Today’s post is the first in a series of five: we’ll take a look at each of the five senses. For each sense, we'll consider some tools that appeal to it that can invite comfort and calm to your labor and birth.
Let’s start with what often seems like our dominant sense: sight.
(Photo by Bekka Mongeau from Pexels)
I encourage my clients to consider their own feelings and beliefs about birth, work through their worries and concerns, and discover the power of their own beliefs about their strength and ability in birth, then turn these into affirmations. Affirmations are personal to your journey and unique, but here are some examples of some that may be centering and affirming:
I am giving life!
My body is designed to birth.
Each surge brings my baby closer to my arms.
My body releases and opens as my baby descends.
I am powerful and flexible.
I am a co-creator with God.
My contractions are not stronger than me because they are me.
Again, those are just examples, and your affirmations should speak specifically to you. If none of those do, work through why they don’t, and grab on to some positive words that do speak to you! And when you’ve found your affirmations, write them down, print them out, make them look nice, and post them where you’ll see them often during pregnancy. Take them with you to your birth space and have someone hang them around the room to affirm your truth as you birth.
For more about affirmations, you can check out this podcast episode I did at Birth Words, and you can also order customized affirmation cards.
Dim or Natural Lighting
(Photo by Hakan Erenler from Pexels)
Birth is an intimate experience. Harsh lighting can interrupt the flow of oxytocin and make the whole process feel much more clinical and much less personal. So turn down the lights, and consider lighting some candles (or, in the hospital, using LED candles) or hanging a string of lights.
(Photo by https://www.instagram.com/Didssph/)
This comfort measure doesn’t have to do with what you’ll actually see with your eyes, but what you visualize in your mind. Imagining calm, serene scenes, or places that are personally meaningful for you, can bring comfort during your labor. Sometimes, these visualizations will be guided my someone else, as your partner or doula reads aloud to you or describes a favorite place. But if you’ve practiced visualizing pleasant images before labor, you may be able to take yourself there without another person verbally guiding you through it.
I’ve found some fabulous visualization exercises in this book. And this podcast episode talks a bit more about the power of symbols and imagery that you can incorporate in your visualization.
The Faces of Loved Ones
(Photo from https://www.pexels.com/@pixabay)
It’s important, during labor, to surround yourself with those you love—people you feel comfortable around and supported by. Inviting people into the birth space who bring up feelings of discomfort or tension will likely slow your labor and make you less comfortable, both physically and emotionally. So, during this important time, surround yourself only with people who will create a feeling of warmth and love.
So carefully choose your birth team: friends and family you feel safe with, a care provider who respectfully cares for you, a doula that you feel emotionally connected to, a photographer who you feel comfortable with, etc.
Also, if there are loved ones who can’t physically be with you, you may want to bring pictures of them. Perhaps you admire a grandmother and her picture would bring you strength, or maybe you have young children that you don’t want in the birth space, but keeping their pictures with you will comfort you.
As you prepare for your labor and birth, consider if there are any other visual comfort measures that you’d like to have in your birth space. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
I posted a while back about how I'd be working in partnership with Mary Caplin during 2020--you can read here about how our partnership works. Now that the new year has arrived, let me take a minute to introduce you to her so you know why I'm so excited to be partnering with her!
I met Mary several months ago, shortly after she moved back to Utah county after spending nine months in Ghana with her family. I was struck at once by her gentle and kind nature. She is just the type of person you'd want in your birth space! She says this about her experiences serving women and their families:
"The mothers I’ve attended in Utah and Ghana have amazed me. I believe in the strength of women and the power of their love to change the world. Birth is intense, and the experience matters. It shapes us and our story."
As we got to know each other better, Mary and I felt that we could offer complementary and compassionate care for our clients, so we joined forces! I love talking with her about birth and benefitting from her ideas, insights, and perspectives.
One thing that I admire about Mary is what a great listener she is. I've watched her--in our conversations and with clients--take time to really process what the other person is saying and give plenty of time for them to express themselves. She is also skilled at recognizing and encouraging the father as an integral part of the birth experience. She says:
"You want the birth of your baby to be a beautiful, sacred experience. I do too. My goal as your family doula is to enable mother and father to have this through education before birth and providing continuous emotional and physical support during labor. I love to see a father more involved because of what they've learned, a woman reach to become a mother, and a family be born. It is incredible."
You can learn more about Mary at her website:
And if you reach out to either one of us, we'd love to schedule a free meeting so you can get to know us and see if we'd be a good fit for your birth team!
I first learned of Rebecca Dekker’s work at my doula training. That next summer, as I trained for a half marathon, I listened to episode after episode of the Evidence Based Birth podcast. I love and admire Rebecca’s work, as she uses her skills as a nurse and researcher to compile and review the most up-to-date research on important topics surrounding birth, and publishes them in ways that are easily accessible to the public through evidencebasedbirth.com. She’s covered topics such as natural induction techniques (I summarized a few in this post), the use of saline locks, circumcision, Vitamin K supplementation, doula support, and everything in between.
When I found out she was writing a book, I was thrilled! The title of her book, Babies Are not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered, also shows that she’s passionate about using language that empowers birthing families. So am I! (For more on that, visit www.birthwords.com or listen to the Birth Words podcast on your podcast app. I even had her as a guest on my podcast in October!)
Babies Are Not Pizzas is a fairly quick read for a book filled with as much information as it is. That’s because Rebecca interweaves her research findings about birth with her own personal narrative—the story of how she became interested in the evidence about common birth practices, why she started sharing what she found, and the repercussions that ensued because of her research.
The story was intriguing, and the research she uncovered along the way was just as fascinating. Through the book, she tells about what the research shows about birth practices that are the safest and most effective, and why they’re not always practiced in hospitals. Reading this book re-acquainted me with the research and also gave me a better understanding of why institutions work the way that they do and why change can be difficult and slow. But it also re-inspired me to continue to be a change-maker in every sphere I can influence so that birthing families can have safe, empowering, positive experiences as they bring new life into the world.
I don’t want to give away her story, but I will say that I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of this book! (There’s one in my lending library!)
Hi, I'm Sara. I'm a birth doula serving Utah county and the Wasatch front. I'm a twin mom (plus one!), natural VBACer, and birth lover!