What if I fall?
Oh, but my darling what if you fly? ~ Eric Hanson
People love to share horror stories, horror stories revolving around anything. From the moment I announced my pregnancy, these horror stories quickly became centered around giving birth. I vividly remember at around 28 weeks pregnant a complete stranger at a gaming convention (blame the nerdy husband!) telling me in detail about the awful tearing she had with all three of her babies – thanks for that! The truth is, from the moment I found out I was pregnant I was petrified of giving birth. I am a self-declared weakling and have a pathetic pain threshold. Eight months on I am still amazed at my birth, an experience I would definitely not describe as painful.
Very early on in my pregnancy I watched a video by Giovanna Fletcher about hypnobirthing, and despite my husband teasing me over how ridiculous it sounded I managed to convince him to give it a go. I was not convinced myself, however I was willing to try anything to ease some of my fear. We found a class in Cheltenham with the lovely Kerrie called Calma Birthing. This course, combined with some of my own research, definitely helped me to have the birth that I did. Someone used the example once to me that you wouldn’t run a marathon without doing any training, and preparing for birth was much the same. I want to disclose at this point that whilst we can prepare for a drug-free and peaceful birth with minimal intervention, this is not always the way our birthing goes. I kept in my mind a beautiful quote – remember that you are strong enough to walk whatever path your birth takes – and also remember that the reward at the end is so worth it.
I highly recommend signing up to a hypnobirthing course, but here are some of my tips to help you have a birth you will cherish:
Read Marie Mongan’s book – Hypnobirthing. The birthing course I took centered around this. Marie Mongan delivered four children in USA in the 1950’s and 1960’s during a time when women were generally heavily medicated on anesthesia in order to give birth. She delivered her third and fourth children completely drug-free, after much arguing with her medical team as at this time this was unheard of. In her book she gives loads of amazing techniques for birthing and I highly recommend it.
Meditate. I meditated every day from around 28 weeks pregnant. Prior to pregnancy I was not the type to find enjoyment in activities such as this, however I quickly began to cherish this time. I used a CD from my hypnobirthing course called Rainbow Relaxation, however I am sure other meditations would still be beneficial. I used to lay in bed after work with my meditation on and cradle my bump in my hands. It was a lovely time to switch off from the world and just focus on me and the little life I was growing. We had a number of scares during pregnancy and this also helped me to remain calm throughout these.
Affirmations. These are simply to remind us that as women we are amazing, we are capable of giving birth, and our babies are designed for labour. This really helped me, it sounds silly but I had spent so long in fear of labour that to actually remind myself that both my body and my baby were completely designed for the birthing process really helped, and building on this was the reminder that my body and baby would work together – I was not in this alone in this mammoth task I was about to undertake and I would be supported by my impending little side kick. I had a CD of affirmations but found the time to listen to them minimal, so I wrote them down and stuck them up all around my house (this took me back to my revision techniques during my school days!). A quick google will bring up lots of examples, but here are a few of my favourites;
My body and my baby work together in harmony
My baby is the perfect size for my body
I am powerful
My baby is in the perfect position for birthing
I am calm, I am relaxed
I recommend finding a great breathing technique that helps to relax you. For me, I believe this was a key to me not needing intervention during my birth. During delivery, H became stuck and two consultants were called into the room. They were monitoring her heart rate and I was told that if she did not come in the next few minutes, or if her heart rate began increasing, then I would need to get out the pool and go to the consultant led unit for assistance in getting her out. At this point I knew that if my heart rate increased, then it was likely her’s would too. I put my head on the side of the pool and I pulled together all my relaxation techniques I had practiced and began my calm breathing. Within 4 minutes she was here – healthy.
There is evidence to suggest that eating 3 dates a day from around 34-36 weeks can help shorten the first phase labour, reduce your risk of tearing, and reduce the risk of induction. I was petrified of tearing, and although I still did due to Harper having her hand over her face (drama queen – who does she get that from!?), the midwives even commented that they were surprised the tear wasn’t worse.
Birthing ball and walking
Something else I read up on during pregnancy was the fact that there are more inductions and need for intervention in the last 50 years and a theory for this is that we are much more sedentary than our ancestors. This results in babies being in awkward positions for labour. Walking, and rotating on a birthing ball, help to get baby’s head into the birth canal and therefore help to reduce labour time and reduce risk of intervention being needed. I aimed to walk 10,000 steps a day during pregnancy, and whilst this was easier said than done having this goal definitely helped keep me more active. I also must admit that the competitive edge within me found me downloading Pokemon Go which was all the craze at the time in order to try and beat my husband – this definitely helped rack up those steps! Also, the day before I went into labour I was told H was back-to-back. That evening I spent over an hour on my birthing ball trying to get her to turn. Amazingly that night I felt her turn, it was the biggest movement I had ever felt from her. It is likely coincidental that I went into labour the following morning, but you never know!
Perinneal Massage – I am going to leave this one here and let you have a google and make up your own mind!
Hang in there mama, you got this.