The first time I was pregnant, I had dreams of grandeur. I had hopes for the most peaceful, blissful natural birth, at home in the water, surrounded by my husband, doula and midwife, with the soft glow of candles and the faint scent of lavender in the air. She would come out with one push, there would be one loud cry and she would latch on and nurse as we settled in as a family of three. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? My first birth could. not. have been more different.
Instead, I ended up with a pregnancy rife with complications, and ended up giving birth in a hospital, on the bed, hooked up to machines, terrified and with assistance- and despite having a beautiful healthy baby girl, I was so, so angry it didn’t go at all as planned. Of course, those of you who have given birth before are probably laughing, because birth, as everything with motherhood, rarely goes as planned. It took me a long time to recover from that birth, physically and mentally. It was nearly three years before I came to term with the idea of giving birth again, and even then it brought up waves of emotions when I thought about how it went down the first time.
Once I became pregnant again, giving birth again became a reality- and I knew I wanted to approach things differently this time. I gave up my expectations and instead decided to prepare ahead in the best way possible, realizing much of it is not in my control and accepting whatever God brought us when it came to labor and delivery. My husband and I agreed- as well as we would prepare, a healthy baby was our only goal. This included even entertaining the idea of a C-section, with baby girl breech well into my third trimester- something I never imagined in my wildest dreams. But I wanted things to be different, this time around. I didn’t want to spend months wallowing in the aftermath of unmet expectations, and I certainly didn’t want to spend the better part of a year recovering from birth physically (yes, a YEAR). If you’ve read my birth story, you’ll know I not only had another entirely unexpected birth, I couldn’t have been happier with how it ended up, every unexpected moment. So today I thought I would share the big things I did this pregnancy, to prepare for a better birth, the second time around.
1. I stayed active. This one was HUGE- and I’m positive one of the biggest game-changers, this time around. I stayed active consistently, throughout my pregnancy, adjusting as I needed to. I ran until it no longer felt good around 7 months, strength trained and did tons of yoga and pilates. I walked up until the day I gave birth because I knew how good it was for my body- and it felt good, too, staying active for so long. The result was that I felt stronger and more capable in the days leading up to and throughout my short labor, and my body was not exhausted by labor in the way it was the first time.
2. I nourished myself. I didn’t eat badly in my first pregnancy, by any means- but I certainly didn’t nourish myself. I did what I could to stay healthy, but between my first pregnancy and now I have learned so much about not just eating healthy, but truly nourishing your body during pregnancy (as well as how to use diet to control my PCOS symptoms). This time, I focused more on nutrient-dense foods, still eating intuitively and enjoying cravings from time to time (though this time I had far less). I was worlds healthier- avoiding gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, both of which I struggled with during my first pregnancy, and my nourishing diet no doubt contributed to my beautiful, robust and healthy baby, too.
3. I drank red raspberry tea. This was something I did during my last pregnancy, but not nearly as much as this time around. Red raspberry leaf has been proven to be a uterine tonic, helping tone the uterus from the inside out, potentially aiding in a more efficient labor and delivery. It is also high in nutrients, especially minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron. It is recommended to avoid red raspberry during the first trimester, for fear of miscarriage, so I started drinking it daily come the second trimester (with the ok from my midwife), ramping up to 2 cups a day in my third, and 4-6 in the weeks prior to giving birth (starting in the last month). Did this contribute to a more efficient labor? Who knows- but it didn’t hurt!
4. I tried eating 6 dates a day. It seems like an old wive’s tale- and for a long time, it was– but now there’s science to back up eating dates for a shorter, more effective labor. So I tried it! Again- who knows how much this helped, but it certainly didn’t hurt me having a quicker and more desirable labor with absolutely no interventions.
5. I educated myself. This was a game-CHANGER. Last time, we took a run-of-the-mill labor course, that went through the basics, gave us some positioning techniques and went through all the scary interventions that could occur, which we somewhat glossed over, thinking, “No way that will happen to us- we have a plan for a natural home birth!”. Wrong. So, so wrong. Instead of educating ourselves and having an open mind for all possibilities, we ended up with a cascade of interventions that we didn’t want, and I ended up with a traumatic birth experience I never expected. This time around, I kept an open mind. I knew what could happen and I was prepared for the worst- but I prepared for it. When baby didn’t flip until 36 weeks, I educated myself on a natural cesarean, something my past-self would have scoffed at. PREPARING for a possible c-section?! No way! Luckily, baby flipped- but this time, I went into labor knowing whatever happened, all I cared about was a healthy baby, but that we had options, either way. Whether it was options for induction, which we didn’t end up needing, or options for birthing positions (I pushed on my hands and knees, this time!)- we educated ourselves with intention for a natural, low-intervention delivery, but had so much more knowledge with every possibility that may have come our way. This was the birth course we chose, this time around.
6. I prayed. This one might not have scientific backing, but I certainly believe it has power. I prayed daily for my baby and a healthy pregnancy, and towards the end I focused hard on praying for a healthy, low-intervention birth. I knew no matter what God’s will would be done in my birth experience, but I prayed for his favor and that I would have a better birth, this time around.
7. I focused on birth-friendly stretches and exercises leading up to labor. This was the final, and most concentrated effort I made towards the end for a healthier labor and delivery. I focused on stretches that would help open my hips and pelvis, positions to help baby into a better birth position (she flipped at 36 weeks) and exercises that would keep my body strong for delivery, like squats and walking consistently. After all, birth is a marathon (sometimes a marathon run really, really fast!) and I wanted to prepare for it as best as I could.
So what was it that made my birth story easier and intervention-free? Was it the 6 dates a day? The red raspberry tea? The pelvic tilts and hip openers? Or perhaps just a healthier pregnancy, overall? I think it was most likely a combination of a little bit of everything. In any case, the biggest thing I learned about having a healthier labor and delivery is that as with anything in life, preparation is key- and it IS possible to have a better birth.
It’s almost here!! Learn exactly what I did, and help prepare my clients to create a healthier, holistic pregnancy- body, mind and soul with my brand new, Healthy Mama Bun in the Oven e-book- coming out on December 18, 2017. Get on the list for updates and an exclusive launch-day discount!