When you're in labor, sometimes it can be hard to remember all the mantras and affirmations you read while pregnant, and hard to keep your eye on the goal instead of the contractions. There are lots of great ways to manage, from singing to meditation to massage.
Another aid I recently learned about is a tool that gives you a focal point, a peaceful and loving feel, and serves as a reminder of all the things you are aiming for -- a birth altar.
Though one blog I found suggested you're stupid if you don't already know what this is, none of my natural-birth advocate friends I asked had heard of it and I hadn't either, so I did some research and I love the idea and wish I'd made one even though I bet some people think it's really weird.
You can make your own birth altar -- here's how:
- Buy a picture frame, tag board, art canvas, or something that can sit upright independently and attach pictures to. You're aiming for it to be easy to decorate, but also sturdy and lasting (you'll want to save this).
- Remind yourself of your baby. A really common choice, obviously, is your ultrasound picture that shows the baby's face -- after all, meeting that person is your goal. Being able to see them while you're in transition can help you focus and remember why you're doing this in the first place. You can also put an article of baby's clothing, such as a hat that you bought for her, so you can have something tangible to touch and hold.
- Use birth affirmations. Find some that really resonate with you, and print or write them in a decorative but still easily read display. Some good choices for me would have been "Self-doubt is the sign that it's almost over." and "My baby feels my joy, love and confidence."
- Look at images of beauty and motherhood. Whether it's a painting of a mother, Mary with baby Jesus, or whatever you want, find something that seems like a beautiful depiction of the process of bringing life into the world.
- Use aromatherapy. While this isn't allowed in a lot of hospitals, you can light some candles or oil burners with comforting smells such as vanilla or lavender. The light of the flame can be a good focal point too, and makes your entire set up look more serene and meaningful.
- Feel free to incorporate religion. A Catholic woman might choose baby Jesus, like I said. A Pagan woman might choose some eggs as a symbol of new life, Innanna, or the Willendorf goddess. Use what feels right for you.
Set up all of these things in a way that it's transportable in case you're going to be going to a hospital or a birthing center (or may need to be transferred).
The goal is to remind you that everything is worth it, that you can be calm and confident, that your body and baby will work together, and to have visuals of the end goal. It's obviously something that will be very different for every single woman, and deeply personal. It can really have just about anything you want -- what I've listed here is merely suggestions to get you started.
Would you make a birth altar? What would you put on yours?