Preparing for childbirth is something I've been thinking about a lot recently as I was awaiting a new precious baby. I've been able to refine my methods over the years which I'm grateful for because I started out doing absolutely nothing. With my first baby, I had no idea what I was getting into and I went into labor blind. I had no coaching, no training, no previous experience watching another woman have a child, nothing at all. I'm grateful that I had youth and ignorance on my side. I have since given birth to eight more children. Over that time I've been able to see the value in preparing myself and it has drastically impacted my health, before and after childbirth. Here's what I do now to prepare my body and mind for childbirth.
1. Eat Well
What I put into my body has a huge impact on my growing baby as well as my post-childbirth recovery. I concentrate on eating healthy fats, proteins and vegetables. Especially towards the end of pregnancy, I make sure to cut out all sugar, even if I don't have gestational diabetes. The amount of sugar a mom consumes affects the size and health of your baby, as well as mom's ability to recover. Eating for two is not an excuse to load up on sugars and simple carbs.
2. Support with Supplements
In addition to a whole food prenatal vitamin, I drink herbal teas with red raspberry leaves, nettle, and other herbs that are recommended by my midwife for hormone support. These are loaded with vitamins and help tone the uterus. I take cod liver oil along with vitamin D3 (especially necessary up here in the Pacific Northwest). I found that collagen had a huge impact on improving my morning sickness, so I took it every morning in the early months. Of course, check with your doctor about your supplement plan and make sure to take any prescriptions you need.
3. Move Daily
As pregnancy closes in on that ninth month mom can get very tired. Nights filled with broken sleep make it is easy to resort to find excuses to stop healthy movement. But your body needs to keep moving! I found movement kept me strong, and helped the baby move into the right position for birthing. Abdominal and pelvic floor exercises, like in the Mommy Ready program, as well as squats, walking, and cardio are great ways to keep in birthing shape. Water aerobics are my favorite pregnancy exercise. Again, check with your doctor when establishing your exercise routine.
Not only do you need exercise, but you also need rest. During the last months of pregnancy and especially after the baby arrives, taking a nap is essential. Our culture has been heavily affected by overworking --we want to get right out there and rush, rush, rush, but what you really need after delivery is to hibernate! Rest allows your body to heal. Resting with my baby had a huge impact on my recovery while strengthening our bonds. A wise woman once told me to stay in bed for a week as well as stay in your home for one more after the baby is born. While that may seem foreign to your usual schedule, I'd encourage you, to really strive for this. Towards the end of pregnancy or after baby arrives you can:
Hire someone to come clean
Have someone help with your other children
Ask friend to come over to babysit
Have your freezer stocked with meals
When I found ways to fill in for myself during this resting time, it helped the rest of my family support me as they had ways to take care of tasks mom usually manages.
5. Mental Preparation
I’ve shared how I prepare my body, but of equal importance, is to prepare the mind. Prayer, meditation, or deep breathing help calm my mind and bring me peace. There are many unknowns when you are approaching childbirth your mind can get restless. Practicing keeping my mind at ease decreased stress and made me more capable of seeing this upcoming birth as an exciting time.
Usually, my mind is restless because of all the preparations I have to make for the birth. Making plans ahead of time helps me stay calm and peaceful as the day approaches. Of course, you must keep an open mind here. Births aren’t totally predictable --not even after nine babies! Even though you don't know exactly what will happen, planning will make the unexpected parts of childbirth navigable. Some areas I thought about included:
Should I take a birthing class?
Will I hire a doula?
What is my hopeful birth plan?
Who is going to be there?
Who is going to take pictures?
What am I going to wear?
What clothes will baby and I wear home?
How do I envision this birth going?
What will I choose to manage delivery pain?
What will I choose for recovery support?
My Day Approaching
Pregnancy and giving birth are a precious time and a beautiful gift. As my latest delivery approached, I recognized great value in seeking wisdom from other moms and how it could have helped me properly prepare for that first birth --and for the many afterward! Making these five changes has improved my childbirth experiences both mentally and physically. Please share with me your experiences in the comments below. I would love to hear what you are doing or have done to prepare for childbirth.
Jessica Graham is a Navy wife, a homeschooling mother to 9 children, and a Mommy Ready member. She lives on an island in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Her family has a website where they vlog, podcast, and write articles. Check out the vlog on how her (unplanned) home birth went here.