How I'm preparing for childbirth
“You can do this,” my doula said, “But natural childbirth requires just a little more prep work from you.”
Even more so than nutrition and physical exercises, my doula stresses the importance of the mental prep work for labor. This is something I hadn’t considered before ... let's be honest I hadn't considered much at all about childbirth before becoming pregnant ... but after reading the inspiring birth stories in “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” (HIGHLY recommend to all expecting mommas!), I realized just how much of the labor process is mental.
Reading the narratives of mothers who embraced their strength and rode the waves of contractions peacefully eased a lot of my fear going into this. Their stories are honest and beautiful — much better than the "frantic screaming woman" labor story the media portrays. Nothing has given me confidence more than these stories of mothers before me.
Though I’m feeling confident, the coming weeks are still full of unknowns for me, and I’ve finally accepted that.
I don’t know what a contraction feels like.
I don’t know when this baby will come.
I don’t know if a natural childbirth will be possible.
But I feel ready. Ready to meet this little babe I’ve been carrying in my womb for the past nine months. Ready to hear their cry. To feel their skin on mine and look into their eyes for the first time.
I’m in the final stretch (36.5 weeks!), and more than anything I’m excited. I continue to prepare, doing everything I can do ensure this labor goes “well” … whatever that means.
Besides the obvious things you'll find on all the pregnancy apps and websites — like taking classes and packing a birth center/hospital bag — here are some of the things I’ve done (and am doing) to prepare in these final weeks.
I have a daily activity goal. If you follow my Instagram stories, you’ve seen it — I call it Labor Bootcamp. Every day, I strive to complete:
- 100 squats
- 30 mins of cardio (walking or stair master)
- Prenatal yoga
The squats are to get my body ready to hold that squat position for an extended period of time. The cardio is to keep encouraging my pelvis to open up. And the prenatal yoga is to create space for this baby, connect with the wee one and give myself some much needed time on the mat to slow down. Sometimes prenatal yoga is just two stretches. Sometimes it’s over an hour of practice. It varies each day, but my practice has become much gentler, especially as I get closer and closer to our Guess Date.
I’ve already mentioned it, but I’ll say it again. This book has been so helpful to me. If you’re planning or considering a natural childbirth, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. The first part of the book is filled with real birth stories, followed by educational content. Both are valuable.
Mantra + Breath
With the guidance of my doula, I have a couple of relaxation strategies I’ve been practicing. (It's essentially yoga!)
It’s a combination of mantra and breath. I’ve chosen the mantra “Let go.” Because I have a tendency to tighten up under stress and keep everything in. That’s the opposite of what labor requires. So I’m practicing.
I take a long inhale, saying the word “let” to myself, and sigh an open-mouth exhale with the word “go.”
That’s it! I plan to use this breath and mantra during contractions. I practice this at random times, but most often when I'm taking my almost-daily epsom salt bath. I plan to labor some in the tub, so I figure it's a good spot to practice.
When I lie in bed at night, I visualize baby’s birth day. I visualize the labor process in my mind. I visualize my cervix opening. I think about that moment when I first get to hold sweet baby m.
There’s no telling if this visualization is actually going to help anything, but I believe the mind is a powerful tool … and I also love daydreaming about meeting the little one. It’s a lovely image to fall asleep to.
All the Dates
Have you heard of this?
My birth doula suggested eating six dates/day to help shorten labor. Count me in!
Here's some science to back it up: In a 2011 study, women who ate six dates/day during the last four weeks of pregnancy had an average 8.5 hours of first stage labor (0-10 cm) while those who didn’t had an average 15.1 hours of first stage labor. Also, 96% of the women who consumed dates went into spontaneous labor and did not have to be induced (compared to only 79% of those who didn’t). Read more about this on Wellness Mama — it’s interesting! Definitely enough to convince me to down some dates. I eat them whole or put them in protein shakes.
Yoga, dates, stories, mantras ... I'm doing all of this to prepare, but I get the sense that I'm never going to be 100% prepared for what's to come. But just in case, I'm going to keep downing dates and squatting like a crazy woman. ;)