**I don't usually like to post two lengthy posts, two days in a row, but since this topic is what's on my mind these days, it seemed fitting to get it up quickly, before baby actually arrives and while it still feels relevant! 🙂
Image by Friarsbalsam
Nobody said that labor was easy. There's a reason they call it labor (not "walk in the park" or "piece of pie", though those do sound a bit more appealing, don't they?). :)
Nonetheless, it is entirely possible to prepare oneself as much as possible to be ready to cope with the work, sweat, exhaustion, and yes, pain, of natural childbirth. God made women's bodies uniquely capable to not only nurture life for 9 months, but also to bring that life out into the world!
If you have had a previous difficult birthing experience or are preparing to welcome your first child, may I just say this to you: You can do this! Your body is capable, and it knows what to do. You have been created to be a nurturer and mother and giver of life, and through God's strength and grace, natural and uncomplicated childbirth is not only possible, but something to earnestly anticipate.
Yes, there can be challenges and yes, not every birth does go smoothly and naturally. There is always a small percentage of women who truly have trouble with giving birth or have dangerous situations arise, and in those situations, how grateful I am that we live in a time and place where medical help is available to us. Praise God for that and for the mothers and babies that are saved!
I am of the opinion, though, that this should account for only a very small percentage of births and that most women, when well prepared and given adequate support and care, will be able to birth naturally. Let's pursue that goal, shall we?
I thought that I would share with you some of the ways that I have been preparing for my upcoming labor and birth. I am by no means an expert (I'd be interested to see how differently I would write this once I'm on my 7th child, instead of my 3rd!). There are many different techniques and ideas out there. These are simply some of the ones that I have chosen to employ, and that have worked for me previously.
1) Exercises to prepare my body for birth.
Having a fit body is probably the most simple preparation for birth. Keeping active helps to ensure that we will have the physical strength and endurance for labor. A few other specific exercises that are useful include:
- Kegel exercises
- Yoga (I like this video, minus the first and last segments which have a bit of an Eastern meditation focus. I just skip them.)
- Squatting (especially deep squats that are sustained for several minutes or longer)
- Tailor sitting (basically sitting cross-legged, but with an awareness of opening your pelvis and keeping your knees as spread apart and low to the ground as possible). This is a great way to sit while folding laundry, watching a movie, reading to your kids, etc.
2) Herbs that tone and prepare the uterus and cervix.
For the past 3-4 months, I have been drinking a nutrient tea, which included Red Raspberry Leaf, Red Clover, Peppermint, Oatstraw and Nettle. Now that I am in my final weeks, I have switched over to only Red Raspberry Leaf tea. Red Raspberry Leaf is specifically known as a uterine toner, which means that it helps to prepare the uterus to work strong and effectively in labor.
Though I have never taken specific birth preparation herbs before, this pregnancy I am using Dr Christopher's Prenatal Formula. You begin to take it 6 weeks before your due date (though my clinic suggested that I wait until 5 weeks before). Each week you up the dosage, starting with 1 pill daily, then 2 pills daily the second week, and so on. I have noticed since I began taking it that my Braxton-Hicks contractions have picked up considerably, which also helps to prep both baby and the uterus for labor. I have also heard good things about Gentle Birth Formula, and it was also approved by the naturopath at my clinic.
This is a method that focuses on full body relaxation, being mindful of the work that the uterus and cervix are doing and using that relaxation to avoid "getting in the way" by tensing up and/or fighting the pain of contractions, and also particularly on husband-coached childbirth. Lately I've just been reviewing the book Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, refreshing myself on the concepts and techniques, as will my husband so that he is prepared to coach me once more.
We have used this method both times previously, and though we didn't use every aspect of the teaching, we found it very useful overall. For us, the best parts of this method are the relaxation teaching, and the involvement of the husband. I was amazed at how it really came together for us, even during our first birth. My husband was able to really pinpoint for me how I could better relax, and because of the practicing that we had done, I felt able to respond to his gentle guidance and encouragment. This enabled me to get through a particularly long, draining and painful posterior birth (though we did ultimately need medical intervention), and continue on to have my daughter vaginally.
4) Spiritual Preparations
I've spent a lot of time lately praying over our upcoming birth, releasing my fears and anxieties, asking the Lord to be present and to guide us through it, to provide protection and safety, and to supply me with His strength and grace in abundance.
I might try making scripture cards to use for this birth, as I've head of several people who have done that and found it helpful. I'm thinking of picking 10 scriptures that I would find particularly comforting or encouraging, and keeping them nearby to help me meditate on a certain verse during contractions. I will also choose some worship or instrumental music that I would like to have ready, as that has been really helpful for me both times previously. I have found it very calming and soothing, and helpful for keeping a more worshipful countenance. It also helped to pass the time, and somehow just going through contractions one song at a time kept me calm and focused.
5) Optimal Nutrition
As any athlete prepares themselves before a big race or competition, it only makes sense to pay attention to what we put into our bodies as we gear up for such a great physical task. I've been increasing my protein lately in particular, as well as upping my iron and calcium intake. I'm working hard to stay well hydrated (which also decreases the risk of early or false labor). Eating plenty of fresh, healthy foods (especially with the abundance of produce in the summertime!) will also help to keep my body full of all the nutrients that it needs.
I just made a batch of Labor-Aid this morning, freezing some into popsicles as well as putting some in the fridge (labeling it specifically so it isn't mistaken for lemonade!). This will help to keep me hydrated and also to maintain good electrolyte balance as I labor.
6) Preparing Mentally
I've been reading a lot of birth stories lately. My desire is to prepare myself for the numerous types of labor/birthing scenarios that could come. Long, short, easier, really challenging, progressing smoothly, or needing to be more patient and try out some different techniques, methods or positions. There are so many variations within labor, and even with the same woman, each baby is an entirely different experience! This helps to remind me that I can't predict how it will go, and to be ready to accept the different possibilities it holds. Every birth is completely unique.
I'm preparing some basic comfort measures, and getting ideas for what I might like to try during labor. I borrowed a heating bag (with rice inside) for my lower back, as I am prone to a lot of back labor. (I saw Michelle Duggar use one in this clip on labor, and thought it looked really soothing). I will bring up the exercise ball from the garage, which I plan to use in a hands and knees position, to bring back relief. I still need to get some tennis balls for providing counter-pressure on my back. I've got a plastic folding chair that I intend to use to sit on in the shower. Just last night I picked up the wonderful birthing pool that we will be using and need to get it blown up later today.
I pray that you might find some of these suggestions helpful as you prepare for your own labors!
How do you prepare for labor? What has been particularly helpful or effective for you?