Who knew that a daily routine of just 10 minutes could have such a positive effect on my labour and pregnancy...
During my third pregnancy we were going through some pretty big changes; moving house twice in the space of four months with two children under four. I was 6 weeks pregnant with pretty awful morning sickness (ahh fond memories of throwing up in the sink during bath time) and the accompanying tiredness. For the first time in my life I felt stress affecting my health, my levels of patience were at an all time low and I felt I was losing my normal calm approach to parenting.
I discovered the app Headspace and once I got started I was hooked (there is now a pack within the app specifically designed for during pregnancy).
I would sneak away for a cheeky 15 minutes every evening - it became a new routine (funnily enough I chose the witching hour as the perfect time to escape). After a day of running around after little people, who only became more active the fatter I got (I am sure they played on my weakness) the chance to stop and clear my mind was so good. I remember a friend saying that she liked the idea but wouldn't have the time to do it as life was so hectic. If you don't feel you can create just 10 minutes a day for yourself then this is even more of a reason that you should!
The breathing techniques were great for those moments of complete chaos; like when you're trying to put a toddler down for a nap as the older one shouts through that they've "missed the toilet". Or you leave the house for a day trip an hour away only to get there and realise you've forgotten your purse. They taught me a new sense of calm and I definitely became more empathetic. I found myself more positive, more considered and generally pretty laid back about everything.
Then it came to planning my labour.
Previously I had been blessed with quick labours (our second was delivered by paramedics on the bedroom floor). I had used elements of hypnobirthing along with a tens machine to manage the pain. I'm a huge advocate of the power of positive thinking, effective breathing (can you breathe effectively?) and remaining in control.
Now I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have labour go the way they plan, I am well aware of this from friends. However, from a personal perspective meditation definitely helped me to manage my labour. I was able to use the techniques I had learnt to stop trying to control the pain, which sounds a bit odd since I previously state the need to remain in control but it was more about accepting the pain and not trying to resist it. In that way I was very much still in charge and in my own head winning (I am unfortunately very competitive, I vaguely remember asking the midwife if I was the best at labour. I don't recall her answer. I am pretty sure she thought I was a little unhinged. I blame the enormity of the situation clouding my judgement).
I used a visualisation of the sea and breathed my way through each contraction, imagining waves to keep myself relaxed (if anyone had told me to do this prior I think I might have laughed but it just seemed to work). I had a real awareness of my body and where the pain was centred, I was able to breathe down into it and remain calm and focused. I was far more mindful of what was happening which meant that I wasn't scared.
Now don't get me wrong it wasn't easy or without pain and I did have the momentary panic and tears (commonplace as you move into the next stage of labour) stating that I wasn't able to do it. Luckily my husband was wonderful at helping me to pull it back, we all need extra reassurance sometimes no matter how strong we think we are.
So our little lady made her entrance into the world on our front room floor (this time planned, although not the floor part, there was a birthing pool but it turns out third time can be even faster and it never got filled). The lighting was dimmed, the aromatherapy oils were on and I think as far as possible I was able to appreciate and enjoy the whole experience. Because it is such an amazing experience, often feared and made to appear un-natural when actually it is miraculous and just so ridiculously special.
In the days afterwards I was exhausted but deliriously happy and perhaps it was third child hindsight but we were able to protect our family bubble from the outside world and well-meaning family members for that little bit longer than previously. Six months on and I am still loving every single second. No more so than with our other children, but perhaps now more able to step back and appreciate it a bit more?
I wrote the paragraph below when she was 2 weeks old:
"Last night I told GBK that even after a difficult night of feeding I was still able to spend a few moments not rushing to get back to sleep but enjoying the moment. The moment at 4am, when everyone else is asleep and all is dark and quiet, when she fits onto my chest and falls asleep as soon as she does from the comfort of being with her Mummy. Hearing up close her small suckling noises as she purses her lips and yawns. The smell of her head and the feel of her tiny hands on my neck. These moments are unbelievably gorgeous. This feeling can't be captured on camera or video, this moment won't last forever so all I can do is fully embrace & enjoy it for what it is. I never want it to end."
Meditation has definitely worked to heighten my awareness of this fact and for that reason alone I would highly recommend giving it a go...