book so sorry if this is a bit self- indulgent …Childbirth literally has changed my life – It uncovered strength and conviction that I never had experienced before.
In birth, I trusted my instinct and my body did everything it was supposed to do.
The hypnobirthing tools I practised during my pregnancy have held me in such a powerful way in my birth and this has also transferred into my mothering.
It’s true being a good enough mother is hard internal work but all the worthwhile stuff we do in life is. I always say in my classes birthing a baby is no easy feat – it may look calm on the outside but there is a lot of internal mind work occurring. Birth is a challenge that we rise up to because parenting our children will demand everything from us physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. Children will open up every part of us that hasn’t healed or which we haven’t become conscious too. You think birth is hard, wait until your toddler challenges you or pulls on a heartstring.
So the tools that assisted me in birth also assist me to keep relatively calm and grounded as a mother and woman.
I use the tools daily: I listen to tracks (not pregnancy obviously) as I fall asleep still because when I'm rested I parent in a way that is more aligned to how I like to be. I use affirmation to keep my mindset focused, I use breathing techniques when the winds of self-doubt inhabit my mind and I have recently really got back into using the skill of visualization to draw in what I want to achieve.
Of course, I’m not perfect but until birth and becoming a mother I really tried hard most of the time to be that perfect person. I am not that person anymore. My boys do not need nor want perfection – they need a worthy model of being a human and that’s what I want to be – a worthy example of a human with all my imperfections and magnificence. I want to meet them when they are older and look them in the eye and I see them as who they truly are and they see me for that too. I think I’ll leave it there.
Can keeping calm really make your labour go quicker and smoother, and if so then why don't more mums use the hypnobirthing technique during childbirth?
Well it DEFINITELY did for me and many hypnobirthing women will testify to this also and the science supports the idea that when a woman feels safe, undisturbed and in private ie optimal birthing environment then the body releases a perfect orchestration of birthing hormones which allow the uterus to do its job of birth.
If the hormonal physiology is upset in any way ie induction, intervention, pain relief, fear, anxiety then it makes sense that the body won’t be doing its job properly – blood and oxygen to the body and therefore the baby isn’t optimum so the body can’t do its job.
I think often people equate hypnobirthing with hippie and a whole heap of “whoo” which is why some people may steer clear of it but I honestly have every class, every time the comment “oh it’s backed in the science” and often birth partners, who often come in skeptical are so on board within the first session, once we start talking about the science. Every class, every time !!!
Can the hypnobirthing method be used by mums who will have planned a C-Section as well?
It most certainly can. In the general course we do have a “In the event of the unplanned caesarean” and yes the skills and mindset support you in this scenario.
However, Hypnobirthing Australia™ has developed a world first Positive Caesarean Birth program so all women can be supported with knowledge and tools for birth however their baby comes into the world.
Caesarean Birth has a myriad of differences to a physiological birth: environment, smells, temperature, the actual procedures, after birth care. It is deep abdominal surgery, highly medicalized birth and so there are lots of opportunity for fear and anxiety to creep in.
The hypnobirthing really supports couples to make the day as calm, relaxed and special as possible because it is, of course, the first day they meet their baby and all women deserve THAT to be a positive experience. It is their birth right.
Thank you so much for your time, Cindy. I think what you do is so important and can not wait until hypnobirthing is mainstream, the preferred choice to birth. If our readers want to connect with you, where should they go?
If they would like to connect with me I teach in Melbourne and my business is Big Hearted Birth which will also be offering postpartum services in the near future.
I am part of a team of amazing certified practitioners throughout Australia so the best way to get in contact and find your nearest practitioner is via the Hypnobirthing Australia website.
We like to finish all our interviews with the same question. If you were only able to leave one piece of advice for mums and mums-to-be out there, what would it be?
Trust your INSTINCT! To birth positively you must let go of control – let go of the idea that you will control birth and how it progresses - let birth come to you , and go into your body, using all the tools you have learnt – when you get there, your instinctual birthing body will know what to do to bring your baby earthside.
Trust birth - she is strong and you are too- more than you think you are!!!!