You’re halfway through or your due date is approaching: now’s the time where you really start to wonder what labour can possibly be like.
You’ve heard some positive birth stories but still there’s that little niggle in the back of your mind.
Was it just pot luck?
Did they have wide hips?
Is it in their genetics?
All these women had one thing in common: they were mentally prepared for having a natural birth.
See, the truth is, you can do 300 squats a day and sure it will help you tone up your pelvic floor and you can do every routine under the sun but if you’re not prepared for it in your head, you’re less likely to go through with it.
I know it sounds vague being ‘mentally prepared’ and that’s exactly why I’ve chosen to write this article because it was something I really dwelled upon. There had to be something even bigger than the antenatal classes.
So how do you prepare mentally?
It’s time to get to the meat here: I’m going to go ahead and give you some applicable tips you can put to use to switch your mindset from fear to excitement, and from anxiety to confiance.
Shall we dive in?
1) Get into a rythm
If there is one thing that all women who prepare for a natural birth have in common it’s this: they choose one thing that is going to help them to achieve their goal and they stick to it.
It can be something such as prenatal yoga, swimming, yoga or meditation: it doesn’t matter. The important thing here lies in the fact that they do it every single day up until the day of their birth.
Make a habit and stick to it
Ever heard of the concept of habit making in 21 days?
Well, if you can make a habit in 21 days and stick to it for the rest of your pregnancy, you’re onto a winner.
Want to know why? Because every time you do that one thing that you choose to commit to, you’re telling your brain that it will help you get from A to B.
Those people who get up at 5am every morning only do so because they have an objective in mind, they have something that they’re working towards; something that will drive them out of bed every morning because it just HAS to get DONE.
So, whatever habit you choose to take up during your pregnancy, be consistent with it and maybe write down why you’re doing it each time to re-affirm it in your mind.
2) Visualize, visualize, visualize
Visualization is not a modern theory. In fact, if you go right back in time, you’ll find it has its roots in the Tibetan monk community.
That’s right, during every meditation, not only did they relax their mental state to achieve a certain level of inner silence, but also by doing so they managed to do something we could all use in our day to day life:
To be able to tap into our subconscious mind and understand our deepest desires and fears – understanding this enables us to be able to then re-program certain aspects of it that have been fed the wrong message over time.
How to put this into practice?
Visualisation works best when used as mentioned in point number one – repetition. The more your mind sees something over and over again, the more this message will be fed to your subconscious brain.
Think about it – that’s the very reason why advertising works so well. They choose a powerful, impacting image that you won’t be able to take your eyes off then BAM no matter what you do, you’re reminded of it at some level.
EVERY TIME YOU SEE IT.
Coca Cola for example – I remember the launch of the new campaign a couple of years ago. They played around with the filtering in the photo to achieve a warm, sunny and healthy look. The people in the images were always laughing, enjoying themselves, being together.
What was the subconscious message they were portraying? If you drink coca cola, you will feel a sense of community, feel loved.
Powerful stuff, eh?
Now, you don’t have to have a Coca Cola like budget to create your own sort of billboard at home. Grab a corkboard, print out positive birth photos – preferably of mothers holding their babies full of joy, make it your own.
Place it in a part of your house that you know you will always see daily. For some that might be by the side of the bathroom mirror, for some that could be in their closet. It doesn’t matter.
The more you feed your brain a positive image of giving birth, the more that idea will start to sink in and labour will feel more possible.
You can also practice visualization as you would with meditation. Focus your mind on something in particular – many women like to visualize their uterus expanding like a flower blooms.
For everyday practice, you might find these visualization techniques.
Another little trick that your brain just loves is when you repeat words and phrases as well as images.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase before ‘You are what you think’.
This ties in perfectly with the cause and effect way of thinking about the universal law, but we don’t even need to get into that on a deep level to understand the basic theory of how this works.
Feed your brain well
Think of a time when you’ve had a challenge to face. There might be more than one but just pick one in particular in your life that had a big impact on you.
Now, did you get through it because you said to yourself ‘I can’t, it’s too difficult’ or ‘I’m not capable’ OR did you say something more similar to ‘I’ve been through worse’.
If you think back, you might start to notice a pattern emerge.
The times where you continue watching your favourite series and just can’t get motivated to get up and do some exercise I bet you were on some level thinking ‘It’s just too much effort’ or ‘I’m too tired’.
