Tell yourself something will be difficult and chances are it will be difficult. Tell yourself you can do something and it’s pretty likely you’ll find a way to do that thing.
When moms-to-be imagine birth, they generally anticipate pain, which comes from a place of fear. Where does that fear come from, though? Think about the references to birth that we see on television and in movies. I’m willing to bet that when you think of a birth scene you picture a mom sweating, yelling out, clenching onto her partner, and using expletives as she says something like, “I can’t do this!” It’s not just the drama we see on the big screen, though. It’s also what we hear from our loved ones, who really truly do mean well when they tell us that their births didn’t go as planned or that you really should be open to an epidural or pain medications because birth is a whole lot more painful than you’re probably expecting. They want the best for you, and they don’t want you to feel pain, so they try to prepare you for worst case scenarios. The only problem is that this dialogue is powerfully suggestive, and it propagates fear. As a result, you’re likely to feel pain when the time comes.
Now, imagine the opposite scenario. Imagine dramatized birth scenes depicting peaceful births, and imagine loved ones only sharing words of affirmation or positive birth imagery when they speak about birth. How different would you feel about an upcoming birth if you only surrounded yourself with positivity? I know this sounds idealized and very hippy-dippy of me to suggest that we can change the conversation about birth and magically have a different outcome, but I do believe in this as truth.
For my first birth, I took the hospital birth class, which talked about pain management (Hey – there’s that word we don’t want to talk about!) and referred to birth as labor (something that sounds difficult, doesn’t it?). I spent far too much time on BabyCenter, didn’t hold back on watching movies that included birth scenes, and asked women about their birth experiences. In the end, I had a very painful birth. I won’t get into it any more than that because that’s really all it boils down to.
In my second pregnancy, I knew from experience what I didn’t want to happen, but I wasn’t sure how to get the birth that I did want. A friend, who figured I’d be receptive to it, gifted me a Hypnobabies course, and while my husband thought it was a little over the top, I religiously did my homework with that program. The key ingredient to success with that course was telling myself that this would work and that I believed in the process. The tone of my preparation was completely different as I listened to affirmations on a daily basis, practiced self-hypnosis as I drifted off to sleep each night (which had the side benefit of amazing pregnancy sleep), imagined and rehearsed my ideal birth, and surrounded myself with only positive messaging, tuning out the rest. I ate healthy, exercised, practiced positioning to get my baby in an ideal birthing position, and I felt completely confident in my body’s ability to birth comfortably. My husband still thought I was off my rocker, until the day I gave birth, which, coincidentally, was Labor Day (though it didn’t feel like labor at all).
On that day, I walked into the hospital with a big smile on my face, which, to doctors and nurses, usually signals that a patient is not ready to be admitted, but they all knew that I had been using Hypnobabies for this birth, so they cheered as we walked in, ready to have a baby. I felt calm and comfortable as I focused inward. As we got close to meeting our second baby, I felt no pain, just pressure. It was exactly what I had hoped for, practiced, and expected. Through his arrival, I felt only peace and confidence, both in my body and in the skilled ability of my doctor and nurses. When I look back on that day, I think of it as like a spa day that ended with a sweet new baby in my arms. I know that is so bizarre to say, but it’s the honest truth about how I feel about that birth.
The power of suggestion is so strong in many walks of life, but especially at a vulnerable time, like birth. So what can we do to help expectant mothers prepare for birth? Share your positive stories! Surround her in love and affirmation. Help her find a doula or a hypnosis program that may be a good fit for her personality. Most importantly, though, believe in her, because if she feels your confidence in her birth, she will feel it, too.