Birth Prep… #Maternity&Motherhood

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Maternity Photos taken for Nico’s Pregnancy in May 2016, by Dana Monticelli Photography

Today we’re talking all things Birth Prep! And because I don’t have any pictures of me reading labor and delivery books or listening to podcasts, I shared some maternity photos instead. Because what’s a blog post with pictures?

Earlier in the week, I mentioned to a friend that I was writing about birth prep on the blog. Of course, she’s my friend, so she’s knows I’m all about the empowering journey that pregnancy, birth and motherhood should be, but she made an interesting point to me- do you think the majority of women prep for birth? That the idea is even on their radar?

Why Birth Prep
Which really made me stop and think — the majority of first time mamas I know prep for having a baby. As in, after birth. But not really the journey of labor and delivery itself. And while that’s perfectly fine, of course, I actually think that labor and delivery is the first big test of life as a parent, and one that could be so meaningful if given some energy and thought!

What is Birth Prep
Birth Prep is the idea of taking intentional steps to prepare for labor and delivery. It doesn’t matter how or where you intend to give birth, the experience itself is a marathon (actually, can take 3-4x as long as a marathon!), and you wouldn’t just wake up one day and attempt to run 26.2 miles. Honestly, if I was going to run any number of miles, I’d need to prep. Labor and delivery is the same way!

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Birth Prep can be anything from physical exercise, reading, listening to podcasts, checking out apps, meditating, hypnobirthing, classes, or really anything else! Today I’m going to share some of my favorites, and tell you why!

EXERCISE

Exercise has gotten harder and harder for me as I keep having kids. Most of the time I feel like there’s just not enough hours in the day to do the things I absolutely need to do, let alone fit in exercise. And heck- chasing around two toddlers kind of counts, right?

That being said, I find prenatal yoga an absolute must. I go to a weekly 90 minute Prenatal Yoga class at Schoolhouse Yoga near Ross Park Mall in the North Hills of Pittsburgh. I wish I had more time to attend a second one per week, but just can’t fit it in with two young toddlers.

I’ve also taken great lengths to make sure I get in squats. Call me crazy or alone in this, but I’ve found myself in a squatting position in labor both times so far. Those muscles need some work, especially carrying around the extra weight!

CHIROPRACTIC CARE

wish that I had discovered the wonders of prenatal chiro care during my first pregnancy. My labor with my son, nearly 3 years ago, was a very long prodromal labor. My son was also born posterior, which made for painful and difficult back labor, something I found myself unprepared for. I was determined not to have that happen for any subsequent births, and sought out chiropractic care during my first trimester with Dr. Brie at Live Well Chiropractic in Wexford, PA. Dr. Brie is a certified in Webster Technique, which is the in-utero constraint technique used to balance the pelvis properly, reducing stress on the ligaments that support the uterus. I start with care every 4 weeks in first trimester, moving to every 2 weeks in the second trimester, and then weekly in the third trimester. During the last week or two, I go as often as I can, knowing that proper alignment of my pelvis and birth canal will give my baby the best chance of getting in the right position and coming out efficiently. And who wants a drawn out labor?

READING

Reading is so important in prepping for birth. I don’t really focus on week-by-week pregnancy books (i.e., What To Expect When You’re Expecting), but rather books talk about birth being a normal, natural thing and in the words of birthing women, not anonymous writers or practitioners. I also look for books that contain a plethora of birth stories. Some of my favorites (I read each pregnancy and sometimes repeat!) include: Spiritual Midwifery and Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, Birth Without Fear by January Harshe, Fearless Birthing and Fear Free Childbirth by Alexia Leachman, and Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan.

My absolute favorite, despite its age, is Spiritual Midwifery. It contains so many birth stories- and let me tell you- so many of the situations that arose in that book happened to me during one of my births. I didn’t even realize how much I had internalized everything I had read, but I instinctively found myself knowing what to do when miscellaneous things cane up in labor because it was already programmed in my mind. For example, I remember reading about changing from the “J” breathing or “breathing your baby down” to panting after the baby’s head comes out but before the rest of the body does. I remember Ina May talking about how changing breathing helps prevent tearing. Despite having a third degree laceration and periurethral tear from birth with my first, I had no tearing with my second (and it’s much more likely after you tear the first time). Somehow, in the height of all the birth excitement, I remembered to change my style of breathing in that moment. That wasn’t even something I took a note on or wrote down to remember, but I believe that it helped! I also remembered reading story after story that talked about the perception of pain being greater when your eyes were closed, and how keeping your jaw loose by singing or laughing would help loosen your pelvis. Guys- those things WORK.

