As the birth of my baby draws near, I’ve been very focused on preparing mentally for the process of natural birth. Although this is my fourth childbirth, it will be my first real attempt at unmedicated birth, as I’ve chosen not to even be in a hospital but instead a birthing center giving birth in the water. I’m using Hypnobabies to have an easy, comfortable birthing experience, but because I’m super-analytical, I’ve also come up with these mental coping skills to prepare my mind for what I’m about to experience.
I love rollercoasters. If you think about it, a rollercoaster ride is a perfect metaphor for how different people might have different experiences with childbirth and labor. After all, how can so many different people have such wildly different experiences riding rollercoasters?
There is no doubt that riding a rollercoaster is an intense experience, no matter your attitude. Some hop on, wait in line for the front car, feel unafraid and instead actually look forward to the sensations they are about to experience. When the drops come, they let go and throw their hands up in the air, feeling every sensation with carefree abandon, having the experience of floating or flying. They trust the ride completely, not letting fear seep in to ruin the experience. When the ride is over they are euphoric and blissful and can’t wait to get back on again.
Others load onto rollercoasters with fear and trepidation, letting thoughts of seatbelts breaking or cars derailing creep into their thoughts as they are buckled in. They don’t totally trust the ride and that it will operate as it is supposed to, as it has done a thousand or a million times before. They might even remember the horror stories they’ve heard in the news, the rare occasions when something actually does go wrong. They tense up, and fear rules their perspective. They lose their senses and start thinking completely irrationally, allowing in thoughts of dying or the ride never ending. Every moment of the ride is excruciating, terrifying, and they may even think they’re going to die before the ride is over. Their only focus is on the discomfort they feel. When the ride is over, they swear to never be so crazy again.
This is how I am thinking of natural childbirth and labor. I can choose to let go, enjoy the sensations, to keep my senses about me, trust my body and the process of birth completely, and have a different experience of intensity. I can remember all of those women before me who have had completely comfortable birth experiences. Or I can go into childbirth with fear, with the horror stories at the front of my mind, creating my own pain with adrenaline, and then focusing on it.
The Charlie Horse
Have you ever had a leg cramp? I have had two types of experiences with “Charlie Horse” cramps in my legs. The first, I felt the leg start to cramp up, panicked because I thought it was going to hurt, tensed my leg and pushed against the pain, creating an excruciating feeling that caused me to cry out. Recently, using the ideas I have learned in Hypnobabies, I decided not to “fight” the cramp by stretching against it or tensing up, but instead to just relax and take a deep breath instead. This created instant relief, instant disappearance of any discomfort or pain.
This is another way to think of relaxing during uterine contractions. If you fight them, fear them, or tense up when they begin, you will create your own pain (this is not a theory but an actual physical phenomenon; the uterine muscles that are intended to stop labor when a woman is in danger will be activated to contract AGAINST the childbirth contracting muscles by the adrenaline-producing fear and in the process, cause pain). The more you can let go, relax completely, and trust the wave of sensations, the more comfortable childbirth will be.
This is exactly why the women who learn to deeply relax during their labors seem to have the easiest time with childbirth, and why Hypnobabies is so effective. Check out this collection of birth videos for several examples.
How did you prepare mentally for natural childbirth? What worked for you?