One of my favorite local birth resources is Cynthia Overgard’s HypnoBirthing of CT. I took Cynthia’s HypnoBirthing class just over 3 years ago. It’s great prep for childbirth because, in addition to providing thorough information on all your birthing rights and options, it's based on the fact that your brain is your most important birthing organ. The premise of HypnoBirthing is that fear and tension cause the labor pain experienced by so many women. With simple breathing and visualization techniques, women learn to remain relaxed, just as one would in an intense yoga pose, resulting in a quicker and more comfortable birth. (If I hadn't seen my sister have two births like that, I wouldn't have believed it was possible... but it is.) Although the goal is not natural childbirth, approximately 80 percent of Cynthia's clients birthed completely naturally last year.
Cynthia teaches the 12 hour course out of her spacious studio in Westport. It’s a comfortable, friendly atmosphere, thanks to Cynthia’s warm nature and obsession with feeding people. (There is a table full of delicious food at every class she teaches.) Before realizing her calling as a birth educator, Cynthia was a corporate executive and finance professor at UConn in Stamford. Her childbirth class reflects both her meticulous attention to detail and her passion for empowering couples to have a satisfying birth experience. The class is organized, engaging, and enjoyable.
I recently got back in touch with Cynthia while planning the birth of my second baby, and I’m more aware now of what an amazing resource she herself is. From her experience with hundreds of local pregnant couples and new parents, Cynthia knows an enormous amount about birth options and resources in the area. Cynthia counseled me on the various birthing options for birthing my second baby, and to have her calm guidance was, well, pretty priceless. I can say for certain that she helped guide me to have the birth I hoped for.
To get a sense of HypnoBirthing of CT and its impact on couples, take a look at the birth stories and photos on her website written by her students – there are more than a hundred, categorized based on where the couples gave birth. What’s also so valuable about those stories is that they prove that a good birth is possible. A great birth is possible. The birth you dream of is possible. The stories on Cynthia’s website helped inspire me to commit to the birth I knew in my heart that I really wanted. If women in Darien and Greenwich and Stamford were having the births they wanted, why shouldn’t I try for that, too? I had my second baby at home, with a homebirth midwife, supported the entire time by a doula (a woman who supports the laboring mother) that Cynthia put me in touch with. My birth would not have been as pleasant without my doula, and that’s one example of how Cynthia’s connections make her such an amazing resource to expecting couples even beyond what her class offers.
Cynthia really is all about connecting. She connects parents to the knowledge and the people that can help achieve the type of birth they want. She also connects mothers to mothers. One thing she does for her pregnant clients is host ‘birth story gatherings’. She invited me to one this fall, and it was so awesome. I met 17 other pregnant women over a lovely lunch Cynthia provided, before we gathered around to hear the birth stories of two women, one who gave birth in a hospital and one who gave birth at home. The birth story gathering gives women positive stories, no matter where they plan to give birth, as well as the chance to network and meet other mothers-to-be. Also, Cynthia invites mothers who refer a friend to a champagne brunch in a private room of an award-winning Westport restaurant, which is another opportunity to meet other new mothers. The friendship of other new moms is such a boost in the early weeks and months of parenthood.
All of this support and education add up to couples who have a better chance of having the birth experience they hope for. Last year, HypnoBirthing of CT served just over 100 couples. About 2/3 gave birth in hospitals, about a quarter at a birthing center, and 15% at home. Like I said in the first paragraph, about 80% of Cynthia’s couples birthed completely naturally. Fourteen out of the fifteen homebirth couples had their homebirth, and one was a non-emergency transfer after a VERY long labor, which also resulted in a non-surgical birth. What’s even more impressive are the VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) statistics. In this country, 1 in 3 first time mothers have caesareans; not surprisingly, thirteen of Cynthia’s couples came to prepare for a VBAC. VBACs used to be a big no-no, but evidence now shows that VBACs are significantly safer than repeat cesareans for most women. Listen to this: all 13 of Cynthia’s VBAC clients had natural births. Six were at home, and 2 of those 6 were HBA2C- home births after two caesareans.
One reason for those stunning numbers is that Cynthia’s class shows you your ability to birth. (We hear so many negative birth stories that it’s easy to think that a pleasant, humane birth is not possible.) Another reason is that Cynthia’s class makes you realize how important it is to have a caregiver who believes in your ability to give birth. Cynthia will help you figure all that out by guiding you to the resources you need.
HypnoBirthing of CT also offers breastfeeding workshops. Even though I already have a lot of breastfeeding knowledge, I attended a session this fall because (1) anything Cynthia does is gonna be good, and (2) it’s taught by Rhonda Trust, the Policy and Advocacy Chair of the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition. I am such a fan of breastfeeding that I wanted to make sure I’d met Rhonda and seen what she has to offer. Rhonda’s workshop was so positive, covering the hows, the whys, and the joys. The joy isn’t always a focus of a breastfeeding class, so I really liked that. Cynthia’s next breastfeeding workshop is on February 25, so please contact her if you are interested.
If you are pregnant and looking for an incredibly thorough birth class that will prepare you to have the best birth possible for you, check out HypnoBirthing of CT. I can’t recommend Cynthia Overgard highly enough and I feel so fortunate to have found her.
Note: this post was previously published on my other blog, Stamford Talk.