2016 was my tenth year of working as a birth doula, and the year that I finally gave birth. Here’s the post that I wrote as my due time approached.
I’ve helped a lot of women and their loved ones prepare for birth, and now that it’s my turn, a lot of people are asking me what I’m doing to get ready for my own. So, other than trying not to eat my stash of labour snacks, here’s what I’ve been up to:
I’m well aware of how a baby’s position can affect a labour and birth. I also know that the key to a well-positioned baby is having a balanced pelvis. Thankfully, I did *a lot* of work on my pelvis pre-pregnancy, back when I used to get extreme period pain, and I believe that’s helped me to have a healthy pregnancy (our baby has also been head down and persistently LOA – the ideal position – since around twenty weeks).
That being said, I don’t want to drop the ball so here’s what I’m currently doing:
- Forward-leaning inversion (daily), to stretch and release the utero-sacral ligament.
- Side-lying release (twice per week), to relieve tension and torsion in the pelvic floor.
- Rebozo sifting (weekly), to relax the ligaments, relax me and our baby.
- 3-5 mile walk (twice per week at the moment and shorter daily walks the rest of the time), for too many reasons to list. I tend to walk in minimal footwear which stops my hips and bump from falling forwards and also helps to lengthen my psoas.
- Calf stretches, lunges and squats (daily), for all these really really good reasons.
- Nadia Narain’s pregnancy yoga. I’m at the stage where travelling to North London isn’t very appealing, even for an amazing yoga class, so I’m glad Nadia has this great DVD for me to use at home (it’s also available to download on itunes).
Sleep and rest.
Ah yes, sleep, lovely sleep. My golden rule as birth approaches is that if you wake up and feel tired, get your arse back to bed. If you feel tired during the day, nap. And when you’re tired in the evening, GO TO BED.
Do not base your sleeping hours around anyone else – you *have* to prioritise rest and sleep … you are the queen of your bedroom and sofa!
Chances are, labour will start or increase in tempo during the night. Clearly, that’s pretty shit if you went to bed at midnight and only got an hour of sleep.
Struggling to sleep? Then I’m begging you, go and see an acupuncturist, we can help!
I have fallen in love with osteopathy during this pregnancy. After hitting a tough spot around the 18 week mark (sore coocyx, ligament pain and feeling like a horse had kicked one side of my vulva), I started seeing Annik who sorted me out within a few treatments. Knowing the importance of a balanced pelvis during pregnancy and being keen to prevent any issues, I’ve continued to see her once a month to stay on top of things, and now that my due time is approaching, I’ve increased that to every week.
I’m also doing weekly pre-birth acupuncture sessions with Giusi as there’s research which concluded that weekly acupuncture from 36 weeks reduces the need for pain relief, inductions, caesarean births, and reduces the length of time women spend in labour. In other words, WIN, WIN, WIN. I’ve been a big proponent of these treatments in my own practice, so how could I not do it myself?
I trained in Hypnobirthing donkeys years ago, and having seen the amazing benefits of hypnosis in plenty of labours over the years, I was keen to use it, but at the same time, I didn’t want to do a course that was familiar.
Thankfully the wonderful Ruth Sabrosa suggested we go along to her day-long Natal Hypnosis workshop, and I’m so pleased that we did. It was great for us to do something that normal pregnant couples do and it was the only option I felt comfortable with: I knew that being a birth worker on a birth course (and me being me) would make keeping my gob shut bloody difficult, and I was paranoid about taking over the space (it’s sooooo hard not to talk about birth when you love it).
However, Ruth has such a gentle and loving nature that it was actually really easy for me to soften into it all and just “3-2-1-relax”. Ok, so I did run my mouth off a bit, because Ruth was generous enough to allow me to let some information and stories come out when it felt appropriate. THANK YOU, RUTH!
I listen to the tracks most days and also spend time visualising the various ways my labour and birth might progress: I take time throughout the day to really feel into how things might go, so that birth becomes increasingly familiar to me and my baby.
CrossFit for vaginas.
Well, it’s more like yoga but my Birth in the City crew (aka The BITChes) like to celebrate how many centimetres I’ve stretched to, which makes it feel more like something you’d achieve at CrossFit.
What the hell am I on about? The Epi-No. Essentially it’s a balloon which you place inside your vagina, pump up, leave in place to allow your tissues to soften and stretch, then ease out. I inherited an unused one from a client who gave birth early and never got to use it, so I thought I’d take it for a spin.
I’m also spending some quality time with my vagina by doing some perineal massage. Doing both is really helping me to get used to the stinging and stretching often associated with birth, and how to use breathing, visualisation and Natal Hypnosis to soften and relax as it’s happening.
Birthing From Within.
Get this book.
My favourite nugget of gold from it (of which there are many to choose from), is the question pregnant women are encouraged to continually ask themselves, digging deeper and deeper with it: What do you need to know to give birth?
I’ve been amazed at some of the answers that have popped up for me, the first being that I needed to know that the possibility of another pregnancy is on the table. Sure, I may be singing a different tune in a few months, but because I’ve enjoyed pregnancy so much, I want to know that another pregnancy is possible so that I’m able to let go of this one and go into labour.
Positive birth imagery and affirmations.
I’ve found some images which really resonate with me and make me go “fuck yeah, I can totally do this”, so I’ve put together a vision board for birth and motherhood. Except the term vision board makes me cringe, so I’m going with Map to Motherhood instead.
It includes pictures of my top-notch birth team (Paul, and our independent midwives Viv and Andy), my fellow Birth in the City crew, our local hospital (hoping to avoid being there but hey, you never know), and affirmations and images which give me strength on this amazing journey … my favourite being; “I have a magic vagina”.
A talented doula buddy, Sarah Caldwell, has created My Creative Birth, a colouring in book for birth, so I’m getting busy with my colouring pencils and STAYING INSIDE THE LINES.
Raspberry leaf tea & dates.
I love raspberry leaf tea and have always jumped at the chance to drink it when I’m visiting pregnant clients. Most people are under the impression that it can send you into labour, and whilst it can have that effect, it’s actually a uterine tonic which effectively means it strengthens your wonderful womb (this is why it’s sometimes prescribed for threatened miscarriages). I buy the dried herb direct from Neal’s Yard where it’s also available as a tincture if tea ain’t your thang.
There’s been some research touting the benefits of consuming six dates a day in late pregnancy, which reportedly can shorten labour and reduce the need for induction or augmentation of labour. For me six dates a day is an easy win, especially when from the Chinese dietary perspective, dates nourish Blood and Qi and are commonly recommended to new mums as a way of strengthening them post-birth.
Want to know how my birth went?
Of course you do!
That’s a post for another time, but the short version is that I had a five hour labour from start to finish, and gave birth to Nelson in the birth pool in our living room. It was awesome.