Are you pregnant and making a checklist of all the things you must prepare?
Typically, our society encourages parents to prepare by taking prenatal classes, buying all the things they’re going to need and setting up the nursery. These are all super important things to prepare and do. However, none of them prepare you for the emotional journey of childbirth and parenting.
This is a journey that is unavoidable, you can’t send the baby back into the womb once it’s out! So, it’s a pretty big deal. And yet, there is a gaping lack of focus being placed on parents’-to-be emotional preparation.
This emotional preparation is directly tied into mental wellbeing. Lately, there has been a huge focus being placed on new parents’ mental wellbeing and the important impact it has. Thus, it makes so much sense to direct attention to the necessary emotional and emotional resilience preparation.
In our line of work, we see the direct impact of poor emotional resilience in childbirth. If the experience doesn’t go as expected, it often has a huge impact on how new parents feel emotionally, and this impacts their mental wellbeing.
The impetus is on all of the use involved in birth work to improve access and resources so new parents are as prepared as possible in all aspects for this big change. Even parents who already have one, two or more children, will find it helpful to review this info. We are so passionate about helping parents have positive, empowering experiences. And we recognize that this will come about in different ways for different parents! The beauty of this preparation is that YOU get to decide what a positive birth looks like for you. And comparing preferences and experiences with others isn’t helpful because the way you birth and what you want may be different than what others may choose or prefer.
However, there are some ways to prepare for a positive birth that can be helpful for everyone!
With this week being Positive Birth Week, we wanted to highlight this topic and share our Top 5 Ways to Prepare Emotionally for Childbirth:
- Shine a light on your beliefs about birth and your body. We all have ideas about what birth is or should be, and we unconsciously apply these to our actions and decisions. As an example, take the mom who believes her pelvis is too small to give birth. Or the mom who believes her body can’t go into labour on its own. Or the mom who believes birth isn’t a medical event. These are all beliefs. They may or may not turn out to be true. But our attachment to them will have an impact on our emotional and mental wellbeing when they are shaken or shattered. So, shine a light on them. See them. Acknowledge them. Then you can figure out if they are helpful beliefs that increase your confidence, wellbeing, and resilience. Or if they do the opposite. If they shake your confidence and make you feel negative about yourself or about birth, then it’s time to work on tossing it out. How do you toss out a belief?
- Practice Meditation. There is so much hype and buzz around this word! But it’s for good reason! Study after study is demonstrating that mediation, and all its many forms, have huge positive impacts on mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Stress at any time in our lives is not a good thing for our overall health. Stress during the prenatal period is also definitely not a good thing. Chronic stress is linked to preterm birth, hormonal issues, and even to the health of our baby. The solution? Start meditating daily. There are different ways to meditate. This article summarizes them well and provides insight on research showing the effects of meditation. But in a nutshell, there’s awareness meditation, mindfulness, and loving, kindness meditation, All it takes is a few minutes a day to begin making it a positive habit and to begin noticing the positive impacts in your wellbeing. The program GentleBirth provides meditation for women and their partners that’s easy and affordable…and which will continue to be helpful after your baby is born! Over time, you will find it gets easier and easier, to the point where you are doing it without having to think about it. And actually enjoying the time you set aside for mediation. What other benefits will it have besides reducing stress? Meditation and mindfulness will help you learn how to relax your body, especially during times of stress or hardship. And because labour is a time of intensity and of feeling a lot of physical and mental sensations, of course, it makes sense that knowing how to keep the body and mind calm would have a positive effect. Mindfulness will also make it easier to notice patterns of unhelpful thoughts and beliefs and make it easier to toss them aside. Paired with mindful physical movement, you will have the optimal toolkit for getting through childbirth. What is mindful movement? Good thing you asked!
