One of my gorgeous girlfriends has been thinking about having a baby and recently asked a group of us mamas what we thought was the percentage split between preparing your mind versus your body for labour – is it 50/50 she asked or otherwise? My response was mind over everything. It has since got me thinking why this was my answer and here, I share my reasons.
I should preface this post by noting that:
- taking care of yourself physically is so incredibly important during pregnancy. I especially take my hat off to the mamas who work out throughout and up to the day they give birth. There really is no understating the benefits of keeping active, eating well and nourishing your body when growing another precious life inside you; and
- this is my own personal, individual and unique experience that I share in the hope that it helps in some small way to empower or affirm the decisions other mamas choose to or have made in relation to their birthing experience.
When I was asked what my birth plan was by my caseload midwife I responded with “to survive”. She thought I was joking. But this is the thing right, I’m a lawyer by profession, my default position is to overthink and this includes the risks and worst-case scenario. And so, in the pursuit of enjoying my pregnancy I wanted to do the complete opposite and be blissfully oblivious, to just “go with the flow”, “get through it” and “survive”. My midwife encouraged me against this approach and convinced me to be “empowered through education”. Although reluctant at first, I obliged.
When you think about it, we have access to an abundance of information, support and resources, the kind that our mothers and grandmothers were not so fortunate to have. It is ours for the taking if we choose. That said, I chose not to read an endless amount of books (only 2) or watch hundreds of videos (refer to overthinking nature above). However, in an ever-increasing culture of medical intervention during labour especially in relation to pain relief I wanted to make sure I knew what each intervention involved including the risks and benefits for both Ezra and I.
As part of this, my husband and I attended a workshop at Bliss Health and Wellness and the key takeaway for me was to be an active participant in my labour – to engage with my support team being my husband, midwife and other medical professionals, to communicate my concerns and to ask questions. What are my options? What are the benefits, the risks of each? Are there alternatives? What does my gut tell me is best for Ezra and I?
Following the workshop, I wrote a rough birth plan which included what my ideal birthing environment and experience would be as well as the interventions I was open to and those I only wanted to consider as a last resort. I say “rough” because I knew that nothing ever goes exactly to plan with birthing and accordingly, I decided to keep an open mind.
So the 9th of February rolled in, my hospital bag had not been completely packed, the car seat was sitting in the lounge room, the labour tens machine I booked to hire had not been picked up and I still had a list of things I wanted to accomplish in my three weeks of maternity leave before my due date. But of course, as the universe would have it, Ezra decided to arrive exactly 4 weeks early with my waters breaking just as I woke up to get ready for another day of work.
As my labour progressed over the 12 hours before Ezra arrived, I was catapulted with challenges and decisions to be made. Ultimately, my ideal labour experience did not occur. What I can say with contentment however, is that I was able to face each challenge and decision, despite the physical pain with an inner sense of calm. And this is because I chose to walk into my labour with an informed but open mind.
You can prepare your body as much as you like (and you should) but sometimes your baby and your body have a plan of their own. As such, I say mind over everything because it is one of the only aspects in this adventure called motherhood that is within your control.
Suffice to say, I didn’t just survive my birthing experience, I owned it.
I hope so! Would love to read your experiences, comments or questions.