Creating Positive Associations
Prepare your mind for birth
Condition Your Mind
The state of the mind impacts the body. Similar to how a runner prepares for an upcoming marathon, we have to condition our mind in preparation for labor. The hormones flow well when the mind is at ease. Visualization and positive affirmations are wonderful tools to help keep the mind calm and focused. It may be helpful to practice with guided visualizations often. Also, it is important to visualize giving birth. A mom can imagine herself laboring well and smoothly. She can visualize her birth in her mind and see herself moving into different positions, responding with deeper relaxation to stimuli in her environment, tuning things out and focusing inward on her body and her baby. She can imagine meeting her baby. Our minds are powerful and we may more easily flow into the process when we have been there already in our mind. Watching birth videos helps to give us images and ideas of the possibilities.
Compare Birth with Exercise
One common comparison that is familiar in many people's experiences is to examine the lingo around exercise. Athletes are told to visualize making the goal/shot/swing. We feel no negative associations when an athlete says, "No pain, no gain!" and we hear common phrases, such as, " Keep your head in the game." All of these can be analyzed and easily applied to birth preparation. There is a difference between pain and suffering and we often associate athletic challenge with healthy pain, normal pain. We push through. We get a second wind. All of this happens with birth. Birth is a normal process. It may be hard work, but it comes with hormones that support the process and specific techniques to help prepare your body and mind together. This preparation will pay off in most cases, making the process more fluid and intuitive.
IN THE SAME WAY AN ATHLETE NEEDS TO FOCUS, TO CONCENTRATE, TO GO INTO THAT AUTOMATIC PLACE WHERE THEY DO NOT THINK, A LABORING MOTHER ALSO NEEDS TO TUNE OUT THE WORLD AROUND HER AND TURN INTO HER BODY. SHE AND THE ATHLETE BOTH NEED AN ATMOSPHERE OF
Effort is Normal
It is also normal to make sounds or even faces that reflect the effort of bearing down, like a weight lifter who is lifting a heavy weight or the face we make if we move heavy furniture. Birth takes effort. The mother's body has a beautiful muscle that is working to bring her baby into the world. Our job is to work with our body to help make this happen. We need encouragement and confidence just like an athlete. We need focus and a distraction free environment, just like that golf player making that perfect swing. We need to let our primitive brain take over and not "think" too much. We need avoid stimulating the neo-cortex which will shift the hormonal flow and inhibit the process. We need to go within our body and relax the right sections so that the other ones can work, just like the athlete needs to be loose and limber in the right parts of their body so the correct muscles can engage.
WE WOULD NOT DARE TO DISTRACT THE RUNNER, THE WEIGHT LIFTER, THE BASKETBALL PLAYER WHEN THEY ARE IN THE ZONE. WE CHEER THEM ON. WE TELL THEM THEY ARE AMAZING, THAT THEY CAN DO IT, THAT WE BELIEVE IN THEM. A LABORING MOM ALSO NEEDS THIS, TO PROVIDE THEM WITH
Support Team's Role
We don't need to be answering intake forms, or feeling drawn into conversation. It's not the time. We need to only be thinking about softening, opening, moving, dipping, swaying, helping our baby to rotate through our pelvis. We need to be surrounded by supportive people who believe in our ability to do this. When we open our eyes and look at our partner, doula, care provider, we need to see confidence, hear words of encouragement and we need to feel like they believe in us. Most importantly we need to visualize ourselves doing this. We need to focus on our goals and build our own confidence.
Ride the wave of the Contraction
I Carry no resistance in my body, because I do not want to resist my baby
I breathe slowly and easily, and it helps my body to let go
The Stronger My Contractions become, the sooner I meet my baby
I am a strong, beautiful woman. I accept myself completely, here and now
The power and intensity of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me
Ride the wave of the Contraction
I will breathe slowly and deeply to relax my muscles and bring oxygen to our baby
I SURRENDER WITH CONFIDENCE
I visualize myself handling everything beautifully
I have courage. I have faith. I have patience.
Relax, Breathe, Open
I relax my mind and my muscles
Watch this amazing woman as she works with her body. Observe that no one is distracting her, talking to her directly, asking her what her pre-running weight was or what her pain level is or if she wants an epidural because the race is so hard. She is focused and the people surrounding her cheer her on. She feels well supported, good about what she's accomplished and strong. Once the race is over, she needs a minute. That is reasonable considering the amazing work she just accomplished. Look for the beautiful and triumphant smile and pause the video to take it in before moving on to the next one!
Next watch this impressive woman lift these weights. She is able to focus, while those around her have reverence for what she is trying to accomplish. There are no fearful faces, only excited encouragement in her supporters. She grimaces and grunts and these facial expressions and sounds are normalized and accepted by society to signify the effort with which she does the work she is trying to do. No one is afraid of them or rushes in to save her from the physical sensations of this effort and work. They believe in her. They celebrate her. Again, pause the video when she smiles to take in those endorphins and positive feelings that she has flowing!
Move into the world of birth with the next beautiful video and absorb this mom's gentle and loving, yet powerful energy as she works with her body to bring her baby earthside. She is surrounded by loving supporters who all have been trained in how to meet her unique laboring needs. She has the hip squeeze, someone to roll the ball under her so she can focus only on the sensations in her body and breathing and relaxing to work with them. She has acupressure on her forehead, warm water to deepen her relaxation, hands to hold as she releases her bottom, words of encouragement and excited faces to keep her going. Notice her joy with her baby!
