During pregnancy, a great deal of energy is exerted in preparation for the physical arrival of a new baby. Between multiple prenatal appointments, purchasing baby supplies, and taking childbirth classes, there is a limitless list of things to do before the birth. However, amongst all the physical preparations, there is a key aspect of birth preparation that’s often overlooked: the emotional preparation. Emotions, whether negative or positive, have a profound impact on pregnancy, birth and parenthood and it is vitally important for expectant couples to explore their emotions before the birth of their baby. Human emotions are complex and the process of exploring them cannot be condensed into a quick-and-easy “how to” list. However, here are some tips to help facilitate beginning this process:
• Start some dialogues with your partner about how/when you each learned about pregnancy and birth as a child. Then follow-up with dialogue about how those early experiences may have shaped your current perceptions about birth in a positive or negative way.
• Consider exploring what fears you may have and discuss them with your partner, a trusted friend, or simply journal about them. Remember to think about fears pertaining to all aspects of birth: pregnancy, body-image, the birth process, adjusting to motherhood, changing relationships, etc. Certain fears may be at the forefront of a person’s mind, such as a fear of pain during labor, but other fears may be not as obvious. Open-ended sentences are a great tool to help uncover underlying fears, such as “A fear I have about becoming a mother is…”. Even if you have a fear that seems ridiculous, it is important to get it out in the open, as this is first step in overcoming one’s fears.
• You may have heard the story of your own birth before, but now is a wonderful time to ask your mother more specific questions about your birth. Perhaps ask her what she was feeling emotionally before, during, and after your birth. And if you have a strained relationship with your mother, consider making strides toward mending, if it’s appropriate.
• If you’re not a first-time mother, make sure you’ve had adequate time to process the emotions from your previous birth experiences. This is especially important if you had a particularly traumatic birth, including women who’ve had previous c-sections and are now desiring a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean).
• If you have ever been a victim of abuse of any kind, consider seeking professional counseling, if you haven’t done so previously. The emotional scars of abuse (especially sexual abuse) are deeply rooted and can interfere with the normal progression of labor and birth.
Birth, like every other rite-of-passage, is not a one-dimensional event. Rather, it is holistic, meaning that it affects the body, mind and spirit. Approaching one’s birth from this perspective makes for healthier births, happier mothers, babies and families!
by Expert Mommy, Sarah Baker