If you’re currently expecting, congrats, mama! It’s super exciting to grow a whole new human, and so rewarding in the end to get to hold that precious little person after those long 9 months. Give yourself a pat on the back, because it’s the hardest thing you’ll probably ever do! But don’t let anyone ever discourage you about it either. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s a bad type of difficulty! I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
So my first son, Shiloh, was born in January 2020, and during his whole pregnancy, I definitely struggled with all the new challenges. The hardest thing for me was the mental part, because I was still unsure about the whole “becoming a mom” thing. I was fearful about giving birth and had, unfortunately, some pretty negative influences telling me that it was gonna be HORRIBLE when the birthing time arrived.
I gave birth to Shiloh in a birthing center, with my midwives present as well as my husband, Michael. My labor started on a Friday night and ended three days later, early Sunday morning. Yeah, it was tough. I was having contractions but not progressing, and the labor seemed like it kept starting and stopping, without being very productive at producing my baby. I was so beyond tired, I just wanted to sleep! And when the contractions finally intensified, I actually did nod off in-between them a few times.
Since Shiloh was in a posterior position, I had awful back labor and terrible pain. None of the different positions I’d learned felt relieving, and I ended up lying on my side on the bed, when my boy was born. The pain was excruciating and I felt like it would never end.
Did I mention, I did all this entirely unmedicated?
My little guy was born with no complications, however, and he wasn’t actually that ‘little’, either. He was 9.2 lbs!
So fast forward to more recently – my second son, Gideon, was born in September of this year (2022).
Since I didn’t want to repeat some of the negative things that had happened in Shiloh’s pregnancy and birth, I did a bit more research this time around and used some different tactics which ended up making things WAY better.
I used Hypnobabies techniques to calm my mind during the pregnancy and during Gideon’s birth. Also, I used Spinning Babies exercises/stretches to get him to turn from posterior, to transverse, to finally being in the “right” position (anterior) for his birthing!
Gideon’s birth was preceded by several nights of prodromal contractions which didn’t feel like much. I just saw it as “warm ups” for his big day. He was born on a Thursday afternoon, in stark contrast to Shiloh who was born in the wee hours of the morning. The night before Gideon’s arrival, I began noticing that the contractions were getting more noticeable and closer together.
By morning, I told my husband that I thought it was time to get ready to go to the birthing center. I hadn’t been able to sleep at all that night due to the contractions waking me up. My midwife told me that I should only come in if I was in too much pain to talk – funny thing is, my pain tolerance is really high at this point and when we arrived at the birthing center, I was already at 8cm dilated! The midwife was pretty shocked at how calm I was for being so far along and she was glad I came in when I did.
I still can’t believe how smoothly this birth went, and how different the pain levels were from my first birth. I didn’t have nearly the pain that I did with Shiloh. In fact, it was actually not that bad at all. I’m not gonna lie and tell you that it felt good, obviously, but it wasn’t horrible – it was something that, as it was happening, I realized I could definitely manage with no trouble. I felt calm and confident in myself.
I gave birth to Gideon after squatting in the birth pool and then standing up and planting myself in a lunge of sorts. The active pushing stage felt so much easier than it had with Shiloh, and even the “ring of fire” part of crowning didn’t hurt too bad, either. I just allowed my body to do what it needed to do, and I made myself surrender to each contraction as it came.
As Gideon came out, I thought he would be smaller than my first but he was actually a little bigger! 9.6 lbs! And he was perfectly healthy, just like my first was as well. And yes, he was also a totally natural birth with no intervention or medications involved!
So now that you’ve heard a short version of how my sons came into the world, let’s go over some things that will help YOU with your pregnancy and birth journey!
My Pregnancy/Birth Tips:
- During pregnancy, try to exercise at least 3x weekly. I am a certified personal trainer and I am also a strength athlete, so working out is already a huge part of my lifestyle – but I made sure to not neglect the gym during my pregnancies and I firmly believe it helped speed up recovery afterwards and help me with endurance during the births, too. Just listen to your body and modify exercises as needed, for you and baby’s safety.
- Hydration and good nutrition are VITAL. Be sure that you are getting nourished properly! Eating a balanced diet and including a prenatal vitamin is essential and will also aid you in the birth and postpartum days. Drinking enough water and including electrolytes is also very important. During both births, I drank BodyArmor sports drinks for hydration and endurance.
- Listen to birth affirmations daily. It’s so important to get your brain thinking GOOD thoughts about your upcoming birth! We are constantly bombarded by negativity revolving around pregnancy and having babies, so to counter those bad vibes, start listening to positive stuff intentionally. Speak them out loud to yourself before bed or in the morning, or both! I did this with my second pregnancy and it helped my mindset SO much!
- Practice relaxation and breathing techniques. For me, I decided to use the Hypnobabies course and follow their childbirth hypnosis audio tracks for my relaxation/breathing practice. This right here is probably the biggest game changer that improved my second birth and it made it so much more bearable than my first! I was very calm and hardly made any noise at all, except at the end when I pushed baby out. Being in a state of deep relaxation truly gave me the ability to overlook the pain to an extent and just focus on allowing my body to give birth as it needed to! Plus, using this strategy reduced my anxiety during pregnancy which was an added bonus.
- Find the birthing positions that work for YOU. One reason I loved giving birth in a natural way with my midwives at a birthing center was because I had freedom to move around and be in whatever positions I needed. With my second child I realized that I couldn’t give birth lying on my back, it was just too painful. So instead I opted for a hands and knees type of position leaning into a birthing ball, rocking back and forth during contractions – and then I switched to squatting in the birthing pool until baby was born when I stood up. I moved to a new position when I felt like my body was telling me to do so. Another game changer for your birth experience.
- Make sure your birthing environment promotes peace and a sense of security. I had peaceful music playing during my first son’s birth, and during my second, I was listening to my hypnosis tracks. We had lavender essential oil diffusing into the room. The lights weren’t too bright. Little details like these add up and can help you feel more comfortable during your birthing time.
- Trust your body! You know yourself more than anyone else and you know what you need! Listen to your body and trust your gut. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself when the need arises! You are powerful, strong and capable – you’ve got this, mama!
Hopefully these tips will help you as you prepare for your birth! Birth is a remarkable experience and it is something that women have been doing since the beginning of humanity – so be empowered!
You are getting to take part in a beautiful ritual that unites mothers together across the world!
Leah is a 26-year-old mom of two little boys. To find more information about Leah, check our her Instagram (@leah_oxendine_strong)