by Hilary Valentine
Women are innately designed to give birth. Modern life has made this beautiful and natural process more complicated than ever before. Yet every woman has the capacity to have a positive, calm, and confident birth. The variables are many, but I have seen women navigate even the most tumultuous pregnancies with grace and arrive at birth prepared for a calm-confident birth. Everyday women emerge from labor as new mothers with a feeling of empowerment and accomplishment above any previous life experience. You can too!
I’m Hilary Valentine and I coach women in finding their soul aligned path toward birth and motherhood using mind-body-soul practices. I have dialed this process down into 5 essential steps that when taken on with intention during pregnancy, guide you toward the birth and early motherhood experience of your dreams.
Before I dive into the steps, here is my description of a calm-confident birth. You feel prepared and even relieved when labor begins. You have a deep trust in your body and feel connected to your ability to intuitively navigate what is to come. You are intimately aware of your rights and options for birth and have a personal support system (commonly a partner, family member or doula) who you trust in their ability to advocate, not only for your rights, but your personal birth desires. Now, this is not an all-inclusive description and I encourage every pregnant woman to develop their own description of a calm-confident birth experience.
Step 1: Intentional Action
This step is all about knowing your desires for preparing for birth and objectively recognizing how they are supporting your goal of a calm-confident birth or not. Pregnancy is your warm-up for motherhood. As with any warm-up, the quality matters, not the quantity. Arriving at birth overwhelmed, maxed out and emotionally exhausted isn’t the set up for a positive experience. From early pregnancy, I recommend purposefully designing a path that has you engaging in activities that develop skills to support both a positive birth and early motherhood.
Step 2: Maternal Soul Searching
This step is often overlooked because it is the least tangible. When you take time to connect to your mothering spirit and intuition you are setting the stage and building an inner knowing that will keep you true to your course as a mother. This is about soul alignment through motherhood. There is unending noise, distraction, advice, and societal expectations placed on every aspect of motherhood! Without a deep soul connection, you will quickly get lost in the noise. Practices that can more deeply connect you to your maternal soul include journaling, meditation, as well as feminine aligned ceremonies and rituals.
Step 3: Physical Alignment and Mobility
Most pregnant women focus their birth preparation efforts on the physical aspects of pregnancy. Our physical transformation certainly demands attention, but how we attend to our physical body can look very different in pregnancy than before. Staying active and incorporating regular movement is essential, but blindly moving our bodies without special consideration can bring about undesired results like pain, injury, muscle imbalances and even poor fetal position. I encourage mobility over flexibility and alignment over intensity.
Mobility is how much movement our joints have, not how far we can stretch. You can have excellent mobility with not-so-great flexibility. Avoid focusing on singular goals like “opening up the hips”. Instead focus your efforts on a wide variety of mobilizing movements.
Alignment is when our joints, muscles, and bones are positioned where they should be, while intensity is simply how hard we are working. When you’re engaging in your exercise of choice during pregnancy, I recommend slowing down and focusing on maintaining excellent alignment over achieving a greater level of intensity!
Step 4: Mindset
Pregnant women often prepare a list of coping strategies for birth. This is well intentioned, but it falls short of truly supporting you during labor. How you cope with the pains and stress of labor depends more on how you think you’re doing than what you’re actually doing. So those coping strategies could help you stay calm, but what happens when they don’t work? You can turn to the array of medical interventions designed to help you stay calm and reduce pain. However, I recommend being intimately aware of your pain/stress response and preparing ahead of time mental scripts to guide you back to your calm space along with well-rehearsed, used and practiced coping strategies that support the process of shifting from “Oh no” back to “I got this”. Developing awareness of how you respond under stress is an essential part of preparing your mind for birth.
Step 5: Robust Support System
Since the dawn of humans, women have been supporting each other through pregnancy, birth and motherhood with robust social support networks, traditions and systems. Modern society has fractured this support network, making it very challenging for new moms to confidently navigate postpartum. A lot of my clients rely on their community coming together around them in postpartum without taking intentional action (step 1) in pregnancy. A robust support system includes:
- Your Birth Team – the professionals and friends/family that will be with you through labor
- Your Mom Community- the women who are navigating the same life transitions you are
- Your Present Community- the people present in your life from early postpartum that will provide you the level of support required to rest, recover, and bond
- Your Professional Community- you never know when you’re going to need additional support, knowing who you can trust, who you like and having a conversation with them ahead of time can save you from a lot of stress in postpartum. This could include a counselor, chiropractor, pelvic floor therapist, acupuncturist, lactation consultant among others
Navigating these 5 steps during pregnancy will set you up for a positive birthing experience. Teaming up with a professional, like a birth coach, will make the process even easier, more in depth and whole being focused!