Now I’m not trying to criticize a little self indulgence as trust me, that goes a long way – rather I’m trying to say, when you sat down to watch something, did you want to? Or were you avoiding something else that needed to get done?
Okay, that’s enough of the examples for now, you get the point.
Find what works for you
Regarding birth, there are lots of inspirational quotes you can find all over the internet. The most popular being from Ina May Gaskin who wrote a fabulous book called ‘Childbirth’, which if you haven’t already read, I highly recommend you get a copy.
It really clears up the myths surrounding childbirth, goes into the stages of labour, what they feel like and how the woman should be supported AND it will completely up your confidence going into the final stage of pregnancy.
One of my favourite quotes by her is:
“Your body is not a lemon”
So, same goes as with the vision board you’ve created, you might want to put some phrases up around the house or you can do something that I find even more powerful and repeat the phrases outloud, looking at yourself in the mirror if that helps.
You’ve probably heard of the term Hypnobirth before.
All the women that have used this technique have said that it’s a real game changer. And you’ve guessed it – I’m one of those women!
Hypnosis for childbirth is something you can actually do on your own, in your own time so totally adaptable even to busy schedules. You can go to a hypnobirthing class too, if you prefer. I loved that mini time out in my daily buzz to just switch off and find my calm.
See that’s all it is really, finding your calm. Your inner peace. Relaxing your brain enough for it to say ‘Hey fear, thanks for your help but I don’t need you right now’.
Your brain asborbs positivity better under hypnosis
In our primitive cavemen days, the fear of giving birth was related to the flight or fight response in the brain, regulated by the hypothamalus.
Woah woah woah. Don’t get all sciency on me, I here you say.
Don’t worry, it’s pretty simple: when a mother sensed that she was in danger, her adrenaline levels would peak and labour would stop so she could find a safe place to give birth.
Fear produces adrenaline. But nowadays we give birth in safe environments where there is no chance of being attacked by other predators .
So what hypnosis does is tap into our subconscious brain and tell it to have faith in our bodies, our body knows what to do – just as it knew how to grow our baby.
You can have all your questions about hypnotbirthing answered in this post.
4) Release fear
So this is closely related to the point I just made about hypnosis. However, you don’t need to be in an altered state of mind to understand the basis of what I’m about to say.
Now let me just point out that this is nothing new. It makes so much sense too:
Fear = tension = pain
There can be many possible factors that make you scared about labour. The fear is indeniably in the unknown.
Why? Because everything we ever do in our day to day life, we have complete control of. I’m not talking about external factors affecting you, I’m talking about the constant little decisions you make.
Let go of the need to control
Let me give you an example: you wake up in the morning and you’ve already decided what time your going to get up. You choose the clothes you’re going to wear. You choose what you’re going to eat. You choose what transport you’re going to use.
What happens when we give birth? It is impossible to be in control. Sure, you can decide on what to do during early labour but there comes a point where you have to LET GO.
Identify your fear
First of all, identify exactly where the fear is coming from, what is it you’re most afraid of? For some this might be not knowing how long labour will last, for others it might be not knowing if they will be able to have the strength.
By identifying your fear, you can then accept it and move on. You could try writing down your fears and work through them this way:
Start by writing out the biggest fears you have when you think about giving birth. You can then show them to your midwife or birthing partner to be reassured. Then cross out the fear you wrote and write next to it a replacement positive birth affirmation.
Another thing you can do is to read positive birth stories. Which leads me onto my next point…
6) Read positive birth stories
There’s something so encouraging about hearing other people succeed in something you really really want to do.
It’s like going to the gym and seeing the super toned lady doing bicep curls.
Or seeing your grandmother make her unique cake recipe and passing it down to you.
The process of admiration
Something happens when we enter in a state of admiration: we allow ourselves to want to imitate that person, which makes room for change and growth.
When you read something positive, something chemical happens in your brain. You see, by reading you really enter into the person’s shoes, there’s an emotional imprint left on your brain.
We all know that when you have a memory of something that is connected to an emotion, you learn so much more and you’ll be reminded of that on some level when your time comes too.
Plus, you’ll be reading through them, reading the happy endings and creating excitement instead of fear, giving you more confidence in yourself – you can do it too!
To round up
I hope this post has helped you get an idea of how you can prepare for your labour mentally as well as physically. It’s always important to remember that the combination of both will really help you be as strong as you’re capable of on your special day.
Mamas is there anything I’ve missed out? What helped you to prepare?