So you are having a baby.
And you are stressed out.
Because that baby has to come out of your body and everybody says it hurts and it will be AWFUL and, oh my goodness! You can't even sleep anymore. How are you supposed to emotionally "prepare" for that?
I was asking some birth professionals what they thought I should write about over here at Mothering and the very first suggestion (from a midwife no less) was emotional preparation for birth and a reminder that stress can cause you to NOT go into labor.
No pressure ladies...
So how DO you prepare emotionally to have a baby?
I am no expert in any real way, just a mom who has had four babies. I can't tell you lots of facts about hormones and sex and the sympathetic nervous system and all that. (Well, I could look some things up and tell you about them, but it's late and I am tired.) But I can tell you what worked for me and what I recommend for all the women who take my childbirth classes.
I could make a long list, but it boils down to this one thing:
1. Do your best. Let go of the rest.
Prepare as much as you can. Study, read, practice (especially relaxation), pick a good care provider and birth place, prepare together WITH your partner so he isn't freaking out, learn, learn, learn.
Can you tell I am a childbirth educator? It matters a lot to me, it's true.
In a lot of ways the prep work is the EASY part. The letting go of the rest is actually a lot harder for most of us.
How do you "let go" so that your body and your mind can relax enough to go into labor?
Well, that preparation about what will happen and how you can handle it is really helpful. Do that as much as you can. And then, when you have done all you can, you can honestly and calmly let go of all that you can't control.
What can you NOT control? Well, lots of things, and it is hard to know how they will manifest, but it is pretty safe to assume that every woman has SOMETHING happen in her labor that she didn't plan or dream about.
Can you control exactly when the baby will come?
Mmmm...maybe not. But if you have a care provider you trust and have given yourself the very best nutrition, you can rest pretty assured that the birth will come when it should, and if not, that you did the best you could.
Can you control the length of the labor?
Mmmmm...maybe not again. But if you have tried to care for your pregnant body, nurtured yourself with loving movement, are birthing in a place that encourages you to be intuitive, and have received good chiropractic care, then you can know that whatever happens it is probably what you or that baby needs, even if it isn't easy.
Can you control the position of your baby?
Mmmmm...some will claim you can, and you certainly have a role in this. Good posture, proper exercise, chiropractic care, and many other things can help encourage optimal presentation but sometimes even with all that baby chooses something different.
This might not sound very uplifting, but sometimes I feel like the best emotional preparation for birth is just knowledge, and then a deeeeeeeeeeeep breath. Releasing that useless tension (it probably won't help you much at some point) and letting go of all the things you can't control, and then hanging on for the wild ride that is birth, is the best thing you can do.
One of my favorite things about birth is actually the scariest part- Birth is the ultimate surprise, an overwhelming event that nobody, no matter how smart, can really wrap their mind around.
I just love that. Birth is so beautiful in its mystery. I will forever be in awe of it.
So mamas, do your best. Take a breath. And when you breathe out, let go of all the useless tension that you don't really need.
It will happen. And it will change you forever.
Sarah Clark is a natural childbirth educator in Santa Rosa, California. She also trains instructors for Birth Boot Camp and loves being part of the joy of birth! She blogs over at www.mamabirth.blogspot.com and regularly here at Mothering. People often hate what she says. If this didn't offend you, keep reading!