What’s the best way to prepare for giving birth? Especially if you’ve never done it before?
Some would take the more external approach, pointing in the direction of childbirth education classes, specific books or in taking a hospital tour. But when you have not experienced birth (and even if you have), the best way to prepare is very inward.
The most obvious “inward” way to prepare your body is to get it ready by practicing optimal nutrition during pregnancy. Everything that goes into your body has the potential to help or harm your baby, and like an athlete preparing for a race, what you put into your body does affect how it will behave during labor.
Over the course of several months, the best way to prepare your body for birth is to eat a balanced, whole foods diet with plenty of protein, calories, salt and water. Even with the best diets, supplements can play a part, especially a high quality prenatal vitamin made from real food, as well as an essential fatty acid supplement, a probiotic and whatever else supports your body in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. “You are what you eat” rings especially true during pregnancy and birth.
There is no right way to prepare your mind and soul for childbirth, and there are probably a million ways to do it depending on where you are coming from and what your beliefs are. In any case, it is something that must be done. In your own way, you must come to peace with the fact that birth is largely an unknown, and that for it to be most “successful” you usually have to get out of your own way. It is not purely physical or purely spiritual or purely emotional- birth is the most incredible combination of all three of those things, plus other facets of your being that defy description.
Most women that choose natural childbirth know to some extent that they must surrender during the birth process. I have not found a way to necessarily practice surrendering, except for visualizing how things are going to progress and believing strongly that the body knows just what to do. For me, the surrender comes from my beliefs. Trusting in my body to give birth, and in my baby to be born allows me the freedom to surrender.
Many women subconsciously prepare for birth, maybe without knowing it. Those last few weeks of pregnancy bring reflection about how life will change, excitement about the pregnancy being over, sadness about the pregnancy being over, and a variety of emotions all around and in between. It is during this time that the mind prepares, tries to wrap itself around the enormous event that is right around the corner. It is not uncommon at this time (and at any time during pregnancy, really) to have the craziest, most unbelievable dreams. There are so many ways in which the subconscious prepares for labor and birth.
And lastly, the physical body prepares itself for labor and birth, without any necessary intervention at all. The uterus practices contracting, and the cervix gets soft and mushy so that it can get out of the way for the baby. The breasts start making colostrum in anticipation and preparation for nursing. With the flurry of activity in “getting ready” for birth, it is comforting to know that the body needs no instructions or prompting to prepare. The internal process will take place regardless, preparing for the unknown of labor and birth.