For the Birth:
First things first: Remember that you are a woman, and as a woman YOU have the strength and power to birth your baby. Your body knows what to do, your baby knows what to do, so let your mind go and allow yourself to BE in the experience without trying to control it. Do what you need to prepare yourself and your space for birth and when the time comes and labor has started, let it all go and be in the moment.
Allow yourself to go deeply inwards and be guided through the initiation into motherhood. Only have people present that you can poop in front of, or those who you do not have to even think about in the process. (IE if your mother is a worrier and you will end up thinking about how she is doing watching you in pain, perhaps consider whether or not she needs to be there. Do not have anyone there unless you WANT them to be there). You need to be able to focus on you and your baby, let everyone else take care of them selves. Nothing else matters.
And even though you can never anticipate what will unfold, you will be AMAzing. Your body was made to birth your child, no matter what size they are. Little did I know I had a 10 lbs 6 oz/ 4,706gram baby cooking in there, and even with a nuchal hand (where the hand is up by the face making her diameter even wider) she came out with grace, not ease, but grace! In labor almost every woman comes to a point where a deep challenge arises and doubt may come to mind. Some may think “I can’t do this” but remember: YOU CAN. When you get to that point: you are almost about to meet your baby. You will move through it, and shortly afterwards bear witness to the most beautiful miracle: your child.
The following tips are for momma’s at home, at a birth center or at the hospital. They are things I took note of after my own birth experience with my baby, more practical things to set up rather then the emotional components of birth….that, I will get to another time!
~HypnoBirthing: This is a childbirth method that prepares you for a gentle birth. It teaches techniques for relaxation, visualization and self-hypnosis. You learn the importance of breath throughout the process and how you can use it to move your baby down the birth canal. These techniques ensure a calm and relaxed momma, which makes for an easier more smooth birth.
It is invaluable no matter what type of birth you have and was so wonderful to practice during the birth of my daughter. I meditated for years previous to learning the techniques taught in this workshop and loved its practicality and depth for my own process.
It was also wonderful for my husband, he learned more about birth and what was needed from him as my birth partner. You do the workshop as a couple or if you have a doula you can bring them along so they are familiar with the language and type of birth you wish to have. Look in your local area for a teacher; I believe it is an invaluable way to prepare for the birth of your child.
~If you have a Birth tub: Place a pillow, a zafu pillow and/or yoga mat on the bottom of the tub BEFORE you put in the liner and fill with water…..I had half of the yoga mat rolled so I could squat with support on the heels of my feet, and the other half of it was on the floor of the tub to give extra cushioning. This was wonderful as I spent most of my labor on my hands and knees in the water. The zafu pillow (meditation pillow stuffed with buckwheat, like a bean bag) I placed a couple of inches from the edge so I had something to sit on during the labor. I used it at the very last stages of my labor as I moved my daughter, Atira out into this world.
~Popsicles: I made lemon/honey, raspberry/peach and honey and peppermint and honey popsicles for my birth. I got creative and wild with it and made far too many, but I did enjoy munching on them during the process when I got too hot and needed a little pick me up. Most of them were still in the freezer after the birth! So a few will do the job nicely, unless you labor in summer time (without AC) and then they can be a life saver!
~Wide silicon straws: Wide ones ensure that you stay hydrated as you tend to drink more. They are wonderful during labor and afterwards when you are breastfeeding. These have honestly been my saviors for staying hydrated and I could not recommend them enough! ( I didn’t like the idea of using plastic straws. I am still using them 11 weeks later!)
~Hydration: In hospitals they do not like you to drink too much water in case of needing a c-section. However, staying hydrated is an extremely important piece for the momma while in labor and helps her recovery afterwards.
For after the birth: In some books you may read that you do not have to drink any more then your 8 glasses of water daily when breastfeeding. I would encourage you to drink more, at least 12 glasses. You will be more thirsty anyhow, so follow that urge and keep hydrated. Again, I loved the wide straws for this, and keep water everywhere in your home, don’t get stuck sitting and having your child latch only to yearn for the water across the room!
~Lipbalm: always a good one for if your lips get dry during labor.
~Face cream: I washed my face during labor I craved some creamy hydration!
~Extra hair bands or ties to keep your hair out of your face.
