Flip open any book on giving birth and you might instantly feel bombarded with all of the things you should be doing to prepare. Eat healthy and never cheat, exercise daily, take this class, and that one. While none are bad ideas, the truth is, preparing for birth is mostly a state of mind. You have to harness your inner power. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to trust your body to do its most important work.
Thinking you can prepare yourself completely for birth is well-intentioned but a little, well, ludacris. How can you prepare for something you’ve never experienced before when you don’t really know what it will feel like or how you’ll respond? Personally, I know women who read What to Expect and every other book on the market cover to cover and still felt completely mentally unprepared for their delivery. Likewise, I know women who spent every day at the gym until they were contracting away and felt completely shocked by their birthing experience and the physical challenge it presented.
There may be no sure fire way to prepare, either mentally or physically, but there are a few ways to improve your confidence before you delivery, which is pretty darn important. And most of them don’t have to do with getting ripped or reading every book in the birthing section of the library (though knowledge is power). Mostly, giving birth is about preparing to an extent and then doing a whole lot of letting go (literally and figuratively).
Here are a few ways to (really) prepare for your birth:
1. Get zen about the unknown- Perhaps your birth will go off without a hitch. Maybe you’ve spent days walking that baby out and prepping your body like no other. But perhaps not. Birth varies based on a variety of factors. While it’s a great idea to stay in shape, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to have a delivery that happens at lightning speed. Be prepared that your birth may be long or short, it might happen before or after your “due date,” it might look everything like you thought it would look like or nothing. All of these scenarios are variations of normal and the truth is, there isn’t that much you can do to alter that.
2. Surround yourself with positivity- From reading wonderful birth stories, to watching peaceful videos on YouTube, to talking with women who’ve had wonderful experiences with birth, surrounding yourself with positivity is a great way to prepare for your birth. In the news, on blogs and especially on T.V., we’re practically surrounded with birth horror stories. The fact is, most of those birth traumas are not reality. When evidence-based birth is being practiced, the occurrence of those scenarios are pretty slim. So keep the positive vibes coming in and let the rest roll right off your back. You don’t need any negativity or unnecessary fear coming into the room with you on the day you give birth. Remember, your body was made for this.
3. Ask questions- If there’s something weighing on you regarding your birth, don’t be afraid to ask your trusted care provider. While reading every book, by every different author on the topic, is likely to confuse you more than anything, you should have a grasp on the process of birth, a few comfort and coping methods, and generally feel supported. If you provider is unable or resistant to questions, it’s a red flag that perhaps you need a new one. Any knowledgeable provider should be happy to answer any and all questions you have about your birth and how that birth will be treated in their hands. And if you find yourself wanting extra support, whether with questions or simply another set of eyes, ears, and comforting hands, hiring a doula is always a great idea. The bottom line is, you should feel like there are no huge lingering questions before you go into labor. No, no one can tell you exactly how your labor is going to progress. But open communication is essential.
As for the rest, stay open, stay zen, and know that each birth is different and unique. It’s great to be prepared, but the exact details of your labor are not for you to decide. It’s the great unknown so go ahead and embrace it. Believe in your power and the power of your body and let go of the rest. Your experience will be better for it.