Training for Birth

I love the sport of fitness. I love watching people train for anything! Some train for marathons, triathalons, weekend warrior races, intense yoga inversions, the Crossfit Games, or the Olympics. I am enamored with the human body and all the things it is capable of.

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Sam and Kate Photography 

My most recent training obsession has come with the adventure of “motherhood”.

I produced a little human being 4 months ago, and I felt like superwoman. Many people in and around my life lifted me up and praised my journey and labor experience, which I shared here. The female body is AMAZING. Mothers are amazing! However, amidst the encouragement, I also began hearing a particular phrase often enough to become noticeable. The wording didn’t seem too concerning at first, but it bit me like a small mosquito, and manifested itself into a frustrating itch that I could not seem to remedy…

“You are lucky”.

This comment came in response to me having what many would consider a fast and successful home-delivery. When I first began hearing this phrase, I nodded along, and smiled with the people saying it and tried my best not to let the words tear my hard-earned cloak of strength away. Many people sincerely did not understand that this phraseology was disempowering. In fact, I believe many thought it was some sort of compliment. But after weeks and months of hearing the words, “You are so lucky”, I began to question if that was truly what I was. Was I lucky I had a powerful and uncomplicated labor? Was I lucky my home delivery did not result in an emergency transfer? Was I lucky my labor was rapid? Was I lucky my uterus contracted and pushed so effectively? Was I lucky my baby was healthy? Was I lucky I recovered so well? Was it all luck?

No. I don’t believe it was.

You see, luck implies I stuck my hand in the proverbial hat of random possibilities and waited to have my sentence determined, without any say in the matter. And after looking over my pregnancy, labor and delivery, luck had almost NOTHING to do with it.

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I trained for labor. I saw my due date as an event that required the most diligent preparation I had ever managed, thus far. I trained physically, mentally, and spiritually. I established a team of care-providers I trusted, and I got educated on everything I could. I made a conscience effort to be in control of all the areas I possibly could, which meant also learning to be at peace with the areas I could not control. And OF COURSE there are MANY things that are not within our realm of control, but that should not negate those things which are.

Now, before you feel I am casting judgements, I need to clarify something. Many women have had very different birthing experiences than me. Some have planned and prepared and trained and done EVERYTHING within their power to have a “certain birth experience”, and it didn’t work out. There should exist no blame nor regret in these experiences. Likewise, an athlete can do absolutely everything to train for a marathon, and on race day, the weather may not cooperate, there may be a blister forming from their shoe, or there could be any number of outliers that are completely unpredictable. Furthermore, EVEN if there is some fault on their part, it is not something I believe we should label as “bad” or “wrong”. Every pregnancy and labor experience is beautiful and whether challenging or “easy”, is a lesson and blessing in the grand adventure of life.

Even though our labors may not always go according to plan, and we need to be willing to accept a variety of scenarios, I don’t think those “what-ifs” should result in avoiding the hard, but totally fulfilling, work of preparation.

So, I am going to share how I trained my body and mind for labor. This is not a perfect or exhaustive “training plan”, it is just the way I did things. It is my personal response to “you are lucky”. I want to show you what sort of actions I took to create the experience that many define as “luck”. Please do not let this blog enter your space as a form of judgement or a reprimand. Instead, let it be something you can learn from, yourself, or share with future moms-to-be. Let this be a reminder that pregnancy and labor is a gift of empowerment, and that as women we have a beautiful and significant responsibility to be as educated and prepared as possible. No, things do not always go as planned, but that does not give us the right to ignore the privilege we have in preparedness.

The way I trained for pregnancy & labor:

Prayer.

Here is where many will say, be a spiritual person, but my faith requires me to be honest. I don’t believe the “act of prayer” or the “act of meditation” is beneficial, alone. I believe prayer and meditation are beneficial when you are sincerely seeking truth. I believe God is truth. It is very true, that everyone can be on a different journey in their spiritual experience, but I will never be a person that says, “pray to whatever god/spirit/thing catches your interest today”. I believe prayer needs to be focused and intentional. I am a believer in God, Almighty. I am a believer in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, and I believe that God sent His only begotten Son as the Messiah to save us from our sins.

Maybe you don’t share the same beliefs as me, and that is ok. However, I fully believe in the power of prayer and its capacity to do miracles in our lives. So, if you decide to take up the practice of praying, which I believe is the MOST important piece to success. I urge you to intentionally seek the power you are praying to. Be willing to listen, be willing to change, and be willing to humble oneself.

I believe God knows us better than we know ourselves. Furthermore, He knows the amazing created being inside of you! ALL of the “training methods” that follow, were revealed to me through prayer and would not have been possible to maintain, without prayer.

