Giving birth is a lot like a marathon, or so I've been told. I will admit that I have never trained for a marathon. But I know people who have, and here are a few things they have told me about the process that I think apply beautifully to the marathon of labor!
Mental preparedness is key. There are going to be times throughout the process of labor that you'll want to quit, give up, and forget this crazy idea of having a baby (right in the middle of it all!). I've heard moms very close to meeting their babies exclaim, "That's it! Never mind, I'm going home. I'm done doing this!" If you are reading this and you've had a baby, you most likely can relate to this sentiment! I remind moms that when they feel they are "done" and that they can't do this one more minute, second or hour, they are likely very close to the end of the marathon. The physical stamina is important, yes. But the mental stamina is an equally important key to finishing the race! I recommend taking a childbirth education series that will allow you to learn as much as you can about the process so that you know what to expect and how you can prepare. I also encourage positively envisioning, meditating, praying and/or thinking about the birth you want when you look forward to your birth experience. Some moms may find that it's helpful to practice breathing and relaxation exercises, watch *positive* and affirming births (like this one!), and talk through any fears or concerns prior to or during labor. Going into labor with fear or dread can really hinder the process of labor and the production of oxytocin (the hormone so important to keeping labor progressing). Listening to others share their own journeys through the births of their babies during pregnancy can be helpful, but I want to emphasize the importance of keeping those interactions positive.
You have to train. Physical endurance is really important. This is why I recommend maintaining some sort of exercise routine (assuming your provider has given you the all-clear). You do not have to stop fitness activities just because you are pregnant. Even in late pregnancy, you can continue to keep your normal exercise routine as long as it's comfortable for you and there's no medical reason to discontinue.
Finally, hire a coach! Doulas are gaining popularity as many women have discovered what it feels like to have consistent, continuous support throughout their pregnancies, labors, and postpartum period. You don't have to do this alone. One dad recently told me, "I don't know what we would have done without you. We wouldn't have had the knowledge or expertise to do the things you suggested, and it really made such a difference. Thank you!"
Remember, birth is a marathon and not a sprint. You CAN finish the race! (And the reward at the end is better than any medal you could ever receive.)
I will never forget the first words my husband said to me after my children were born. "You were so amazing. Like unbelievable. I can't believe you just did that! I'm so proud of you. I love you so much! You're a ROCK STAR!" (15 years later, those words are still meaningful to me. I mean, what wife doesn't want to be told she's amazing??)
As we gazed at our new, squishy little miracle, in awe of the fact that "we MADE that!," our love for one another was renewed as two became three, and then later four, and five.
As a doula, I absolutely love helping to facilitate the relationship between mom and partner. It's really important to me in the birth process that her partner feels included. Recently, I had a client's husband say, "I have really been preparing for this. I have taken a childbirth education series. I mean no offense, but do we really need another person in the room?" I gently replied, "I'm here for you as much as I'm here for her."
Birth is intense. As each contraction comes and mom is working hard, she needs an abundance of love and support. And she needs just the right "hormone cocktail" happening in her body to help her cervix dilate and to prepare to bring baby into the world. As she and her partner engage with each other in the labor process, her oxytocin levels rise and that works greatly in her favor. Oxytocin is a crucial hormone to the labor and birth process that is released by the pituitary gland. Its job is to help bring about contractions of the uterus during labor. The body makes it naturally, but you may have heard of its synthetic form called pitocin (which is sometimes used when it's necessary to augment labor). It's a beautiful thing as the rise in oxytocin not only helps mom birth her baby it but also helps her milk come in after baby is born. So... I work to bring mom and partner together in labor because I know that every hug, touch and connection between them is good for bringing baby closer to their arms. Also, as the pain of labor intensifies, she may begin to fear childbirth. Fear and pain are the enemy of labor progressing, and so my goal is to help keep mom out of that place and in the comfort of her partner's arms where she feels safe and loved.
I consider it a joy and privilege helping partners work together in the labor and birth of their babies, especially in the ones for whom it's their first time experiencing it. It's a powerful moment when baby is born and they know they did it together. I've been truly blessed to see some AMAZING hands-on partners who supported mom so lovingly and helped bring their babies into the world..
