Every morning I wake up, turn on the coffee, and drink it while wrangling my kids off to school and mentally going through all of the things I need to do for work, the house and my family. From lunches and ponytails to backpacks and homework… without even a thought. I am on autopilot. Much of what we do each day is done without conscious thought. During pregnancy, we have to think about almost all of our actions more mindfully. How do I get comfortable? Is this a walk or a waddle? Am I getting enough protein? Can I eat this fish? Drink this coffee? Is that twinge normal? Is my baby OK?
The ultimate culmination of this newfound self- scrutiny is childbirth, an event that requires forethought and planning, education, and then, ironically, a complete physical and intellectual surrender to our body’s process as we birth our child into the world.
How do you balance the mindfulness required to have a healthy pregnancy and birth with the surrender that will be required of you during labor? The particulars are different for everyone, but the principles remain the same.
*Practice self- comfort techniques throughout pregnancy, whatever that means for you. A walk outside, meditation, exercise, chiropractic care, a good book, a massage, time with your partner- things that remind you that simplicity can be soothing, and that you can be an active participant in restoring your own well- being.
*Educate yourself about your options and find out about the fundamental physiology and chemistry of birth. Hormones are powerful and they will help you throughout your journey through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. A good childbirth class can give you both information and confidence to welcome birth without fear. (Check out this fantastic piece by Dr Sarah Buckley on the hormones of labor)
Respect and Dignity
*Use care providers that treat you with respect and dignity, and whose practice is evidence- based, without pathologizing the healthy processes of birth. Your body knows what to do, but if there is a variation of normal during your baby’s birth, your choice in care provider can make the difference between a vaginal or a cesarean birth.
*Get support. Instead of listening to birth stories that emphasize emergency, trauma, or fear, seek out resources that build your confidence and faith. Get a doula to support you and your partner through the journey. Read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Look at empowering sources online, like Birth Without Fear or Lamaze International. Surround yourself with the positive; it is another way to care for yourself and your growing baby.
Less Is More
*Underthink it. Once you make good choices, care for your pregnant body, and educate yourself on what is to come, your brain can take a back seat as your body and your baby work together towards birth. Dwelling on the specifics of labor can feed the fear of the unknown; during labor, autopilot does the flying, your instincts take over, and your mind is truly the passenger.
Once your baby is here, you’ll be on autopilot again soon enough. Waking up in the morning with a baby attached to your breast without quite remembering when and how you ended up feeding her again. You’ll juggle breastfeeding and sleeping, then potties and juice packs without much of a thought. But pregnancy is a special time- one that prepares us to care for a little stranger that depends on us for each and every basic need. In a very real sense, the mindfulness of pregnancy followed by the surrender of birth is the perfect practice for the journey of motherhood.