Learning how to really relax: birth preparation

I always thought I was great at relaxing. I’m super lazy, always keen to sit down and watch tv or read or play on my phone. Since becoming pregnant again, I have been thinking about how important relaxation is, particularly during labour. It’s about more than just sitting around doing nothing; it’s a conscious practice that could mean the difference between a purely physiological labour and a need for intervention.

When I was pregnant with the Dude, I had grand plans for doing yoga classes. I thought fairly superficially about it, with an aim to keep flexibility in my body and stretch out sore muscles. I never actually did a prenatal yoga class. For some reason I thought I could just manage by reading a whole bunch of, albeit great, books about natural birth and avoiding intervention. It wasn’t actually birth preparation at all, it was more just education on birth, physiology, biology and history. The only real birth preparation book I read was Birthing From Within by Pam England. I hated it. It was all about finding strategies to work through fears or worries leading up to birth, and ways of shedding baggage brought on by trauma experienced in previous births. I didn’t identify with any of it, and found the strategies around ‘birth art’ and the like to be a bit ridiculous; definitely not suitable for me. I felt like I had no fears at all. I wasn’t afraid of the pain, of tearing, of not being able to give birth. I guess I was afraid of ending up in hospital, although I felt the chances of that were so remote that it wasn’t much of a fear.

So I did no real birth prep. I knew about Hypnobirthing but I didn’t do it. I thought I could switch my brain off. Years ago I used to have problems falling asleep, calming and slowing my mind so as to be able to go to sleep, but over the years I developed ways of telling my self to relax and switch off and falling asleep wasn’t such an issue any more. This is what I thought I’d do during labour. How incredibly wrong I was! Not only could I not calm myself, it wasn’t my racing brain that got in the way, I was completely unable to relax and accept the contractions. I hated them. Of course it didn’t help that for most of my labour I had terrible pain around my waist in between the contractions so I had no opportunity to relax when a contraction subsided. To put it bluntly, it hurt like fuck! And when those pains subsided as the Dude most likely made his way right down into the birth canal? They were replaced with pain in my groin, in my uterus itself. It was like a muscle cramp. The uterus fatiguing, needing a break, after contracting every six to three minutes for 38 hours. The ‘ring of fire’ that so many women talk about was not apparent to me. In fact the crowning was the most comfortable, easy part of the entire labour for me. There was a bit of stinging at the front but not even the tiniest twinge in the perineal area.

Anyway, this time around I promised myself I would take a different approach. As I debriefed from the Dude’s birth, I began to create a small ‘to do next time’ list in my head:

  • hypnobirthing
  • birth ball
  • yoga
  • re-read Birthing From Within

At 22 weeks, the only one of those things I’ve addressed is the yoga. About seven weeks ago I began doing  a class at Kundalini House, run by a lovely and knowledgeable doula and apparent Melbourne birth aficionado, Nina Isabella. I’ve never been too fussed about doulas, to be honest. I think they do a fantastic job, don’t get me wrong, but hiring one is not something I’ve ever considered beneficial to me. I am not great at relying on anyone, let alone someone I’ve hired. During labour with the Dude, I don’t think anyone gave me a moment’s massage or anything like that. I don’t really even like massages. Or at least I didn’t. I pretty much held on to Mr Chewbacca’s arm and endured the contractions. I’m sure people wiped my forehead and gave me rescue remedy or whatever but that was about it in terms of actual support. And it’s how I wanted it, what suited me at the time.

This pregnancy is a whole different ball game, and now I know I’m having a girl, that goes some way to explaining why I feel so different. I am more aware of my weaknesses this time around and I’m determined to put some strategies in place to address them and get through labour in a more relaxed, evenly-paced way.

I didn’t really know what to expect, going to my first yoga class. Is it just going to be modified yoga or is it more meditation or what? I realised I didn’t even really know what I wanted. Within the first 15 minutes, I found myself crying. I don’t know how well I hid it, perhaps Nina noticed, and perhaps she sees that all the time. But the tears came, the emotion just welled up. I think it was due to not having taken any time out for myself since the Dude’s arrival, not real time. It was this massive release. I spent most of the class dealing with emotion welling up. It was a good class, great movements, nothing strenuous or wrong-feeling, and lots of relaxation. The second class, I cried again, but not so much. It wasn’t until the third class, when I didn’t cry, that I realised I couldn’t really relax. I went again and again to the classes each week, I felt really up and down. Some movements I really got into and some just felt confronting or wrong. I couldn’t grasp the acupressure points the teacher explained to us, couldn’t feel them at all, still can’t, and this was really frustrating. As I ended my sixth class, I suddenly realised I’d properly relaxed for the first time. It was a great feeling! I lay there for the final meditation hearing no sound but the instructor’s voice very faintly in the background. None of the trams thundering past outside, the clip clopping of heels on the floor below, the phone ringing in the background, even registered. And I wasn’t asleep. I was just totally relaxed for the first time, well, ever, I think. What a breakthrough!

