Olympic athletes rely on mantras, and coaches give pep talks before the big game. So why should you have a pre-labor pep talk? Basically because childbirth is like a marathon followed by an Iron Man. When the day finally arrives, and those contractions start their engines, a pep talk can get you in the right mindset for one of life's biggest events.
Whether it's something you repeat to yourself, or a speech delivered by your birth partner, words are powerful. Because all women are different, the content of your pre-labor pep talk will be unique, and it might take some effort to discover what kind of encouragement works best for you.
Katja Bajema, doula, childbirth educator, and founder of BEST Birth Hawaii, tells Romper in an interview that she highly recommends taking a birth class to feel as prepared as possible for this life-changing event, and to gain crucial insights into the process, and yourself. (Full disclosure: Bajema was my birth instructor this past summer.) If you can't make it to a birth class, she recommends discovering what helps you relax when you're in pain (there's an awesome pre-labor ice cube exercise you should totally try).
As for a pep talk, it's important to figure out what mom needs to hear well in advance of the due date. "Does she need encouragement verbally? Is she going to want touch? Talk about what helps her relax, and what makes her feel supported," says Bajema. She also recommends practicing physical relaxation, "because that's what's going to get you through your contractions."
Pre-labor pep talks might encompass physical relaxation cues by encouraging you to visualize, for example, or to breathe. Whenever she feels anxious about her pregnancy, my friend closes her eyes, and imagines the moment she'll finally meet her baby. If I were delivering her pre-labor pep talk, I'd remind her to focus on that beautiful image.
Telling yourself that your body is strong enough for the coming marathon can work wonders, too. Bajema stresses that, "When you're pregnant, even if you had problems conceiving, you're in really good health. If you weren't, your body wouldn't carry the pregnancy. You're not a patient, and you're not broken."
Putting a finger on what frightens you most about the birth process can also help you develop your pep talk, but it requires a deep dive. Bajema encourages women and their partners to confront their fears about childbirth, because they're going to come up.
For instance, I knew that childbirth frightened me, but it wasn't until I took a class that I was able to put that fear into words. Bajema asked us to journal about our fears for homework, and share them with each other. Yes, I was afraid of the pain, and afraid for the baby, and weirdly, super nervous about making too much noise. As I wrote, I realized my greatest fear: leaving my husband to raise the baby alone.
Pretty heavy stuff, right? Once my partner knew what scared me most, however, he started saying things like, "You're healthy. You're strong. All you have to do is breathe."
"Breathe" became my magic word, my own mini-pep talk. That one word located me in my body, and reminded me how I powered through yoga classes even at eight months pregnant. Perhaps most importantly, it made me feel understood and supported by my partner.
Positive thinking is incredibly powerful, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. So tell yourself that you can do this, that your body was designed to do this, and that you'll rock this birth like Wonder Woman. Whatever your pep talk sounds like, the right words prepared in advance can make you feel like a total goddess — a birth Olympian — just when you need it most.