I have no doubt that positive thinking and affirmations helped me achieve the two births I desired. They were med-free and very manageable, even enjoyable. My son was born in a birth center three years ago and we welcomed my daughter at home just two months ago.
When I was pregnant with my first, I was a rabid consumer of pregnancy and birth-related information. I read many books and watched many birth videos (always with tears in my eyes). I couldn’t wait for our childbirth class. I couldn’t wait to nurse. The best thing I did in my thirst for knowledge was to read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Positive birth stories are a must.
I read one a night and it filled me with the deep belief that I could do this and that my body was made to do this.
I think an important part of my nesting was spending time just thinking about birth and just how amazing it was. I wondered at how my body had changed and had so thoroughly nurtured my growing child. I was filled with trust.
I looked at lists of positive birth affirmations and I held onto the ones that spoke to me. I selected a few to be put into my birth plan (which my midwives called Birthing Hopes and Dreams--a name that really put a positive spin on it, and acknowledged that you can’t always “plan” every aspect of your birth.)
As a woman who has struggled with anxiety disorders for much of my adult life, my biggest worry was feeling anxious and panicky in birth. To combat this, I pictured myself laboring. I would be calm and peaceful and have a happy knowing smile on my face.
During labor, I did not want anyone to touch me. I think my husband might have felt useless; he had no way of knowing that his presence was keeping me feeling safe. Luckily I had some birth affirmations written in my plan. “You’re amazing,” he’d say, or “We’re getting so close to meeting our baby.” I would nod and smile. Who knows if I was really smiling, but the point is, I was peaceful. There was pain, but no suffering. My body was working just as it should.
I continued my quest for knowledge after my son’s birth. One thing that always stuck with me was the role hormones played in labor. Oxytocin is amazing. Endorphins are even better. I really held onto this thought as I prepared for the birth of my daughter. I knew I had handled my son’s birth, coming through unscathed and strong and proud. Any moments of doubt I had were fleeting. It’s not to diminish feelings of fear or doubt in pregnant women. Anything unknown is a little scary. I think this is why I got so much comfort in reading and watching so many things. If anyone wanted to tell me a scary birth story, I just smiled and ignored them. There is really no need to do this.
When I went into labor with my daughter. I was excited and happy. I really did smile through much of labor (and even during crowning!) I remember when the really strong contractions kicked in. I remembered: pain = endorphins. Suddenly I cherished that euphoric, heavy-lidded feeling I had. My body was doing just what it needed to. It was taking great care of me and my baby.
Though I wasn’t consciously using birth affirmations, this is exactly what these thoughts were. I coped with labor very inwardly. I wanted to just lie on my side and relax, napping as much as possible between contractions, taking sips of coconut water and enjoying visits from my son and feeling the circle of support that had formed from my husband, my mother, my midwife and my birth assistant.
I moaned very quietly during those tough contractions. I wondered if I looked miserable. I didn’t feel miserable. My mother later confirmed that during the strongest ones, my brow would get a little furrowed and my legs would shake, but that was the only tension I had in my body.
I pictured each contraction as a mountain. It sounds a little corny: but I was climbing a snowy mountain and when the contraction peaked, I was at the top. Oh, and I was a lioness or something equally as fierce. Inside my brain I roared powerfully at the top of these contractions. As the contractions left my body, I was telling myself what a badass I was and I was giving my body and my baby big old high fives.
These thoughts were all that it took for me to cope. I know every woman finds something different from their “birth toolkit” when they find themselves in labor, but my advice is not to discount positive thinking. It’s up to each woman to surround themselves with information and love and support for their birth. And it’s our job as mothers to share the good birth stories. Even if your birth wasn’t “perfect,” share something magical with mothers-to-be. There’s something magical in every birth. I fully believe that. And as partners or people who love and support mothers, do just that: believe in her ability to birth, even when she doubts it.
As Ina May Gaskin said: “Your body is not a lemon.” I’ve polled lots of other mothers about their favorite birth affirmations. Here are some of them:
Each contraction is bringing you closer to your baby.
You can do this because you are doing this.
These contractions can’t be stronger than you, because they are you.
My body is amazing.
I am so relaxed and peaceful and strong.
Embrace the sensations and thank them for bringing your baby into your arms.
I know how to do this.
My body is opening wide to let my baby out.
Over 300,000 other women will be giving birth with you today.
I surrender with confidence.
What are your favorites?
Olivia Hinebaugh is a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year-old boy and baby girl. She is an aspiring novelist and steals time whenever both kids are sleeping to clack away at the keys. She tweets about mothering and writing @OliveJuiceLots