We are now just days away from meeting our new little girl...it’s hard to even wrap my head around this fact! I recently posted on Instagram how I’ve been working on “getting my mind right” for this upcoming home birth and I got a lot of questions about what that means and how I’m doing it.
I learned in my first home birth and the months leading up to it that mindset and emotional health are huge when it comes to how your labor will go. This conversation about the emotional and mental side of labor kept coming up every time I talked to one of my doula friends, within books I was reading to prepare and with my midwife.
+Side note–of course there are things that aren’t within our control that can make labor go way differently than we expect, but I’m not talking about that kind of stuff. We can never predict those situations and everyone’s labor and birth are so different...and actually, mindset can definitely help in those more challenging situations as well.
During my pregnancy with my first daughter, I had months of time to focus on getting my mind right, in fact that was a big piece of my preparation before our first home birth. I understood early on in my pregnancy, once we made the decision to have baby at home, that I needed to protect and prepare my mindset because it had the potential to greatly impact the course of my labor.
I read multiple books, spent a lot of time talking to experienced birth workers who could offer positivity to my L+B mindset, practiced “healing codes” (from the book The Healing Code), did affirmations, made affirmations to post at my birth, prayed and more. I never allowed myself to begin to worry about what my experience would be like and I really had nothing to go off of, no previous experience, just what I allowed in from others.
I do recall one time when I was late in my third trimester, I looked at my belly in the bathroom mirror before bed and had that “oh $#!*” moment where I thought, “this big baby only has one way out and it’s a very narrow path!” (omg this makes me laugh just thinking about it!!), but I didn’t allow myself to dwell on it. I just reminded myself that my body was made to birth and I’d think about it when the time came.
My labor was very fast with Elle, less than 4 hours total. It was amazingly intense with few breaks since my body had to do a lot of work in a short amount of time. The one thing that sticks out to me the most when I think about my mindset during my labor was that as I felt another surge (aka contraction, but most of us have a negative association with this word because or TV, movies, etc.) coming on, I took a deep breath and allowed that sensation to happen without fighting it or pushing back in any way. I did this with every surge.
I do remember there were moments where I felt a little overwhelmed knowing what was coming, but I still fought the urge to push against what needed to happen to get my baby into my arms.
That’s what I had to remember––that every surge and all the intensity of it, was bringing me one step closer to meeting our girl and I didn’t want to get in the way of that. I honestly believe that my ability to fearlessly let go and allow my body to do what it was made to and needed to do was a big piece of the length and ease of my labor and birth.
If you missed it, here is Elle’s entire birth story.
This time around, there are so many distractions within motherhood that is wasn’t until 35 weeks or so when work lightened up and life almost forcefully slowed in my final weeks of pregnancy that I have been able to put some focus on this area. I’ve realized that this time around, probably because I know what’s about to go down, I have had more fears and anxieties creep in surrounding labor.
Questions like, “will it be faster or longer than my first experience?” or “will complications come up that make labor harder?” or “will my mental struggle with having two kids come into play and prolong my labor?” (#onlychildproblems) have been floating around lately.
These are just a few things that have kept me up at night, but the fears that can creep in your mind around birth are endless. But pointless. I think the best way to overcome all of these questions is to be open to this little girl’s birth story and be willing to accept it completely...before it even begins.
Some of you reading may be coming from a very challenging, even traumatic first birth experience so I can only imagine the internal struggles you may be facing. This is even more reason to work on your mental game before labor begins.
In order to help create a healthy mindset and an openness to my upcoming birth experience, I have been working on a few things and I wanted to share in hopes of encouraging you as you near labor and birth (or send this along to a woman who is). There is a lot of negativity surrounding birth, albeit because of how we’re going about it in our medical world these days, and I’d really love to be a part of the positive change.
Period. This book was the book that changed it all for me. Even as a holistic practitioner, I never truly understood the physiology behind childbirth and how our bodies were so perfectly made for it as well as how we complicate it with modern technology. This book was very empowering and it all just clicked for me here. It’s not an anti-hospital book or anything like that however, it does compares the midwifery model to the techno-medical model of birth and it is incredibly eye opening.
Just a little side note–I want you to understand that I am not anti-hospital birth nor do I judge any woman for their choices. It is a deeply personal decision where one decides to labor and birth. I am incredibly grateful for modern medicine and its ability to save lives when needed, but I do believe it creates a lot of unnecessary fear in pregnant and laboring women, among other things.
Anything that we repeat to ourselves out loud or in our head is an affirmation, so we can be affirming negative beliefs or ideas or positive ones. It’s really important that we are aware of our thoughts surrounding labor–are they positive or fear-based? If you have major fears or anxieties about labor or life with baby, I’d encourage you to work with a midwife, doula or a therapist to work out these heavy emotions.
Take some time to search for positive affirmations relating to pregnancy, labor and birth and choose a few that really speak to you. Write them down in a journal, on sticky notes, post them at your desk or wherever you’ll be reminded of them. Say them out loud or in your head often throughout the day. You can also use these during labor which is a great way to encourage your body to open up and relax into its God-given baby makin’ talents! With my first home birth, I hung birth affirmations that I had laminated next to our birth pool so that I’d see them while I was in labor (I printed them from Etsy, here are a bunch of great options).
The most powerful weapon against the enemy...the one I believe plants many of the negative thoughts, disbelief and fear in our hearts and minds. Prayer is the communication path that connects us to our Savior–the one who writes your story, who already knows exactly how your labor is going to go and prepares your heart for the journey. I have learned over the years to captivate the negative thoughts, emotions and feelings and commit them to prayer. I’m surely not great at it, but recognizing the need for HIS intervention is key.
There is also just something about challenging situations and prayer...it’s the one thing that brings me the most comfort when I’m unsure, scared, overwhelmed, etc. I guess you can compare it to getting a big hug from your mommy when you’re not feeling well or are scared as a child. Such a powerful thing.
Avoiding conversations with others who may create negative emotions
This is a big one. People love to tell you about their experiences with childbirth and I find this can be incredibly harmful and toxic for creating an open and positive mindset. It’s rare that you hear a positive birth story...at least that’s been my experience. Unfortunately, so many women have traumatic and challenging birth stories and are not always aware of what those stories can do to a pregnant woman’s mind, especially if it’s your first baby!
Guard your heart and mind and look for more positive birth stories, like those in the beginning of Ina May’s book I mentioned above. This isn’t to pretend like labor and birth is never challenging, because oh heavens it is, but hearing the journey of a mother who overcame hardship, who had a speedy and uncomplicated labor or the like, is really encouraging and empowering when you’re preparing for your own journey.
I’ll most definitely keep you updated on baby #2 and our journey together! Stay tuned! Aaaah!
I’d love to know–how have you worked to prepare your mind for labor and birth? Share in the comments below, I’d love to hear!