Recalling my first birth is still incredible. It’s one that words can’t match but I remember how overwhelmingly complete I felt. I was so in-sync with my body and amazed to witness nature taking the reigns and allowing my baby to enter the world.
My daily meditation practice in the final stages of my pregnancy had a profound effect on my labour and birth. Despite the strength of my contractions, I was able to maintain an awareness of my breathing and after Jackson had arrived I had my midwife say to me ‘That is the calmest birth I’ve ever seen.’
Like most Mums-to-be (if not all) I was fearful to even think about labour. I felt anxious hearing other peoples’ horror stories and I avoided the whole topic for months. Though, the earthy-soul woman that I am, wanted to believe it WAS POSSIBLE to experience a positive birth.
Meditation came to me when I was sixteen and my instant response to it was so calming. I knew that meditation would be a perfect way to prepare my mind for the much-anticipated event in February, so for the final forty-two days of my pregnancy I meditated.
My daily practice was as short as five minutes and as long as twenty. Easy, right?! There were so many days when I didn’t want to meditate. But sticking to my plan developed my discipline and perseverance and both of these go a long way during labour.
Here are some simple breathing and relaxation techniques I used to prepare for my birth and remain calm during labour:
MINDFUL BREATHING: Bring your awareness to your breathing as you inhale and exhale and take some time to be completely mindful of any sensations attached to these breaths. Eg. Notice the sensations on the insides of your nostrils as you breathe in and breathe out, maybe you can sense your clothing moving ever-so-slightly as your chest rises and falls, perhaps you become aware of the expansion and contraction of your abdomen, or you might notice a cool sensation at the back of the throat as the breath comes in and goes out.
COUNTING BREATHS: Take some time now to slow down your breaths. Breathe in for four and breathe out for six. Watch the fresh oxygen travel all the way from your nostrils, down your throat, to your lungs and follow the breath’s energy all the way to the pit of the stomach before it draws back up again. Extend your exhale to eight, ten, or twelve if you can. But be mindful of your limited lung capacity towards the end of your pregnancy.
BREATHING WITH A VISUALISATION: Choose your favourite part of nature and take your attention there. Allow yourself to experience the whole scene by noticing the sounds, sights, smells, feelings and anything else that resonates. Use your breath to direct the scene. Eg. If you are picturing the beach, allow yourself to see the tide come in as you breathe in and see the tide go out as you breathe out. If you are visualising a bird on the horizon, allow the bird’s wings to rise with your inhale and fall with your exhale. If you’re watching a tree swaying in the breeze, notice how the tree sways to the left as you inhale and to the right as you exhale. Be creative here – anything is possible in your mind’s eye!
BREATHING WITH A MANTRA: Draw your awareness to within and observe each part of your body. Become aware of any discomfort, unwanted feelings, pain, tension or anything else that needs your attention. Create a mantra (affirmation or positive statement) to cater for this need and draw some healing to it. Eg., if you are feeling anxious about your upcoming labour and birth you might choose ‘I am calm’, ‘I am relaxed’ or ‘I am strong’. As you breathe in mentally say ‘I am’ and as you breathe out, mentally complete your mantra.
So, what are you waiting for? Try it out and reap the results! I’d love to hear about how you go.