Surrender. Soften. Open.
I choose my words carefully and speak them softly when I notice tension. Gently placing my hand on her shoulder as a physical reminder to release and accept the wave building and rising. Encouraging her with a few key words to go with the sensations rolling over her. We have practiced and prepared, but there is no substitute for the reality of our own personal birth experience.
The language we use can shape our perception.
The typical vocabulary of birth can be heavy with unintended meaning. The stories of those who have gone before us into this magical, mysterious rite of passage will leave their imprint, whether it is positive or negative. No matter how much effort we put into insulating ourselves from the negative and surrounding ourselves with the positive, we live in a society that often sees birth through the lens of “pain.”
Shifting our perspective begins with changing our language.
Avoid words like pain, contractions, and labor and replace them with words like tightening, wave, and birthing time. Intense sensations, surges, and ache are also words that convey what is happening in the body without attaching any negative connotations and are actually more accurate to what is happening in the body.
Make lists of words to say.
I am a huge fan of lists. I like the visual prompt, and highly encourage my clients to make lists together! This gives the couple a chance to practice, and to really see what words speak to each of them. Or perhaps, it is decided that no words (if possible) are to be spoken. In that case, writing encouragement or affirmations down and placing them in the space that you will be spending your birthing time in can be the perfect solution. I once had a dad with a great sense of humor make a list of things that he should NOT say before he began his list of what he should say. It went something like this –
“How long is this going to take?”
“I am going to catch the last half of the game, just tell me when you are ready to push.”
“Would you like a bite of this tuna sandwich?”
“That looks like it really hurts.”
“Can you keep it down? I am trying to take a nap.”
After we had a good laugh; which, by the way, is wonderful for the early labor stage, we got down to discussing how a list of things to say to your beloved during her birthing time should look. It is important to have discussions about what the birthing person wants to hear BEFORE she is actively engaged in riding out those waves! Our fears and anxieties can be diminished with a well timed, spoken affirmation. Here are some examples.
“You are so strong.”
“You are listening to your body, and bringing us one step closer to meeting our baby with each wave.”
“You are safe.”
“You are loved.”
What do we say to ourselves?
Even more important than what we hear from others, is what we tell ourselves during pregnancy and birth. And it does start in pregnancy; in fact, it starts as soon as we can form thought! We are continuously talking to ourselves and the narrative we have in our own head will be what we believe about ourselves. It is possible to create a positive, affirming narrative, even if that is not your normal thought process.
Pregnancy and birth can be the beginning of a new sense of self, a renewed sense of wonder and awe at what our bodies can do! Begin by surrounding yourself with positive affirmations. Hang them on your bathroom mirror, stick them to your refrigerator door, put them anywhere you will see them on a regular basis! Repeat your affirmations to yourself daily. Here are some examples –
She changed her language, she changed her thought process.
She changed her birth story.
She rode over each wave, she accepted the sensations, she let each surge release without holding a grudge against it and went limp and loose to rest in between. She moved instinctively and without fear through each rushing tightening, and moaned with a deep, low voice to conserve her energy for the good of herself and her baby. It was long, and it was HARD, but she brought her baby forth surrounded by those who spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over her. She brought her baby into this world with a mind and body prepared.