Expecting? Know someone who is? Pass this on… I hope it delivers encouragement and strength.
We found out we were pregnant on our 1st anniversary. I thought so, but I was waiting to take a test until our anniversary because – how fun is that?
That morning, I could hardly wait to get up and pee on a stick.
Sure enough, I returned with a grin on my face and a plus sign in my hand to say “happy anniversary!” A moment I will never take for granted.
Only seconds passed before I realized… if there’s a baby growing in me, there’s a baby that has to come out of me.
Giving birth can be a totally intimidating prospect, especially when you’re pregnant with your first.
Even then, if your first birth experience was a difficult one, it could still be daunting to prepare to “go through it” again.
So – in classic me-form, I launched into research mode. Reading stories, listening to stories, asking questions, doing research, exploring my options and just flat-out learning the physiological science of birth (real-life, unbelievable, transformational super-powers!!)
Some of that was helpful. Some of that wasn’t…
But at the end of it all, there were 3 things that prepared me for labour and birth that I’m SO thankful for.
While my labour had its curveballs (if you’re one for birth stories, you can read it here), looking back it was all about relax, relax, relax and there were 3 game-changers that made that possible.
** Disclaimer ** I am not a birth expert, and I’ve only birthed one baby. I share this experience to add to the ocean of positive and empowering both stories out there in the world!
So – if you’re expecting, or know someone that is, this is for you.
The 3 BEST things that prepared this first-time mom for childbirth:
1. A Good Support Team
Before, during and after. Surrounding myself with a good support team I trusted and who knew my hopes really allowed me to relax and just go with it.
When you trust that the people around you have your best interest at heart, you feel safe. And when you feel safe, you can relax.
This one can look different for different people, depending who you are. For me, this meant:
My husband, of course. And this could be any loved one!
The Barrie Midwives. (Midwife = our birth-expert guru.)
These people came in particularly helpful when my care was transferred to an Obstetrician due to preeclampsia. My midwives instilled trust in the fabulous OB, my husband and doula stayed right by my side, and it allowed me to continue to relax and surrender in the face of uncertainty (a little bit of my backstory, OB’s used to make me nervous). OB = our birth-complication super-star.
I also need to add this game-changer:
A Mom-ing Support network, for everything-motherhood! Old friends, new moms, facebook groups, baby groups… people you can lean into and be real with. Mountain Momma Collective is a fabulous new maternal support network in my area and a great example of support for new moms. Cuz it takes a village. Literally. Ask friends what’s in your area.
2. Knowing my Options, Rights, and Preferences.
Birth is a miraculous thing, and there are a lot of options, approaches and ‘norms’ that really vary around the world.
Knowing my options and rights before I was in the thick of things was empowering.
Because I knew I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to.
It also allowed me to relax in the moment. Not because I had a “plan” that I was going to stick to, but because I knew what to ask in order to understand and partner with my caregivers.
Understanding some basic birthing language, intervention options, and pros / cons to different approaches gave me confidence in the care around me. And it made me an active participant, not a bystander. We were a team.
How did I do this? A few ways…
Binge-listening to The Birth Hour podcast for months (if you don’t have months, don’t worry!) – hearing positive birth story after birth story. From home births to c sections and everything in between. I even have a close friend who shared her intentionally unassisted birth story with me. And for the first time, I started getting excited about the opportunity to give birth.
Diving into The Pregnancy Podcast, an incredibly well-rounded source of information about all-things pregnancy, labour and birth. This was especially helpful when I was curious not only about standard procedures but also about the pros and cons of alternative options.
Taking pre-natal classes that covered the basics. We found ours at Serenity Birth Studios in Barrie, presented by a birthing nurse at the local hospital. It gave Justin and I the opportunity to look at our options, have great conversations and feel as prepared as we could be for something so incredible.
Reading all the updated research I could find, best positions to labour, best labour practices, labour history, labour intervention strategies and statistics, the physiology of delivery, the rights I have as a woman in labour.
I was a labour junkie. I don’t necessarily recommend that for everyone… but I DO recommend knowing your options and rights in broad strokes ahead of time. Ask your health care provider to talk this through with you and recommend some resources.
If you can only read one thing, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth was the best thing I read!!!!! I wish everyone could read it.
Justin would say the best thing he read was The Birth Partner!
But, when it comes to childbirth, everything is your choice.
Understanding the choice you are making can be freeing. And being free means being relaxed. Which is exactly what we need.
3. Know How to Relax.
Have I mentioned relaxing yet? 😉
Labour was all about relaxing and surrendering, relaxing and surrendering, relaxing and surrendering for me.
And yes, there are tons of helpful birthing strategies out there that are valuable when supporting women in labour. This point isn’t to say childbirth is air-fairy, just free your mind and throw some potpourri and it’ll all be great. It’s one of the toughest challenges ever, but also one of the most empowering!
Once it starts, it starts. Whatever is happening, happens. And the best thing I could do was relax and surrender. I have heard that from so many women…
So – do you know what relaxes you?
Is it soft touches? Hot showers? Great music? Silence? The smell of lavender? Being alone? Being embraced?
Essentially, fear and tension in the body can make labour more difficult because it needs to do the opposite, soften and open. While there’s a lot of proof about this out there, I can just echo that it was true for me.
I had no idea what to expect when labour started, and I had no idea how I’d respond to the challenge! If you’re like me, you might not even know what would relax you.
So, I just decided the best thing I could do was try to relax, and that became my sole focus. And I could do this because of point 1 above, trusting the great care around me (and the Great Physician with me).
Now… before you imagine perfect, zen, kumbaya moments, Justin says I didn’t look as relaxed as I felt.
In the midst of turmoil, here were the keys to relaxing for me:
– Relaxing my mind. Our thoughts are so powerful, especially when it comes to birth. There were two ways I kept my mind relaxed:
Repeating in my mind “yes, this is good. Yes, this brings my baby. Yes, this is good.” with each rise of contraction.
Repeating in my mind the scripture about the presence of God. I’m a person of faith and I trust in a personal, life-giving, loving God who is always with me.
– Hot water. I love hot water so I asked for a labour tub (it was fabulous!) That was where I spent the majority of my time…
– Relaxing my face. I read a great tip along the way: tension in your face reflects tension in your body. My fabulous doula would gently remind me “keep it out of your face… keep it out of your face” and as I relaxed my face, my body would relax. You can practice this while you go to the bathroom, relax your face and lips. TMI? You’re welcome. 🙂
What about you? What relaxes you?
Moms – what helped you relax while you laboured?
Please share what made your birth story amazing!
Whoever you are, whatever birth story is ahead for you, I hope this leaves you feeling strong and empowered. Because you can do this!