By: Latham Thomas, founder of Mama Glow, author of Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy
I remember the birth of my son like it was yesterday. Having the support of my midwife Stacy Rees and my boyfriend who both were keen on how to keep me comfortable, relaxed and in the zone was key! If you are pregnant or want to support someone in your life who is, please take these 7 tips to a blissful birth journey and add them to your arsenal. I was blessed to study under the tutelage of Debra Pascali Bonaro and as a birth worker Debra infuses love in to everything she does, she taught me that our goal is to really preserve the experience for the mother-to-be. Remember to practice what you preach and that will make you even more effective in assisting the mother-to-be.
Ways to Support the pregnant goddess:
1. Holding sacred space– a woman must feel safe in order to give birth, if the conditions are such that she is anxious or afraid, the progression of labor will slow down. This is often the case in hospital settings where the medical providers do not allow time, space, and ritual journey in birth to take place. If you are hooked up to monitors and getting poked and prodded under florescent light in a cool and sterile room, it’s not likely you would feel safe. Create a setting whether you are birthing at home, in the birth center, or in a hospital where the mother can relax and feel safe and carry out her birth ritual.
Ways to create sacred space include: lighting candles, burning incense, playing soothing slow music, run a warm bath, chanting, kissing your partner, putting a sign on the door- knock before entering.
2. Encourage Sound– we spend so much of our lives focused on being quiet, in school, in church and places of workship, at work, in transit. We are constantly being told to shut up. When are we ever given permission to make noise- during sex and birth. It is every important for a pregnant woman to make sounds to connect with what is happening in her pelvic bowl. Sound amplifies sensation and really helps during labor. The hardwiring for our mouth and throat is directly connected to our pelvic floor and sacred passageway (birth canal). When you open and relax the muscles in the mouth and throat and make low and deep bellowing sounds, you also relax the muscles of the pelvic floor and make birth easier for both mom and baby. Conversely, if mommy tightens her jaws, scrunches up her face and closes her throat, the pelvic floor muscles will follow. Sound is a gift so use it.
Ways to incorporate sound include: taking deep breaths and sighing long on the exhale, deep Ahhh sounds, Oohhh sounds, the birth sound- Om can be chanted as well.
3. Practice Deep Breathing– your breath is an amazing bridge between the conscious and unconscious because the respiratory system is both voluntary and involuntary. You don’t have to remind yourself to breathe, it just happens. But when we are mindful of our breathing we can tap into an energy in the unconscious realm. What ever state you are in, your breath will follow. If you are anxious your breath will be quick and shallow, if you are calm and relaxed your breath will be long deep. You can also breathe to encourage different states. If you want the breath to take you to a relaxed state you can start breathing long deep full breaths and it will send signals to the brain to calming you down. This is so helpful for birthing women because the deep breath along with the sound enhances the trance state during labor. Women can not journey into their labor in a Beta brain wave state, or regular consciousness. They must enter an altered state of consciousness for the cascade of hormones to descend and the primal state to turn on.
Ways to incorporate deep breathing include- bringing soothing familiar scents into the room and taking long slow deep full inhales through the nose and exhaling through the mouth (as it releases some of the internal heat energy)
4. Get Moving– Staying in a static position is a sure way to slow down the labor process. Moving around during labor is normal and it’s primal. Its part of how we manage the intense surges of energy in the body. Finding ways to move the body to promote comfort and and opening is key during labor. All of those prenatal yoga hip opening exercises, spinal flexions, rolls. Movement not only encourages the baby to move down it feels good for mommy too. Walking and hip swaying are especially helpful as women create more wiggle room in their pelvis and squatting increases the pelvic opening by 30%, which doesn’t sound like a lot but when you are pushing out a baby, it’s tremendous.
Helpful ways to get moving include: slow dancing, belly dancing, walking, hip rolls, cat/cow, squatting, showering
5. Practice Visualization Exercises– Visualization exercises are a part of every major spiritual practice as a tool to support entry into an altered state. I mentioned that women can not give birth in a normal state of consciousness- when thinking about their dry cleaning, their phone bill, or whether or not they look fat, etc. This sort of jumpy linear thinking is our brain operating on beta waves and when we are in that state we are not producing the cocktail of hormones that we need to progress in labor. The mundane has to be transcended for a mother to begin the ancestral ritual journey that takes her into her birth trance. This also includes fear. Fearful thoughts will shut labor down, so powerful visualizations are key. The shift from Beta waves to Alpha waves where the mother enters an altered state is much like when we enter into meditation, or a good daydream, that’s the place where labor begins and from there the brain waves can lead to deeper altered states. Why this is important to know is because there is so much distraction around women these days no matter where they are birthing. Having a set of tools to transcend the mundane and the fear will help labor progress naturally.
Tools for visualization exercises- practice envisioning the baby moving down the birth canal at each contraction, find a few symbols that can help anchor you into the space ie, lotus blossoms, the ocean, candle light
6. Offer TLC through Touch– Touch transmits feeling and intention. If you can place loving hands on a woman and also know when to not touch her it is a huge asset. At certain stages of labor touch is very helpful. Caressing while sharing calming and affirmative words of support are very helpful at certain stages of labor. Be observant and see what the moment calls for: foot rub, massage of her sacrum, caressing the forehead, etc. Our emotional energy field will transmit what we are experiencing onto others. Pregnant women are so sensitive in labor and can pick up on any frenetic, or ungrounded energy around them. Make sure to calm yourself and be prepared to learn and serve.
7. Practice Affirmations– Courage is feeling the fear and rising to the occasion anyway. When we encourage with loving words we help others move beyond fear, inspire them to keep the faith, and keep on moving. Affirmations are positive phrases. Speak in this love language of encouragement to help support the mommy-to-be. Trust me, it really helps.
Latham Thomas is a maternity lifestyle maven, wellness & birth coach, and yoga teacher on the vanguard of transforming the maternal & women’s wellness movement. A graduate of Columbia University & The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Latham is the founder of Mama Glow a holistic lifestyle hub for women to explore their creative edge through wellbeing. Her practice provides support to pre/postnatal women along their journey to motherhood offering culinary and nutritional services, yoga, and birth coaching services. She lives in New York City with her son Fulano and their turtle Climby. Latham’s first book was just published in November- “Mama Glow: A Hip Guide to Your Fabulous Abundant Pregnancy”, foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D., with Hay House. Latham is helping to green the planet one belly at a time.
Link to: www.mamaglow.com