Ever since I announced my pregnancy, I’ve received a lot of unsolicited advice on the subject of vaginal tearing. I listen but choose to concentrate my focus elsewhere.
The way I see it, and as many books on the subject echo, there are two ways you can approach birth: in fear, or with confidence. Neither way will guarantee whether or not your labour spans 48 hours, nor can you control whether your vagina tears, whether your birth will be incredibly painful, or not. That all said, I figure that walking into it with the notion that “I can do this” is probably the more sensible and empowering way to approach the big event. After all, women have been giving birth since the beginning of time; the body was built for it. But yeah, nerves are normal.
Like any new mom, I’m navigating my way through pregnancy day by day, learning as I go, but there are definitely things that I’ve discovered that have made me feel stronger about the impending due date.
1. Prenatal Yoga
The classes help to strengthen your pelvic muscles, stretch out your leg cramps, and relax, but the overall objective is to learn to trust your body. Trusting that your body knows what it’s doing is key. If you aren’t sure how to start, look in the mirror at your tummy, it’s doing a pretty impressive job so far!
2. “Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin
I was given this book by my lovely sister-in-law, it is story after story of women’s birth experiences, from the 1970s until the early 2000s. Granted, most of the births take place on “The Farm” in southern Tennessee with the help of Ina May and her team of midwives, and I’m booked for a delivery at Mount Sinai, but nevertheless the stories are reassuring, comforting and I learn something from every woman’s birth experience. While there are similar themes, each story is totally different.
3. Find an idea, metaphor or spirit animal that relaxes you
Some women, during birth, think of their vagina as a flower blooming. Pretty! Others think of the coastal waves on the eastern seaboard and visualize each contraction as a powerful wave. Some prefer to liken themselves to a strong bull, ready to fight. I like whales.
My hope is that on the day of my son’s birth, I can take my mind outside of the hospital room and back to the time where I was on a boat in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Haida Gwaii, surrounded by 20 humpback whales. When I think of how those whales survive, how they’ve been around since prehistoric times, crossing the ocean from Hawaii to Alaska, mating, and adapting to tough elements and against all odds, I feel that what I have to do is so, well, doable. Life is greater than me in a hospital room on University Avenue. Feel me?
Oh, and despite what many would advise, I’m not writing a birth plan. I’ll prepare myself as best I can but what happens on that day is out of my control.
He may arrive three weeks early, he may not turn, his skull might be huge, there could easily be complications. That’s when I’ll breathe, trust my body, call on the whales for support, lean on my partner and think of the millions of women, and animals, that have done this since the beginning of time.
If the vagina tears, I’ll get stitches. No biggie.