My seventh class was not what I was used to due to a last minute change to the instructor, but attending my eighth class this week I found myself slipping back into that state of relaxation almost straight away. I had learnt something! There are still many aspects of the movements that feel frustrating to me, and times when I can’t relax my body and it seems like I should be able to from what the instructor describes, but I think that breakthrough, feeling true relaxation, was profound and a good reason to keep going.

This little girl growing inside me is already leading me places I could never find before. I am shifting mentally in ways I could only wish for previously. Beyond the birth prep, there are two significant and crucial blocks I have been needing to overcome for most of my life and for the first time ever I am poised to actually take action and change. I hate saying I will change because on every other occasion in my life when I’ve said this, I haven’t. But I won’t give up. My baby needs me to be the best I can be, as does the rest of my family. And myself.

Resolutions for 2013

So I was slack and didn’t post when I said I would. Okay, but before you roll your eyes, posting when I say I will is not one of my New Year’s resolutions. So there.

Anyway, I am here to talk about resolutions. I think I’ve made resolutions at New Year since I first learnt to write. It’s my kind of thing, making a list of outlandish promises; it works for me because I get to feel really disappointed when I, yet again, don’t actually achieve anything on my list. In fact I usually can’t remember what was on it.  But most years it looks something like this:

1. Lose weight

2. Stop eating so much shit

3. Do more exercise

4. Read more

5. Write more

6. Do yoga

7. Start my Masters

8. Move to [insert fantasy utopia here]

Some years I’m more specific, making my resolutions even harder to achieve. E.g. ‘Lose 30kg” or “Never eat icecream again” or “Do an hour of yoga every morning at 5am”.  Yeah. Not going to happen.  Now I have a child, those kinds of promises never have even the most remote chance of being kept.

So this year, I’m being a little more realistic. That’s not to say I’ve never been realistic, but if you ask anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you that my idea of realistic is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.  Who IS actually real, I saw her when I was six, believe me!

2013 Resolutions

1. Stop drinking so much caffeine. Now I’ve got my own espresso machine (and it’s a good one, Mr C doesn’t do things by halves, he researched the shit out of that mofo before buying), I just keep indulging. In fact, that’s not even it, the only difference is that I’m not buying coffee any more but I’m still having a few a day. And you know what’s worse? Now I can’t rationalise paying for coffee, I end up convincing myself it’s okay to buy one of those frappachiller frozen creamy caffeine-laced equivalent of eight meals drinks! Enough is enough!

2. Learn meditation and more yoga and actually do some a few times a week.  Yeah, okay, might be a little unrealistic, given the Dude rarely sleeps more than an hour or two most days, if that, but I did manage to do 30 minutes today (Intro to Kundalini, awesome!)

3. Stop letting the Dude watch tv so often. It’s seriously insane, he gets up in the morning and immediately asks for ‘bee bees’, his was of saying CeeBeeBees, which is the BBC’s kids channel. Some of the shows are okay, some are annoying, but regardless, he’s not even two years old, he shouldn’t be watching TV! And I think given I grew up with the TV located in a dedicated room (not the living room), plus with my Steiner upbringing and my previous stance of children’s TV watching, I should know better.  Which brings me to my fourth resolution.

4. Stop being so freaking lazy! Now this one really is unrealistic, because I believe it’s part of my true nature to be lazy, it’s like a genetic condition or something. But seriously, I know change is possible, especially given how much I’ve managed to change since the Dude has arrived, so I’m going to make a conscious effort to be less lazy. That doesn’t mean (for Mr C’s benefit) that I’m going to be keen to clean the entire house at 7am on a Saturday before I’ve had a coffee and breakfast. But it means I’ll be a little more motivated and organised on a domestic front. And I’ll endeavour not to lie around in bed in the morning and let the Dude run riot while I check facebook. And I’m deleting The Sims Freeplay from my phone. I mean seriously, that game is cool given it’s free but anyone with any kind of life should not be playing it.

5. Writing. Write at least a few chapters of my book, for Christ’s sake! I am so sick of having ideas thumping around in my head and then not writing them down. It’s not like I get much time to write these days, but all that time spent procrastinating instead of doing housework could at least be spent writing.

And that’s it. Oh, and move to Melbourne. But that’s not a resolution, that’s just something that is going to happen this year. And then we’ll see what real change is about!