Do wash the receiving blankets, track those contractions, and listen to the sweet heartbeat. But this I've found matters most: to be at ease.
Beyond a technique to relax muscles and before contractions come in like the tide - being at ease is about all of me for all of pregnancy. It's body and soul. It's being startled from a dream and opening to the pain stirred. It's memorizing verses until I know that I know. It's thinking through how I might respond to birth challenges. It's saying thanks for my baby over and over again. It takes practice. Intentional practice.
It's letting go of negativity and leaning in to the joy of new life. With my spirit and with my body.
For me, it isn't easy - at all. To trust, learn patience, forgive. To breathe. one. breath. at. a. time. To surrender lost in this contraction. Breath in and breathe out thanks. To be okay with uncertainty and changing plans.
A woman can be helped to feel at ease with a massage or a hug, a familiar song or a sip of water. Here's what helped me relax (and not like sitting on the couch with my feet up relaxing) before, during, and after:
- Staying home (where I'm used to feeling safe; also, no restrictive car ride! Where do you feel safe?)
- Playlist of favorite songs
- Natural and lamp lighting
- Quiet with minimal talking
- Essential Oils
- Yoga breathing
- Picturing my baby's toes, counting them
- Welcoming a contraction, "Yes, thank you, come on."
- Imagining each contraction as a wave to ride
- Water deep enough to feel buoyant
- Being with the people I can feel completely vulnerable with
Focusing on being at peace body and soul increased my ability to work with contractions and accelerated my recovery. After my first amazing, natural water birth, I was still sore at six weeks. Then feeling holistically better than ever, I again delivered naturally in water. I enjoyed every moment, including falling exhausted into a deep nap next to my newborn. I awoke, lingering in the thrill and wanting to do it all over again.
I brought Baby to his checkup and nurses gawked at me, "How can you look so good when you just gave birth!" And I had to say, "I have been so well cared for." Seriously, the Cowboy made sure I got naps even with a toddler before the birth, and Mom did all the cooking and laundry after.
This is just me, stumbling. I share because I know more mamas can have peaceful experiences.
A woman's comfort isn't a nicety, it's a necessity. Compromising comfort is a risk to consider seriously, I think.
Want to read more? Try Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper. Or Preparing for Birth with Yoga by Janet Balaskeas.