Last week we started our “Heartfelt Birth” class at the birth center. It is a six week course, one evening per week, where couples in a similar stage of pregnancy as us come together to get mentally and emotional prepared for birth. The class is led by a very warm and funny couples’ therapist who guides us to share stories, feelings, express ourselves through art, and practice relaxation and meditation techniques. So far, we are really enjoying the class and appreciate the way in which it has encouraged us to think about what we truly want as future parents, and what we need to do to help that to happen.
We know how important it will be for us to stay relaxed during labor, because as our teacher told us our very first night, “Adrenaline supresses oxytocin.” Oxytocin is sort of the “happy hormone,” present when you are feeling joyful, in love, during the bonding time when breastfeeding, and during labor. Basically it is there for all of the good things in life. It is particularly helpful during labor because it primes your body for delivery, making for as smooth of a transition as possible for the baby to exit her warm and cozy womb and come out into the harsh cold world.
When women feel nervous or scared, however, they start to produce adrenaline, which supresses the production of oxytocin. It is because of this that so many women have difficulty in childbirth, leading to more painful experiences and a higher frequency of drug use, epidurals, and c-sections due to stalled or prolonged labors.
It makes sense, therefore, for us to practice relaxation techniques in order to help ensure that we have as smooth a labor as possible in the hopes that everything goes as planned. While we realize that we have to be prepared for the unexpected, we also know that positive thoughts can work wonders. Which is why in our class earlier this week, we were told to write our own personal “Birth Fantasy.” To imagine our perfect birth with the knowledge and acceptance that it may not (and very likely will not) go as planned. I truly believe that visualizing positive outcomes helps them to come true, so it seemed like a worthwhile exercise. And so, without further ado, we present to you our Birth Fantasy, written by both Kevin and I (Kevin’s contribution written in italics).
Our Birth Fantasy
I woke up in the morning, the sun streaming through my bedroom window, to gentle but steady contractions. They seemed to be about 6 minutes apart, which meant that I probably went into labor a few hours ago and slept through the beginning. I was happy that Mel’s labor started while we were sleeping so that she would be well-rested and ready for what she was about to do. I told her that I would start prepping to head to the birth center when the time was right. As I waited for the contractions to become closer together, I decided to take a relaxing bath while Kevin made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. While drawing the bath and then making breakfast, I made sure to keep checking on the progress of Mel’s contractions until we were ready to leave. After a soothing bath and a hearty breakfast, we finally felt ready to leave. Kevin packed the car with our bags and checked for the thousandth time that the car seat was installed properly while I called the midwife and my parents. Then we were off! Mel’s parents met us at the center, where we calmly walked into the birthing room and started setting up. With lavender-scented candles flickering and mellow music playing, we were in the tub and in the final stage of labor before we knew it. We used the breathing and visualization techniques we had been diligently practicing for weeks, and they helped immensely. As the labor progressed I was able to anticipate Mel’s needs and provide the support she consciously and subconsciously wanted. Instead of thinking about my own discomforts, I tried to focus on helping my baby to have as smooth a transition into the world as possible. I couldn’t believe it when I made that final push and she emerged into the water. The midwife caught her and almost immediate handed her to us. I have never been more proud of my wife than I was at this moment, and all the fears and anxiety I had felt leading up to this point were replaced by feelings of awe and love. I was instantly flooded with a wave of emotions. In just a few hours, our lives had completely changed. I couldn’t believe that I was finally holding this beautiful tiny person that we had been preparing for, on some level, for years. We had done it, and she was finally here.
Naturally I expect chuckles from those of you more informed, less naive readers who have already experienced childbirth…but we can dream, can’t we? All joking aside, however, I know one thing for certain. Regardless of what our real birth experience is like, whether it goes according to plan or veers completely off course, the end result will be the same. We will finally get to hold our baby in our arms, and that will make it all worth it.