Are you afraid of getting pregnant?
Does the thought of growing another being in your belly give you the tremors?
You’ve always imagined yourself as a mom someday. It just feels like what you’ll do. But when your co-worker complains through her nine months of pregnancy, you start to wonder….
You reflect on how much doom-and-gloom you’ve heard about pregnancy.
Sure, you might shrug off the first batch of complaints, but when you hear again and again the war stories: the horror of birth, the pain, the complications, you become terrified. You start to second guess your intuition:
Do I really want to get pregnant?
Am I strong enough to give birth?
If you listen to the naysayers, you’d think it’s impossible to have a baby without falling apart.
But you mustn’t listen to the fear mongers.
I’ve been through two pregnancies later in life, ages 39 and 42. I’ve experienced plenty of smug smiles and knowing looks from all the self-proclaimed experts on birth.
Contrary to what society expects for “older moms,” pregnancy rocked. Of course I got a big belly, but the rest of me didn’t change. Some people thought my arms and legs got smaller. I think it was an optical illusion:.
My births were painful but quick. And I didn’t tear my hear out or scream for drugs. I went into my zone. My birth wasn’t abnormally good.
I learned to ignore the negativity, seek out the right kind of support and positive people. I used natural secret weapons to sail above the fear-mongering and to carry me through two very fast deliveries.
This approach can work for you too. It’s simple yet effective.
Ready to hear more?
How We Get Caught In the Fear Trap
Have you noticed how pregnancy is treated like an illness?
We dwell on the negatives: weight gain, back pain, depression, sleeping problems, acid reflux. We dwell on the pain of giving birth.
We dwell on how how pregnant women gain weight.
Unless you live in a bubble, you’ve heard this talk.
The Truth That Causes Weight Gain
Our society is obsessed with the thin aesthetic; we can’t accept that healthy pregnant women gain weight. The heart of the problem is our underlying beliefs about pregnancy.
“It’s just so awful, I let myself go.”
“I couldn’t take it. I ate a pint of ice cream every night.”
Sound familiar? Exact words of women who came to my prenatal yoga class.
With negative thinking you’ll let your body go and you’ll gain the wrong kind of weight.
It sounds like we need to compensate ourselves for the awful fate of pregnancy. We sound like victims, rather than embracing and sailing our own ships.
If you choose to get pregnant, own your choice and its consequences.
To keep your body from feeling crappy, you need to eat well and exercise. Don’t expect to stop because you’re pregnant. You’ll experience times where you do less. During my first trimester I cut back on yoga because I was tired.
I never felt like my body was falling apart. Because on the contrary, your body is stronger than ever. It’s building a baby. It’s creating life. That’s freaking powerful.
Honor your body: Rest when you need it, work out when you feel like burning off energy, practice yoga to stay flexible and calm.
We minimize the importance of pregnancy, giving birth and motherhood (I wonder if men gave birth things would be different). Like most “feminized” professions, pregnancy and motherhood isn’t valued for what it’s worth.
The Real Disaster
The medical establishment takes the worst case approach to pregnancy and giving birth.
Doctors love to tell us about the potential disasters that could happen. During my second pregnancy I heard all the risks because I was of advanced age.
Many of you think your body will give out. You’ve heard the stories of back pain, SI Joint dysfunction and pubic bone pain. You can’t imagine how your husband will love you when you’re this big.
When one doctor found out I wanted to use midwives for my delivery she tried to convince me that they weren’t safe (fallacy #1 - Midwives are trained medical professionals, and have much lower rates of C-Sections).
When I explained I wanted to have a water birth she said that it was risky (fallacy #2 - most doctors don’t like water births).
I told her I wanted to squat during birth; she said that laying on my back was an easier position. (fallacy #3 - At the time I hadn’t been through birth yet, but I was pretty sure that squatting was easier and that working with gravity would make it easier.)
Because you’ve heard nothing but negativity and horror stories of births, you’re terrified. Just the thought of giving birth makes your palms sweat.
Change Your Mindset
If you look closely at a pregnant woman, you’ll spot the pregnant glow (You’re pregnant? Then look in the mirror).
When you shift your focus to the miracle that happens within, everything changes. Women can do something incredible that men cannot: they can grow a new life inside of theirs.
Our bodies are changing and sometimes big changes produce big sensations. But not all the sensations are negative.
I experienced glowing skin, thick luscious hair and a very good mood through both my pregnancies, And because I continued to practice yoga and swim, i didn’t have the usual complaints.
Whether working out on elliptical, walking or swimming, you need activity when you’re pregnant just like any other time.
Pregnancy is not a disease. Pregnancy is one of the most important times in future parent’s life.
You and your baby are intimately connected at this time. You share food supply, blood flow and even breath. Your baby feels you moving and breathing; you feel your baby kicking.
Rather than spending nine months in fear, why not savor this special time?
You’re not alone
Feeling panicky? Scared of the potential pain of your birth?
You’re not alone.
Most women are afraid. Most of us are afraid of the pain.
We’re told how bad it will be over and over again. Birthing classes show films of women screaming in horror. As soon as we get to the hospital we’re asked about our pain threshold -- when we’ll need drugs.
To be honest, I wasn’t afraid of the pain. Pain is part of this magical process. I didn’t shout and scream. But it was painful. For a very short time. And when I felt like the pain was getting to me, my babies arrived.
I decided that I didn’t want to take painkillers. I know how to use my secret weapon to combat the pain.
It’s time to change our direction.
