Labor is a singular experience in both its joy and terror. It's impossible to know what expect, and it doesn't help that Hollywood usually gets it wrong. Your water probably won't break in the supermarket, and you won't be leaving the hospital with a cherubic 5 month old. Instead there will be blood, sweat, tears, and at least one moment where you're sure you can't do it. That's why, in order to prepare for childbirth, I think you should consider giving yourself a pre-labor pep talk that will lay a foundation you can lean on when the going gets tough and the contractions get tougher.
As my due date neared, I started a Pinterest board full of pregnancy and birth-related affirmations. Stuff like, "My body is accepting this baby and will protect it" and, "I am not afraid because I was born to do this." It might sound cheesy, sure, but repeating those mantras really helped keep my anxiety in check. I also made it a point to remind myself that my history of cramps was a good preparation for contractions. I've had menstrual cramps so bad I've passed out, so I figured labor pains would be similar. Nothing I couldn't handle, right?
Right. As much as was humanly possible, I felt mentally and emotionally prepared for my labor. I handled it like a boss, and so will you, dear reader and mom-to-be. Just keep that positive self-talk going.
"I Trust My Instincts"
It's not uncommon for women in labor to get the overwhelming urge to stand up and start walking. Others will feel the need to huff and puff or moan. It's healthy and normal to experience both, and to give in to those instincts. In fact, many midwives recommend giving the birth process over to your body, because it just automatically knows what it's doing.
My moment came once the doctor had attached the vacuum device. I pushed a few times along with my contractions, but I knew my baby was in distress every time I did. As my last contraction ended, everything inside me told me to keep pushing. I did, and the result was the birth of my beautiful baby girl.
"My Baby Will Come At The Right Time In The Right Way For Them"
It's so easy to get worked up about your birth going precisely the way you envisioned. Birth plans are great, but they don't exactly help moms-to-be manage their expectations. It's useful to remind yourself that, in the end, a healthy baby (or babies) and a healthy mom are what matter most. However you get there — whether it's C-section or vaginal delivery, medicated or not, late, early, or right on time — rest assured that it was the right way for your baby to enter the world.
"I Have Prepared"
You've read the books, done the internet research, talked to your experienced mom friends and family, and packed your hospital bag. You've done everything possible to prepare for this momentous occasion. Acknowledge that there are elements you simply cannot control, but to the best of your ability you have readied yourself.
"My Body Is Made To Do This"
Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. Our bodies are designed to withstand the strains of pregnancy and childbirth if that is, in fact, what we want to use our bodies to do. Just look at how your body has changed to accommodate your ever-growing baby.
During labor, your cervix will thin (effacement) and open (dilation) to allow your baby passage, and your contractions will move them from the uterus into the vagina. Trust in the divine design of your miraculous body.
"I've Got This"
You have what it takes mentally, emotionally, and physically to birth your child. Trust your body and your instincts, yes, but also trust yourself — that inner you whose true strength only you know. You're freaking Wonder Woman, and you can do this.
"My Baby Is The Right Size For My Body"
Expectant moms worry a lot about the size of their baby. I'm petite, but I was a giant troll of a newborn (almost 9 pounds and 22.5 inches long). I was fairly terrified that my baby would be "too big" for me. I'd seen my baby pictures and I'd seen my own vagina, and to quote my sister when she found out where babies come from: "Mom, there ain't no way."
It can seem impossible to push something the size of a watermelon out something the size of a lemon, but it happens every day. It turns out I had nothing to worry about. My daughter was pretty average sized, although my nurse did ask me where I'd been hiding her.
"Every Effort Brings Me One Step Closer To Meeting My Baby"
You've been waiting nine long months to see the precious baby that you've already come to know and love during their time in the womb. Labor is the most work, but it's also the home stretch. As you move through each stage of labor (early labor to active labor and transition) and face its inherent challenges, remember that each effort you make, from the first contraction to the final push, bring you closer to meeting your beloved child.
"One Contraction At A Time"
When I'm in a tough situation, my mom reminds me that I can do anything for a set period of time. When I decided to leave a job that made me unhappy, she coached me through the last few months with a countdown. Keeping the end in sight is a lesson that's applicable to many situations.
Contractions are no exception. Most contractions last between 30 and 60 seconds. In my childbirth class, the instructor had us hold an ice cube for that long to simulate discomfort during a contraction. You know what I learned? You really can do anything for a minute.
"I Will Breathe Myself Through Labor"
There are dozens of breathing exercises that will help you through labor. Patterned breathing has incredible benefits, including pain relief, calming, and increased oxygen to mom and baby. So take a deep breath, mama. Inhale strength and wisdom, then exhale pain and doubt.
"The Only Way Out Is Through"
When it comes down to it, you can't give up. You may feel like Rachel when she asks Ross to do it for her, but labor and delivery are up to you. As much as you might like to, you don't get to fast forward through the hard part to the awesome ending. You have to pay the price of labor and delivery, but the end reward for this amazing race is better than a million dollars.