After the birth: For you and your body:
~Lanolin: such a majorly important part of the journey for me! I put it on my nipples after every feed to keep them soft. When you are breastfeeding for the first time, or even the second, it can be pretty freaking painful. These little ones come with a powerful suck! This will save them getting cracked while your nipples are adjusting to their new role. Some women like to use healing salves, however, the lanolin is really thick and will stay on the nipple for longer.
~Homeopathic Arnica: For after the birth to help heal your body. For internal healing use the homeopathic pellets : you can pick these up at any health food store. Follow the directions on the container.
For your muscles use external Arnica cream or gel: get your doula/ midwife/ or partner to rub it into your muscles immediately after the birth: it makes a big difference, especially on the legs and bum area.
~CALMS magnesium supplement: for after the birth to keep your stool soft. Don’t take too much as it will have a laxative effect on you, just the recommended dose.
~Breast Pump If you bought one, or have a hand me down, have it washed and unpacked before the birth. If you are going to do it by hand: know how before, have a friend show you or research it first. When your breasts get engorged your baby may not be able to empty them or relieve the pain in one feeding. So having a pump, or hand expressing will feel wonderful to help alleviate the pressure. Your milk supply is overly abundant at the beginning and will regulate after a few days or weeks. In the mean time having these tools will make your life easier and a whole lot less painful.
~Breast milk bags: so nothing you pump/ express goes to waste (BPA free please)…I didn’t have them and felt like liquid gold was being wasted, I actually cried because I hadn’t thought of keeping it in my sleepless state when I was pumping at 3 in the morning to relieve very painful breasts!
~Remedy for engorged breasts: Massage daily, or throughout day at the beginning. Use organic cold pressed coconut oil that is nice and cooling for the hot skin. You may also use castor oil (avoid directly on the nipple). Poke root is an herb that stimulates the movement of your lymphatic system. You may use the tincture, or may also be able to get an oil infused remedy. It can also be used, ONLY in drop does, on the breast tissue. Less is more for this remedy. Drop one drop on the area that is most painful and massage with the coconut, or oil of your choice. Do not place near the nipple to avoid baby ingesting this herb.
AND the easiest remedy of all: cabbage leaves. Keep a green cabbage in your fridge and when your breasts feel full and tender take a leaf and cover each breast. Pop them in a bra if you wear them, or under a tight top to keep them in place. The coolness will feel amazing, and the results will be fantastic.
~Uterine cramp remedy: Cramp Bark is the one best known to relieve cramps after the birth. You will be able to find a remedy in your local herb or health store. The remedy may also include herbs such as motherwort, catnip and other such wonders.
~For the nerves: The process of birth is an initiation, and for some it can be super helpful to have some nervine herbal remedies on hand for when you need some extra support or when the nerves get a little rattled. The truth is this will most likely happen, thus is the nature of being a new parent.
Here are some herbs that are safe for new mommas: Chamomile, Skullcap, Lemon balm, Milky oats, Catnip, Lavander, and Motherwort are all wonderful to calm the nerves and help you relax as a new momma. Generally you can choose any combo of these herbs and take ½ -1x teaspoon of tincture 3-4 times daily, or 1-4 cups daily.
Ashwaganda and Gotu kola are good for the nervous system and are also nutritive tonics. ½ to 1 teaspoon tincture twice daily; 1 to 2 cups tea daily. You will be able to find a good nervine tonic in your local health store, just ensure all the herbs in the blend are suitable for breastfeeding or check with your health care practitioner.
See Aviva Jill Romm’s book: “Natural Health after Birth: The complete guide to Post Partum Wellness.” for more remedies.
~Digestive/ Colic Remedy For baby: Its good to have on hand when you think your baby might have an upset tummy. Your baby may not technically have colic (Only if your baby is fussy for 3 hours, 3 days a week for 3 weeks are they considered colicky, and it usually sets in after a couple of weeks), but they may need some digestive support. I made up a batch of chamomile and fennel tea, added some drops of rescue remedy, and gave a 1/2 tspoon to my baby when she was upset. She would get gas regularly after three weeks, and these carminative herbs would help alleviate it . She seemed to love it and lapped it up from the dropper. I froze ice cubes of the tea so I would have it ready rather then use the remedy in the stores that has a lot of agave or sugar in it.