- Practice Yoga. Ok, OK, I am totally biased about how awesome yoga is! But that’s because it IS awesome! It has saved my life 3 times. I’m not kidding! I’ve been through 3 pretty awful events in my adult life that have had the potential to ream me. But my yoga practice (which includes meditation and mindfulness) has always brought me back to feeling grounded and balanced…and allowed me to see the solutions to make things better. Moving our body during pregnancy is always a good thing. Gentle exercise that challenges us just the right amount, is the ideal way to keep fit physically. Add in the meditation aspect of yoga and you’ve got an ideal balance. It doesn’t have to be this crazy practice of upside-down poses and headstands! You don’t even have to be super flexible. Yoga is for everybody. Find what feels good in YOUR body. Any awesome prenatal teacher will have modifications and pose suggestions if something doesn’t work for you. Yoga helps us know what it’s like to find our “Edge”…that point of exertion that is challenging but not yet suffering. Why is it important to know our Edge? Because during labour you are going to need to know your edge. Women in labour can cope well if they don’t cross their edge. If they cross it, they can often find a new edge. But if they cross it and are unable to find a new point of focus, it begins to have a negative impact on their mental and emotional resilience. Women need to know their bodies so they can make decisions about what they want or don’t want in accordance with how it feels for them. If a woman is not familiar with being in her body, this will be very difficult during labour, because labour is a very physical experience. So get to know your body. Tap into your intuition and explore your edge and what it means to get to it and cross it. Mindful movement is being aware of what’s happening in your body and knowing what your body is telling you it needs. How will you know what it needs?
- Practice tuning into your intuition. This is kind of related to meditation and mindfulness but goes a bit deeper. The goal of our doula practice is to encourage our clients to make decisions they feel good about and leave them feeling empowered. This often requires parents to tap into their intuition. What do we mean by intuition? Well, if we want to get technical, we say it means listening to that sense of inner knowing that something is right or not right for you. It’s like that little voice inside that is guiding you. OK, sounds easy enough, right? Well, sometimes that little voice is fear talking. So you have to learn how to tell the two apart. Intuition based decisions aren’t always easier, but when you make them, you have a sense of feeling at peace, even if it was hard or seemingly put others out. Making fear-based decisions leaves you feeling trepidation, caution, even more worry and it doesn’t seem to bring you inner peace no matter how much you talk yourself into saying it was the right thing to do. Practicing meditation can certainly make tapping into your intuition a lot easier because over time, the more you meditate the more familiar it becomes to separate yourself from your chatty thoughts. Separating from the chatter of the mind is the key to uncovering the messages our intuition, or inner knowing is sending out. Tuning into our intuition also allows us to see that we are in control of HOW we feel at any given moment. During moments of stress, this is key because we need to be able to harness that resiliency to stay calm and clear-minded to make a decision we will be at peace with. But don’t we need to know about childbirth to make optimal decisions…will our intuition really know what’s best for us?
- Learn about Birth and Build Your Support Network. Intuition is definitely an essential part of making decisions, but you also need to know something about what you’re dealing with. It’s a two-pronged approach: knowing about what to expect and your options along the way and listening to your intuition when it comes time to make decisions about these options is what will lead to feeling positive about your experience. So, take a prenatal class—a good one! A class that focuses on the physiology of birth—what your body goes through, the hormones involved, the way your body progresses in labour, your options along the way when it comes to pain management and most importantly what informed decision making is. You are going to NEED informed decision making. If you know how to do this, you will help yourself tremendously to have a positive experience. But informed decision making isn’t the magic ingredient to a positive birth. Together, informed decision making (which includes consultation with your care provider) AND intuition will help you make decisions you will feel at peace with, no matter how unexpected or hard the experience turns out to be. As a doula, I have seen really difficult births that have the potential to be traumatizing, lead to no feelings of negativity or trauma. How is this possible? Because along the way the parents were actively involved in the process, they used informed decision making and their intuition to know what was best for them. They made decisions that they knew were the best for them at that time. They had support and respect (from care providers and support people like partners and doulas), they advocated for themselves and tapped into their body and intuition along the way to guide them through. Knowing and feeling that you did your very best, were supported, respected, had your voice, and that your needs matter…that is the recipe for a successful, peaceful birth experience! It has nothing to do with whether or not you get induced, pain medication, birth in the tub or have a home or hospital birth. YOU get to decide which options you want access to, YOU get to decide how you want to FEEL during the experience. And no one can rob you of that power!
So there you have it! Are you feeling inspired to go for a mindful walk, to hit the mat or read a book about birth? Remember that the goal of this emotional resilience preparation is NOT To make you feel more overwhelmed about all the things you should do! Quite the opposite, it is meant to help you realize that you have the power to use your emotional resiliency to NOT get overwhelmed. To build your to-do list mindfully knowing what you can and can’t do, and to delegate or scrap the rest. It’s about helping you to be confident, calm and prepared no matter how things unfold.
We are passionate about all things birth, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more info or any questions!