If it’s good enough for Kate and the future king . . .

I was sound asleep when Kenley woke me up a couple of weeks ago to let me know that Kate Middleton had gone into labor. I quickly fell back asleep (I hear I’m not going to get much of it in about four months), but the next day I checked my Twitter feed obsessively, awaiting the news that she had delivered.

I’m not an avid royal watcher, but I am still a media hound who’s fascinated by the latest breaking story.

And this was personal.

There had been several reports that Kate — or the Duchess of Cambridge, if we must be formal — had chosen to use a method called Hypnobirthing for the arrival of her first-born child. And Kenley and I just so happened to be attending our third Hypnobirthing class the very day the future king was born.

I wanted to know how long Kate had been in labor. I was looking for evidence that Hypnobirthing actually worked.

If you’re a loyal Shellevation follower, you’ll remember that I left a recent pre-pregnancy OB-GYN visit with three fliers: one for a fertility specialist, one for an acupuncturist and one for a hypnotherapist.

We loved the fertility specialist, and I still look forward to my weekly acupuncture appointments, but I had put off calling the hypnotherapist — perhaps because I wanted to delay for as long as possible the thought of giving birth to the growing boy now making himself known daily in my belly.

Then, Kenley found an article on Yahoo about Kate Middleton and Hypnobirthing. Kate reportedly had used the relaxation techniques to help her overcome her morning sickness and planned to use it to give birth. (A follow-up article — “If Kate Middleton uses Hypnobirthing, Should You?” — also was posted on Yahoo).

The first article quotes Alisha Tamburri — “a Los Angeles Hypnobirthing practitioner whose clients have included Jessica Alba, Bridget Fonda, Melissa Joan Hart, Alanis Morisette and Emily Deschanel.”

The same woman whose flier was still sitting on my kitchen table!

I called her the following Monday and signed up for her next class.

In the video below Jessica Alba tells Ellen about her experience with Hypnobirthing:

Ellen Show Jessica Alba Guest from TWC Post on Vimeo.

The theory of Hypnobirthing is that women have been conditioned since, well, the story of Adam and Eve to believe that giving birth is painful — is even supposed to be painful. This can lead moms to feel scared, stressed and tense, which leads to long and painful births. The theory is that if you are able to release your fear and to deeply relax, trusting that your body knows what to do, you can experience an easier, faster and more comfortable birth — without medication.

Hypnobirthing uses neutral words like “waves” and “surges” in place of painful-sounding “contractions.” “Birthing” is substituted for “delivery” (Alisha says pizzas, not babies, are delivered).

And there’s no “pushing.” Instead, Hypnobirthing moms “breathe the baby down.”

You learn different slow-breathing techniques — none of which requires you to pant — as well as visualization exercises. You’re encouraged to walk, sit on a birthing ball, and get in the shower or bathtub during labor. Alisha even told the dads to pack swim trunks and a beer or two in a cooler.

“Sounds like a beach party,” Kenley told me.

OK, it’s not going to be that easy.

Alisha often reminds us that what we expect tends to become realized. So we’re taught exercises to help us release negative thoughts and fears about giving birth. She also asks us to visualize the calm, comfortable, joyful, healthy birth that we want.

We were convinced of the power of suggestion during an exercise in the first class, when Alisha had us close our eyes and stretch our arms out in front of us. She told us to “picture, visualize, imagine” that someone was stacking one book after another onto our left hands, and that someone was giving us helium balloons to hold with our right hands.

When we opened our eyes at the end of the exercise, our left hands were by our sides, weighed down by the “books,” and our right hands had risen up next to our ears, without any conscious effort.

The best part about the Hypnobirthing classes is that the dads learn how to hypnotize the moms! Now, some of you might be worried about what your husband could do with this power, but you’re not unconscious when you’re hypnotized, and no one can make you do something you don’t want to do. Instead, you remain aware of your surroundings but learn to deeply relax your body and your mind.

One of my favorite hypnosis scripts asks you to close your eyes and relax as “all the little worry lines around your eyes and across your forehead begin to fade and disappear.” During another, you visualize being on your favorite beach  and are told that “you look good and feel good.” And in another, you’re told that the more you let go, the more you relax; and the more you relax, the more you’re in control.

Dads also learn light-touch massage, which releases feel-good endorphins that act as your body’s own natural pain medication.

So when the birth of the future king was announced, I was happy to learn that Kate had been in labor for a little more than 10 hours, short of the 16-hour average — and especially impressive for a first-born who weighed almost 9 pounds!

There have been few reports about how the birth actually went, but at this point it really isn’t that important to me anymore. I feel much more prepared and confident about the birth of my own first-born.


A sweet reveal: Boy or girl?

When we first discovered we were pregnant, I didn’t think I wanted to find out the sex of the baby. It would be one of the biggest surprises of our lives.

And I was concerned about the expectations that people (including ourselves) might place on the baby as soon as they found out whether it was a boy or a girl.

But who was I kidding? I’m a planner! Plus, I didn’t want a closet full of only yellow and green clothes, which for some reason seem to be the only acceptable neutral colors for babies.

None of that seemed important, though, after our first-trimester screening came back with some potentially alarming results. We had to do a follow-up DNA test — and wait several days for results — to make sure the baby was OK.

That test also would reveal the sex of the baby, about six weeks earlier than soon-to-be parents generally find out.

So — 11 very long days later, when I finally got the phone call with the test results — all I cared about was whether the baby was healthy. I was overjoyed when the doctor told me everything was OK, and I didn’t object when she asked whether I was sure I wanted to know the sex.