Follow this family through another well supported labor, where the mom listens to her body and rocks her pelvis to help her baby descend and to work with the sensations of birth. She vocalizes with support from all those around her. She is free to move and find positions that feel comfortable. Many moms rock and sway, finding their own rhythm. It is common to lean forward, with closed eyes while being focused inward. This inward focus helps the hormones flow freely, bringing comfort and forward progress to the mom. Pause the video after they hold their baby or watch to the end!
Techniques to Help with Progress
There are so many different ways to give birth and so many factors that may influence the birth process. Did the flash photography in this mom's face inhibit her dilation or was it the position of the baby? Her wonderful birth team tried to Shake the Apple Tree with the Rebozo, but they did not wrap it completely under her pelvis to actually jiggle her bottom. They only achieved a nice massage, but not an actually shake. When doing this technique, gentle vibrating and shaking may help to slightly move baby so that their head is more firmly applied to the cervix for better hormone flow and dilation. Notice her soft face and shoulders and deep relaxation. Look at all the beautiful vernix on this baby, the placenta and her smile!
The midwife helps this mom by holding the last little bit of her cervix back as she pushes her baby through. Notice how she exerts effort and bears down to work with the midwife and her body to move her baby
Welcome the Intensity
Notice this mom's dipping and swaying and how she blocks out the light and stimulation around her. She works so hard to go inward to labor land. You can see that relaxation is challenging at times, but she fights hard to deepen and soften, instead of tightening up her body. She vocalizes beautifully when she pushes her baby out on the toilet, a wonderful place to give birth as our body already knows how to open, soften and release there. Again, notice her beautiful smile and the joy she has after she completes the work of bringing her baby into this worlds!
Explore Positioning Techniques for Progress
This mom works so hard to help move her labor forward and has a fabulous team to help her with positioning techniques. She has an incredible rebozo tied around her belly and does belly lifting, deep squatting and more. When she is on the stairs, it might have been more effective to open her pelvis if she went sideways up the stairs, thinking of her hips as headlights shining on the railings and focusing on keeping her feet parallel and her pelvis neutral while she goes up one or two steps at a time. Also, squatting into the heels engages the entire set of birthing muscles and might be more sustainable. She is a powerhouse of strength and keeps going with the most euphoric smile ever!
Here is another birth with a lot of great comfort measures: hip squeeze, sacral pressure, deep relaxation and focus, and lots of emotion. She sways her hips, leans forward and goes inward as she works hard to soften her face, jaw and throat down through her body into her bottom, completely softening so she is not resisting the sensations. She embraces them and works with her body fluidly. Her spouse is ready when she locks eyes with complete confidence in her abilities and encourages her.
Effort While Pushing
This video shows a mom giving birth in a well supported hospital setting. She is able to squat and vocalize while supported by her spouse. She is given lots of encouragement and she sees her baby emerge with the help of a mirror. Note the open mouth, open throat noises and the only grimacing is from the effort she makes as she pushes. This open mouth vocalization is common in natural childbirth and helps open the mom's muscles. The emotion of both the dad and the mom are overwhelming and touching in this beautiful birth video.
Compare the images in this video with the mom we saw squatting in the hospital setting. They are birthing unhindered, undisturbed and in a well supported environment. They are not being confined to a bed or asked to lie in one position. They are not being poked or prodded at all. They move with their body as their baby rotates and descends into the world. Many of the babies have a nice round head, which may be due to the strength and length of the mother's pelvic floor muscles that was created from frequent squatting and tailor sitting.
Shut out the World
This video shows a mom giving birth in a hospital with low lights, freedom of movement, the use of a ball, a pillow from home (This smells familiar and is calming for a lot of moms. Most of the pillows in the hospital are flat and scarce.), ear buds to block out external stimulation and to facilitate turning inward and going into labor land. She breathes her baby down and her baby is born while she lies on her side. Evidence based practice currently disagrees with the baby being separated from the mom for routine procedures and it is now known that delaying the bath is beneficial for both the baby and the mom.
Family Friendly Cesarean
This video shows how care providers might make a surgical experience more family friendly, with immediate skin to skin, lowering the drape or having a clear drape so the mom can see her baby as soon as it is born and keeping one of the mom's hands free, rather than having both tied down. (They do this because shaking can sometimes occur with the medication and it is important to keep the mom stabilized while undergoing surgery.) The doctor mentions that 1/3 of their deliveries are done by cesarean. The WHO recommends a cesarean rate of no more than 10-15%. Many midwives have an even lower rate as they are experts in the natural process.
Explore the Possibilities
Follow this link to a video that explores the possibilities even further for the natural process to be supported as much as possible during a cesarean. The baby is given the opportunity to emerge on it's own with the use of the reflex that it has to push with it's feet, mimicking a natural delivery. The benefit to this is that the baby can more easily clear it's lungs as it emerges on it's own effort, helping to ameliorate one of the most common problems babies face after a cesarean: difficulty transitioning and breathing, because they miss having the fluid naturally cleared from their lungs as they move down and out of the mother. The cord is also left intact, rather than being clamped immediately, providing all of the rich stem cells and cord blood that belongs to the baby for it to get a great start to life, dramatically reducing the likelihood of childhood anemia and more.