I really believe that the  more birth stories that you read, the more you mold your mind into knowing that birth is a normal, natural event. It’s not a sickness or an injury, and doesn’t have to be treated as a medical situation. It happens on its own, when the baby and the mother’s bodies are both ready. Reading birth story after birth story really helps to change your mindset into this is what my body is supposed to be doing. Some of the stories you read, particularly the older ones, are pretty hippie. I won’t lie. A lot of the women in Spiritual Midwifery used the phrase “I felt psychadellic” – that’s not really a term that I relate to. But, if you can look beyond that and to the purpose of the story itself- it really goes a long way. I aim to spend 15 minutes a day reading birth stories. I can’t recommend it enough!

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Maternity Photos taken for Gabriella’s Pregnancy in January 2018, by Dana Monticelli Photography

 

PODCASTS

I discovered the joy of podcasts at the beginning of my first pregnancy. I don’t know how I was otherwise so late to the game, but my sister-in-law was talking a lot about listening to podcasts in the car and I figured I’d give it a try. Because I was newly pregnant at the time, I started by looking up birth podcasts. The first one that I came across was Fear Free Childbirth by Alexia Leachman. Let me tell you how much this woman really helped me. I went through all the episodes of her podcast during my pregancy with Nico, and simply listening to her positive energy and the stories of moms that went on her show really gave me a great framework. I didn’t buy her Fear Free Childbirth plan, which is available on her website, but I did work her Fear Clearance method (my understanding of it, at least) during pregnancy. I also discovered The Birth Hour by Bryn Huntpalmer. Her passion for making sure women know their options in childbirth is something I relate so much to.

In my second pregnancy, I discovered a few others: Doing It At Home, Evidence Based Birth, Happy Homebirth, Mom Is In Control (which focuses on both pregnancy and motherhood), and The Birthful Podcast. Since then, and even between my second and third pregnancies, I found a few more: Dr. Stu’s Podcast with Dr. Stuart Fischbein, Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy Podcast, and The Harshe Podcast.

I absolutely LOVE Dr. Stu’s Podcast- he is so real and I love the guests he has on his show! He is an OB/GYN that has really focused his practice on supporting midwives and the care they provide as an alternate to the medical model. He is extensively trained in vaginal breech and twin delivery, and has made it his mission to continue to teach the lost art through his seminars around the world. He also is one of few OB/GYNs that will deliver twins or breeches vaginally, and has a stellar record of success doing so.

I equally love Dr. Berlin’s Podcast- he interviews a lot of celebrities and does a before/after framework to his podcast which I find really helpful. He also sponsors a YouTube series- The Real Midwives of Los Angeles– and it’s pure gold.

Lastly, January Harshe (and her husband) host an incredible podcast discussing all things kids, parenting, marriage, business, physical and mental health, and sex. They are FUNNY, and I find it important to laugh when talking about such a significant topic like childbirth. I find that most of their podcasts are humorous but with evidence based information, including from their own experiences.

PREGNANCY APPS

While, like every other new mom, I probably used 3-4 different pregnancy apps (okay, maybe 7) during my first pregnancy, I’ve come to use them less and less in subsequent pregnancies; in fact, I don’t even have one on my phone right now. In all honesty someone asked me a few weeks back how far along i was and I legit had no idea. My favorite when I was using them was the Glow Nurture Pregnancy App. I also like their regular app (Glow Cycle & Fertility Tracker) and their postpartum app (Glow Baby: Newborn Tracker). The app that I find most helpful now is not a pregnancy week-by-week app, but rather a meditation app called Expectful Meditation and Sleep App. I used it in the third trimester of my second pregnancy, and have been using since the beginning of this pregnancy. First of all, the woman’s voice that does the guided meditations, which are 5, 10, or 20 minutes long, is just perfect. I legitimately fall asleep to her voice 9 times out of 10- even when I’m not trying to! So don’t listen in the car! The meditations are very similar to hypnobirthing tracks and are catered to each trimester, allowing you to choose meditations based on your fears or how you’re otherwise feeling. It’s a bit pricey, at $9.99/month, but there is a subscription for $74.99 for an entire year (or pregnancy), and that’s what I did this time.

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Maternity Photos for Gabriella taken in January 2018, by Dana Monticelli Photography

DOCUMENTARIES, BIRTH VIDEOS AND V-LOGS

One of the best ways to learn about birth is to watch birth. During my first pregnancy while I was early in my research, I watched The Business of Being Born. It was still on Netflix at the time, and I think I may have watched it three times. Like so many moms, I was absolutely fascinated by the documentary. Ricki Lake did a fantastic job, even though she didn’t even set out to make the documentary at the time of filming her home water birth. It was absolutely eye-opening to me.

I also watch a ton of YouTube videos and V-Logs. I don’t have any go-tos here, and  anytime you go down the YouTube rabbit hole you have a chance of finding some pretty crazy hippie stuff (no offense, hippies!), but simply watching birth helps you to understand it. I find it amazing to see the different ways women labor and deliver their babies earth side; it also helps you feel more “normal” whenever your turn comes.

