Pregnancy: Read, Watch, Do.
Childbirth is the most natural thing in the world yet somehow, instead of feeling empowered during their pregnancy, many women feel afraid. If you are scared of giving birth, or doubt your body’s capabilities in any way, then please please please reconnect with the goddess warrior inside you and utilise some of the books, documentaries and practices listed below. I’m not necessarily suggesting you have a home birth, because I truly believe that a woman will be safest wherever she feels the most safe and comfortable. But birth is one of the coolest things you will ever experience and it is your right as a woman to conquer it fearlessly. When I think about Louie’s birth I feel ecstatic. I often laugh. It was incredible. Our bodies are incredible.
My recommendations may seem overwhelming but you can take what parts appeal to you and ignore the parts that don’t. Think of birth like a marathon. Imagine running 40 kilometres without any prior physical and mental training. It would be awful, right?
Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Ina May is my effing hero. If you read only one book during your pregnancy, let it be one of hers, regardless of your chosen birthing method and especially if you’re scared. Filled with positive and empowering birth stories as well as factual information about the female body, Ina May’s books have revolutionised childbirth.
Birth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read
There is so much wisdom contained between these pages, however the book was published in 1942 which means that the writing style tends to make you drift a little. If you don’t get around to reading it then at least keep Grantly Dick-Read’s Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome in mind which in a nutshell, states that the more fear you have, the more tension you will carry in your muscles and therefore the more pain you will feel during labour. You will find more of his musings about childbearing scattered around this mama section of my blog.
Do Birth: A Gentle Guide to Labour and Childbirth by Caroline Flint
I picked this up in London when I was still on the fence about whether I wanted to give birth in my apartment or in a birthing home. It’s the kind of book you can read in one or two sittings and by the time I was finished I was 110% convinced that home birth was for me. Caroline removes the stigma surrounding birth and tells you exactly what to expect if you have a home birth, as well as how to care for yourself during the fourth trimester. Andy read it too and whilst he always trusted and supported my decision to have a home birth, it wasn’t until he read this book that he knew exactly what to expect and what he could do to help.
Women’s Bodies, Womens Wisdom by Christiane Northrup
This is a book that every woman should own. It is not one you will read from cover to cover but rather, one you will reference time and time again throughout your life. Christiane touches on everything from sexuality to disease, and does so from both a scientific and spiritual point of view. On pregnancy and birth she says “Pregnancy is a time to be savored and celebrated as you take part in gestating the future. It’s a miracle, really – and a crucial time in your own and your child’s development. During pregnancy you can be in touch with your hara – your body’s center of creation – in the most direct and powerful way”. She goes on to discuss the existence of HCG in our bodies for the first time since we were in our own mothers wombs and attributes that to the awakening of primal tribal memories.
Spinning Babies at spinningbabies.com
This is not a book, but a blog. On it you will find daily and weekly exercises to ensure that your body makes enough room for your baby to spin to a head-down position and tuck his chin, so that the narrowest part of his head comes out first. I didn’t do the exercises every day, but I did do them, sometimes incorporated into a bedroom floor prego-yoga routine and other times on their own. Not only did they help Louie to spin, but they helped with the uncomfortable “ok I’m ready to have this baby now” stage of pregnancy. On the blog they say “A year from now, I want you to be satisfied with the amount of preparation you did”, which was helpful encouragement when the couch was calling my name.
The Business of Being Born – an eye opening documentary about the birthing industry today and the unnecessary interventions that we deem as ‘normal’. A must watch for every pregnant woman.
Birth Story – about the aforementioned Ina May Gaskin and her community of midwifes and homebirthers that was formed in the 70s. I watched this before I was pregnant or even thinking about having a baby. I cried the whole way through and it made me pretty sure that when my time came, I would also be having a home birth.
Birth As We Know It – I watched this at the end of my pregnancy and wished I watched it sooner. It’s pretty next-level hippie stuff, but if (like me) you are into that then I highly recommend it. It’s all about birthing consciously and empowering oneself through natural childbirth.
