“Mama has a big big big big belly!” Peeper shouted the other morning as I went to lift her out of the crib. In fact, that was the very first thing out of her mouth. And it’s the first thing that crosses my mind when I wake up in the morning.
If anything reminds me that I’ll soon be giving birth to our second daughter, it’s this giant belly—the bump that takes up so much room, there’s no place for Peeper to sit on my lap anymore. (Never fear, though; we still read and read and read—she just sits next to me most of the time.)
When I was pregnant with Peeper, Eric and I attended a childbirth preparation class at the hospital where we’d deliver. Most first-time parents do, and I learned a lot. Although some of the exercises were a little ridiculous (FYI, holding an ice cube in your hand does NOT mimic the discomfort of labor!), it was helpful overall and I’d recommend it to other parenting newbies.
This go around, though, I didn’t need a primer on the different stages of labor or what our pain relief options would be. I’m prepping for childbirth, then, in a little different way. Here’s how.
Reading. I already know what to expect, so my reading list has changed since my first pregnancy. Currently on my bedside table:
- Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh. I appreciate the Kundalini yoga instructor’s take on pregnancy, which was less medically oriented and more about gently transitioning into motherhood. Yes, I’m already a mama, but I welcomed the reminders (and the short-short chapters!).
- HypnoBirthing by Marie Mongan. This childbirth technique/philosophy is founded on the idea that much of the pain of labor and delivery stems from fear and resistance: that the body’s physiological reaction to fear fights the opening and relaxation needed for a smooth birth. That idea resonated with me, as I was definitely scared—really scared—during Peeper’s birth. The book is full of techniques, which are pretty much mindfulness meditations, meant to make labor easier on mama and baby.
- Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Farber and Elaine Mazlish. It’ll be a while before Peeper and Kiwi are arguing over who borrowed whose skirt, but I wanted to adopt techniques to keep the peace early. I found the book’s format a little odd (it basically recounts the author’s experiences teaching a class), but it makes for a quick read, and the illustrations and chapter recaps are helpful for remembering the various tips.
Breathing. Of course I breathe, but I’ve been practicing HypnoBirthing breathing techniques during contractions (or, as the program calls them, uterine surges) and whenever I remember—like when I’m trying to fall asleep. I’m hoping that all the practice will make the breathing techniques second nature by the time I go into labor.
Meditating. I’ve never been big into meditation—I always found my monkey mind jumped around to a million to-do tasks, leaving me more flustered than when I began—but a calm, inward focus is helping me connect to this baby.
Most of the day, my attention is on my toddler or my work or the bajillion things I can never catch up to. But a few times a day—especially right before bed—I tune into Kiwi. I send her love or talk to her in my head. I dab lavender essential oil on my chest and deepen my breathing. I imagine my breaths are waves rolling in and out like the tide. Or I envision myself as a tree, drawing in strength from the ground with each inhale and exhaling stress.
Perhaps it sounds woo-woo, but it really helps. I also plan to draw on these techniques during labor.
Letting go. Well, this one is aspirational. I alternate between wanting to DO ALL THE THINGS and just throwing up my hands and saying eff it. We still have a long list of nest-y things to do, like paint and put up those shelves that have been sitting in the garage for, oh, four months, but I’ve (sort of) made peace with the fact most of them won’t happen.
So I’m prioritizing. We recently set up a new desk in the office, which is necessary for my work, and I started packing my hospital bag (which is much lighter the second time around!). Today I brought in the infant car seat to clean and install. These things are important; sewing a baby quilt can wait.
I figure letting go is great practice for when I have two kids: I simply won’t have time or energy to do it all—or even half the stuff I want to do—so I’ll be a pro at letting things slide in no time.
I’m curious—if you have kids, how did you prepare for childbirth? Was prepping for later kids different from your first?