Tried and somewhat-tested birth preparation...things

I know, catchy title, right? 

When I was preggers, I veered wildly from "I can do this! I am going to be awesome at labour! I am woman - hear me ROAR!" to totally panic-stricken, petrified of giving birth, rocking-in-a-corner scared. But I'm a natural planner - I like to feel as though I'm doing something to combat whatever I'm worrying about, so I decided to do whatever I could to try to make labour as...pleasant as possible. Except perineal massage. That made me boak. 

From about 29 weeks, every Monday I waddled a few blocks of the SW19 grid over to Southfields to take Annabel's YogaBirth class. Annabel was lovely - a doula and YogaBirth teacher who had just the right mix of calmness and no-nonsense to make me wish I could have her with me when I gave birth. 

I really enjoyed the classes, which comprised a nice chat about birth over some herbal tea and homemade cookies, about 45 minutes of pregnancy yoga and pelvic floor exercises and sometimes a talk by someone in the know about things birthy. Annabel also sometimes invites along a woman who's recently given birth so everyone can hear a firsthand experience of labour and coo over an adorable newborn but I didn't get to experience that while I did the class (I was also pretty gutted that she never asked me to come back and show off my baba).  

The yoga was great, and I definitely think it helped me prepare for giving birth. I didn't get much of a chance to practise the breathing techniques but I was markedly more flexible after attending classes for a few weeks. And I'm crediting the mandatory pelvic floor section of the classes with my swift recovery and strong-as-before-baby pelvic floor. 

Talking of pelvic floor muscles, I also invested in an Epi-No . I say invest, as it costs about £90. Not a cheap alternative to perineal massage but way more tolerable in my opinion. For those not in the know, the Epi-No is a fancy rubber balloon with a squeezy inflator thingy and pressure gauge at the end. Insert, squeeze to inflate, squeeze a bit more, and a bit more, and a bit...ouch! That's enough. Now hold it there and, when you can tolerate it no more, push it out like a blue, rubbery baby. It's every bit as gross as it sounds. I think I only managed to get it to 6.5cm with the Epi-No, but my tiny first degree tear says this baby works. I'll totally be getting it out again for the next one (I'm optimistic that things have, erm, recovered sufficiently to warrant it). 

At about 20 weeks, before the GD diagnosis, I decided I'd like to give hypnobirthing a shot. I downloaded the Maggie Howell CD but, I'll be honest, I didn't fully commit to it. Maybe it was the knowledge that I wasn't going to get that water birth I thought I wanted. Maybe it was the fact I couldn't 'find time' to listen to the tracks (yes, now I laugh at 2015 Beth for her inability to find 20 minutes in her busy pre-baby life of Doing Nothing). Maybe the natural sceptic in me stops me from being open to the suggestions of hypnosis; I tend to fixate on the humorous bits of the audio, anticipate them and then get the giggles - Paul McKenna couldn't make me thin as I was too busy laughing at "close your eyes if you...haven't already" and this time I got the giggles at the way she says "down to where your baby lies..." I think I'd give hypnobirthing another shot, maybe with a little more practice and a little less induction-related intensity it would work for me. 

Books-wise I read Juju Sundin's Birth Skills. This is pretty focused on an active labour, so it all went out the window once I'd begged for the sweet relief of the epidural, but I found some of it helpful. The marching through contractions definitely worked for me, as well as lots of counting - Matt would count up to ten (more than once, obviously) to get me through the pre-epidural contractions and then would count down from ten when it got to pushing time. 

I think a combination of something to prepare your body and your mind is a good idea. Keep up a reasonable level of fitness in pregnancy and do something to prepare your downstairs for the big event - labour is tough and I was surprised at the force of pushing that was involved (maybe because Miss A got stuck), and find out what gets you in the zone mentally, be that hypnobirthing or whatever else floats your boat. If you're like me, just the act of doing something to prepare will make you feel more in control and at ease with the prospect of giving birth, which is surely a good thing. 

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