This may all sounds a little woo woo to you, but I’m going with it anyways in an attempt to help just one expecting woman have an “easier” labour or more positive birth experience.
After my first birth, I had a paralyzing fear of giving birth again. My first birth seemed like a “normal” birth, relatively uncomplicated and standard, but I was left feeling in shock, traumatized and less than ok mentally.
When I got pregnant with my second baby I knew I needed to take control of my mind in order to have a more positive birth that didn’t leave me traumatized again. I knew that women could have beautiful births and it was my every intention to have that experience.
I set out to do a few things to help me mentally and physically prepare for labour and birth. Here is what I did:
- Saw a regular counsellor who specialized in shock, trauma and postpartum mood disorders.
- Purchased a Hypnobirthing Course online and worked through the workbook and listening to the audio tracks every night as I fell asleep. This process was challenging and slow-going for me, and didn’t seem to ‘click’ until I was a couple months away from giving birth.
- ‘Pain trained’ a few times a week. Holding ice cubes in my hand until they melted and used different techniques to see what would help minimize the sensation of pain (which led to fear in my mind).
- Hired a doula, who I talked a lot about my fears with and came up with a solid birth plan (which helped me feel a little more in control).
- Wrote in my journal almost daily with any fears and insecurities that were coming up about the birth.
- Practiced Yoga regularly
I want to dive in to the ‘pain training’ I did. After my first birth, any pain I experienced (even muscle burn when working out or riding a bike), I would have negative flashbacks to my first birth. So after doing some work with the counsellor, I identified that feeling pain which led to feeling out of control was my greatest fear for future births.
Once I had uncovered this fear, I tried holding an ice cube in my hand. This is something that was introduced to me at a birth prep class during my first pregnancy. Initially when I tried it, I could only hold it for about 15-20 seconds before I panicked and the fear and self doubt set in (my self talk at this time went a little something like this: “Holy shit, I can’t do this! If I can’t hold an ice cube then how am I supposed to birth a baby?!?!?!?!?!!”).
But I kept going with it, and noticed that when holding the ice cube, I would immediately look outside the window and start counting something (like bricks on a house) to divert my attention away from the pain I was experiencing. This would immediately calm me down.
Then at one of my doula appointments, my doula talked about preparing for a peaceful birth by; bringing images to put up on the walls, music to listen to, essential oils to burn, etc.
When I started looking for some nice images online to print up, I started with some nice beach images (beaches are my happy place), images of my daughter and husband from a happy time, a few mantras. But then I stared looking at designs (Aztek designs specifically), because I’ve always been drawn to colourful Aztek designs and patterns. So I found a handful of these images that resonated with me.
Then I had all of these images saved onto my computer and I wanted to narrow it down before I printed them. So, I held the ice cube in one hand and with the other hand I scrolled through these images and could immediately tell which images were coming with me to my birth.
When I looked at certain images they immediately took my attention away from the pain and into that image. And because I also identified that counting something calmed me down, I found the patterned images to REALLY do the trick.
I went from holding the ice cube in one hand for 15 seconds with terribly negative self talk and fear, to being able to melt an ice cube in EACH hand and feel like a badass with all the the training I did. It was super empowering for me to have achieved this goal of mine.
Fast forward to my birthing day:
When I arrived at the hospital room and was still in early labour, I got my doula and husband to tape my images up on the wall so I was surrounded by things that brought me peace.
When my contractions were getting more intense and I was starting to panic, my doula held up one of the images that I kept wanting to look at, and I counted the sections and shapes in the pattern. This specific image became my safety net, and got me through the tough contractions. I realized that whenever I closed my eyes, my mind went to a scary and panicked place, so having this image assured me that I could get through them and WAS in fact in control here.
Now when I think back to my second birth I have such happy and empowered memories. and I have vivid images of my all-star team (including my husband Ryan, my doula Jenn, and my midwife Kaitlyn) surrounding me with support and looking at this image for comfort. It carried my through my birth. It’s crazy to think that one image held such a significance at my birth (I know it was a combination of things I did and prepped), but it truly did! And thank you Jenn for always making sure I could see it 😉
So expecting Mama’s out there, I urge you to find any images, download music you love, scents you love, whatever it may be that will help you relax (even if it is just by 1%). Every little loving thing can help <3