Imagine you’re the lead in a Broadway play. It’s your job to make everybody laugh, cry, and have a good time.
But then, when you show up, all you’ve done is read your lines and put on your costume. You haven’t practiced, and you’re relying on the producer and supporting actors to get you through it.
First of all, that would be a scary scenario to be in. And second, the show would probably be terrible. Your producer and colleagues would be frustrated. And you would likely leave the performance thinking, I’m a terrible actor. I’m never doing this again.
Although you’re not performing for an audience, your role in birth is just as important as the lead character in a show. And if you haven’t practiced and prepared, you’re going to feel lost, scared, and start making uninformed decisions on the fly.
In this episode, we’re talking about six mindset shifts to prepare for birth and avoid a traumatic experience. It might be one of the MOST IMPORTANT topicswe cover in this podcast, because what happens in your birth stays with you or the rest of your life.
Don’t “hope for the best”
Hope is not a great strategy for birth. What we’re talking about today are paradigm shifts in the way we think about birth.
Two things we’ve learned through our many conversations with doctors and midwives over the years: they love working with mothers who are KNOWLEDGEABLE and FLEXIBLE, mothers who know what they want but are also open to the fact that interventions might need to be made. In other words, mothers who can respond to the labor they are ACTUALLY experiencing versus some idealized, dream scenario.
Two: your preparation actually helps your doctors and nurses do their job better. They can be a better doctor to you if you’re bringing the same amount of preparation to the table as they are.
Also, in birth, your brain shuts off. What takes over is your primitive, instinctive, emotional brain. If you’re able to make a plan, and practice these mindset shifts, it will make this unfamiliar thing – giving birth! – into a familiar one, and thus, make the whole process empowering instead of traumatic.
Here are our 6 mindset shifts for birth preparation:
Check your motivation. What is your reason for preparing – or NOT preparing? Are you being guided by fear, detachment, overwhelm, or avoidance? Or are you going from the guiding principle of joy and connection?
Choose a doctor or midwife you love. You’ll need to have open communication with this person. It’s good to have a doctor who thinks along the same lines as you and to know what their practices and policies are. (Nicole actually went to her appointments with a little notepad of questions to make sure she understood how her team aligned with her values!)
Get familiar with your environment. Know where you’re going to give birth, whether at home, at the hospital, or at a birthing center. When you’re in labor, your reptilian brain, your protective brain, is the one driving the ship. Anything you can do in preparation to help create familiarity, the more self-assured and calmer you’ll be.
Prepare a flexible birth plan. Two women can have the exact same birth experience. For one of those women, the experience is traumatic. For the other, it’s fine. It’s how we show up and process what’s happening that affects whether or not it feels traumatic. If you have a rigid birth plan, you’ll potentially create way more suffering and disappointment if things don’t go the way you want them to. Make your plan, then go beyond it; be prepared for other scenarios like being induced or having an emergency c-section.
Get your body ready for the intensity. On TV, birth is intense 100 percent of the time, but this is not true. In reality, 50 to 75 percent of the time of birth is spent in rest, which is wild – but it’s a different kind of rest! Physically preparing it involves both strength training and training your body to truly relax.
Prepare your mind for focus and resilience. What’s going on in your mind during labor can have an impact on the physical and the chemical response in your body, which can completely change the outcome of your birth. If we’re not keeping our minds in check, then that can take our births off track. This is the single most overlooked thing in birth preparation.
Practicing these mindset shifts beforehand
So many moms who’ve practiced with us during their full pregnancy come back afterward and say practicing breath work and mind focus has an enormous impact on how they’re able to work their way through their births.
One way to practice: if there’s something in your life that pushes your buttons, practice taking a breath before responding to it. Something as subtle as this can really shift how your mind is operating.
If you can focus over multiple breaths – daily, ideally – then you’ll develop strength in mental focus and resilience. Your ability to respond when things get challenging will be heightened.
You can also practice the physical challenges of birth by mimicking it through strength training, ramping up the intensity and resting in between intervals. If you feel strong through your entire labor and you feel like you can keep going, that definitely gives you some confidence.
Start making these shifts now. You can even listen to this episode on repeat if you need to! Show up for your birth informed and ready to go, which will not only help you deliver your baby, but it will also help you show up in the rest of your motherhood, too.
Notable Quotes from Nicole & Kendra
“Doctors really love working with mothers who are knowledgeable and flexible. They know what they want, but they are also open to the fact that you might need interventions. Basically, you're able to respond to the actual labor that you're having. And not some idealized version that is a made up story you heard, or like a dream scenario that you just have to have without exception. And the second is that your preparation actually helps your doctors and nurses do their job better. They can be a better doctor to you if you're bringing the same amount of preparation to the table as they are. ”
“Two women can have the exact same experience. One of them experiences it as traumatic and the other is fine. In other words, what happens in your birth on the surface, by definition, does not mean it's going to be necessarily traumatic. It's how we are showing up, how we are processing what's happening in our birth, as it's happening, that can feel traumatic.”
Resources & Links
Looking for support to stay active during your pregnancy and prepare for your birth? Here are some options to get you started on a great path forward:
1) Take the Pelvic Floor & Core Strength Quiz. After taking the quiz, you'll get a score and based on your results, guidance on what steps to take to move you forward in your recovery.
3) If you're pregnant, want to be way more active than you have been, AND want connection with other mothers, but don't know where to start…join the Expecting to Flourish™ Membership - a mom-driven and expert-guided virtual space empowering moms with a new approach to prenatal fitness and birth prep that actually prepares you for the physical and emotional hurdles of motherhood.
4) Do you prefer working one-on-one, or have a high risk pregnancy, a severe diastasis or leaking that won’t quit? You might be a candidate to work with us privately. To find out, take this quick self assessment! If you qualify, you'll be invited to schedule a complementary Postpartum Strategy Session with us where we'll take a good look at what's not working in your repair process, and come up with a great plan just for you.