Getting Your Head In The Game For A COVID-19 Birth [mindset shifts to walk you through]
Updated: Apr 25, 2020
You, beautiful mama, are navigating some pretty uncharted territory by approaching birth in these times.
And just to be clear, mindset shifts and deep focusing are always a big part of active birth preparation.
But I look to the size of the swell in the ocean that you are navigating. At the big change and flux in our world. And it seems clear to me that the work of cultivating a healthy mindset for birth has never been to be more potent than Right Now.
Consciously choosing your mindset and speaking to your capabilities are simple ways to create a positive impact. An impact that can reach well into your postpartum.
So today, let's talk about affirmations / mantras to prepare for birth.
The labouring woman is "going to need some other kind of motivation to sustain her in the challenging moments of the labour... in the reality of the birth experience, all those motivations to do with the future may start to feel a lot less important!" Rhea Dempsey, Birth With Confidence.
When Rhea said something similar at a workshop I attended many years ago I immediately experienced the felt sense that what she was saying was true. True at least for me. It registered in the way we just sometimes know particular things to be right and real and true and important.
Almost ten years later I experienced of my first birth. Her words more true than ever.
I was breathing. Holding the present-moment intensity. And any single thought of any moments in the future brought an intense escalation in pain*.
(*I use the word pain about my experience, because that is indeed what I felt it as. And because I believe we are capable of meeting intensities and experiences far larger than we could ever imagine.)
It just wasn't possible to look ahead in any way, and tolerate the sensations that were running through my body.
I recommitted to solidly rooting down into the depth of each present moment. Not One Second Ahead. Fiercely present. And it was a Game Changer.
I feel fortunate to have known back then that the need for intense focus in the now might be pivotal. To have known that motivating myself with thoughts of my baby coming - or any of the moments that would follow wouldn't be enough.
Looking back to that first big long labour, I needed a mindset that stood me in the middle of the storm of my pain and reaffirmed that I was okay to open into that completely new space.
Preparing for my first birth
In preparation for birth I collected words and language that would hold me In The Moment. No future thinking.
And, also really importantly to me, without feeling Too Perfect.
I wanted to honour the real. The honest. The true. Whatever that may turn out to be.
To make room for the glorious possibilities without being fixed to any particular outcome.
I knew I didn't want to define or describe the precise moment of birth as unfolding any particular way. That just felt like pressure to me.
And I defiantly didn't want to continue the way I had experienced the first thirty years of my life - worshipping at the unforgiving and completely brutal alter of perfection.
So, I looked for language to hold my vision of honouring the work. To honour the depth and intensity of what I was preparing to step up to. Words that acknowledged the battle, rather than making it fluffy somehow.
As well as embracing the imperfect path and the real work I also wanted to bathe myself in language that mirrored my power and strength and deep courage.
My strength to create space for new life to be born. My courage to keep going. My ability to meet big change and work in entirely new dimensions. To stretch and fill my greatest capacity.
These were all the things I didn't necessarily know about myself - but I could lean into their glorious possibility.
A quick why / which / how of affirmations:
Why use affirmations in birth preparation
I am no affirmation specialist, that's for sure, but this is how it feels to me: Affirmations put words and language around something you are looking to embody. They provide an anchor. A way to access a little deeper. To come home.
When done right, they feel like magical little sentences capable of encouraging incredible mindset shifts that set you up for success.
You can use them to:
- connect into the spirit/feeling of something
- settle our attention on something
- reach out to the possibility of something
And if we practice using them in a calm state during pregnancy, then reintroducing them when we're feeling panicked in early labour it can really help to recreate that calm. So that when we arrive into those big early moments of labour, we arrive deeply, and feeling fully supported.
The reason that I found so many of the affirmations or mantras that have been designed for birth jarring is that they didn't offer me these things. They didn't anchor me. Guide me. They often made me feel a bit panicked in a subtle way - like they might be setting me up for unrealistic expectations, or be missing the point all together.
They felt a little too joyous to feel real to me. I knew the way I ran up a hill. The way I played on the netball court. And something told me that based on those life experiences, I would not be breathing and smiling my babe onto this Earth. (I was spot on the money too - I didn't gently breathe either of them out. And it felt like something that was so much more primal and completely glorious.)
My point: We are all wired differently. Many women do love the more common birth affirmations. Find what feels good for you.
Which themes to focus on
There is no One Right Answer. I think the best person for this particular job is you! Explore your beautifully rich internal landscape to uncover what feels important to you.
I've spoken about some of the important things for me above - do these stories springboard you anywhere?
What makes you most interested and invested in the work?
What fills you with honour and pride and determination?
If you float around these types of questions, you'll get a fairly good idea.
Here are some other prompts that might help:
What mindset are you really looking to embody?
What do you need to know about yourself?
What do you need to remind yourself?
What will anchor you?
What do you want to move towards?
What sits right in your heart? What Feels useful?
What truths might you lean on?
Once you know the themes that feel most important to you, you can create some words of affirmation around those themes. And hey, they don't have to be perfect to do the job!
How to use affirmations
Once you've got some affirmations that feel right and useful for you - spend a little time with them each day of your pregnancy.