Care-Providers & Location.

Seek out a qualified and positive team to take care of you. I recommend everyone find and participate in some sort of “Birthing Options” seminar, so that they are aware of the facilities and care-takers around them. I attended a Birthing Options class at Well-Rounded Maternity Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

After researching all of the options, I decided to use the midwifery model of care, while also seeing an OBGYN, through St. Mary’s Hospital. My midwife was named Erin O’Day of Mama Moon Midwifery, and my Doctor was Dr. Wasserman.

I found the 10 pre-natal visits I had with Erin, which often lasted over an hour, were comprehensive, educational and relaxing. She taught me SO much and was not only a medical professional, but also our friend and our shrink! Both Erin and Dr. Wasserman cared about and checked on my physical health at every visit. However, I noticed a large difference between the midwifery care model and the medical care model in that Erin spent a great deal of time also discussing both mine and Danny’s emotional health. She made sure that both me and my support system were strong and well-educated. I felt prepared and totally confident in her abilities and wisdom.

Because I worked in cooperation with both a midwife and an OBGYN, I felt overly well taken care of. Dr. Wasserman fully supported my decision to have an out of hospital birth, and he was always so positive and encouraging. I loved knowing that if I had needed to transfer to the hospital, for any reason, he would be there and be positive about our change of plans.

The location you decide to use is also very important. You should feel safe and peaceful. I know this sounds crazy to many people, but the baby needs to come out, similar to the way it went in. Yes. I mean that birth should be a similar experience to love-making. The place you choose to deliver should represent you and your ideals. You should feel like you can be relaxed and totally submissive to the process your body is experiencing. For me, my home is a place of tranquility and bliss, and the idea of packing up a suitcase and going to a foreign, sterile environment, is a little more nerve-racking.

Whether you use the hospital route, the birthing center route, or the home birth route, I highly suggest you find the care team and the location that makes you feel confident and protected. You should not have anxiety as you enter this experience. Some people feel at peace in the hospital, and if that is the case, that is where they should be. Others, like me, feel the hospital is meant for emergencies and medical situations, which do not lend themselves to sensations of peace and serenity.

I explain my decision to have a home birth and utilize a midwife in this blog. 

Physical Activity.

I was Crossfitting, personal training, teaching group-fitness classes, and living an extremely active lifestyle, when I discovered I was pregnant. Upon researching exercise and pregnancy, I found a person can usually maintain any sort of workout system they were originally doing. So, I stayed physically active until the day I went into labor.  During the first 6 months of my pregnancy, I was working out 5 days a week. My workouts included yoga, pilates, weight training, olympic barbell movements, running, horseback-riding, swimming and TONS of jogging and walking. During the first 6 months, I focused on listening to my body. While, my workouts did not change much in type, they did change in intensity. I took more breaks, used a little lighter weights, and kept my heart rate lower than I usually would.

At about 32 weeks I was getting noticeably larger. At this point, I changed my routine more significantly. I was still active, but I started doing more walking and less running, more body weight exercises and less weight training.

Some of the exercises I found to be most beneficial, were lots of deep squats, swimming workouts, and yoga. When I was in labor, my contractions were very effective, and when my body decided to start pushing, it made huge advancements.

There are all kinds of specifics I could get into here, but this is not the place. I would be happy to share more information about working out while pregnant, if you want to contact me in the contact section of this website. 🙂

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Resources/Education

Surround yourself with information. I used books, podcasts, documentaries, websites, and youtube videos.

Here are the ones I found most helpful…

Podcasts: 

(Take an epsom salt bath with some lavender and put on a podcast…mmm so wonderful for our pregnant bodies!)

The Birth Hour: A podcast with authentic and varied birth stories from women all over the world! I LOVED listening to all the stories, and even had the opportunity to meet Bryn, who created the show! She is awesome, the stories are awesome, and it is by far some of the greatest pregnancy entertainment.

The BirthFIT Podcast: As it sounds, this is where Crossfit and birth meet…so to speak. This is a great place for those who are interested in fitness and babies. To be honest, I wish the podcast episodes were shorter and more birth/labor/delivery focused, but it is still an astounding resource, and great for reminding you how to modify and train during pregnancy and postpartum.

The Birthful Podcast: Love the information shared here. This lady does GREAT research and I love listening to her voice!

The Healthy Moms Podcast: Not entirely about birth but a great resource, nonetheless. 🙂

Pregnancy Podcast: A very informative and focused podcast. This is great for specific questions and offers a lot of evidence.

