Tools for Positive and Empowered Birth
When I hear the statement "positive and empowered birth" I have so many thoughts that come to my mind. Let me start by saying my hope for all birthing women is for them to have a positive and empowered birth experience(s) no matter the circumstances. When they look back at their birth experiences in their minds good feelings and emotions come up for them. Having said that, how can we practically get there?
The first step I want to start off with is working on taking the fear out of the equation. There's so much negativity out there in the world; whether it's coming from other people, the media and so on. We naturally as humans tend to have fear of the unknown. The more we know, the less we fear when it comes to labor and birth. To help achieve that you want to surround yourself with a supportive team. Talk to friends who have had positive overall experiences and find out why. Try not to listen too much to the traumatic and negative experiences. Read books by birth workers who are coming at it from a place of love. read books that are informative yet without the fear mongering if possible. You want to learn and equip yourself with knowledge on what to expect during labor, birth, and postpartum. Take a childbirth education class to help equip yourself with tools for coping through labor, birth and postpartum. Put together a birth plan with someone knowledgeable in birth such as a doula or a prenatal coach. Putting those goals on paper helps ensure that you get to do the research and also learn the options and choices available to you for your upcoming birth experience. It also helps you get to know beforehand if your birth provider is (hopefully) supportive and like-minded with what you are desiring.
Second step of advice I want to bring up is mindfulness and the mind body connection. Mindfulness is a huge piece! Our mind and bodies are so interconnected. Our thoughts and feelings have a huge impact on our physical body. Affirmations and visualizations have amazing results on us physiologically, both prenatally and during labor. Start out with finding affirmations that speak to you and that you connect with or you can create your own. Add that into your daily rituals and routines and to your birth plan. Additionally practice prenatal exercises and labor positions as much as possible prenatally as it helps create muscle memory. When it comes to labor your body will already be familiar with all those great positions that promote gravity as well as your mind and body being in sync.
An analogy I like to share is the scenario of being physically active. I personally like hiking therefore I'll use that example. When I'm climbing up a big mountain gazing towards my goal up at the top where the beautiful viewpoint is, all I can think about is that my legs are feeling that intense burn. When I tell myself "this is so hard, I can't do it!!!" then I literally cannot physically go on. And on the other hand when I use positive self-talk and visualization the opposite happens. When I instead tell myself "I am strong, I can do this!!!" then suddenly I have the power and strength to continue and of course it's worthwhile in the end. So too, when it comes to labor and birth when we use these positive affirmations and self-talk it makes all the difference and contributes towards a very empowering experience.
The third piece I want to bring up is the power of bodily autonomy and how vital that is when it comes to pregnancy, labor, and birth etc. It is such a sensitive and vulnerable time in our lives. On top of being surrounded by a supportive team and equipping ourselves with knowledge, tools, mindset and affirmations; It is also extremely important to learn about making informed decisions so that we hold on strong to our bodily autonomy and don't lose that at any point. This is your experience that you'll remember for the rest of your life. Your provider and your nurse is not going to remember it for the rest of their lives. But you as a birthing mother and your partner will never forget. You want to be wholly a part of your experience and the choices you make be solely yours; Instead of the alternative of being an outsider and watching things happening to you without giving informed consent.
B.R.A.I.N. is the acronym I want you to remember and save for anytime you need to make a medical decision. Ask yourself- What are the Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition (what's your gut saying?), Nothing (What happens if you do nothing?). Applying the BRAIN acronym will help you to make fully informed decisions and you will tap into that powerful strength inside you by being fully a part of your experience.
On another note I want to address those that might be reading this who find any part of what I'm saying to be triggering. Or you might be thinking "I wish I had these tools with my previous experience". Or maybe you planned and hoped for a positive experience and the unexpected happened. No two births are the same. I want to validate you. Birth trauma is real! Healing from birth trauma is possible and should happen when you feel ready and especially before your next birth. Your next birth can be a very healing experience too. Maybe you're thinking "well I can't have a 'natural' birth, I need to have scheduled cesareans". What I say in response is that cesareans are births!! Please apply what you can to plan for a gentle, loving, family centered cesarean birth! This is all a big part of the work that I do. Let me repeat birth trauma is real and healing from that is vital as well. Sending virtual hugs!
Lastly I want to share parts of why I'm so passionate and why I love what I do. I had the privilege of growing up on a farm and even now our family has a homestead with animals so my kids can get to experience it too. Birthing animals was a standard part of my upbringing and a very normal experience to me. It was so impressionable to me that it was a big part of inspiring me towards the path that led me to what I do today.
Granted, I get humans are different but we have been doing this for thousands of years going back generations. When women give birth a mother is born too, and that is huge, momentous, and so powerful. The memory of that time should be sacred, special, and absolutely the opposite of traumatic. Part of the goals I have in what I do through doulaing and coaching my clients is helping to take back birth one person at a time. Take back women empowerment and positive birth. Take back bodily autonomy in the birth place. Help facilitate more enriching memorable experiences for a lifetime. I am truly passionate about the work that I have the opportunity to do currently and for the past ten years. I am so grateful for all the wonderful birth workers out there that are creating positive changes that our world so much needs. My wish to all, especially those pregnant during such a challenging time is to tap into that inner part of yourself that wants to be empowered and take those steps to achieve that. You can do it!