Breathe into them. Visualise them. Let them move and settle into your body in the weeks leading up to your birth.
As the days and weeks go on, particularly once you're past your Estimated Due Date, these words will just continue and continue to recenter you. To keep your eye on the prize. To loosen your grip on the small stuff. This proves very helpful.
You can make it easier to remember to sit with them if you tie this act of affirming and creating in with another relaxing daily task.
After a meditation, while you're in the shower, as you're rubbing oil on your belly, when you first lay in bed at night.
Establish a tie between a relaxed and calm environment, and your body hearing these words.
They will begin to create a ripple of calm in your memory, so that as you continue to speak / feel into these words, you will continue to step towards what you're after.
This way, once you're in labour they can become a conduit - allowing to access the deep calm in a new circumstance.
So what themes might be useful to build some beautiful statements around?
Here's my top three themes & some quotes to match for women who are pregnant right now.
As always, use what feels right, leave the rest.
1. Adaptability / Flow / Agility
'I have no fear of changes.'
This is a Jackson Pollock quote. The artists who threw pots of paint around on giant canvases. It's so incredible to watch footage of this - it lays bare so clearly the relationship we have with change. This idea of flowing with change is potent, and radical.
And the thing is, labour is always changing.
It is such dynamic terrain.
And I believe it helps to Honour the Change that exists in this terrain.
In labour: just as you integrate one level of sensations, things change. The intensity ramps up. The actual body feel of the sensation changes. The location shifts. Techniques that were working suddenly aren't. Different mental and emotional components bubble up and come into play.
This change is a beautiful sign. A sign that things are going Oh So Right.
By its very nature a beautifully progressing labour is continually evolving. We, as the birthing women, need to find a way to lean into that sense of constant change and evolution. To know that change is normal and absolutely a great sign.
Change is nothing to fear. Indeed, in the labour playing field, change is a sign of divine progress.
2. Courage / Capacity / Possibility
'Courage is always a stretch.'
When I saw this quote on instagram from @ofkin by Kylie Lewis and I could have jumped up in the air and said YES.
Courage IS always a stretch, and it never feels completely comfortable.
We are extending a little out past where we thought we ended, and that can be pretty scary. Enter Courage.
In the lead up to birth, and in between every single contraction, Courage feels like the necessary reminder that our actual ability is often far greater than our anticipated or perceived ability.
Courage is what we need when the maternity hospitals COVID-19 policies change.
Courage is what we need when we go past our 'due date'.
Courage to stay with the things we don't know and can't control.
Courage is what we need when we feel those first little fluttery niggles.
And courage is what we need for the first hour of proper contractions - when it can very quickly feel like this is all a very bad idea!
It is Courage that allows you to ascend to those bigger places as labour builds.
We have courage. We just have to stretch for it. Even when we feel wobbly. Even when it doesn't come naturally. The courage to take on the big task Is There.
Perhaps the most vital component to keep us steady-ish is indeed Courage.
And what a beautiful way to honour a birth preparation and labour process. To feel into the possibility of our deepest, biggest Courage.
And also, what a message to take into early motherhood - ah yes please world yes please!
3. Connection / Community / The Collective
'A linage of women remember me. Take me by the hand, and guide me.'
I can't attribute this quote to anyone. I'm actually pretty sure I scribbled it down after a dream I had in my first pregnancy.
During that pregnancy I felt the enormity of the task ahead, and really wanted to call on Women. Linages rich in birthing potency.
So that in labour, when it all felt too much for me to carry, I could allow the women through the history of time to stand and hold space for me. And this became the affirmation that set up that first birth so beautifully.
This idea of linage and history taps us into something bigger than ourselves. It reminds us of the possibility and normalcy of the process.
Also, that this is not Our Pain. We do not hold it alone. It is not reflective of something bad that is happening solely to us. This is a rite of passage and something we are capable of holding space for.
There is a knowing, somewhere in us, from our entire history, about how to walk this path.
Women have always done this work. Overcome this. Walked through this. It is possible.
Letting their reality become our possibility feels like gold.
Once you're deep in labour-land
Affirmations are great for birth preparation and early labour because this is when our brain is still completely switched on. They can help to centre our gaze on the work and calm us - bringing us inward.
Once deep in labour it's unlikely that you will need affirmations to hold you. This time is generally utilises other tools in the toolbox.
As you enter the depths of labour, your thinking brain slides onto the floor.
You will find your more primal self doesn't need these prompts. She already is all the things you could wish for and more.
Across both my labours the only affirmation I have used in properly established, active labour was during my first birth, when I used my out breath to exhale with the sound 'i'.
I couldn't talk, but in my head, after every 'i' exhalation, I would mentally add '...can do this.'
When labour gets real, keep the messages simple! Otherwise they could be more of a distraction, rather than an anchor.
Here's my short, sweet, take home message:
You don't have to be in your mind alone.
Let things like Adaptability, Courage and Connection walk with you.
Find words and language that hold space for you. Tuck them into your heart and take them into your birth space. Bring them into motherhood too.
You might just find it makes the world of difference.