The 1 big birthing tip for first time birthing mamas (and maybe second, third and beyond).
AND YOU ALREADY POSSESS IT!
A few months ago I awoke on the first day of Mama Camp 2016 in Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula.
Red Hill is a stunning piece of the world and the weekend weaved magic in ways I wasn’t intending. It was intended to be a welcome and well earned opportunity for rest and rejuvenation (away from the Hypnobubs), experiencing being out of my comfort zone and spending lots of time doing yoga, meditation and being out with nature.
You should try it one day – it’s invaluable !
Not surprisingly, considering I do spend a lot of time thinking and talking about birth and I was in fact 27 weeks pregnant, that the big REALISATION of the weekend was related to labour and birth.
So here it is… my BIG penny drop – another potential game changer for your birth.
I had already that morning been swept by a Miner bird protecting it’s young (yes – ironic), finished my breakfast complete with soul soothing coffee and headed off to the Yoga tent with Yoga mat in hand. This is where my magic began with a realization that has rippled into my deepest core and which has been impacting my mind about the birthing experience long after this beautiful weekend had concluded.
Gael Pettifer, from Liberty Yoga guided us through a gentle set of poses, specifically instructing us to connect with the breath and to the sensations of conscious respiration. The coolness of the inhalation on our nostrils, the ever so subtle warmth on the exhalation. The breath flowing internally and what we felt inside our body, as we visualised the breath going to the front of our spines, the deepest part of our core.
In Yoga, this is called Pranayama breathing and is often coupled with asana or poses. Interestingly, part of the word prana means life-force or energy. If anyone wants to read further on the science of breathing go here.
So our practise continued. Gael talked about the sensations of the poses and how the body felt pressed against the ground and energy that was felt through the body. For myself, the feeling was one of unfamiliarity again. I have over the last 15 years come in and out of yoga and every time I do, I feel I should be doing yoga more often. It feels so good but when you haven’t done it for a while, the feelings can be quite intense.
Gael spoke of this too. The body recognizes the sensation of a pose feeling different or unfamiliar. She explained how our mind takes a moment to recognize the unfamiliarity, pauses and then our internal chatter begins…Am I ok? Is this right? This feels a bit uncomfortable and the chatter goes on. Once the chatter begins, we were instructed gently to bring it back to the breath.
So, we brought it back to the breath. This time slower than the last …conscious respiration.
We concentrated again on the breath going in and out our bodies, on our own rhythms and sensations as we breathe. Then Gael made comment on what happens next, after we connect with the breath again. The body experiences a release, we can let go, go deeper and then we bring it back to the breath again.
That’s when my mind connected to birth with a clarity of thought. Ironic , I know, considering I was meant to be in the moment but for the benefit of you fine folk and your impending births, this is how my mind wandered.
Laying on my yoga mat, I felt like I had found a crucial piece to my own birthing puzzle. I was simultaneously on the mat and at my first birth experience remembering the moment birth went to a new level. I looked in the mirror, braced my body against the next surge, panicked, told myself if this got worst over the next 12 hours I couldn’t do it, self doubted and lost my breath. My body responded accordingly with fatigued, cortisol, fear and much discomfort.
With a little bit of gas & air, a rest on my side and reassured by my partner and midwife’s presence, I regained my rhythm. I had my son within two hours of that glance in the mirror. If only I had closed my eyes and concentrated on that breath BUT birth isn’t about retrospection and should haves so that’s all I’ll say about my experience. It was what it was and meant to be. I learnt and I moved on.
We always have our breath to support us, not only in the unfamiliarity of a yoga pose but also during those unfamiliar, new and intense sensations of labour and birth. Birth progresses and it does intensify. Particularly in a first time birthing woman (but maybe for the second, third and beyond birthers too).
Labour and birth are unfamiliar, new experiences to the body and with these new experiences, we have conditioned responses and internal habits of mind, that can enhance or sabotage our ability to relax, release and let go into the part of our being that allows instinctive birth to occur.
The breath through the nose calms the mind, activates our visceral parasympathetic nervous system, expands our lungs, decreases carbon dioxide, increases oxygen to our brain and body, decreases cortisol and adrenalin, all which are helpful for positive birthing. Recent research has also suggested that breathing rhythm affects neural activity for memory and processing of fearful or safe situations. In the article the focus was particularly on the controlled inhalation breath.
Ina May Gaskin is quoted as saying [on the sensations of a surge, wave or contraction], “Don’t think of it as pain, think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all of your attention” and may I add, to bring it back to the conscious breath.
Bring it back to the breath. Slow the breath, find your rhythm, release and let go.
And so with these 6 words, I implore you, in your labour and birth, to do just that.
When the unfamiliar feelings of labour start to penetrate your mind, if that negative chatter starts permeating your being, just bring it back to your breath and see what this does to your birthing experience.
Hypnobirthing Australia classes, teach breathing explicitly as one of the techniques to assist you in working with your labour for a calm and satisfying birth. It is taught alongside a range of relaxation tools and mindset techniques: deep relaxation, massage, affirmation, visualization and self hypnosis that can assist in shutting down negative chatter and conversely anchor triggers to calm the mind, relax the body and work with our labours. It also teaches techniques to release and let go of fear and anxiety so we concentrate wholly on thinking that will enhance a positive, calm and strong birth.
However, Hypnobirthing Australia training or not, we always have our breath to assist us in releasing, letting go and connecting to the part of the brain that is hardwired for birth – our reptilian brain.
And when this occurs birth ironically happens in the same part of the brain that controls breath and so I conclude with my one big tip – when it gets unfamiliar and intense, bring it back to the breath! It’s all ok and this is birth – it has potential for being pretty fabulous!
I would love to hear your own birthing thoughts and experiences on the phenomena of the human breath in birth.
Cindy Fenn is the face behind Big Hearted Birth.
Big Hearted Birth teaches Hypnobirthing Australia™ Courses in Melbourne, Australia.
Cindy is a Hypnobirthing Australia Practitioner, mother to three vibrant young boys, inspired by the possibility of birth to make us a little stronger, a little wiser and have new parts to our identity uncovered, that they never even knew existed!!!! It all starts with birth …
“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” ―
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Image : The amazing Angela Gallo ~ angelagallo.com