HypnoBirthing Class on the UWS - NYC Doula and Newborn Photographer

As a newborn and family photographer in New York City, I get to meet so many incredible women. I meet women on the brink of motherhood or in the throws of first time parenthood, and I meet lots of veteran moms who give me looks and words of support, longing, or sympathy (depending on the day) as I lug my two little children all over the Upper West Side. Early motherhood in NYC is not for the faint of heart; your best and worst moments are on display on the sidewalks, subways, and playgrounds of this awe-inspiring place. Fortunately, I’ve found that the unique challenges and benefits of mothering in New York has created a tribe. Thank goodness for those sidewalk glances, the stroller help as you leave the subway car or attempt the stairs, and the shared sunscreen and snacks at the playground. This amazing tribe of dedicated mothers and compassionate women is how we are all not just surviving, but thriving as new mothers in the greatest city on earth. 

Increasingly, I meet mothers who are pursing their dreams as entrepreneurs, and I’m finding that this is an entirely new tribe whose wisdom is invaluable. I’ve made it a goal of mine in 2019 (and beyond) to get to know more of these women and share not only what they have to offer the NYC community through their products and services, but through their insights and wisdom with respect to motherhood. This content may be more suited to a podcast, but I’m still learning how to use Instagram Stories, so written word will have to do.

I met Gili Levitin of Inher Body, a mother and doula in Manhattan specializing in HypnoBirthing, through the amazing UWS mommas facebook group. I had never heard of HypoBirthing before, so I reached out to Gili to see what it was all about and learn more about who she is and what she does. Gili and I met for coffee where we chatted all things birth and motherhood. Pregnant women and their partners throughout New York City can participate in a beautiful HypnoBirthing journey lead by Gili, which takes place over 5 weekly meetings, about 3 hours each session. 

I had the pleasure and privilege of sitting in on and photographing one of Gili’s Upper West Side classes, as well as interviewing Gili to share her expertise and wisdom with the NYC motherhood community. Below are my favorite images from the class (shared with every participant’s signed consent), as well as some excerpts from an informative and enlightening interview with Gili.

Q: Please describe HypnoBirthing.

A: HypnoBirthing is a unique childbirth method that puts the focus on the mind-body connection and the benefit of relaxation and mindfulness during labor and birth. The HypnoBirthing method helps moms to reconnect with their birthing instinct, regain their trust in their body’s ability to give birth and help them to find the power within them and the belief that they can do it

It is important to emphasize that HypnoBirthing is not designed just for those moms who want the all-natural, drug free birth, but for every woman who wants to experience a peaceful pregnancy, and an empowering, respectful and gentle birth, according to her own wants and wishes.

Q: What is special about hypnobirthing, compared to other methods of preparing for birth?

A: HypnoBirthing is a complete childbirth education class. Yet unlike other childbirth education classes, it focuses not only on information and/or tools, but also on shifting the birth mindset to a positive one and releasing fears and limiting thoughts. In our HypnoBirthing classes we provide the birthing mom, and her partner, with endless information, that is taught in a positive and exciting way. We also provide our couples with a large variety of tools to coop with labor and birth. These tools are based on relaxation, meditative, breathing and movement techniques. It is a transformational class journey that opens mom’s mind to how birth can feel and look like and help her understand the role that her birth mindset plays on her physical birth journey. The expectant couples get a clearer view of how they want to experience the birth of their baby, and the tools to navigate their birth in a way that is right for them, in the birthing setting of their choice.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: This is a difficult question, because I absolutely love everything about the work that I do. I love teaching, inspiring, supporting and serving my couples and their babies during such a beautifully raw and profound time in their lives. If I have to choose just few highlights, it will be the following:

  1. Seeing the shift my couples are experiencing during their HypnoBrihting journey is extremely rewarding. Like many others, my couples associate birth with fears, agony and pain when they start their work with me. Already after the first class I can see how some of this heavy weight is lifted off their shoulders. As we move from one session to the next, the couples discover the beauty, magical and magnificent aspects of birth, and they become more confident, calmer and less fearful about birth and consequently they get more excited and readier for the arrival of their baby.