MY BIRTH TEAM

Last but not least, I put together an incredible birth team to help guide me through my brith journey. My incredible doula, Bethany Brown, has been with me through all three of my pregnancy journies. If you have the ability to hire a doula to support you through your pregnancy and labor, I couldn’t encourage it enough. Bethany is an incredible human being, and works with a great team at Birth Doulas of Pittsburgh to provide support to women during pregnancy, childbirth, and even the postpartum period. The cost of doulas aren’t currently covered by insurance (WHY! Just WHY!), but believe me when I tell you they are underpaid for the work that they do and worth every penny.

I also work with a midwife team (I have established co-care for this pregnancy between my Home Birth Midwife and my Certified Nurse Midwives in case I need to transfer to the hospital) as well as a nutritionist. This team keeps me healthy, calm, and helps ease concerns as they arise. I could not do it without them.


No matter how you choose to prepare for your marathon, you should do whatever works for you. While of course it’s possible to just show up for your labor and delivery (truly- no judgment!), the chance to have an experience that you’re knowledgeable about and ready for has the chance to take it from good to great. I’m one of those people who operate best with as much information as possible. That doesn’t mean I spend countless hours google searching birth, but I love going into birth knowing that, while I am not in control, I know what is going on. It’s empowering, it’s meaningful, and it’s an experience unique to me.

Do you prepare for birth? How so, if you do? Any tips or tricks you can share?

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Maternity Photos taken for Baby #3 in April 2019

 

22 thoughts on “Birth Prep… #Maternity&Motherhood

  1. I really wish I’d read more birth stories before giving birth. I knew it was a natural thing, but it still stressed me out and I wish I’d taken time to read more so I could have eased my mind a little! If I have more kids, I’ll definitely be reading more about birth before I get there!

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    1. If I had to pick just one thing (after chiropractic care- that is just essential in my opinion), I would pick reading birth stories. We don’t realize how much we’re influenced by the Hollywood picture of birth until you read how not normal what we see on tv is. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. So many mamas I talk to say the same thing!!!

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  2. I have 3 kids and I will tell you exercise strength training (they make pregnancy tapes) and walking hands down make for a much easier labor and birth. I ran with my last one as long as I could and then took up power walking it made the pregnancy and birth so much easier than the previous two. Great list you are so prepared. I think you are 100% ready to have this baby. You will have wonderful birth.

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    1. You are SO right! I wish I could do more endurance and strength training in this pregnancy. Appreciate your kind words.

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  3. I love reading about others’ birth journeys. No two are the same. Both of my girls were so different. Eight months after my second was born, they continue to be so different.

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    1. Isn’t it amazing how you can have multiple kids and they can be so very different?

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  4. When I had my first baby, I wish I had known what to expect, but that was in the time before the internet. I found it much easier knowing the process and what my body was doing

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  5. Thank you for all the great tips! I especially like the one about chiropractic care, as when it comes time for me, I’d like to be as best prepared as possible!

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  6. My husband and I are planning to have kids within the next 1-2 years and this is great for prep material. I’m going to have to bookmark this for future reference!

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  7. i didnt read a lot of birth stores during my pregnancy because i didnt want to get scared. now i wish had

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  8. I definitely think reading is one of the most important ways to prep for your baby! My sister read soooo many books and blogs and it’s helped her to be a calmer and less anxious mother, because she feels more prepared!

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  9. I agree with your tips above, reading and podcast do wonders. It helps me boost up our mood and be more positive and looking forward to the big day.

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  10. Nice reading your exhaustive motherhood tips. Many will find it be helpful.

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  11. When my bestie got pregnant thru IVF last last year, I knew she would need a lot of moral support from us for her pregnancy and mommy journey. I’m glad she was able to make it and she does acknowledge that it’s been a big help for her to avoid postpartum depression. You look really wonderful on these pics!

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  12. I wish I looked as amazing as you do pregnant! And I totally agree on chiropractic care! I discovered it after my 3 babies and now the whole family goes ❤️. Also never did a birth plan, but kinda wish I had!

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  13. I think I had the reading part down when I was preparing for my children. Everything else seems to be a lot more advanced and available than it was years ago. I think the chiropractic adjustments would have helped me quite a bit.

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  14. This is a fabulous post for any mother to be! I wish I had read this when I was pregnant..as there are so many important points you have made here. I did lots of walking and reading to prepare myself during my pregnancy

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  15. The maternity photos are great. My daughter just had baby #1 in March. It was a wonderful journey for her.

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  16. My mummy enjoyed lots of reading and had a couple of massages before having me and it was bliss – the quiet before the storm!

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  17. What a thorough and informative post for soon to be moms! I’d love to have kids in the future and I feel like I definitely have more of an idea of what to expect when the time comes!

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  18. First of all – congratulations! And second, it’s so interesting to hear your story – I’ll definitely come back to this if the time comes in the future!

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