On my nightstand, I have a thick stack of books, mostly in the realm of birth books. Though I haven’t gotten through all of them, I have garnered many useful tips/tricks for the big day and after.
One of my favorites, Mind Over Labor, by Carl Jones, provides helpful tips and imagery for having a natural birth and getting through it in an enjoyable manner. My top faves?
1. View childbirth as a sexual experience. So often, we think of being pregnant and giving birth as a medical condition instead of what it is – a sexual, natural experience. Our bodies actually respond in much the same way to childbirth as it would to having sex. Trying to see your birth in this way can shift your level of pain tolerance and even give you a different perspective for the big day.
2. Find a “special” place. Once contractions hit, it’s nice to have a mental place to “check out” to in your head. This could be anywhere that brings you peace and comfort, whether it’s imaginary or real. At first, I was planning on Paris or Switzerland – two of my favorite places, but then I realized that one place I absolutely adore and am so calmed by is the beach. Every year since I was little, my parents have taken my brother and I to the beach. Over the past few years, Alex has joined us. It’s a place where we are all together. From the beautiful condo to our excruciating workouts on the beach, our slow, enjoyable bike jaunts down to get burritos and peruse the cool, indie bookstore, it is something I look forward to every year. Because we aren’t going this year, imagining it in my head during labor as my “reward” will help me think about life after Sophie is here – and how I can pass this tradition on to her as well.
3. Imagine each contraction as gold. Carl suggests imagining each contraction as gold – that your womb and uterus are filled with light and warmth. Gold is such a strong mental image – as the “waves of pressure” take hold, if you can imagine each moment filled with gold and warmth, the pain can be abated and you can have a more positive association with what’s happening.
4. Trust that your body knows what to do. Our bodies are made to do this. Women have unassisted births all the time. Instead of fighting against the pain of labor, give in to it (yes, I’m sure this is easier said than done – I will soon find out!). Just turn your brain off. Become in tune with your body and realize that with each wave, your body is preparing to give you what you’ve been waiting for these last 40 weeks: a child.
5. Eat good food. If you’re having a hospital birth, you can’t eat once you get there. I find this ludicrous, as you are expected to perform the most difficult physical task of your life, and yet you can’t eat! So, stay at home as long as possible. Once labor starts, fill up on iron rich, high energy foods that will sustain you and give you plenty of energy throughout. Try and stay adequately hydrated and eat early on, since you may feel nauseous and not interested in food at all as labor progresses.
6. Imagine your body opening. A powerful image is to imagine your cervix as a flower, opening and widening with every contraction. If you can actually “see” your body opening and preparing for the baby to just slip out, this can ease some of the pain and fear along the way.
Never underestimate the power of our minds to completely alter an experience. It’s up to us how we deal with every situation, from mundane daily tasks to the momentous event of giving birth.
One of my favorite “preparatory” exercises is below. While it doesn’t relate completely to labor, it gets your mind in that positive place where you can do anything you believe in. Period.
Exercise for the day:
Tonight, before you go to bed, instead of running over your massive to-do list for tomorrow, imagine absolutely everything you want: where you want to live, what job you want, who you want to be with and how you want to spend your days. Let these feelings flood your senses. Imagine only the good. Feel like a kid again. See every wild, massive dream to the end. Play it all out. Don’t put any limits on what you want. See how your breath changes, how your mood shifts and how you fall effortlessly asleep.
Night is a perfect time for imagination. If you are expecting, it’s also a perfect time to imagine your labor and birth as an enjoyable, but temporary experience. Imagine your body opening, imagine the serenity surrounding your birth and imagine what will come after. Think about the creature comforts of home and how, pretty soon, this will only be a memory.
Need some powerful food to freeze after the big day?
Try this delicious tempeh chili, using my chili recipe (below). Simply purchase a block or two of tempeh, slice it into strips and place in a frying pan with enough water and some Bragg’s liquid aminos to cover the tempeh. Cook until water is absorbed, then mash and crumble with a fork. Throw in with the pot of chili and serve with a gluten-free pasta and top with some Daiya cheese (optional).
Warning: this dish is chock full of fiber, iron, and protein, so be prepared to be satisfied for hours on end!