In the time that I have been a pregnancy Yoga teacher, I have had the privilege of teaching women from many different walks of life.
I am privileged to be witness to the stories they bring to class verbally and through their bodies. Personal histories and personalities are sketched out through breath and movement.
I often witness women push their bodies in a way that I suspect they must push themselves in life: striving to keep control, pushing to achieve, pushing to do more, and pushing to progress.
I hear of meticulously-planned births and witness anguish, guilt and pressure when births don’t go according to plan. I strongly believe in the importance of preparing for labor and birth, but think that the two words plan and birth don’t belong together.
Here’s why, and what you can do instead:
Birth plans encourage unrealistic expectations.
Weddings, birthday parties and IT projects are events that require planning and organization, not labor and birth. The idea itself is unrealistic as there is very little about birth that can be planned.
For a start, you don’t know:
When it will start
How long it will take
How you will feel
How you will respond
The unknown nature of this process can be deeply unsettling, but be cautious about making claims about what you will and will not do to appease any insecurity.
These types of refusals leave you little room to use your instincts to adapt and respond to potentially changing situations, and have the potential to leave you feeling vulnerable if the event does not go according to plan.
In planning an event like birth, there is the risk that you become attached to the process. If, however, you prepare by aligning your actions with strong intentions or preferences, you can more easily let go of the details of how it will happen.
Writing a plan doesn’t mean you’ve prepared for birth.
Writing a birth plan can become a very lengthy process ending in a detailed and precise five-page document. Or it can become an itemized list of things to do sitting between buy buggy, write birth plan, attend scan on 22nd.
Either way, preparation for birth doesn’t end once the details have been drawn out and/or the birth plan has been ticked off the to-do list.
How you can prepare for birth
Preparing for birth can be a deeply introspective process. It goes beyond making the choice between a home birth, hospital birth, drugs and no drugs, learning birthing positions and breathing techniques (all are important and have their place).
To prepare fully requires a deep and potentially uncomfortable self-examination.
What are your thoughts, fears and anxieties about birth? Why do they exist and where do they come from? How might this impact your experience of birth?
What are your thoughts, fears and anxieties about motherhood? How might this impact your experience of birth?
In everyday life, how do you generally respond when things are out of your control? How might this impact how you intend to give birth?
In everyday life, how do you generally respond to physical, emotional and mental intensity/pain? How might this impact how you intend to give birth?
Like life, birth has its own plan. We can try and fight the detours, but ultimately life gives us what we need. Are you okay with the notion that anything can happen to you at any time?
Writing down your preferences, and sharing them with the people who are supporting you, can be important and useful parts of the process.
Whatever way you intend to birth your baby, it’s important that you spend time asking yourself some of these questions. Not only will it help you mentally and emotionally prepare for labor and birth, but it can also help you manage the changes brought about in life by early motherhood.
I urge you to tread the path of self-inquiry, risking whatever it brings up. Once you’ve laid down your preferences, let go of your attachment to the process of birth, and follow your body and your instincts. Let the potential intensity, pain, craziness, chaos and beauty of creation take over.
Prepare to be forced to your extreme. Prepare to be blown away.
A word of warning: you may be opening a can of worms. This type of questioning and self-examination can be a huge undertaking, and ensuring you have the support of family and friends may help you to navigate the process. If you find yourself needing further help and support, please speak to your midwife or to your GP and/or contact a pre/postnatal charity of your choice.
With many thanks to the Rebelle Society for allowing us to share Shweta’s post.
To find out more about Shweta Panchal, please visit her website Minded Yoga.