Squat. When I found out I was pregnant, I started doing squats whilst brushing my teeth. Ina May Gaskin says if you can do 300 squats per day you’ll have an easy labour. I never made it to this many, but I did a lot of squats. Pop a little sign on your mirror if that helps you to remember and then once you’re in the habit, do them not only while brushing your teeth but also while washing your hands, drying your hair, waiting for the kettle to boil and so on.
Drink. Every time you feel like putting something in your mouth, drink a glass of water first. You’ll be surprised at how often that desire to eat was a misinterpreted cue from your body that you need to hydrate yourself.
Oil your belly. Make it a ritual, a way of bonding with the little life inside you after you shower in the morning and before you go to sleep at night. There are conflicting theories about stretchmarks because no one really knows what prevents them, but keeping your skin hydrated and elastic both from the outside (oil) and inside (adequate water intake) seems like a pretty good place to start.
Drink red raspberry leaf tea. Like placenta encapsulation, there is no cold hard proof that this actually works. But it is reported to shorten the second stage of labour and going by my labour and the labours of all of the other women I know who have drunk it, it works. You can start in your third trimester but I only drank it in my last 3 weeks.
Collect images during pregnancy that you find helpful or comforting. Ask friends to gift you empowering images if you have some kind of female ritual before birth. Make a wall and put these up and / or laminate them so you can have them at the hospital. The image I found most powerful, I saved as my screensaver on my phone, which meant I saw it every time I checked the time. It shows exactly what the body is doing during birth which for me, was a huge help.
If you’re craving sweets, eat more protein. If you’re craving sweets, you need more protein, something I wish I knew sooner because I had a seeerious sweet tooth during pregnancy. I ate a lot of protein in the form of peanut butter, beans, lentils, nuts and veggies, but I also ate a lot of vegan chocolate and cake. Make a Black Bean Brownie or Banana Peanut Butter smoothie and get your protein and sweet fix in one hit.
Hypnobirthing. I had severe insomnia during pregnancy because I could no longer rely on marijuana to help me get to sleep. Initially I felt like I was squeezing enough preparation into my already busy schedule and hypnobirthing felt like the one extra thing I simply did not have time for. Until I found the lazy girl’s guide to hypnobirthing – an app that you listen to as you are falling asleep. Not only did it magically help me to fall asleep, it gave me hypnobirthing skills without me needing to do anything and sent me positive message every day such as “I accept whatever happens at my baby’s birth as being right for me and right for my baby”.
Take your iron before going to bed. One of the things that confused me most during pregnancy was when to take my iron. Take it on an empty stomach they say. Two hours before eating food they say. Ummmm… When is a pregnant woman ever not grazing. Seriously. My solution to this was to take it right before I went to bed, or during one of my many night-time trips to the bathroom.
Distance yourself from negative people. People love to share horror stories, especially when it comes to birth. These stories are not the norm and you do not need to hear them. Especially if you are having a home birth. You are guaranteed to hear something from someone about something that went wrong in a hospital and would have been fatal had that birth been a home birth. What people don’t realize is that most of the things that go wrong in hospitals, happen because they were in a hospital. Regardless of where you intend to give birth, you do not need to be the victim of fear mongering.
Last but certainly not least, Hire a Doula. Think of a doula as your spiritual cheerleader, someone to tend to the emotional needs of you and your partner while your midwife takes care of the physical needs of you and your baby. One of my best friends in Berlin is Shanay the Doula so it kinda went without saying that she would be present at my birth. She rocked up to my home with a bag full of tricks and a wealth of knowledge, massage and breathing techniques, most of which we didn’t get to use because everything happened so quickly. But having her there was priceless, both for myself and for Andy, who was getting ready to watch a youtube tutorial on how to deliver a baby in case our midwife didn’t arrive in time (she did, thank goodness). Shanay was not only helpful during and after my labour, but also during my pregnancy whenever I had moments of uncertainty or self doubt. I highly recommend her and her placenta encapsulation services to anyone living in Berlin.