Top 10 Ways to Prepare for a Glorious Birth
February 5, 2011
THIS IS REALLY LONG! WHOEVER GETS THIS ARTICLE IS GOING TO NEED TO DO SOME VERY STRATEGIC EDITING AND A GOOD DEAL OF CONTEXTUALIZING. -Laura
Congratulations on being pregnant!
I waited a long time to have a child, and I knew that I wanted to be fully present and drug-free for the delivery. At the same time, I was scared of pain. And it is intense! But as my aunt said when I asked her about the pain before I gave birth for the first time, “It’s exhilarating! It’s not like you broke your arm. You’re having a baby!”
After my first son was born, I joined a mom’s group and was surprised to hear that even though all the moms who gave birth in the hospital had wanted to have a drug-free birth, all of them ended up getting medication of some kind – an epidural, or more. Between the intensity of what you’re going through, and the medical establishment’s proclivity for medication, you have to have a strong internal commitment and a well articulated plan for a natural birth if you want to make it happen.
If you’re having a home-birth, it will be much easier to stay drug-free. My husband begged me not to do a home-birth, because he was too anxious about the risks – so we did it at Kaiser and it worked out fine. We created a womb-like environment in the birthing room that I’ll tell you about a little later. But for now, I want to share with you two things that strengthened my commitment to a drug/anesthesia-free birth.
First, years ago, I began to remember a wonderful place of rest and peace and connectedness; I felt so relaxed and happy there in the lovely soft red light that permeated the room. At a certain point, I realized that this was a memory of being in the womb. As I followed the memory to my birth-day, I felt myself inside my mom, using all my little baby strength to stay in the womb. I could feel my mom’s sense that the world was not a great place to be, so I had decided I would stay inside.
Suddenly my little body went completely limp, and feeling overwhelmed and upset, I got born. Later I asked my mom about it. She said that as her delivery stretched longer and longer, she was in pain and the doctors got uncomfortable and convinced her to get an epidural. I got born with a sense of being overpowered, rather than with a sense of collaboration.
My mom also very lovingly told me that it was one of the best days of her life as she felt so happy to finally have me in her arms. If my mom had been coached through a communication meditation, instead of given an epidural, I don’t think it would have taken too long to engage my cooperation. Neither of us was in danger; I just needed some convincing. And with all the challenges in our world, there are still so many beautiful and wonderful things about being alive in a body – not least of which are hugs, kisses and colors – many good reasons to be born!
Second, I read a wonderful book called The Magical Child. Joseph Chilton Pearce (Author of The Crack in the Cosmic Egg) talks about the collaboration of consciousness that happens between a mother and child during the birth. I want to tell you enough about it to inspire you to be drug-free or solidify your commitment to a natural birth.
Pearce frames his writing about birth with the understanding that intelligence grows through a moving balance of stress and relaxation. He cites studies with rats given stress hormones; their brains immediately grow and they prove to be much more adaptable and flexible thinkers than other rats – that is, as long as they also enjoy times of deep relaxation when they assimilate the knowledge gained in the unknown/unpredictable time of stress. (If one stressor follows another without a break, the brain goes in to a state of sensory cut-off called shock.)
Pearce describes an inspiring study conducted with mothers in Uganda in 1956 (before much western medicine had entered the country.) Marcelle Geber, with a research grant from the UN Children’s Fund, found…
“The most precocious, brilliant and advanced infants ever observed anywhere. These infants smiled continuously and rapturously, from, at the latest, their fourth day of life…Sensorimotor learning and general development were phenomenal, indeed miraculous….
These infants were born in the home, generally delivered by the mother herself. The child was never separated from the mother, who massaged, caressed, sang to and fondled her infant continually. The mother carried her unswaddled infant in a sling, next to her bare breasts, continually. She slept with her infant. The infant fed continuously, according to its own schedule. These infants were awake a surprising amount of the time – alert, watchful, happy, calm. They virtually never cried. Their mothers were bonded to them and sensed their every need before that need had to be expressed by crying. The mother responded to the infant’s every gesture and assisted the child in any and every move that was undertaken, so that every move initiated by the child ended in immediate success. At two days of age (48 hours) these infants sat bolt upright, held only by the forearms, with a beautifully straight back and perfect head balance, and their finely focused eyes staring intently, intelligently at their mothers. And they smiled and smiled.”
Geber compared these children with the babies of wealthy Ugandans delivered in the European-style hospitals. The latter group developed according to the same pattern as European and American infants: they slept and cried a lot, were often irritable and colicky and did not smile until almost three months of age. Unlike the babies born naturally whose blood analysis showed that all adrenal steroids from the birth stress were gone by day four of life, the hospital-delivered babies showed high levels of birth stress hormones even two and a half months later.
Amazingly, the Ugandan mother’s natural birth generally took about an hour, after which she would walk around happily showing the baby to her friends and neighbors.
The Magical Child describes the importance for the child of the amazing and pivotal right of passage that it is to be born. The child’s whole life in the womb prepares her/him for this intense and great adventure of life in the world, and if the mother gets pumped up with anesthesia or other drugs, the baby’s little body does too – not fully present for the big event that starts it all. The tremendous growth of neurons that would happen for the baby during the healthy stress of this profound movement from the known to the unknown cannot happen if the child is medicated.
But I say all this with one strong caveat: if there’s any danger to you or your baby, do what ever you need to do to be safe! I hope it goes without saying that your health and the health of your baby is the most important thing.
