With the birth of our second little one only a few weeks away, I am beginning all of my final preparations for bringing another baby into our home. Some of the most important preparations this time around have been actually preparing for labor itself. While I had a vague idea of the importance of preparation for labor the first time around, I had no idea the magnitude of its significance. Now that I have been through it once, I am excited to do all I can to ease the way for the second time around.
One of the most profound truths I learned the first time around is that giving birth can be so much more than just something our bodies do after we have been pregnant for nine months. We can either view labor and childbirth passively as something that simply happens to us, or we can see it as something intensely spiritual and even miraculous, with the God-given ability to sanctify us and make us more like Christ through the process.
In light of that fact, here are some of the practical ways in which I am preparing body, soul and spirit to give birth.
1. Prepare Physically
Physical Exercises. Giving birth is a massive physical effort. Our bodies need to be toned and ready for this incredible feat. But preparing physically does not have to be a task of insurmountable proportion! Simply taking a daily walk is extremely beneficial. Most childbirth books will recommend at least a few stretches and toning exercises to prepare for labor. What to Expect When You are Expecting has some helpful exercises. Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor, wall-squats tone leg muscles for giving birth while squatting, the dromedary droop aids in relieving back pain and pressure, just to name a few. I have also done German Stabilization core strengthening (similar to Pilates) throughout my whole pregnancies and felt the positive effects daily. Find a routine that is helpful to you and build these exercises into your morning routine just as you do with washing your face and brushing your teeth. You will find yourself feeling better during pregnancy, throughout labor and following birth if you do! You will not regret it!
Use Herbal Teas and Supplements. Herbs have been used for thousands of years in the physical and emotional preparation for childbirth. Some of the most widely used herbs are red raspberry leaf and nettles. Red raspberry leaf is believed to relieve leg cramps, diarrhea, and morning sickness in pregnant women, as well as tone the uterus, reduce the risk of hemorrhage, ease pain in labor and post-partum recovery and increase breast milk. Nettle leaf is excellent to add to a tea around four weeks before delivery to aid in postpartum milk production. I enjoy Traditional Medicinals pregnancy teas. My two favorite for preparing for labor are their Red Raspberry Leaf Tea and their Organic Pregnancy Tea. Mountain Rose Herbs offers a wonderful variety of organic herbs to brew your own tea at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to check with your midwife before drinking these teas, though, as red raspberry leaf in particular (depending on how strongly it is brewed) can cause contractions and even induce labor. I have been drinking Traditional Medicinals throughout my entire pregnancy with no increased contractions, but as I am at risk for pre-term labor, I am holding off on brewing my own raspberry leaf tea until closer to my due date.’
Visit a Chiropractor. Since our experience with upper cervical chiropractic care dramatically altered our son’s life, we are new “believers” in the amazing benefits of chiropractic care. As there are many different forms of chiropractic–many of them not beneficial–I recommend finding a certified upper cervical chiropractor in your area. Our wonderful chiropractor is Dr. Newhouse of Newhouse Health Solutions, and if you live in our area, we cannot recommend him highly enough! Chiropractic care has been proven to decrease pain and duration of childbirth, can help align the baby for a safe and quick exit (using the Webster Technique), and can help keep your whole body aligned as your ligaments loosen up during pregnancy. For further information on the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy, visit here.
2. Prepare Emotionally
Studying the process of childbirth as God designed it has been one of the most amazing, rewarding, awe-inspiring things I have ever done! Preparing my mind for what to expect during labor and delivery, how the body works and functions, what problems can arise, and how to work through them, has been eye-opening and empowering. I cannot recommend enough that each woman study this amazing process before they go through it! With my first, as excited as I was to experience giving birth, I didn’t feel the need to learn much about the process myself. I expected the doctors to handle that department. And I figured my body would just kick itself into gear and do what it was supposed to do whether I informed myself on the process or not. After all, women have been giving birth for thousands of years, right? What’s to know? I actually found that informing myself on the process has helped immensely in relieving fear and anxiety, as well as giving me tools to cope with labor.