Let’s forge a new path
Stop harping on the fear and creating anxiety.
Instead, sit with your fears and own the process.
Own that it’s fucking hard but you can do it.
YOU are strong.
YOU are powerful.
You can feel the power of thousands of women who came before you; they didn’t have drugs or even doctors.
Of course it’s your choice to decide how you want to approach your pregnancy. Many natural tools exist to help us along the way like breathing exercises, acupuncture and yoga. You don’t have to do this alone.
When I got to my due date with my second baby, I knew I had to take action. Women over forty can go one week past due dates before medical induction. This makes the labor harder. So I scheduled an acupuncture appointment (Many women report using acupuncture to get labor started).
One hour after my session my water broke. When I didn’t have contractions 12 hours later, I took castor oil, after speaking at length with my midwife. After two hours contractions started, and two hours later Angelique was born.
Natural remedies work. They aren’t the only solution; but when the right one’s chosen, they work.
And no matter what, you must learn this one simple practice that you’ll use no matter what type of birth you have.
Your Secret Weapon
Your breath is your most powerful tool for your labor. It’s the magic thread that connects your mind to your body.
Fear makes us small; fear makes our bodies contract. If you listen to the fear-mongering society, you’ll approach birth with fear rather than power.
You need to counter this fear.
Deep breathing is your key. When you’re afraid, you activate your sympathetic nervous system, and the fight-or-flight response kicks in. Your body thinks it either needs to run or freeze.
This is the opposite of what you need: you must feel safe and protected to relax into birthing. Who would bring a vulnerable newborn into a dangerous situation?
With deep breathing, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system or “rest and digest” reflex. When we feel safe our body relaxes and resumes digestion and other activities. In order to allow your body to relax and open up during labor, you need to activate your parasympathetic nervous system more than sympathetic.
Deep breathing is the easiest way to relax.
Your doctor won’t tell you this, because he can’t control your breath. He might not think it’s scientific enough. Or he’d prefer to give you drugs.
Far too many women have told me stories of being pushed into C-sections or to take medication they didn’t want.
I fooled the medics for both my labors. For my first child, my doula, the nurses, and even the midwife assumed I’d take 10 hours to labor. I talked to them calmly and they thought I had much more time left.
Not so. I was calm because I knew how to let my body relax when the contractions came. I didn’t fight the pain. It doesn’t mean I loved it, but I simply exhaled for as long as I could.
For both my deliveries, my cervix had dilated more quickly than expected. I was ready to give birth, although the doctors weren’t expecting it….Because I was calm.
I breathed my babies into the world.
How to Develop Your Ninja Powers
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant or you’re pregnant now, these breathing techniques help to relax your mind and your body.
Start now, because the more established your practice, the easier it is to stay calm and use your breath.
These are the techniques that I used to prepare myself for birth and for my delivery.
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight. The more length you get in your spine, the easier to find a deep breath. (Sitting in a chair is fine, but eventually you’ll want to open your hips. An easy way is to sit on the floor).
- Inhale and exhale through your nose.
- Welcome your breath without changing anything. Trace its path from your nose into your lungs. Note where you feel your breath and any sensations that arise.
- As you inhale, identify the area of your pelvic floor, between pubic bone and tailbone. Gently lift this area. Lift like your gently holding something dear, not like your clenching. Imagine holding a fragile dove egg. Emphasize the lateral (sideways) movement of your rib cage. As your belly grows, this will allow more breath to enter your lungs.
- As you exhale loosen the hold slightly. Gently focus on feeling your lower belly draw back ever so slightly. If you’re in your third trimester don’t hold your belly. As you exhale allow your body to relax.
- Over time, try to extend the exhale portion of your breath. Extending the exhale helps your body to relax. During labor this will allow your uterine muscles to engage and dilate your cervix. As you let baby come out, exhaling for longer encourages her downward movement.
This works. The more you practice the more natural it will be for you to breathe deeply rather than contract and become fearful.
This is for all types of labor.
Regardless of the type of birth you end up with, you need to breathe. You need to understand that you can prepare yourself and hope for one outcome, but ultimately we can’t control what happens.
If you have a natural birth relaxing can help to speed up the process. If you use epidural you’ll still need the breathing to stay calm. If you have a C-Section you’ll need your breath to speed your recovery.
Your breath is your powerful secret weapon against your own fear and the fear-mongers that take our power.
Assume your power pose
Remember those photos of wonder woman standing with feet apart, hands on hips?
That’s a power pose.
A power pose gives you strength and confidence because your body language shapes how you feel. (Learn more about the link between posture and emotions here.)
Your power pose gives your courage, even when you don’t feel it. But remember, your true self has courage. Your true self has power. Your true self isn’t afraid to tell all the negative talkers to stuff it.
Empower yourself by mustering the courage to ask for what you want.
Remember that you can’t control the outcome of your birth, but you choose to enjoy or struggle with the process. You can ask for what you want and need.
I asked that all the postnatal tests be done in the room. I asked for a water birth. I asked the nurses not to offer me painkillers during birth.
Now is your time to start. Start by practicing your breathing. Then write down your ideal birth. Get clear.
Seek out other women who are interested in sharing positive pregnancy stories. Start with prenatal yoga and natural birthing classes (if that’s what you want).
We have an incredible power to bring new life into the world.
It’s time to own and cherish the process.
Eat well, move each day.
Make time to do things that make you feel pampered.
And never let fear get the best of you.
You've got this!