Now you’ve got your hospital bag packed, or the birth pool set up in your living room, let’s turn to preparing our inner resources. We spend so much time preparing the practicalities for the arrival of our baby, that sometimes we can overlook the valuable inner resources we have within which we can call upon during labour and beyond to bring us strength, calm and positivity;
- POSITIVITY Anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same coin… the physiological experiences are the same, yet it is down to our mind whether we class this as something exciting or something to be nervous of. Consciously choosing to feel excited about our forthcoming labour can reframe the whole experience, helping us to really look forward to those first twinges, the steady build up of contractions, the differing intensities and finally getting to meet the little person who has been somersaulting in our belly for so long. Choose to let go of fear and meet your experiences with excitement and positivity.
- STAYING IN THE PRESENT MOMENT Worrying about what may or may not unfold in the days and weeks to come takes us out of our body and into our mind, we disconnect from what is happening and project fears onto the future. Rather let us catch ourselves doing this and instead try to stay in the present moment, focusing on what is happening now, listening to our body, connecting with our baby and nurturing ourselves as best we can. Bringing our attention on to our breathing is the best way we can stay connected to ourselves and the present moment. We anchor in to the in breath, follow it all the way in, then follow out the long, smooth exhale. Similarly, watching the clock during labour and thinking about how much longer we may have to go brings us back to a sense of fear, rather let us let go of the sense of external time, and once again connect more deeply with ourselves through our breathing. What will be will be, best we focus on doing the best we can through each contraction. Breathing, deeper, deeper, and then letting it go.
- OUR BREATHING is the most precious resource we have during labour. It keeps us in the present moment, yet also it is our guide through the peaks and troughs, the joys and challenges and the intensity of the experiences unfolding through our body. In the Yoga class we learn to connect to our breath at the beginning of a surge, and then follow the breath deeper, staying connected. Take the breath deeper than the intensity we are feeling, then with a long, slow out breath, let go of all intensity, tension, fear and energy. Just let it all go with the exhale. This is the way we can get through our labour, breath by breath, surge by surge, hour by hour. By staying connected to our breathing, taking the breath deeper than everything else, gathering it all up, and then letting it go.
- UNDERSTANDING OUR PHYSIOLOGICAL NEEDS IN LABOUR, like all other mammals, as women we give ourselves the best chance for a natural, uncomplicated birth when we feel safe, supported, unobserved and loved and understood by those around us. Similarly, a dark, warm, comfortable room with familiar scents and images helps our labouring hormones to remain high and reduces adrenaline and anxiety (which works against our birthing process). Feeling unobserved helps us to be uninhibited and to move and flow with our labour, rather than fight it, and knowing these things helps us to make changes to our birthing room, such as moving the bed, making a cosy area with blankets, pillows, cushions, sinking into the warmth of the pool, turning off the lights. Read more about our physiological needs in labour here.
- BELIEVING WE CAN there will be times during our labour when we doubt we are able to carry on, usually around transition as we reach full dilation and our baby begins to descend, we may think that after all this was a dreadful idea and we really don’t want to do it any more. We all feel like this at times, its normal, and it is so valuable for our partners to remind us that yes we CAN do it, that we ARE doing it. Dig deep inside, take your breath deep down to the space around your baby and connect to a place deeper than all of this. Find your innate, inner primordial strength. Connect to this and remind yourself you can. Repeat I CAN I CAN I CAN with your breath and connect once again to this inner place of strength and wisdom.
- TRUST AND ACT UPON YOUR INTUITION as pregnant and labouring women we are deeply intuitive, yet as our culture doesn’t as yet nurture this quality, many of us doubt our own inner wisdom. Yet labour is not a time for self doubt. Trust yourself, listen to yourself and go with what feels right for you. This is different from sticking to your birth plan, rather this is listening to how you feel in the present moment and acting on your gut instinct. If you feel all is well and you are continuing to breathe and open and know your baby will be here soon, go with that. If you feel your baby is coming, yet those around you doubt this, make yourself heard and ask for a second opinion. Similarly, if you are told that everything is fine but you have a deep nagging feeling that something is amiss, again, listen to this, trust your feelings and act upon it, being insistent and assertive if need be.
- ACCEPTANCE birth is something many of us plan for, a lot, yet on the day, we actually have little control over the physiological process that will unfold. Rather we have to realise that we have done all we can to prepare, to trust our bodies, our babies and our caregivers and to flow with the process. We can accept how our labour will begin, maybe it will be stop start, stop start, we can let go of frustration, remind ourselves to stay in the present moment and simply go with it. Similalry, whatever our birth plans, all we can do is simply do our best to nurture the process; breathing, moving, trusting and flowing with the surges. What we cannot do is control how our baby will feel, any help they may need or which room we may be allocated upon arriving in hospital. If we do need interventions and support which we didn’t anticipate, try to make peace with this at the time, recognising that you have and are doing all you can to work with your labour and your baby, and that this help is needed at this time. Which brings us on to the quality which serves us so well throughout our forthcoming mothering journey, that of surrender.
- SURRENDER AND LETTING GO labour, like so many other aspects of mothering is something we cannot control, but only nurture. The experiences of labour and meeting our baby will take us on a journey of deep surrender, a journey which is unique for each of us, yet central to that journey is a journey of letting go. For some of us, this is a journey of letting go of our fear and going deeply into ourselves to find the strength to carry on. For others of us, this is a letting go of our plans and embracing a new path according to our baby’s needs, and sometimes this is a letting go of doing things all ourselves and receiving and welcoming help from others. As we flow with pregnancy and the surges of our labour, we can let go of whatever has gone before, simply letting it fade away, and focusing on moving forward into the next present, precious moment in the lead up to meeting our baby. Let go the intensity of the contractions that nearly knocked you off your feet, let go of the inner judgemental thoughts, the self doubt or the concerns of what others may think and expect, and instead simply go deeper, deeper within, listen to yourself, realise you can simply do your best, nurture the process and go with the flow.
Reflecting on these inner resources, which form much of what we explore in the Pregnancy Yoga and Birth Prep classes, I’m reminded just how much they resonate with the Birth Chapter of Milestones of Motherhood which I’m editing at the moment. Milestones explores how mothering is a journey of growth, change and transformation for us as women as we learn to love and care for our babies. Mothering is such a journey of change and of learning, and discovering more of our inner resources during labour is a wonderful start to our onward journey where these jewels of understanding, positivity, trust, acceptance and surrender will serve us well as we learn to love and nurture our babes.