Is it just me or are there a lot of babies about to come to the world? I have six friends who are counting down the days till their babies are born and everywhere I look there seem to be pregnant ladies.
All those lovely rounded bellies and the glowing faces of the mothers carrying them make me miss being pregnant, even though my second pregnancy wasn’t a walk in the park. It might sound strange, but what I miss the most is the actual giving birth, with all it entails. I miss the excitement, the impatience, the sense of anticipation and even the pain leading to the most incredible experience I’ve ever had.
A couple of my pregnant friends will be going through this ordeal for the first time and they have both expressed how nervous and scared they are of what lies ahead. They fear the pain, which is understandable, but their greatest fear seems to be that of going through a totally new and, frankly, terrifying experience. You can read hundreds of books and articles, watch documentaries and films, attend classes in the hopes of getting a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for it but the truth is that only going through it will teach you how to deal with it. You’ll probably be thinking “A fat lot of good that is!”, but let me explain.
With my first child, I wasn’t the picture of calm. I literally couldn’t wait to have my baby, both because I had been in constant pain for three days and nights but mostly because I had to meet the person I knew would become my whole world. I wanted to start the rest of my life with her, let her know she was safe with me and that nobody would ever come between us. At the time, I was a little paranoid about her birth father wanting to take her away from me (a totally irrational fear), so the control freak in me just wanted her to be with me as soon as possible. Add to that the fact that this was my first pregnancy and labour and that I was scared witless that my body couldn’t possibly deliver such a big baby (another irrational fear) and I was bouncing off the hospital bed with nerves.
As you can imagine, my emotional state of mind didn’t help matters. I forgot to use the breathing techniques they had taught us during the antenatal classes, I sucked the life out of the air and gas that I willingly accepted as pain control and I panicked while I was pushing, saying my last prayers out loud because I was sure I was about to die. I obviously survived her birth and was already wishing for a repeat performance three days later!
Before I scare any pregnant women reading this, what I just wrote is a list of mistakes I learned not to repeat. My second baby’s birth was a completely different story. To start with, I made sure to prepare my body while I was still pregnant. The most important thing I did was to practise yoga from the second trimester onwards (I was too sick to move off the sofa during the first three months). Not only was my body more flexible and ready for delivery but, most importantly, I was mentally and emotionally prepared for labour.
There is good reason why expectant mothers are taught breathing techniques. If you have ever practised yoga, you’ll know that breathing is the most important thing. While giving birth, it is vital in controlling the pain and calming the body, allowing the mother to focus on the baby and helping it along. What also helped me enormously was visualising baby R leaving my body. It wasn’t easy to start with, but I managed to embrace the pain and use it to help her into the light. And before you think I’m so zen that I did it all with a smile on my face, I didn’t. I used gas and air again and squeezed my husband’s hand till it turned purple. He has also got quite the collection of videos of my cussing when the pain got out of hand!
So, to cut a long post short, my advice to all first time mums would be to really enjoy the moment, however uncomfortable and painful it might be. Prepare yourselves physically and mentally beforehand (I cannot recommend yoga enough) and remember that one day you’ll miss those life-changing moments. Oh, and a dose of painkiller always helps!
Originally published on Sunday Circle Online, 2012.