Well, here we are caught up in a pretty tumultuous time. It seems like the whole world is in a frenzy and it’s completely understandable that expectant parents particularly feel the sting of anxiety and worry. The idea of giving birth during a pandemic is by all rights a scary one. While the world is in a constant state of flux, the truth remains that at its core, birth has not changed. The elemental truths of birth remain the same: birth is normal and natural, and at the end of the day, you can trust the process of birth.
If you think about it, birth by nature is fairly unpredictable. Now is the time to be flexible and to get your mind in a healthy space to work with your body to bring your baby Earthside.
Ever heard of the fear/tension/pain cycle? It’s the idea that the more fear we have, the more our bodies tense up. If our bodies are tense, we feel pain more acutely…and if we’re in pain, we tend to become more fearful, leading to more tension and pain. You can see how quickly this can spiral.
The antidote to fear is faith: faith in our bodies, in the process, in the truth. If we can switch that fear/tension/pain cycle to one of confidence/relaxation/coping then birth will be infinitely smoother. A calm body opens more easily than a tense, fearful one and the goal of birth is obviously to open up and let baby come out!
So, how do we flip the narrative? How can expectant parents turn the tables and bring calm into their birthing experience rather than the ever present anxiety and fear that seems to seep into every corner of our lives right now? Below are a few of my tips and tricks for finding calm in the storm.
Consider stepping away from the headlines for a bit. While it is important to stay up to date on the current events in your area, it is not good to do so to the detriment of your mental health. It does no good to speculate about the what-ifs and could-be’s because this is a rapidly developing situation that changes all the time. The future will take care of itself, so it’s important to do the next right thing and go about your day as normally as possible.
You’re allowed to feel your feelings. You’re allowed to mourn the birth experience that you desired but might not get to have. However this pandemic has changed the way you thought your birth would go, it’s completely natural to mourn the birth you hoped for and lost. The important thing is to allow yourself to feel that loss, but don’t stay there. Keep moving forward.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on what you can control:
- Take the time at home as a chance to finish up preparations – Pack your hospital bag, practice folding those sweet little footie pajamas, organize the diaper stash, make finishing touches on the nursery.
- Practice your favorite birth positions and breathing techniques – If you don’t have anything specific in mind, just breathing deeply for several minutes is helpful, as are spending some time in the cat/cow position.
- Try some Spinning Babies exercises…these are the best!
- Meditate and go over your birth affirmations. – If you don’t have any affirmations yet, now is the time to write some!
- Pray – If you are a religious person, now is the time to dig in with your practice. You may not be able to gather at your preferred place of worship, but you can take time every day to pray and lean into your faith. I’m sure your faith leaders would be happy to connect with you via phone, or you can explore podcasts and faith based music to help keep you calm.
- Read or listen to positive birth stories – The Birth Hour podcast and Birth Without Fear have lots of birth stories to choose from.
- Take a walk – Even if we’re social distancing, sunshine and fresh air are good medicine. If you can’t get outside, search YouTube for some pregnancy exercise videos…just make sure you’re being safe!
- Journal or write notes to your baby – Consider setting up an email account for your child and send him/her messages that they’ll get to open in the future. They’ll treasure this virtual time capsule and it’s a great outlet for you, too. Win/win!
- Laugh! – Laughter is such a good way to relieve tension and relax the body, whether you’re pregnant or not. Lucky for us, we live in the time of hilarious internet memes, Ellen Degeneres videos, and The Office…so go pick your favorite funny cat videos and have a chuckle.
- Take charge of your mental health – If you truly feel yourself spiraling, talk to a professional. There are so many great online and phone resources available or you can contact your primary care doctor or your OB/midwife. They’re all there to help you and you’ll never be sorry for reaching out.
I always tell clients that birth is 98% mental. Now is the time to dig deep and remember what is true.
- Fear is a liar.
- You are not doing this alone. All over the world women are laboring and delivering their babies. You are connected to generations and generations of birthing women who have walked the same road and are walking it with you.
- No matter the circumstance, birth is a normal physiological event. You can trust your body to birth your baby.
- Babies are born in less than ideal situations every day and do just fine. Yours will, too.
- You have created a birth team of medical providers who are dedicated to keeping you and baby safe. They are experienced, well trained, and on your side. You can trust them.
- You are mentally and physically strong and capable.
While this is an unprecedented time to be expecting, fighting panic with peace is the best course of action. I hope these ideas help you in the coming days as you prepare to deliver. I truly believe with all of my being that all will be well.
Peace and perseverance in all things, my friends!