Romper

For My Third Labor, I'm Learning To Meditate

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

I'm due with my third baby in a couple of months and I remember feeling like I wasn't really ready to think about labor and birth until pretty late in the game with my previous two pregnancies. So much of early pregnancy is spent managing symptoms, worrying over viability, waiting for those first kicks and other milestones. But now that I've really started to believe that I'm actually going to give birth again, I've put a lot of thought into how I want it to go. And I want to be calm and strong. So for this third labor, I'm learning how to meditate.

Part of me wants to just keep busy with nesting (and, boy, am I nesting) and keeping up with my two kids, and the other part of me just wants to stay in denial that labor is coming. I tell myself it's something I can think about later. I want to just say "I've done this before," and "I remember everything from the Bradley and Lamaze classes I've observed," and "I'm in good hands with my midwife, what more do I need?" but I can remember from my first two labors that my positive thoughts and intentions were what carried me through just as much as the physical. The support from my birth team and the knowledge I had of the birthing process was vital, but I hope to once again to tap into that calm, focused state I achieved with my first two labors. And it seems the best way to do this is to set my intentions now and practice.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

I'm a naturally anxious person. I pay way too much attention to bodily sensations. It's easy for me to get caught in this loop of "why does my stomach feel weird?" and "oh goodness, I'm either sick or about to have a panic attack," and "now I'm really panicking and my stomach feels worse." I worry constantly that something is going haywire in my body. And through the therapy I've received to treat my anxiety, I've learned that training my body to relax, even under the deluge of thoughts, is key to feeling better faster.

I set my intentions for the next few minutes. I pick one of those affirmations I really like and I try to relax my entire body as deeply as I can.

I know that in the onslaught of physical sensations that come with labor, turning inward and relaxing will be key to me feeling in control. There's something wonderful about the sensations and even pain of labor. Even though it's intense, it doesn't mean anything is wrong. For me, labor is a great thing. Strong contractions are amazing because they will bring my baby to earth even faster. And those contractions are only as strong as I am, because I'm the one having them. And I keep in mind that what I'm doing and going through is something that so many women have gone through and are even going through at the same time I am.

If I can learn to relax my body, with these birth affirmations as my mantras, I know they will help me when things get intense. I've already begun practicing and while it's difficult at home all day with two kids, I've tried to find time every afternoon or evening, even if it's only 10 minutes.

I get comfortable (a feat that's getting a bit more difficult these days) and I start by practicing all those deep-breathing techniques I've learned in therapy and childbirth classes. A lot of times, I can feel my baby moving when I'm still like this. So I sort of check in with him, and remind myself that the discomfort I'm going through now and the discomfort in labor will all be for him and with him. Then I set my intentions for the next few minutes. I pick one of those affirmations I really like and I try to relax my entire body as deeply as I can.

At the very least, this new practice is giving me a really great chance to bond with my baby while my baby is still just mine, before I share him with the world.
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I know from my last labor that I best coped by being still and calm. I know that every labor is different. This time around I may feel better moving around and receiving hard pressure massages from my partner. So while I visualize laboring in a similar manner to my previous labors, one of my main intentions is to be able to go with the flow, to ride each wave as it comes. But even if I move around, or require more help from my birth team, I am hoping that I will still have the inner calm and clarity that meditation gives me.

This time, I feel like I'm reaching for the stars. I'm aiming to surround myself with belief and knowledge and peaceful, strong intentions.

My anxiety has taught me just how powerful my brain is. Just a few thoughts and my body reacts. Good thoughts, mindfulness, and distractions are great for feeling better. I view my anxiety as a strength. I am incredibly in tune to my body and the mind-body connection I experience is a very real thing. Since I am planning a home birth, there will be no pain medication. But for me, positive thoughts and relaxation and birth hormones are more than enough to provide me with strength and comfort.

To prepare for my first birth, I read dozens of uplifting birth stories to deeply root myself in the belief that I could do this. Preparing for my second birth, I did a lot more reading about the physiological process of birth. In between my first two children, I trained to be a birth doula, and I felt armed with knowledge; and this knowledge just reaffirmed that I can do this. And this time, I feel like I'm reaching for the stars. I'm aiming to surround myself with belief and knowledge and peaceful, strong intentions.

Courtesy of Olivia Hinebaugh

At the very least, this new practice is giving me a really great chance to bond with my baby while my baby is still just mine, before I share him with the world. I want to spread the calm I feel in these meditation sessions to other facets of my life. It's not feasible to zone out and go inward when I'm driving my kids around. But I can take the confidence in my body that I've gained from my last two births, and I can use that to trust in not only this next birth, but into every day life. My body has taken great care of me and my babies, so even when I'm anxious, I can remember this.

Meditation and self-hypnosis are becoming more popular forms of childbirth preparation. And I'm more than happy to be incorporating them into my preparation for this birth. Positive thoughts are powerful things. Meditation is an awesome way to let go of my other worries and focus on the things that are important to me. And this time around, having an empowering and comfortable and safe labor and delivery are some of the most important things in my life. Of course, it feels amazing to put my feet up and spend some time on just myself, and it's something I don't take for granted when I already have two kids.