As our first baby’s due date gets closer, childbirth has been on my mind more and more. My husband and I took a childbirth class a few weeks ago, and I’ve been doing reading and exercises to get ready for the big day.
For a lot of women – myself included – childbirth seems incredibly scary. We hear horror stories from friends and family, and the births depicted on TV and in movies are often long and painful. The fear surrounding birth can really start to color your pregnancy, especially as you get into that third trimester. This is happening, and it’s a little bit terrifying!
With those images in mind, the idea of birthing without drugs seems a little bit crazy, but you do have to wonder: why are humans the only animals for whom birthing is a huge ordeal? And why is birth the only bodily function that we assume is somehow broken?
One of the main points that I picked up in childbirth classes and from reading some amazing books on natural childbirth methods is that birth doesn’t have to be scary, and it doesn’t have to be painful.
What I keep reading and hearing, as I learn more about natural childbirth, is that there are a few main keys to a successful natural birth:
- Re-conditioning yourself. There is a long history of how birthing got to where it is today, which I won’t get into. To make a thousands-of-years-long story short: birth is a natural process, and misogyny and certain medical techniques (most of which doctors don’t use anymore) have turned it into something scary and painful. You have to re-learn what birth is about and learn to trust your body.
- Learning natural birthing techniques. From different positions that are good for you and your baby to breathing and relaxation, this is critical to a natural birth.
- Practice, practice, practice. Those relaxation techniques that you read about in the books below and learn in natural childbirth classes wont’ stick unless you practice them. In your third trimester, it’s a good idea to practice your breathing, meditation, and affirmations daily or at least 3-4 times a week.
- Having a knowledgeable birthing partner. This could be your significant other, your mom, your sibling, or a close friend, but having someone who you trust to support you is key. This person will answer questions from doctors and nurses and help you reach and remain in the relaxed state that makes a natural birth go most smoothly.
So, where is a natural birthing mother-to-be to start? The three books on the next page have really helped me get over my fear of labor and feel prepared and in control.
What I like about the books below is that not only do they help you face and dismiss your fears about childbirth, but they are also very non-judgmental. The authors explain the benefits of avoiding medical interventions – from pitocin to foreceps to Cesarean birth – but they also allow that there are circumstances where these things can be helpful, like if your health or your baby’s health are in danger. In the end, it’s about making birth a positive experience for you and your baby that’s free from judgement. It’s your birth.
If natural childbirth is something you’re considering, or really even if you’re not sure that’s your thing, but the idea of childbirth scares you, I can’t recommend these books enough!
1. Birthing from Within
This was the first book that I read, and it was so helpful! It explains a lot of the history that I alluded to, and it talks you through how to prepare yourself physically and mentally for your birthing day. Birthing from Within talks you through forgetting that conditioning that makes childbirth – something so natural and so normal – seem like a scary experience that you can’t cope with without drugs.
There are a few different Hypnobirthing methods out there, and Hypnobabies is another self-hypnosis method. The book that I read was The Marie Mongan Method, and it is incredibly empowering! There’s some history of childbirth through the ages, and then the book moves on to talk about reframing the birthing process in a positive way to help you alleviate your fears and trust your body. Part of that process is learning relaxation techniques and practicing “birth affirmations,” which might feel a little bit cheesy at first but really can help you feel more confident in your body’s ability to do this thing.
Make sure you get a copy of the book that comes with the CD. The material on the CD is also in the book, but having the music to relax to and having her talk you through the different relaxation methods has made a huge difference for me.
Birthing from Within and Hypnobirthing have a lot of overlapping information, so it’s really about which one seems like the best fit for you. You might hit the book store or the library and leaf through both to see which book feels more your speed.
3. The Birth Partner
If your significant other – or whoever is going to be with your during your birth – is uneasy about the big day, this book is a huge help. The Birth Partner helps prepare your birthing partner to support you and help you have a positive experience.
For your birth partner, the fears are a little bit different, right? He or she isn’t afraid of being in pain but may be afraid of seeing you in pain or that (s)he won’t be able to give you the support you need to have the natural birth that you want. Knowledge is power, and The Birth Partner helps educate him or her about what to expect and techniques to handle different situations.
For you, knowing that your companion in the birthing room is knowledgeable and capable is definitely a soothing influence.
I’d love to hear from the other moms out there! Are you learning natural childbirth techniques? Are there books or CDs that helped you get ready for your birth? I hope you’ll share your suggestions and experiences in the comments!