Have you ever used a mantra before? Do you connect with the concept of using affirmations or positive thinking to help guide your mind toward a particular state?
Mantras have been used since the beginning of time in yoga and can work wonderfully for women in pregnancy & labour as a tool for focus.
They are particularly powerful to help ease into a meditative state and to channel thoughts toward something positive. Because of the link between perception, thinking, fear, tension & pain - focusing the mind at the beginning of this loop on something positive - can affect the rest of the cycle by reducing perceptions of tension & pain.
1. I can do this - I AM doing this.
One of the reasons I personally love this mantra is that often in labour we come to a point where we meet our edge - for some women that might be early in the process - for others they might not meet their edge until the intesity of their baby's head crowning. (There is obviously no escaping that you are about to birth your baby at that point!!!)
Even women that speak of labour as a painless & ecstatic experience will often still tell you it was 'intense'.
Whilst life provides a range of experiences that can be called intense - most of them include an element of self control - or the ability to 'opt out'. Running a marathon, going on expedition, getting married, looking after kids, caring for the very ill - all of these life experiences usually come with the opportunity to take some time out - even for half an hour - but with labour there is no such thing. Once your on that train it's not stopping and many women find that simply overwhelming and thoughts of "I can't do this" might start to creep in. Too much of "I can't do this" can exacerbate the fear-tention-pain cycle and lead to everything starting to feel worse.
This is where "I can do this - I AM doing this" comes in.
It's self talk that assures you not only that you CAN cope - but that you ARE coping.
Inhale: I can do this.
Exhale: I AM doing this.
2. Breathing in long & deep - breathing out & down with my baby.
For first baby's in particular, there can be so much attention on the external events leading up to labour (the baby shower, decorating the nursery, appointments, moving house, leaving work parties etc, that sometimes it's difficult to remember that the whole process of labour is a two way street - that sure as women we can do/practice/be certain things to help a smooth labour - but that ultimately your baby also has his/her part to play. This is why it's important to foster a sense of connection between mother and baby and simply allow time to be during the pregnancy. Once labour starts your baby has to get in a good position and the unfolding of the labour can give you clues as to how your baby is coping. For example - a baby that is sitting in a posterior position may lead to a labour that is longer or presents with feelings of intense sensation in the back (sometimes called back labour).
This is a beautiful mantra to practice to help foster the mother baby connection and also particularly useful for women who may have to change their labouring position - it brings the focus back to working together and focusing on your baby - rather than things such as discomfort or length of the labour which might be overwhelming.
Breathing in - long & deep.
Breathing out and down with my baby.
3. Just one more.
Different birth dynamics need different mantras. If you labour is progressing smoothly and calmly and you are feeling really synched up to the rhythm of your birth, then you probably won't need this one. But if you start to feel overwhelmed, or that each contraction is super intense - or you are close to transition and know that you're really at the business end of your labour, then "just one more" might be the perfect mantra for you.
The beauty about this mantra is the 'one more' can be what you want it to be.
It could be "Just one more breath", "Just one more push", "Just one more contraction", "Just one more hour". It's whatever it needs to be for you to cope.
Just one more brings your mind to the moment that is happening right now. It means focussing on being in harmony with your body right now - and not worrying about how much longer you have to go.
4. I am amazing - my body was made to do this.
I love this mantra as a way of inviting self love & belief. I was once at a birth workshop where the facilitator told of a story of a women in labour who was really struggling. She was close to having her baby and was nearly fully dilated, but she started to panic and her labour had stalled. She was starting to feel like she was failing and the medical team were talking of intervening. He husband leaned over and started whispering into her ear how amazing she was with every contraction and within 45mins she had reached full dilation and given birth to her baby.
In labour all sorts of things can happen that help or hinder the birth process, but we do know that when a woman feels safe and supported that her birth experience is usually perceived more positively. This is a wonderful mantra for women who lose faith in themselves or who have been told negative stories about their body's ability to birth with confidence.
Inhale: I am amazing.
Exhale: My body was made to do this.
5. I work with my body. I am open & relaxed.
One of the things I observed with my own births and with women who I have supported as a doula - is that when we are trying to force things - it's difficult to feel at ease and comfortable. The body tenses up and emotions heighten. Like the quote we don't have to force the river - it flows by itself - in labour our body is like the flowing water - it already knows where to go - but sometimes our mind gets in the way causing the river to bank up. Using this mantra is a constant reminder that instead of working against our labour (which can be intense) we can use our breath and the image of opening - rather than tightening to help it surrender and relax.
Inhale: I work with my body.
Exhale: I am open & relaxed.