Books:

“Pushed” By: Jennifer Block

The Kind Mama” by Alicia Silverstone

“Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth”- Ina May Gaskin

“HypnoBirthing”-

Documentaries:

Business of Being Born: Everyone needs to watch this documentary. Very well done and great information!

TV Series:

Call the Midwife. This is such an adorable BBC show. My family and I fell in love with it! Not only was it entertaining, but it was also educational, as different pregnancy issues came up, we would research them and be better informed.

YouTube Channels/Websites:

Evidence Based Birth.

Mama Natural 

AND I attended an amazing event called “The Babymoon”. This event was a 5 day getaway in Sedona, Arizona, where my husband and I were able to take a final “vacation” before our baby girl arrived, while also take birthing classes alongside an amazing group of expecting couples!! The trip was AMAZING and the instructors and couples quickly became part of our parenting tribe. I was so enamored with the entire process, and I learned so much!

 

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Sam & Kate Photography

Nutrition.

I am a plant based eater. I eat a LOT of food (probably more than a normal person should), but I am also really conscientious about getting good quality, whole foods, and not snacking. I call myself a plant-based eater, instead of vegan, because I eat eggs, I will have dairy on occasion and might even have fish or meat once or twice a year, depending on where it came from and who is serving it. However, I believe 95% of our diet should come from plant-based, whole-food sources.

I focused on eating lots of food from our garden (I craved tomatoes like CRAZY…I usually had at least 3-5 tomatoes a day). I had a ton of juiced carrots, and green smoothies. I also paid attention to my gut health and getting probiotics. I ate sour kraut (until I had a weird aversion to it!) And then I continued to drink our homemade kombucha, while sometimes taking a probiotic supplement.

Protein was a big focus from my midwife, and being that I do not consume meat, I paid special attention to my protein sources. I ate eggs, quinoa, millet, lentils, beans, oatmeal, vega sports recovery protein powder, and TONS of greens (kale, chard, spinach, arugula, broccoli, green beans..etc)

During pregnancy I  found some really amazing books to help with nutrition, but one of my favorites was “The Kind Mama”.

I also ate a TON of dates. Mostly, I ate them, because I love dates, but I also heard that dates help to strengthen our uterus and make delivery easier. I also had a cup of red raspberry leaf tea almost daily starting around week 28. And finally, I ate a ton of pineapple and tended toward spicy food when I was trying to induce labor.

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Sam and Kate Photography

Vitamins.

I took a prenatal vitamin like this (the only advice I have on a multi-vitamin is make sure it is plant based and organic. In addition, please avoid folic acid, which is the synthetic version of folate.) I only took this about 2-3 days a week…when I remembered…

I also took the following…about 2-3 days a week (I try to get most of my nutrients from whole food sources, so I am not super diligent about taking supplements, but these are a few I did try to add in)

EFA (Essential Fatty Acids)

Iron

Some Doterra supplements: (CRS+, Terrazyme, DDR Prime)

Magnesium

Vitamin C/Sodium Ascorbate

Vega Sports Recovery Protein Powder

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Fresh Air/Breathing.

Breathing fresh air and feeling the ground beneath your feet are some crazy good medicines for ANYTHING, but especially for pregnancy. I made sure that I spent a lot of time outside and a lot of time taking really deep breaths, and working on my breath control.

Breath control is HUGE for athletes. And I believe a laboring woman is a powerful athlete. So, I trained my breath control. I would take walks where I breathed in as much and as long as I could and then held it, and slowly breathed out until I couldn’t even cough any more air out. Then I would repeat. Or sometimes I would do rhythmic breathing, where I would breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breath out for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts. When I was working out or running I would force my attention to be aware of my breath control. If an athlete can control their breathing, they are the ultimate authority.

You wouldn’t run a marathon without training your body, so do not try to birth a human being without training your breath control.

Sleep.

7-9 hours every night and catnaps throughout the day.

Seriously.

I don’t fully know how to express the importance of sleep. Your body needs it DESPERATELY, especially while you are building a little person. Do not feel selfish. Do not feel lazy. Do not feel bad in any way…if you are pregnant, you need sleep. Athletes do not mess around with no sleep, they know that a single night of not getting adequate sleep can lead to lots of recovery needs.

So, sleep.

 

Stress.

Every other part of my “training plan” talks about additions. Adding nutrition, adding exercise, adding education, etc…but this is one thing that has got to go. This is a hard one. I can be an anxious person and I can get stressed very easily. Personally, my first way to fight stress is going to prayer and reading the Bible. Then of course the way you are eating, your activity level and the people you are surrounded by can all influence your stress levels, as well. I have no deep thoughts to express here, except to say you have got to let it go. Taking stress out of your life during pregnancy is of utmost importance. Not only does it affect the growth and mind of your little human, but it will absolutely affect your labor and delivery process.