So here are the top ten things I recommend as you prepare for a natural, euphoric and amazing birth-giving:
Inspire yourself! Watch “Birth Into Being.” This is the BEST video I saw about birth, shared with me by a friend who’s had two home-births, one in a hot tub. (Her second child came out too fast to make it to the tub!) It’s about water-births in Russia. Some of the births happen indoors in pools and others happen in tide pools at the seashore. It’s peaceful and inspirational. I watched it again with my nephews (age 5 and 7) and they too were captivated. You can order it at HYPERLINK “http://www.midwiferytoday.com/” www.midwiferytoday.com. (Also, be sure to avoid watching anything that is fear-based or fear-inducing about birth. Guard your mind as a precious treasure!)
Meditate! Take a Hypnobabies class, or get the CD’s. My husband and I did it together. (There’s a CD for the partner as well.) I honestly don’t know if I could have made it through my 41-hour labor without these, including in the car on the way to the hospital, as my birth team will testify. Cosmic Cowgirl Gennifer Mountain Weaver said, “I was too late in getting into a class, but I did get 5 CD set of self hypnosis CD’s that I feel helped me tremendously in preparation, one was called ‘Fear Clearing,’ another ‘Positive Birthing,’ and ‘Special Place;’ the other two were how to use the tools, and relax. Every time I practiced (daily) I would drift to sleep…sort of a deep hypnotic state, and then when I came to, I was really relaxed and felt like my body knew exactly what to do when it came time to birth.”
Get body-loving care! Prenatal massage is wonderful. Make sure your practitioner avoids the acupressure spots that stimulate labor – unless you and your baby are ready! Chiropractic care helped me to make sure that the baby was in the right position (head down) when he “dropped” into place for labor. (The drop happens about a week before the birth. All of a sudden you feel strong pressure on the lower part of your abdomen and your waddle becomes unmistakable.) I found it invaluable to have natural doctors who helped me not feel pressured by the medical system’s desired “due date.” (Most healthy babies are born at least a week past “due”.)
Eat healthy! A great study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology (Nov 2007) showed that women – regardless of age and pregnancy history – had significantly healthier birth outcomes if they “ate less trans fat and carbohydrate sugars; consumed more protein from vegetables than from animals; ate more fiber and iron; took more multivitamins; had a lower body mass index (BMI); exercised for longer periods of time each day; and consumed more high-fat diary products and less low-fat diary products.” Eating what felt right, I gained 50 pounds, and didn’t worry about it (and lost it all after the birth.) Simply One has the most comprehensive prenatal vitamins. And nettle tea is wonderful for strengthening your uterus.
Trust your body and your baby! I encourage you to consider minimizing medical interventions. During pregnancy, we don’t know the results of pumping ultrasound waves in to the womb. My naturopathic doctors strongly recommended against any more than one ultrasound, unless there was a significant medical reason. At the same time, they’re so common; maybe it’s not a problem. But ADD is also very common, as are lots of other conditions among kids today. Since we don’t know, I erred on the side of caution and had just one ultrasound with both kids.
Celebrate your body and your belly! One friend did a photo essay of her belly as it grew. Another did a sexy mama photo shoot with her big pregnant belly. Another did body art. Dozens of people have told me how much they loved seeing me in a halter top, with my huge bare belly bursting out over the top of my skirt at the Cosmic Cowgirls Conference a few weeks before my son was born. Let yourself be a sexy mama or a snuggle queen, as you feel it.
Sing and talk to your baby! Wonderful work has been done by Dr. Akira Ikegawa of Japan who did a study of what children age 2 to 4 remember about being in the womb. More than 50% of the children remembered very specific things about sounds and feelings. They love to hear your voice and the voice of your partner. Stroke your belly, sing to your baby. Know that parenting begins now.
Walk – Dance – Do yoga! A lot of friends love prenatal yoga. One friend whose birth was inspirationally short and all natural credited it to her belly dancing class. My husband and I got acquainted with salsa dancing, and we danced almost weekly until about a week before the birth. It helps to be fit and to feel great as you prepare for your physical/spiritual marathon.
Get wet! Swimming or floating is great for taking the pressure off your back and just relaxing. One mama who swam regularly said, “It relaxed me…It felt like we were really united during swim time…and it was a time where I was able to be….just be.” (Remember to avoid really hot tubs that raise your body’s core temperature beyond what is healthy for the baby.) If you live near or can get to a warm lake or ocean, you are blessed!
Pack your suitcase and paint your vision! Whether you’re giving birth at home, at a birth center, in a warm pool or at the hospital, you’re going on an incredible journey. There are lots of things to bring that I’ll lay out for you in our next mag (Top Ten Things to Bring to Your Baby’s Birth-day.) But for now, start to talk through your dream birth plan with your partner and those you want on your birth team. Start putting anything you want to have on that day in a suitcase ready to go. And take some time to paint your vision for your birth! The birth-painting that I made in a class with Shiloh Sophia McCloud still hangs on my wall. As I painted it, I felt guided by my son’s spirit angel and comforted to trust my part in the web of life.
When your baby’s ready to be born, your baby will release the hormones that trigger the entire birth-delivery system – so you don’t have to worry about the timing. Don’t be pressured by medical “due dates” as long as the baby’s healthy! Your body will respond to the hormones released by your baby, and that will release your hormones to begin your body’s birthing process, so that the two of you will work together for a great event.
Know that I wish you all blessings for a glorious pregnancy and birth-day!
Ama Zenya grew up in Kenya, East Africa. She earned her B. A. in Religion and Women’s Studies from Wesleyan University (CT) and her Mistress of Divinity and Mistress of Arts degrees from the Pacific School of Religion (CA.) An ordained minister of the United Church of Christ and mother of two boys, she is an exuberant activist for justice and love. Her experiences as a global citizen have kindled in her a passion to build relationships of respect, love, vision and solidarity among and with people of all faiths and cultures, and with our earth.