Birth is one of the biggest transitions of your life – one that takes much more preparation than that of picking out the right crib or right diapers for your baby. Your approach to birth matters just as much as where you choose to birth, who you choose to be in the room, and what you pack in your hospital bag.
Doing a few things to prepare while you’re pregnant can empower you in knowing all of the right choices for yourself and your baby, as well as bring calm into a setting that can otherwise be entirely overwhelming. While doctors and midwives are there to support this process for us, we can take responsibility for our birthing situations and the creation of our families in a way that leaves us feeling as strong and confident as we are.
How to Prepare Mentally
Getting ready for birth is more than just picking a hospital and a doctor – being ready is a state of mind. Your mindset plays a huge factor in how your birth goes and how you experience it. Giving yourself the time and space during your pregnancy to imagine or meditate on positive scenarios during birth will support you in knowing that you can succeed in the options that you choose.
One thought that blocks you from having a positive birth experience is the thought of, “I can’t do it.” YOU CAN! Your body is amazing. Mantras or affirmations to support your mindset during your pregnancy and birth can be extremely helpful for those who struggle with a positive mindset – saying things out loud has a way of helping us believe them.
Affirmations like, “I trust my body to deliver my baby” or “I am strong and capable of great things” can support you through this process.
Part of what will support your mental state as you move into something that may be entirely unknown (if it’s your first birth) is to do your own research and ask questions. When you have an understanding of what might happen, or the precautions or interventions that might take place, you will feel more settled moving into labor. You’ll also be able to tell your partner what kind of support you want or need during the event.
Having an appropriate amount of relevant information can be empowering, but be aware of the anxiety that an overabundance of information can create. Information should be used to help you make “what if?” decisions and to prepare you for the choices you could have to make. When you are prepared in this way, you are better able to make a choice out of knowledge and intuition, rather than out of fear.
Be cautious about what you read, listen to, and watch about birth. Focus on positive and joyful experiences. We know there are many situations where births don’t go as planned. Of course, these things happen, but when you focus on fear, you will create and generate more fear. Whatever your desired outcome is, focus on that, not all of the ways that it could go wrong. Fear causes tension in the body, and tension causes the body to close up. In birth, you need your body to open and will need to empower yourself with ways to be able to work through that mental tension.
- Choose a mantra or affirmation to help you feel strong and powerful in your journey.
- Seek out positive birth stories from friends or family.
- Make a list of questions for your health care provider and do your research.
How to Prepare Emotionally
Have you experienced having all of the emotions at once during pregnancy? If not, it can feel like you’re going a little crazy. There’s no way of knowing exactly how you’ll feel once you’ve given birth, and even the emotions that will arise during the process. What you can practice now is being gentle and kind with yourself when you have an emotion arise that is unfamiliar or different than you were expecting. Taking deep breaths will always help (breathing is very important during labor!).
Try treating your emotions like you would those of a child: with compassion and love. Just like you would soothe a crying child, you can soothe yourself that same way: with reassurance, space, and understanding.
Create a network of support for yourself so that if you feel overwhelmed you’re able to reach out and get the help you need. This is very important for the postpartum period when it can feel really overwhelming as a new mom. Share your story and your feelings with other people and know that it’s OK to ask for help. As much as possible, keep other people’s stress out of your birth space and your home.
If somebody wants to be in the room with you while you’re giving birth and the idea of them being there stresses you or your partner out, it’s OK to say no to that person. If people are unsupportive of you in your choices, it’s OK to not continue to let them give you all of their opinions. It’s important that you are the most supported person in that room during birth.
Lastly, as birth is an intense inward experience, it is possible that it will bring up or uncover any underlying issues that you have with your partner, family, job or other part of your life. As much as possible, do the work ahead of time to resolve anything that is incomplete for you, so that when the time comes, you are able to let your emotions go fully to birth your baby. Sometimes the simple act of forgiveness can be huge in letting things go. This can also be you forgiving yourself.
- Speaking kindly with yourself when you feel emotionally full or drained.
- Reach out and get connected to people who uplift you.
- Note any resentment or stress that you feel about your life currently. What can you do to resolve that? Who or what needs to be forgiven?
Consider that this work will make a huge impact on how you experience birth and your new role as a mother. There is so much that happens in this transition and there is nobody else that can do the work for us. Even in the process of giving birth, nobody can actually give birth for you – they can only assist you in it.
How you create your internal environment is just as important as your external one, and the one that will continue to shape the way that your baby experience the world through the ways that you nurture and raise them.