7 Steps to Have Your Ideal Birth Experience
Too often I meet expectant mothers who are filled with fear and anxiety about the birth process. This worry is fed by stories from co-workers, family members, and even trusted care providers.
As a nurse practitioner and birth expert, I see these women come to tears as they discuss the fear, worry, and pain. They want to know everything they can about the process, from how to get the hospital to how to ensure that doctors or midwives don’t do anything against their wishes. Luckily, these questions can be answered and this anxiety can be quieted. Here are seven tips to have a peaceful birth, surrender your defenses, and know that everything will be okay.
1. Give Up The Defense
When expectant women are defensive, either energetically and physically, against certain birth practices such as the use of an epidural, fetal monitoring, or even birthing at a hospital, it causes anxiety, stress, and fear. During labor, these emotions cause a release of adrenaline that provokes a flight or fight response and causes blood to shift from the uterus to the heart, brain, and skeletal muscles. Of course, women have real reasons to be defensive about their birth process. Caesarean birth rates are ridiculously high, and stories about birth injuries to mothers and babies are all too rampant. However, when mothers are not able to move past the fear or anxiety, it suppresses the release of oxytocin. Oxytocin fuels uterine contractions and cervical dilation, and low levels can draw out labor, decrease oxygenated blood flow to the baby, and increase perception of pain through accessory muscle tension.
To release any known or subconscious defensiveness, it’s important to get clear on what your major fears are. In class, I have moms write them down: “I am most afraid that “X” will happen.” Then, they develop a plan to speak their care provider about their concerns and ask what can be done to decrease the chances of their fears occurring.
It’s important to speak with your care provider about each concern. Save each one for a separate visit so you can spend time truly discussing options. When one approaches their concerns knowing they are valid and can create a plan to decrease the risk, defensiveness disappears and trust is formed.
Trust you made the right choice in choosing a partner/surrogate/sperm donor, care provider, and birth place. If you doubt your choices, trust that you are recognizing what is right for you in this moment, and that you already know the answer to what you need. Stop judging your responses and feelings and trust your instincts. Never ask, “If it was you, what would you do?” in reference to any choices you have to make regarding your birth and parenting choices. It doesn’t matter what anyone else would do, as they do not have to live with the outcome of the choice. Trust yourself and you will always make the right birthing and parenting decisions.
In the birthing world, we use the term surrender often. Surrender to the process. Surrender to your body. Surrender and stop fighting. Surrender is achieved by trusting and giving up any need for things to be a particular way: the need to look a certain way during birth, for the birthing room to smell a certain way, or for a particular song to play. Surrender your desire to micromanage your birth, whether that’s in a pool, on your knees, with an epidural, without an epidural, with or without your favorite health provider, vagina or Caesarean. You don’t how your baby will need to born. Surrender the need to control the outcome and trust your body will birth your baby in the safest way possible.
4. Don’t Judge
I don’t see the point in diapers and t-shirts that proclaim “VBAC Baby” (vaginal birth after Caesarean), “100% Breastfed,” “No Epidural for Me”. This type of boasting one’s own choices implicitly judges the choices of others. It’s important for all expectant mothers to stop judging others and themselves and placing values on the variety of ways baby can be conceived, birthed, fed, and parented. Letting go of judgment will make you less defensive and allows you to see the world with happy lenses. Try repeating this affirmation: “I am perfect. My body is perfect. My baby’s birth is perfect”
5. Connect with Yourself
Taking care of yourself is essential as you carry, birth, and nourish another life. Take time to meditate daily and practice repeating a personal mantra, such as, “I am at peace. I will have a peaceful birth. My baby will be peaceful and breastfeeding will be peaceful.” Repeat your mantra with trust every day, and you will help create your peaceful experiences.
6. Nourish Your Family
Breastfeeding is the process of nourishing your baby once separated from the placenta. Breastfeeding is nourishment for the soul, both yours and that of the baby. The space between the breasts is the baby’s natural habitat. The heart rate of the mother, warmth of skin to skin touch, release of the love hormone, oxytocin, and the mothering hormone, prolactin, all add to the experience of parenting. When there are hurdles that prevent breastfeeding from being easy and the most desirable action for you, get help to ensure you not only nourish your baby, you also create an environment with less stress.
7. Give Thanks
Counting your blessings is the first step toward getting more blessings. Acknowledge all the wonderful things you have been able to create in your life up to this moment. Give thanks for your pregnancy, for your baby growing inside of you, for your baby’s heartbeat, for the power and endurancerequired for your birth, and for the birth experience your desire. Give thanks to the universe for providing all that’s needed to create a peaceful birth.
Tamara Hawkins, FNP, IBCLC owns Stork and Cradle prenatal education and breastfeeding support. Her private practice as an international board certified lactation consultant serves women in the NYC area.