~Sitz Bath herbs: You can sooth your perineum using these herbs in a bath. Either in a container specifically for sitz bath, in a bath, or a basin will do. Just pop your bum in there and let yourself soak….. I had a very bruised tailbone and so could not sit, so I used the herb tea in a peri (squeezy) bottle instead to help heal the stitches. You can also put it into a spray bottle too. Rinse with Peri bottle or spray after you pee. Herbs great for a Sitz bath: Comfrey, Yarrow, Calendula, Lavender, Plantain, St.Johns wort (do not use if you are on anti-depressants), and Burdock.
~Belly binder : you can buy one, or just make your own: use a tight cotton top, cut the top just below the arms and neck, eh viola you have some support. Obviously the belly support you buy is better quality for the job, will last longer and wont stretch out….but if you have nothing else, use your imagination! I felt like my insides were going to fall out after the birth, and this helped keep everything in place.
~Extra Boppy pillow: (the doughnut-y feeding pillows) You can use one to sit on if you have a sore tail bone after birth. I had bought one of those rubber doughnut hemorrhoid pillows, but the off gassing smell was disgusting and I didn’t want it anywhere near my recovering vagina, no thank you…the boppy pillow was softer, more comfortable and didn’t off-gas! Having 2 is great in your home so you don’t have to keep moving it about from the bedroom to the living room, or to where ever you breast feed.
~Hydrosols to freshen your space: Rose and Lavender are my favorites, during and after the birth. Rose is gorgeous and a beautiful scent to calm the space and clear it. Lavender is an old familiar and soothing smell. You can also use lavender hydrosol and natural salt to clean your baby’s belly button. Spray the belly button with the lavender, and place the salt directly on the belly button. It won’t sting and will help the healing process and keep the baby’s button clean.
~Placenta nourishment: If you birth at home you can ask you midwife/ doula to cut your placenta into the size of two finger size knuckles and freeze them for you. Freeze the pieces on a tray, so they don’t stick together. Once frozen place into a Ziploc type bag. This keeps them separate during the freezing process. If you skip this step, each of the pieces will just stick together and it will be impossible to separate them. So make it easy on yourself and your smoothie making!
OR get it encapsulated, enquire if your midwife or doula can do that for you, or find out who can locally. The benefits of consuming the placenta include: replenishing iron levels, helps to balance your hormones after birth, increases your energy, assists good breast milk production and assists your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy state. I’m a vegetarian and it did not taste bad to me in smoothy form. In fact, I loved my daily dose of placenta magic!
~ Get body work/ massage/ chiropractic after the birth.
The sooner you can get loved up after the birth and get things aligned and moving, the faster you will heal. My jaw went completely out on the left side, probably from clamping down in the challenging part of the birth, and my tailbone was bruised and in a lot of pain, my neck and shoulders were also misaligned from the birth and from the new job of breastfeeding my baby.
I would highly recommend Craniosacral therapy to help realign your bones, and it also works on calming the nervous system and releasing trauma. No matter how amazing your birth is, it stretches your body to its limit! Also treat yourself to some massage to get the lymph moving and to help the muscles relax. This can help move the hormones through your body and prevent any post partum blues. Chiropractic or network chiropractic are invaluable at this time too. I opted to get all of them, and it made a huge difference in my healing.
~Unscented bath products for after the birth: Help your baby get to know you and your natural smell by not covering it with other products that have perfumes or unnatural scents. Use a gentle unscented castile soap, my favorite is Dr.Bronners.
~Oil and/ or Body lotion: Again only use organic where possible. And use products that have no or natural scents and nothing with chemical perfumes. This will help prevent dryness while breastfeeding.
Have clothes you don’t mind getting oily ready for when you oil up after the birth to keep your skin from getting dry. Some of you will be naked, or almost, for the first few weeks, so think about having a towel to wrap yourself in that you can donate to the cause! Either way, the message here is: get oily! …….if your baby gets rashy in the first few weeks like mine did with oil, you can wipe off the excess where your body will be touching them, like on your arms, belly, breasts etc.
