Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. --John Milton

Monday, July 25, 2016

Focus on My Face (A Relaxing Tip)

In labor, I relax my pelvic muscles by relaxing my face. If the face is relaxed, pelvic muscles loosen. If the face is tense, pelvic muscles resist.

When pelvic muscles are fluid, contractions do what they're supposed to do - bring my beautiful baby to me. When I'm rigid, the rushes of energy work harder and less effectively.

Relaxed = minimized  pain, focused energy
Tense = increased pain, scattered energy

By relax, I don't mean nap on the couch. It's intense work - it's labor. Gritting my teeth and clenching my jaw only makes labor harder though. This is not a labor like straining to lift a heavy box. This is an effort of opening to an elemental force rushing through me.

A wave cascades, and I focus. Open my mouth to slack my jaw. Dip chin. Touch forehead to smooth creases. Eyes, cheeks ... relaxed.

The face is visible and touchable. It's more challenging to imagine the pelvic muscles. And just thinking "I should relax" probably won't work. I release tension from each specific part of my face.

Think and touch and maybe speak "I'm relaxing my jaw." Try it even before labor starts.

More about relaxing: Here's about positions and how to feel as comfortable as possible. And the science behind it and practical exercises

Monday, July 18, 2016

Snug as a Bug (ten months pregnant)

You feel robust - any day you could make a strong entrance.

You seem content, happy to linger in such a snug waterbed.

With my forty plus extra pounds it's evident to all that I've robbed the watermelon stand. You're probably coming up on 20 inches and weighing in at 7 pounds. Maybe. We'll find out soon.

NASA can't outshine your magnificent design for take off. Your head plates are hard for protection but separated for flexibility. The uterine muscles work with your body to line you up optimally.

You are in a word - Amazing.

More about 40 weeks? has the basics. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Surf the Waves (A Relaxing Tip)

I've never surfed, but I've ocean kayaked. Getting the kayak out took a few tries, as the waves flattened the Cowboy and me repeatedly. And those were just little ones breaking against the sand - what must it be like to feel the power of surfing-sized waves!

I suspect it's a little like giving birth.

I try not to think of a contraction as pain. A contraction is not like bumping your funny bone nerve or aching with appendicitis. I welcome a contraction as energy.

As early labor contractions gained strength, I put on a YouTube video of surfing. I imagined being the surfer - I'm atop a mounting wave, now it's curling over me; I'm riding through the tunnel one hand on the board, one hand skimming the wall of wave ... and I'm out.

I think: These waves of energy are bringing my baby boy to me; thank you God for the energy to birth my baby; this is too big for me to control; help me ride this wave.

Wisdom I've read says, "You can't control labor, but you can control yourself." In other words, trying to control the "pain" is as counterproductive as fearing the water. But working with the power coursing through my body is like balancing on a surf board.

A helpful way to practice anytime before hard labor but especially when braxton-hicks start working is breathing with the ocean. I watch or just listen to the ocean pressing and receding along the sand. I comfortably sit or lay on the floor, relaxing my entire body as I focus on my breath with the lull of ocean surf. I specifically open the pelvic floor.

When I don't know the first thing about surfing (or even getting a kayak out), I'm likely to experience pain. But is that why a surfer gets back on her board? Is she obsessed with pain? Does she meet the wave planning to be pummeled? Of course not! She wants to ride the energy. She's scared and she sometimes falls off her board, but she gets back on and waits anther wave. And then the thrill of water engulfing yet propelling her forward. Think about what the surfer focuses on.

I screamed. A lot. Until my third precious boy's head was almost crowned, I screamed in terror of the waves. I'm not naive here - labor is hard. It's fierce. I've been knocked down, knocked under like I was going to drown. I still hear my midwife's gentile voice, "Instead of screaming, close your mouth and let the energy push your baby down instead of it escaping." I closed my mouth. I distinctly felt his head moving down, and then he was crowning. I treasure my first experience with monstrous waves, but the flailing wore me out. Smelling salts were stuck under my nose when I fainted twice after delivery.

After my first beautiful birth, I thought I can never go through that again. Thankfully, memory faded enough to dull that determination. After both my second and third births, I thought that was amazing - I want to do that again! During my first labor, I experienced a deep terror. During this last labor, I said, "I'm scared. I'm scared," but underneath, I knew all was fine. I imagine experienced surfers still feel scared.

Don't give up, Mama. Do some research, practice relaxing - and get back on your surf board. If you're tempted to say, "I can't surf," know that God already programmed your body to give birth. The giving-birth-kind-of-surfing is about not resisting, but letting your body do what it was designed to do.

More info: Midwife Thinking is a good place for researched essays backed with experience.