Cast your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

No stress allowed.

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Happy Co. Photography

Visualization/Positive Thinking.

When I played basketball and ran track, my father would tell me to go to bed visualizing my race. I never fully respected his wisdom, until now. Visualization is a magnificent tool for birth.

Very early on in my pregnancy I would imagine going into labor, and I would play out various scenarios in my mind. I would even talk through the different “imaginings of birth”, as my husband and I laid in bed at night. I would run through a possible birth plot and then ask my husband to describe his own version of potential scenarios.

Visualization helps us to meet fear and practice dealing with it. When you can eradicate fear from a situation, you can replace it with peace. Labor is intense and painful, but if you can separate those sensations from fear, you can breath a little easier and encounter a more tranquil experience.

Of course, the goal is to imagine good things and successful happenings. So practice being positive and imagining good outcomes.

Pre-Pregnancy.

I want to take a moment here to briefly discuss my life before pregnancy. Now, I cannot claim to have been “training for birth”, before I knew I was pregnant, because my baby girl was a TOTAL surprise. However, I will say that I was very conscience about my health. I have never taken birth control, or used any sort of prescription pill that could disrupt my endocrine system/hormones. Now, we have inescapable toxins in various forms ALL around us, but I have always leaned toward more of a natural existence. I fully believe this more organic lifestyle and the health I maintained before being pregnant also lent themselves to a successful birthing experience.

Like I mentioned above, this is not an exhaustive list of how to train for birth, and it is definitely not a prescription you need to follow. It is simply the areas of my life that were important to me and my birth experience. I do feel like I had a fantastic pregnancy and birth adventure. I know that some will view this only as a digital “pat on the back”, and thats ok, because I am ridiculously proud of what my mind, body, and support team accomplished. However, as much as I am proud of the way I prepared for brith, I must emphasize that I fully and humbly felt the hand of God in the creation and fruition of my baby girl. I am incredibly grateful for the way He worked in this process. The little lady that came as a result, is by far the most amazing and rewarding piece of the process, and I thank my Father in heaven, daily.

I don’t think we should have cookie cutter experiences, and I fully believe variety is the spice of life. However, I also believe women should be well-prepared, well cared for, and empowered spiritually, mentally and physically, for the adventure of birth. I have enjoyed this miraculous experience so much, and I believe it would be selfish of me to keep this training plan to myself. Every woman is a super athlete, and capable of amazing feats! So, I caution you, next time you feel inclined to use the word, “lucky”, to describe the process of bring a human into the world, consider the work that may have gone into that gamble.

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Happy Co. Photography

 

 

[Disclaimer: Nothing in this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding pregnancy and all it includes. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. :)]
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4 thoughts on “Training for Birth

  1. Hi Drea,

    What an encouraging and beautiful post that is such a testament to God’s work in your life and the power he gave you through prayer.

    My friend, Erin Eddy, referred me to your blog months ago when I announced my husband and I were expecting. I had told her I wanted to have as natural a childbirth as possible and she thought your blog would be an encouragement to me in this endeavor.

    So I started reading your blog and realized you and your husband live very similar lives to me and mine – both permaculture enthusiasts and Believers, an often rare combination. I was struck by how similar our stories were and had it in the back of my mind to reach out to you.

    Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, we miscarried and my grief kept me from both contacting you and also from doing a lot of things. But leaning in to God and believing in his healing powers has gotten me to the point that I can revisit this birthing story you shared and also look forward to trying again. What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good.

    I just wanted to send you a note and let you know what a strength it was to read your post and I wish you and your new little family all the best in life!

    Like

    1. Samantha.

      You’re comment brought me to tears. You worded that so perfectly. All things work together for good, to those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

      I cannot understand the grief you must have endured. There are no adequate words.

      But your attitude and refinement through those flames is beautiful, and inspiring to me. I would LOVE to get to know you and your family more! You’re so right, I’ve claimed the permaculture label, but it’s definitely not often brought into the Christian realm. It sounds like we might be soul sisters 🙂

      I wish I could write all my thoughts at once, but I am running behind schedule (story of my life) but I will be reaching out very soon.

      You’ve been added to my prayers. God bless, sis!

      Like

      1. Thank you for the kind words and prayers. It definitely seems that we are kindred spirits! We would love to get to know you guys too and talk permaculture or faith or just life in general 🙂

        Like

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