If I could give you 3 simple steps to maximise your chances of achieving a calm and positive birth experience this is what they would be.
- Wind Down
If you suspect labour is starting my biggest advice is to “wind down”. That is to say, unwind, relax, start pulling into the slow lane. Sometimes we don’t know if this is actually labour. Or if it is practise labour – when the signs of labour (eg surges or contractions – we call them surges) may come and go over a period of time. But if you suspect this could be the start, then this is the perfect time to start winding down. Preparing to get very calm, relaxed and inwardly focussed. This is a time to conserve your energy, and to limit unhelpful distractions. Who knows how long this phase will last before you’re completely 100% sure that this IS actually labour? Who knows how many hours it will be before you’re holding baby in your arms. Sure, it might only be 5 hours, but it could also be 25 hours.
This is not the time to let the rest of the extended family know that “today might be the day” or, gosh I was supposed to hang the curtains in baby’s room, lets do that now, or make that lasagne for the freezer. This is definitely NOT the time to finish up all those emails that you needed to do for work – to start delegating work to your employees or colleagues. That ideally should have been done a few weeks ago (if you’re full term).
This is a time for you to allow the neo cortex part of your brain to rest and allow your birthing to be guided from the instinctive part of your brain. So the less ‘organising, rational thinking and decision making you need to do the better.
All this ‘winding down’ is actually harder than it sounds – truth it’s bloody exciting when you go into labour. It’s like wahoooo and a bit of an adrenalin rush, and moments of “surreal-ness” (not a real word, but sounds good). Like “is this actually happening?” It might be high 5s with your partner, or waking them up from a sleep to say “honey – baby’s coming!” Actually if you do start labour in the middle of the night, it’s easier to wind down – because you’ve just woken from sleep, so it’s especially helpful if you’re comfortable to stay in bed and drift off again. If you’re not comfortable to stay in bed, do make sure you keep any lighting very low and set up some cozy spaces around your house to nest in when comfortable and relax as much as you can.
2. Get into the zone.
So labour is progressing – awesome. This is where you’re going to make sure you use all the relaxation tools you have learnt and practised in your pregnancy. All those times that you drifted off to sleep listening to your favourite relaxation track – now is the time to get that track out again, and push play. You might not fall off to sleep (especially if it’s 10am, the sun is shining and you’ve had a decent night’s sleep the night beforehand). But then again you just might if you get relaxed enough, if it’s night time and if you’re actually tired. Regardless, the idea is that you are tapping into that ‘zone of relaxation’. Most often it will look like you moving into different positions around your house (or birthing suite if you’ve started labour in hospital), having your partner give you light touch massage, your favourite relaxation track playing in the background. You are breathing during your surges. Melting through the surges, relaxing in between the surges. Maybe you are using other tools such as visualisations, or an anchor which your partner will use. Maybe you are using aromatherapy too. The idea is that you’re completely inwardly focussed, and as one birthing mum put it “a line of dancing hippos could have passed through the room and I wouldn’t have noticed”. Perfect!
3. Work with your body.
The whole process of relaxing and breathing correctly during your labour is about you working WITH your body. Assisting the process, not resisting. And especially when it comes for baby to make his or her way down the birth path, this is about you working WITH the process and working WITH your body. One of the beauties of having a non medicated birth is the ability to be aware of the changes of sensation within your body, about feeling what your body is asking you to do. When your body is saying – “push” you work with that sensation and direct energy downwards. When your body stops, you rest. As that rest is so valuable to you being able to conserve your energy and get ready for the moment when your body once again says “push”. It’s all about trusting your body, knowing that your body and your baby know what to do. All you need to do is believe in yourself, trust your instincts and turn that birthing over to your body and baby. With a positive mindset, confidence and relaxation tools you are all set up to achieve a positive birthing experience.
So, those are three steps to get you started into preparing for your positive and relaxed birthing experience. I look forward to sharing a lot more ideas, tips and tricks with you again soon.