How mindfulness, meditation, and movement can prepare soon-to-be mothers for pregnancy, labor, and motherhood.
Jill Birt is a Registered Nurse (RN) and Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT). Prior to stepping full-time into teaching yoga she worked as a Labor & Delivery Nurse in Austin for 15 years. She considers herself to be an integrative healthcare provider, holding awe and respect for the healing power nature offers; she also values modern medicine and relies upon the wisdom and spiritual teachings of yoga. Jill shares her insights into the importance of a physical, spiritual, and emotional approach to birth preparation.
Are at-home births better than hospital births?
Rather than focusing on birthing location, I feel it is more important for pregnant women to focus inward, taking the time to prepare their mind, body, and spirit for childbirth and motherhood. The lifestyle of our modern culture does not naturally prepare women for labor, delivery, and motherhood. We are a very busy culture and many of us sit for several hours of the day in cars, at desks, on computers, etc. Our daily lifestyles are an ironic mix of sedentary bodies and overactive minds. This combination can leave us in a simultaneous state of weakness and constriction physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When considering the impact this has on the process of labor and delivery these factors can leave a woman ill-equipped to progress toward an organized and successful labor pattern leading to delivery without medical intervention. Understanding this and taking time to incorporate both physical movement and quieting of the mind into pregnancy can help women awaken the connection of mind, body and spirit – aligning them fully for childbirth.
We as women have the ability to care for ourselves in partnership with our healthcare providers.
The environment in which a woman feels comfortable giving birth is a very personal decision. What is most important overall is taking the time to adequately prepare mind, body and spirit. Women who have taken the time to prepare these three realms have the tools necessary to find comfort in either location as one or the other may not always go as planned.
How do I stay calm and not panic when going into labor and delivery?
First you must understand the role of your central nervous system and more importantly the inner workings of the autonomic nervous system. By understanding the process of “fight or flight” you can overcome anxiety using the power of breath. Through focused breathing exercises and meditation techniques you can tap into your autonomic nervous system and foster a sense of calm and peace within. This work translates beyond labor and delivery and into motherhood and the potential struggles of postpartum.
Here are some practices I use myself that can be used for childbirth preparation as well as overall happiness:
Slow Down/Sit Still/Breathe: Seated pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) or meditation. The length and location of this practice varies for me depending on the day, but I aim for a minimum of five minutes in stillness every morning. Sometimes it occurs right after I attend to the typical morning rituals, sometimes it doesn’t happen until after the morning rush of my family. Often this practice happens more then once throughout my day as taking time to slow down, breathe, and be present is the best tool in the box. Our bodies communicate in sensations and feelings. Pausing to give full attention to myself and check in with my overall state of being helps me to better understand the messages of my body and trust my intuition. It keeps me connected to the strength and calm I have within.
Move: Aerobic activity daily: walking, running, dancing, yoga…anything that gets you moving. While it’s important to adjust exercise to accommodate pregnancy, it’s also important to continue to incorporate it into your daily routine. It improves circulation, strengthens the immune system, may prevent potential medical complications, improves digestion, increases stamina and ability for physical demands of life (childbirth and motherhood) and brightens the mind and spirit among many other benefits. Be sure to communicate with your healthcare provider when it comes to choosing the best activity for you.
Nurture: I use pure therapeutic grade essential oils to support my physical and emotional well being daily. I do the same for my family, either applying or massaging with oils that best suit the current need, or diffusing them into the air. I love utilizing the power of nature to connect and support all of us. This practice translates to love and nurture
Prepare: Looking ahead at my week on Sunday afternoons allows me to observe patterns and arrange my time as best I can to support my truth, my practices and my heart’s desires.
It’s all about the birth plan, so if I have that I should be fine, right?
I encourage women to see a birth plan most importantly as a discussion with their partners about what is important to them, and then as a tool to discuss these priorities with their healthcare providers. I teach women not to attach firmly to a plan or to romantic ideals that come along with statements like “women have been giving birth since the beginning of humanity” and “your body knows how to do this.” These statements are true, but what is also true is that not all of the outcomes in the history of birth have been picture perfect. Clinging to a specific plan or ideals can potentially inhibit women from being fully present during the delivery and precious moments of meeting their baby. Understanding the components of labor and delivery and individual variances among us can reduce emotions of anger, shame, and failure when an experience isn’t how a mother “planned” for it to be.
My Morning Ritual
I sit in a comfortable place in my room that I have arranged.
I apply a drop of essential oil, most often frankincense, to my inner wrists, and then swipe them behind my ears and down the sides of my neck before holding them close to my nose. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths.
I rest my hands and continue to breathe in and out through my nose. I follow my breath deep into my center and back toward my spine. This is the physical space in me where I connect to my highest self.
After a few breaths like this, I begin to silently say the words for my daily intention, one sentence /word for each breath in, one sentence/word for each breath out, pausing between each breath to let the words resonate.
I repeat this three to four times and then return to a normal, easy breath. Grounded, centered and ready for my day to start.
**I recommend using only pure certified therapeutic grade essential oils. My personal preference is doTERRA essential oils. For some, and especially during pregnancy, it is best to dilute essential oils. Always refer to the guidance and recommendations of your healthcare provider.
Jill offers a prenatal series called PREPARED for expecting mothers.
To learn more visit mamaprep.org.
Questions? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.