~Swaddle blankets: it is not only adorable to see you baby bundled up, but it also helps them feel relaxed and prevents them from having the startle reflex and waking themselves up. Of course, skin to skin is the most important; so do not swaddle your baby too much. My wee one got over heated easily at the beginning and so we could not swaddle, so just get to know your baby and see what works for them. Either way we used the blankets for covering her because they were nice and light for our hot baby!
Practical things to set up before the birth:
~Time off Work: If you’re the milk momma, consider taking at least 3 months off work if possible. The fourth trimester is vital for the recovery of momma and her integration into motherhood, and for the health and nourishment of your baby. It is what sets the whole foundation of this little persons life. And if you are the other fabulous parent…take as much as you can off! This is a once and a life-time opportunity to bond with your child. You will never regret it, there won’t be a time where you say: “I wish I didn’t take all that time to nurture and bond with my child”, however, if you could have, but didn’t take enough time off, you may very well feel regret and there is no taking back that precious time.
~Prepare your family or friends: You may choose to have few visitors at the beginning of your baby’s life so that you get to have some quiet integrating bonding time with your baby. If this is the case, just let your family and friends know so that they remember to give you that space when the time comes. This baby bubble time in the days that follow your baby’s birth is sacred, I highly recommend a low input of visitors and energy into your home while your baby adjusts to being outside of the womb and in this world.
~Food Train: Let your community help! This was such a HUGE blessing for us for the 3 weeks postpartum. Each afternoon someone different would deliver food into our cooler, most of the time we didn’t even see who had dropped off the food. It was such a relief to be getting healthy home cooked meals every day that we didn’t have to prep! I think every new parent needs to have this support…its up to you to ask for it however!! Another step in being a parent: asking for help!
~Lights: Get your light situation organized before the birth with nice soft lighting. We used my orange tone scarves over our lamps to create a softer glow in the room. (they were Moroccan type lanterns so the scarves were far from the bulb……do not use if the fabric is too close to the bulbs as it may be a fire hazard and the last thing you want to deal with when you have a new born!). I also use a salt lamp during night feedings, which provides a nice soft glow for you and your baby.
~Clock in your bedroom: Try to keep your cell phone out of the bedroom or keep on airplane mode. We don’t know the effects yet of all the wireless waves moving through our homes, especially on the thinner little cranium bones on your baby. We need to remember to protect them as much as we can from things we cannot even see. They are the first generation to have all these outside influences.
~Bedside table of some sort: some of you have this already, we didn’t. So I used a little fold out table for all my extra hydration, food, and remedies.
~Diapers: If you are using cloth diapers have your diapers washed and ready to use a couple of weeks before the birth. At the beginning you may use anywhere between 10-16 diapers a day for your new born, so have enough ready for about two days if you will do a daily wash, and have enough for 3 days if you would like to do a laundry load every other day.
~Detergent for diapers: BioKlean/ Charlies…anything bio and earth friendly without coconut oil. Coconut oil creates a barrier. This makes the diapers water resistant so that they do not absorb liquid, clearly this is no good! You also want to buy detergents that do not contain chemicals that will then be absorbed by your baby when they are wearing the washed diaper. Anything that has high chemical scents should be avoided.
~Prepare your animals! Our cat got depressed because in the haze of having a newborn his daily affection from us drastically decreased. I don’t want to sound batty to some of you, but this works: talk to your animals and let them know what is happening. When we realized what was happening with Max we explained what was going on, and after that, little by little he ate more and started to be in the same room as the baby. He gradually got use to the new family member, although he is still somewhat freaked out by the bald cat in the house!
There are many more tips and ways to prepare for your birth experience, these are but a few to consider for prepping the practical things for you and for your home. Remember to savor the experience, whether it is how you envisioned it or not, whether you thought you were to have a home birth and had to get transferred, whatever happens. Surrender to the process and let go of any ideas of how it needs to be. It is your initiation into motherhood. It is the most powerful day and experience of your life. You will birth your baby, there is nothing more amazing and magical in life then that.
And after you put the last bits and bobs together in preparation for this mind blowing experience, rest. Take space and time to enjoy the last moments before your child is born. Nap often, snuggle with your partner, lollygag around your home. Do nothing, and then rest and nap some more!
Many blessings to you on your journey, may it unfold in beauty and in love…..and when your little one arrives: stay in that new born baby bubble as long as you can, its magical, wondrous and is worth savoring every single second!
with love x