  2. I always feel so blessed and honored to be invited into this sacred, intimate, life-affirming experience as I hold space and support my doula clients. It brings me so much joy to see a warrior mamma finding the power within her. Birthing is a right of passage. It is not something that happens to us and then it is gone. It is something that we actively do, and that stays with us forever. I always say that a birthing mamma gets to meet a new and improved version of herself on the other side of this strong experience. Therefore, helping a mamma experiencing birth in the calmest, most empowering and satisfying way possible for her, fills me up with endless gratitude and joy. 

  3. Seeing new life entering into this world and meeting these new gentle souls as they take in the first breath and interact with their parents for the first-time, skin to skin, soul to soul, is marvelous beyond words. The magic of life is so mysterious, sacred and magnificent, - and I get to witness it and be part of it – I cannot think of anything that can be more gratifying than that.

Q: How has being a mother impacted your career as a doula and HypnoBirthing instructor?

A: My whole work as a HypnoBirhting Practitioner, and a doula started from my own birthing experiences. The births of my girls were the most amazing, empowering, learning experiences of my life-time. HypnoBirhting resonate deeply with who I am. Sharing this wisdom with new expectant families, and supporting them on their journey, is my calling. 

Becoming a mother sparked my calling. Yet, being a mother also made my career choices very challenging. As a doula my schedule is unclear. I am always on-call. I do not know when I will need to leave (usually on a short notice), and I never know when I will be back. That is a very complex schedule for a mom of three. Also, being a heart-centered entrepreneur, provides me with a flexible schedule (when I am not on a birth), and enables me to spend a lot of quality time with my girls. What made it possible for me are two things: first having a wonderful and extremely supportive partner, who is also a very involved and loving dad. Second, finding a good and flexible childcare support, to care for our girls, while we are unavailable.

Q: What advice do you have for new mothers trying to balance motherhood and a career?

A: The first step in creating balance between motherhood and career is to get a clear view of what it is that you want. Listen to your internal voice -  What is it that sparks joy for you? Is it full time motherhood? Full time career/job choice? Or is it a combination of the two? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. There is just what’s right for you. 

Second step is to acknowledge the fact that what you want and wish before meeting your baby might change and shift after you go through the rite of passage of birthing and meeting the new improved version of yourself. When your baby is born, a new mother is born with him/her. Embrace with love your new wants and wishes, and don’t discard them as a hormonal stage or something that will go away soon.

The third step is to find a very good support system for yourself and your baby/ies. It will make it easier to fulfill your career calling when you know that your baby is being lovingly, cared for by someone that you fully and completely trust. 

Lastly is learning to release any internal blame and/or self-judgment. No matter what your family/career choices are, you are a wonderful mother to your kid/s. You need to be completely present in every given moment. When you are at work – work!; when you are at home – be at home! That will enable you to get a real, in depth, high quality full attentive time with your babies when you are caring for them. Whether it is for one hour, or a whole day. In my view, being with your babies in heart, body and soul when you are together, is the key for a healthy, self-judgment-fee, motherhood/career balance.

If you would like to know more about HypnoBirthing or inquire about Gili’s services, you can reach her by email at gili.levitin@gmail.com, by phone at 917-605-0947, on Facebook here and here, or on her website www.inherbody.com.


Nicole Hawkins Photography specializes in newborn, baby, child and family photography on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, as well as on location and in homes in the surrounding areas including Brooklyn, Queens, Westchester County, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Long Island.  

Reach out today to begin planning your baby or family portrait session and learn about Nicole’s boutique experience. Consultations are held at Nicole’s UWS studio in Manhattan, on the phone or via FaceTime, whichever you would prefer.