Remember, love is the antidote to fear.
And where love dwells, feelings of safety and well-being do as well! What could be better than that in the process of childbirth?
As always, thank you for reading!
When I started this blog, I wanted it to be, at times, a place for me to reflect upon my own insights and experiences that have had a hand in shaping me as a doula. This is one of those times.
I am a Christian. My faith in Christ is the most important thing to me and it drives everything I do in my life. I am certain that God led me into this work as a doula for many reasons and I believe that His desire is that I would bring Him glory as I serve women in this very important time in their life. As a result, I felt compelled to share how and why my faith influences me as a doula.
As a disclaimer, I want to say up front that I partner with couples and families of all faiths. In fact, one of the most important things to me is that my clients and their families know that I hold no judgment toward them for any of their choices, especially in birth. I support people right where they are, as they are, and I believe this is one of the most powerful and valuable things I give to them as their doula. Becoming a doula has been one of the best things to happen to me in my own spiritual journey as I have learned so much about myself and others. I will always be grateful for that!
Here is why I believe there to be a very distinct connection between God and birth.
First, I believe that God made the woman and baby fearfully and wonderfully. I believe that God is the Giver of life, and all aspects of life have been His idea from the beginning. As a doula, this means that I trust the pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum process implicitly. I believe that the pregnant woman's body was perfectly made to birth her baby. This doesn't mean that things sometimes can (and do) go differently than originally planned. But in most cases, I know that this is a perfect process that God has designed beautifully as mom and baby work together. As I support my clients, I know that I simply need to support the process and not interfere with it.
Secondly, I believe that God instructs me to hold no judgment against others. As a doula, this means that supporting women in all birth choices is of utmost importance to me. I stated before that I support ALL women. So whether they birth at home in a tub or choose to get an epidural the moment they step into their hospital room, I am there, ready to support them in their choices. I treat the women in those two scenarios the same, because birth is a very vulnerable time for a woman, and she likely has very good reasons that brought her to those choices. It is simply my job to support her, without judgment, no matter what.
Finally, I believe that pregnancy, birth, and babies are all miracles from God. Every aspect of the process - from conception, pregnancy, labor, and birth to mother-baby bonding and her ability to feed and nurture her child - are truly incredible. I am in awe of the way God designed mom and baby to work together so beautifully. It impacts me as a doula, because I have the knowledge of how the process works in order to support mom, but I also believe in the God and Giver of life that is guiding each of them. As I work with mom in pregnancy, for example, I can encourage her with such assurance that her body can be trusted to provide all it needs to for her baby. In labor and birth, I can remind her that every wave/surge/contraction is bringing her closer to meeting her baby for the first time, because I know that they are both working together, in sync with one another, just as God designed. As baby is born and mom holds him/her for the first time, I watch as the two of them are filled with God-given instinct. Baby rests quietly, and then soon begins looking for nourishment. Mom has already been producing what baby needs and is ready to provide it. Oxytocin overwhelms mom with love and a desire to nurture her baby and bonding continues. I can affirm her in those things and remind her that she is doing great and all is well. Should mom choose to breastfeed, her milk provides all baby needs, and mom and baby are off to a great start. It's all truly MIRACULOUS.
This is why I do what I do. I believe in the process. I am passionate about helping moms achieve a positive birth experience because I know that it increases the likelihood that mom and baby transition easier into life together. Nursing goes better, postpartum depression rates are lower, and mom's satisfaction as she reflects back on her birth experience is more positive. Everyone wins.
As a doula, I am committed to each of the couples I serve and I am truly humbled to be invited into that intimate time with them. I pray for each and every one of my clients throughout their pregnancies and labors, whether they are aware of it or not. It is my hope and prayer that each of them would walk away from their birth experience feeling loved and supported through the process. If they do, then I believe God has been honored as I serve them. The following is one of my favorite verses from the Bible, and it is such a beautiful promise to both mom and baby. I wanted to share it with you today:
"For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well."
Thanks for reading!
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.