After a very long, epidural labour with Jack first time round, I was keen to see if there were ways that I could prepare to set me on the path second time round for the drug- free birth I deeply wanted to experience. And whilst you can ever fully know or control what will happen during birth – we had planned a home birth which didn’t happen, for example – I do now believe that preparation can be key.
In this post I’m talking through 20 things I did in the run up to and during labour – because you see unlike however those stories you hear of women having a baby from start to finish in 35 minutes, or in the taxi on the way to hospital (I always think those kind of births are the easiest kind in many ways), my truly wonderful (and it makes me weepy just writing that!) natural birth did not just ‘happen’ to me. I really prepared for it during my pregnancy and become quite intensely focused on it in the final weeks. By the end, I almost felt like I was revising for an exam and the only thing left for me to do was to take it and leave the rest up to destiny. I also need to add that I am absolutely no birth expert but sometimes it just takes a bit of inspiration from another mother to make a difference – I know a lot of what I did was from other womens’ advice.
PRE LABOUR – Active *Relaxation* and *Environment*
1.Almost as soon as I fell pregnant, I started reading natural birthing books to start filling my head with positive and natural birth stories. I loved Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Birthing from Within.
2. I took a Hypnobirthing course with the Positive Birth Company and practiced most evenings in the weeks leading up to my birth either listening to relaxation scripts on my headphones or having Sam read one out loud. I truly believe that this helped train my body and mind into a trusting, relaxing mode which would facilitate a natural birth
3. I took some pregnancy yoga classes with Jill Miller from the Active Birth Centre. They were just drop in, so I could go as and when I wanted to but again this was another way I would relax, be able practice my breathing and learn about natural birthing positions and mantras. This video is a great option if you’re practicing yoga from home.
4. In the final weeks of pregnancy I also went swimming as this is said to get the baby into an optimal position for giving birth, and is another way for mama to relax.
5. I wrote quite a detailed birth plan – this was less for other people and just another way for me to concretise my wishes. By writing them down, they become even more real.
6. I really thought about my birthing space. I am someone that is very affected by environment so whether at hospital or at home, I knew that my surroundings would be very important to me. I painted positive birth affirmations in bright paint on small pieces of card to put up around me. I also had friends and family over to paint some too as a way to channel some of their energy. I found these SO helpful during labour – particularly when I was lagging and needed a boost and would look up and see some optimistic words staring back at me without having to ask.
7. I created two Spotify playlists as again I knew that music would be a powerful force for me. One playlist was energetic and upbeat, and the other quieter, more chilled out music. Both served their purpose both before and during labour to at times energize me and at other times calm me down.
DURING LABOUR – *Distraction* and *Action*
8. I immediately wanted to connect with Nature to help ground me so Sam and I went for a long walk – it was a lovely start to the labour.
9. I started bouncing on my ball to get baby’s head in a good place
10. I started sniffing clary sage gently to bring on contractions.
11. I also (although this sounds contradictory) rested to preserve energy for later so took myself to bed to nap for 45 minutes.
12. I watched a funny film – another way to distract myself.
13. I also set up an incense burner which I lit to give off a soothing and relaxing smell.
14. Got other kids? I hung out with my toddler Jack for as long as I could in the early stages of labour. I gave him breakfast and sat and played with him which helped distract me and pass some time.
15. I plugged into my playlists.
16. As soon as we got into our room at the hospital, Sam asked for the lights to be switched down low and he set up my electric tea lights – soft lighting was paramount for me to help create the calm environment I knew that I needed to birth. Mammals do not give birth in brightly lit rooms!
Other things you could do:
16. Ask your partner to give you a light massage
17. Use a tens machine
18. Bake a cake – some women swear by this!
19. Paint something, anything!
20. And most importantly…follow your instinct…
Check out my birth story for more detail and there’s a short video from my labour experience below if you fancy a peek….
I hope you find a few of these tips helpful. I’m confident that for me, preparation was key to bringing about my natural birth. Got any other tips you can share? I’d love to hear them….
Best of luck and most importantly, try to stay calm