A couple of weeks ago my friend began having some pre-labor contractions, etc. So I swung by to drop off some flowers and well-wishes and found her knee deep in baby clothes. She was so funny. She didn't want me to help (but I did anyway) and she, her mom, and I sat and discussed how time just "flies" by when you are pregnant. You think you will get to the little things like washing the baby laundy and putting the room together "next week" and then WHAM! Next week is here and you are wishing you set aside the time to take care of that stuff, read some of the books you bought that are still sitting in the Amazon box, and wishing you weren't feeling like you were running out of time and not "ready" for the baby to come.
Needless to say, I went home and pulled out all of my son's old baby clothes, baby gear, and went online to order those books from Amazon that I had meant to be reading. I also signed up for that Birth Refresher course to take next month. At a party the next week, her husband teased me that she "freaked me out". Sigh, my poor husband ratted me out. But honestly, it was sort of true! I think it was actually more of a reality check that this baby is really going to be coming out in 3 months (give or take). I think I have all the time in the world, but in those last few weeks, do I want to be freaking out or relaxing with my feet up?
Now, don't get my wrong, my freak out focus was on the physical needs of the baby (clothes, blankets, etc), but when I really thought about it, was it really about having all the "stuff" ready??? Ha, the answer was "partly". While having the basics done and ready makes things easier, it was really the emotional aspect of giving birth to a baby in 3 months that I was not really preparing myself for. The thing I really needed was to start thinking about facing my fears from my last birth and start taking measures to feel supported during/after labor.
The birth of my first baby did not really go as I had "planned", and could quite frankly be described as traumatic. I really wanted to give birth naturally, and I thought that I would be supported by the midwives I was seeing. I also thought it was such a natural event, that why give it another thought? Needless to say, none of the midwives were on duty when my water broke, and the OB/GYN didn't give me much in the way of options at the hospital. It was pitocin, then laboring on my back with monitors on, and then an epidural because my labor wasn't progressing. After I left the hospital stunned, sore, and feeling like a failure, I also struggled with breastfeeding and didn't really have the breastfeeding support I really needed. So, when I saw my friend who said "I am not ready for this baby to come out", I knew I felt the same way about my baby--both physically and emotionally. I also knew I didn't want a rerun from my last birth experience.
So how am I preparing mentally for giving birth to this baby now, you ask? Well, I did buy some books that I am thoroughly enjoying and thought I would share them:
The first on the list is "Birthing from Within" by Pam England and Rob Horowitz. This is unlike any other birth/labor book I had ever seen or read. It does talk about the process of childbirth, but it comes at it holistically and considers how fears/emotions/environment can affect the natural process. Yes, it is really touchy feely and goes into a lot of art, but it was surprisingly really helpful. There are art exercises to help you start thinking about your mental/emotional blocks and fears about giving birth and becoming a mother/father. My husband is even enjoying it! We do some of the artwork and then describe what we did. It has helped me understand some of my fears with going back to a hospital setting and then coming up with ways to alleviate or minimize those fears. It has also helped my husband and I communicate and get in touch with our current impressions of birth and how we can honestly support each other the best way possible.
"The Birth Partner, A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions" by Penny Simkin. The book is very informational into the physical nitty gritty of what is happening physiologically--which in the end is helpful when the doctor/midwife/nurse is using the technical birthing jargon while you are in the hospital. But it also is a good guide for husbands and birth partners to prepare for what to expect from the mom and how to support her along the different steps of the way. When you combine this knowledge with the knowledge you get about yourselves/each other from "Birthing From Within", you may feel a lot better and maybe even start looking forward to labor!
"Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally" by Janet Balaskas is pretty practical. It goes in depth on how you can physically prepare your body for the physical process of labor while you are still pregnant. The stretches are awesome, and align really well with my prenatal yoga class. Then it goes into actual birthing positions that help you use gravity and how your body is made in order to help move your labor along. After reading this book, it is no wonder to me why my labor wasn't progressing while laying flat on my back in a hospital bed!
"The Nursing Mother's Companion" by Kathleen Huggins. I have read the first few parts about pregnancy and the first week. I plan on using this book more as a survival guide as I move along through the different stages.
So, now I am reading, stretching, relaxing, researching, and cleaning a little bit each day to start physically and mentally preparing for this baby! I find that it has less to do with stressing over getting the "stuff" prepared-- like buying the right care seat and bouncy chair--but more about feeling like you are a bit organized and mentally ready to face labor and being a mommy (in my case again).
So what things have you done to start thinking about what labor will be like? Have you started getting yourself and your thoughts organized about having the baby and having a support network to help you during/after labor? Maybe today is a good day to start!
A side note: early last week my friend sent me a note for the flowers and she put a PS that her house was in tip top shape. I think this was her way of feeling ready for the baby. She did all this before she went to the hospital to give birth to her amazing little 9 lb baby boy :)
In health and wellness,