Two Excellent Natural Childbirth Resources:
The Christian Childbirth Handbook. I have been so blessed by reading this book! Obviously coming from a Christian perspective, this book details not only the body’s physical process of giving birth, but weaves in Scripture and God’s good design to offer comfort for anxiety and fear during labor. I also love the balanced approach to a desire for natural childbirth and the reality of complications or medical emergency making that impossible. The wealth of information on how God designed our bodies to work in giving birth caused me to stand in awe of our Creator and fall in love with His design. The knowledge it afforded me has increased my excitement and given me tools to cope with the fear and pain involved. It also addresses issues at the heart level and encourages belief in God’s goodness and sovereignty no matter how labor and delivery may differ from what you had planned.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth is an excellent tool for informing yourself about the process of birth, as well as what to expect in a normal birth, variations, possible complications, the risks and benefits involved in each medical intervention, etc. A wonderful resource for understanding all that is happening and could be suggested to aid the labor process.
Take a Childbirth Class
Most hospitals offer childbirth or Lamaaze classes for their patients before they give birth. These can be a one day class or a multiple week course, depending on where you go. You can also take more advanced courses on natural childbirth like Bradley offers. These can be pricey, but they are well worth the investment!
3. Prepare Spiritually
Labor is, for most people, intense, painful, and exhausting. No matter how prepared you are for childbirth, the experience can throw curves you did not expect and test even the most educated laborer. Childbirth brings with it not only physical pain, but emotional fear of the process itself. Labor can try your patience, perseverance, and pain tolerance! All of these things can either cause a person to spiral out of control into panic, or you can ask the Lord to give you the presence of mind to allow all of these things to sanctify you and draw you into deeper relationship with Him. Childbirth can be a miraculously spiritual experience of crying out to the Lord and finding his grace and strength is sufficient when you are at the end of your own.
Ushering a new life into the world and then nurturing that life is one of the most amazing tasks the Lord has given to us. It is one of the sweetest and most rewarding blessings. It is also one of the most intensely challenging roles we can possibly have. I had no idea the truth of this statement until our firstborn arrived, and I found myself sorely lacking in spiritual preparation for all that motherhood demanded of me. I have prayed ever since Jeshuah’s birth that the Lord would use the lives of our children to mold and sanctify my heart through the sacrifices required of me. In my pursuit of holiness in the calling of motherhood, I have found a couple of books I particularly refreshing.
Calm My Anxious Heart. Linda Dillow addresses the issue of contentment in all circumstances and its relation to anxiety. She challenges our hearts to rest in God’s sovereignty in all things and not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with “what ifs” and “if onlys.” As post-partum fear and anxiety was a huge struggle for me after my last birth, I am clinging to the truths of Scripture and words of wisdom found in this book.
In The Mission of Motherhood, Sally Clarkson outlines the importance of the calling of motherhood with Scriptural encouragement to not grow weary of doing good, even when we do not see the result of our labors some days! A great resource to remind us of the eternal value of our roles as mothers.
Comforts from the Cross. Elyse Fitzpatrick has a profound gift for weaving the truth of the gospel into the circumstances of everyday life. With short, almost devotional-length chapters, she addresses multiple issues that we each face daily and confronts them with the gospel. A delightful, easy read full of long-lasting, heart penetrating truths.
Finally, as you do all you can to prepare your body, mind, and spirit for childbirth and motherhood, come before the Lord with hands open in surrender to His will in all of it. Preparation is important and it is a wise task, but it can cause us to claim too much ownership in an area we are meant to continually surrender to God’s providence. We can be tempted to insist that, because we have “done our part,” God owes us a labor, delivery, and baby just the way we prepared for. But I am reminded of Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” However labor, delivery, and recovery progress, God is good in the midst of it all.
Ask the Lord to enable you to let go of your desire for control in the area of both childbirth and motherhood. Entrust the process of birth and the life of your little one into his care, knowing that He knows what is best for us so much more than we do!
Further Childbirth Reading:
Embracing the Pain and Letting Go of Fear in Childbirth
Scriptural Encouragement for Preparing and Giving Birth
Preparatory Resources for a Natural Pregnancy and Childbirth