I have been teaching Prenatal Yoga for six years and have taught a lot of moms through their first babies, and others to follow. It’s the first birth that is the most daunting, because it is a new experience. But each birth is unique and can bring up anxiety and fear. What I have found, is like a marathon or a job interview, we do so much better when we prepare ourselves – emotionally, mentally and physically.
Prenatal Yoga is a fantastic tool for preparing yourself. You just need to find the right teacher that works for you. The best take-away from Prenatal Yoga that I teach my students, is that breath is your best tool for labour. Learning how to breathe, nice full, deep body breaths into the ribcage, and relaxing the jaw as you exhale all the breath out, is important. Breathing properly through yoga (and birth) keeps both the mind and body calm. Also, I like strengthening the glutes and getting my students to move – squats are great for strength and opening the hips.
But also, reading positive literature and hearing first hand stories from moms that have had empowering births, is really helpful to remind you of the strength of the female body.
Keep reading from some firsthand advice from my friend Indrah, who recently gave birth as a gestational surrogate. Set yourself up for a successful labour and delivery with these five tips.
1) Don’t go into birth with fear!
Whatever you see on TV and in movies, or if you hear a negative birth story, make sure you get rid of it! It isn’t your story.
2) Prepare yourself with the right tools.
For me, it was dancing (while pregnant and during delivery), and hypnobirthing (starting at 20 weeks). If you have hypnobirthing courses in your community, you can take those, otherwise, YouTube has great videos. I used “Birthing Affirmations” and “Rainbow Relaxation Hypnobirthing” by Marie Mongan.
3) Let your voice be heard!
You are a warrior mama. Let your birthing team know what you want – this includes your Doctor, midwife, husband, nurses – EVERYONE.
4) Read empowering literature, mantras and quotes.
For me it was this quote ”I’ve had Rainbows in my Clouds” – by Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou spoke about bringing these “rainbows” with her, so that she feels that she is never alone and always has help in any situation. So for my birth, I brought my girlfriends, the positive people I have met, my dad who has passed – I brought all of their energy, their love and their strength with me. For literature, I recommend “A Consultation with a Midwife” by Ingeborg Stadelmann.
5) Relax in your body for contractions.
This means going with the flow of your Contractions, and not letting the contractions take over your body or mind. Proper breathing is key. This is “birth breathing” – using full body breaths. Deep inhale in, and long exhale out while relaxing your jaw. As soon as you feel the contraction coming on, relax your jaw, relax your shoulders, and start the full inhales and exhales to ride the contraction and EXHALE it out (using sound is good). Also, giving yourself positive thoughts and affirmations work. For me it was “Yes, you can do this!
Remember, no matter the outcome of your birth the main thing is that you prepared for it. Unfortunately, we only have so much control during labour and babe will be born how they want. The best thing we can do, is prepare ourselves with some of the steps I listed above. In case you’re thinking, what’s the point? Would you go into a job interview unprepared? If you answered yes, then think of a different example of something you would prepare for. The point is, even if you didn’t get the job, you prepared, you went in with confidence and learned something from the experience for next time. It’s never a waste to learn and prepare yourselves. Happy birthing mamas! You can do this! You really can. Believe in yourselves and remember, women have been doing this for generations.
Check out Indrah’s labouring video on YouTube (she was 8 centimetres dilated at this point!) This is what “labourland” looks like when you are calm, in your zone, and in control of your space. (Another tip is to have music that you connect to. She chose the song “Baila Morena” by Julio Iglesias, which worked for her in the moment, and she put it on repeat – notice how her hips move, which helped her with the contractions.
If you find any of these tips useful, share with any of your expecting mama friends! We need to share more inspiring birth stories like Indrah’s. I also recommend reading Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth.”
– Hannah & Indrah
Photo by Laura Elie.