I immediately called Kenley (I was on the way to a girls beach trip in Charleston, S.C., while he was in the recording studio in Columbia) and told him the baby was OK. I asked him whether he wanted to know — son or daughter? — and I was a bit surprised when he asked me to hold off.

When he joined me in Charleston a couple of days later, Kenley still wasn’t sure he wanted to know the sex. I started to get worried. I knew I couldn’t keep that big of a secret for six months!

For the next several weeks, I had to be careful of my pronouns. I slipped a few times, but I also threw in purposeful decoys to throw him off the trail.

I finally convinced Kenley that he wanted — needed — to know, and I planned to reveal the gender to him on Father’s Day. I took pictures of the moment so we could relive the surprise. Scroll down and read the captions below:

First, I picked up a special order of cupcakes from Sprinkles.

These sweet baby-themed treats had a surprise inside.

Kenley took a bite of a cupcake to reveal the color of the filling: pink for a girl, blue for a boy.


Our little cupcake is a boy!

Turns out, I didn’t have to worry about spoiling the surprise; Kenley says he thought it was a girl the whole time.

Kenley is the first of three boys and thought the odds were aligned for a daughter.

Apparently, the Y chromosome is pretty strong in the Young family.


Coming soon to the Young family


Photos by Justin Shady

March 15. It was a Friday, and Kenley and I had invited some friends to an Irish bar for a pre-St. Patrick’s Day pint or two.

Little did I know, but I’d already had my last adult beverage for at least nine months.

I’d stopped by the drugstore that evening on the way home from work, and now I was standing in my bathroom staring at a digital message on a plastic stick (and making sure I was reading it correctly.)

I wasn’t nervous. There had been other plastic sticks in the past several months, but I had never seen this message before: “PREGNANT.”

It occurred to me at that moment how some wives plan elaborate celebrations to surprise their husbands with this news — but I didn’t have a lot of time. A few minutes after finding out the news myself, I heard our front door swing open and the familiar sound of our dog Malia’s paws pattering through the apartment.

She and Kenley were back from their walk, and we needed to leave to meet our friends at the bar in 10 minutes.

I guess some things just can’t be planned. I greeted Kenley and unceremoniously handed him the plastic stick I’d been waving around in the air. I told him I wouldn’t be able to participate in a Guinness toast, but that he definitely should raise a celebratory pint. (I might have promised that we could give the baby an Irish name, and I think Kenley just might hold me to it.)

Kenley admits he was pretty bewildered at first; normally the only excitement he and Malia encounter on their walks is when she spots a squirrel.

But after he was able to focus on the word on the stick, he broke into a grin, and gave me a big hug and kiss. And it’s been hard to wipe that proud grin off his face (except when he thinks about how expensive raising a child is going to be.)


Malia had no idea what was going on, but she’ll have to get used to sharing the spotlight soon.

That night at the bar, I ordered a ginger ale. But when people asked, I told them I was drinking a Jameson’s and ginger. I’m not sure anyone was fooled.

It all started back in December when I went to my regular OB-GYN appointment. As she had done the year before, my doctor looked at my chart, noticed my birth date, and asked whether I wanted to have a family. I gulped and said I thought so. Her response: “Let’s make it happen.”

I thought that was kinda funny at the time — I was pretty sure I knew how to make it happen — but it turns out that her directness was just the motivation I needed.

I left her office with the cards and brochures for a fertility doctor, an acupuncturist and a hypnotherapist.

Couldn’t hurt, right?

About a month later, Kenley and I were sitting across from Dr. Kari Sproul at Pacific Fertility Center as she explained the birds and the bees to us in very scientific terms — pictures and diagrams included. She detailed the options available to us if we needed assistance.

Dr. Sproul was very matter-of-fact, and some of the statistics regarding 39-year-olds trying to get pregnant for the first time were pretty disheartening. But she also was very personable and seemed genuinely supportive. We walked away knowing two things: Timing would be everything, but we also potentially were facing a long, stressful and expensive process.

In the following weeks, we did some tests and found no medical reason that we shouldn’t be able to get pregnant, other than my age — which, despite the statistics, I refused to believe was a huge problem. So we put off treatments and committed to “trying” on our own.

As those of you who have found yourselves in this situation know, “scheduling” this kind of thing can prove difficult and exhausting. But Kenley, who suffers from OCD, made sure we stuck to the plan.

I also scheduled my first acupuncture appointment, with Dr. Mindy Boxer. Going to Dr. Boxer’s office is much like going to a spa: There’s a massage table and soothing music. But you’re also getting tiny needles stuck in strategic locations all over your body. It’s surprisingly relaxing.

Acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress, which is a leading cause of problems with fertility. It also has been reported to boost fertility by restoring balance and encouraging flow of blood and energy through the body.

And all that before we attend our first hypno-birthing class later this month.

Dr. Boxer also urged me to develop better eating habits. I kept a food journal for several weeks, and she circled the foods she didn’t like with a red pen. There was a lot of red. I did make some improvements — cutting back on meat and eating more beans and fruit.

But limiting dairy, carbs and sugar while increasing my intake of green veggies has been more challenging.

Whatever we did, it worked! We were able to get pregnant surprisingly quickly on our own. After we took “the test” at home, Dr. Sproul saw us quickly to confirm the news with blood work — and then several weeks later with photographic evidence. One good thing about getting pregnant when you’re “old” is that doctors are willing to see you quickly, and you get a lot of ultrasounds.

March 27 (six weeks)


April 11 (eight weeks)


May 13 (12 weeks)


How excited are our parents? Do we know the gender? Stay tuned! Answers to those questions and more coming soon!

Many thanks to Justin Shady for taking the portraits of Kenley, Malia, Machete, Buster and me.