Home > Blog > Pregnancy > Pregnancy. How to prepare for your birth journey
“owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
– Brene Brown
Up the duff. Bun in the oven. Cooking a sprog. Knocked up. In the family way. Pregasaurus. The old belly buddy. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a huge transition for most women (unless you’re one of those ladies who stays sane and smiling throughout the whole nine-months, with naught but a wee bump where your abs normally are, housing your cute bundle. We simultaneously salute you and dislike you a tiny bit.) There are plenty of eyebrow raising symptoms that join the ride of pregnancy. Not only will your tuna canoe not quite be the same again, but you may get to enjoy some serious cankles and sexy-as fluid retention, some nausea thrown in, fatigue, constipation, a little gas, stretch marks and all the joys of childbirth – maybe a little prolapse, maybe a little incontinence, maybe a lot of both.
The thing is, maybe you’ll have none of those things, either. Pregnancy can be as joy filled and energising as it can be draining and painful. Everyone’s journey is so very different, and it’s so important to leave the comparison train in the station and try to enjoy your own ride – however bumpy and at times loooooonnngggg it may be. Accepting your own experience as yours and taking as many proactive steps as you’re able to set yourself up for what you think of as success is just so important.
Here at Pelvic Solutions, we see it all. Ideally, we’d adore to see all women before they start to try and conceive, to check out the state of their pelvic floor and assess how to really start this journey on the healthiest foot possible. Then, throughout pregnancy, we offer a range of support services to help you prepare for birth, with manual release, tips on how to stay strong and mobile, exercise safely in pregnancy and a focus on breath and lifestyle. We offer specialised, tailored and intimate group pregnancy exercise and education classes and 1:1 programs which focus on strength, relaxation and functional movement – giving each mama the knowledge and freedom to move safely and happily. We screen for bladder, bowel or any sexual dysfunction in pregnancy and will treat this as necessary. Post childbirth, it’s our absolute privilege to help women to regain their strength and make sure everything is working as it should to the best of its ability, with pelvic floor exercises tailored to you and advice on where to next.
We also think it’s so important for women to empower themselves with knowledge so they can own their own experience. Sometimes things don’t go to plan; your natural water birth might turn into an emergency C-section, or a 20-hour plus labour. But, we don’t believe in fear-mongering and while it’s really crucial to know all the options and what may eventuate, sometimes the plans DO go to plan. It’s common to hear the horror stories and old wives’ tales of hectic births (why do we delight so much in sharing these things with mums-to-be?!) but it’s also so important to share birth stories that are awesome. Yep, birthing is no bed of roses, but it’s pretty cool when it goes swell.
We believe strongly that no mum should suffer ‘mum guilt’ – whatever their experience. Be it a challenging or glorious labour, each and every mum should be able to own and share their story for what it was; the path to bringing forward a tiny human earth side. You’ve done something extraordinary and every woman’s story should be celebrated.
Jemima* had one of these stories. Growing up in Christchurch, she and her husband met at high school and started dating during university. They moved to Wanaka nearly a decade ago and were married at Rippon Vineyard. Becoming pregnant at the end of 2018, Jemima gave birth to her little girl in August with a water birth at home. “I loved being pregnant. Well, the majority of it!” Jemima says. “Our pregnancy was planned so when I fell pregnant, I was over the moon and felt an incredible instinct to nourish and protect my body to grow this wee babe as best as I could and prepare for giving birth. There were certainly some physical discomforts like mental and physical exhaustion (possibly the most tired I have ever felt!) reflux and lower back pain, especially in the first trimester and the last few weeks, but it never hindered my feelings or attitude. I loved knowing that my body was growing our baby and was constantly amazed with how the female body was capable of creating life. Women rock! It was very empowering.”
Jemima was hugely proactive when it came to seeking a support network throughout her pregnancy, taking advantage of the amazing health professionals we’re so lucky to have here in Wanaka. “I have what my husband calls my pregnancy pit crew; an amazing group of professionals supporting me in the lead up to trying to get pregnant, during pregnancy and postpartum care,” she says. “My husband and I attended a Hypnobirthing course with Roz McRae. We practiced the hypnobirthing breathing and relaxation techniques daily as well as pelvic floor exercises. I saw Nikki Potts, who is a naturopath and nutritionist. Nikki gave advice and provided support on nutrition and additional supplementation needed for a healthy conception and pregnancy. I visited Jin Ong who is an osteopath. Knowing that pregnancy was a huge physical journey, I wanted to make sure any existing physical ailments were addressed and Jin helped and supported me with this and continued to support me throughout my pregnancy. On recommendation from Jin, I began doing Pilates classes at The Body Garage to improve and strengthen core muscles and posture pre-conception and carried on attending classes throughout my pregnancy. I also attended pregnancy yoga classes at Yoga Ground as well. I visited acupuncturist Kate Perriam for three pre-labour sessions in the last few weeks of my pregnancy to help get everything downstairs ready to roll! I went into labour the day after my last session with her. Finally, I saw Lisa Carnie, founder of Pelvic Solutions, also on recommendation from Jin. I saw Lisa for a better understanding on pelvic floor health and how it would help with my pregnancy and birth.”
Before falling pregnant, Jemima hadn’t even heard of a pelvic floor physio; something that sadly, is all too common. “Knowing that it was important to do pelvic floor exercises, I saw Lisa quite early on in my pregnancy to make sure that I was doing the pelvic floor exercises correctly. I didn’t want to do them wrong for weeks and weeks, and then have to retrain myself too close to my due date,” she says. “I’m so glad that I did this as it made me realise that having good pelvic floor control wasn’t just about turning this muscle on, but also having the ability to turn it off; key to being able to relax and let that baby come out!”
Jemima visited Pelvic solutions at 18, 30 and 38 weeks pregnant, as well as two and six weeks postpartum. “I would definitely recommend that others do the same. It’s not the easiest or most comfortable topic to talk about but having the awareness and understanding of how your pelvic floor muscles work, how they assist with your labour and channelling the mind and body connection to use them is a game changer for the birth process,” she says. “When it comes to pregnancy and birth, many people freely give advice and opinions. Every woman is different and every baby is different. Listen to what everyone has to say and take the bits that resonate with you, and then just smile and nod to the stuff that doesn’t. Everyone is trying to be helpful and they mean well, but it doesn’t mean you have to do what they say if you don’t agree with it.”
Jemima says it’s key to not worry about comparison – especially for things like bump size. “Small bump or a big bump, it doesn’t matter! Everyone carries their baby differently and the size of your bump doesn’t necessarily equate to the size of your baby,” she says. “Those who aren’t pregnant don’t realise that mentioning the size of your bump might have an emotional effect on you, in the already sensitive state that you are. I was told I had a big bump all the time, and ‘good luck pushing that out’. I had to work on not thinking about how big the baby was so I didn’t get scared of trying to birth a big baby naturally! Positive affirmations are great tool for this. This can also apply for the baby scans. Once baby is earth side, what size they were as a bump or on their scan will be less important. Adults come in all shapes and sizes, so naturally babies do too!”
Jemima says she prefers to call it writing a ‘birth preference’ as opposed to a ‘birth plan’. “Like with life, things don’t always go to plan and having an understanding of all of your birthing options and knowing what your decisions would be before giving birth will help make a more positive experience,” she says. “When it’s birth show time, you’re not in the state to make those kinds of decisions, so knowing what you would do beforehand can lead the way to how your experience goes. From listening to other Mums and considering my own experience, it’s when you give away the control to others that you feel disconnected with your birth and so you don’t get a chance to come to terms with it all before it actually happens.
“It’s not the location of where you have the baby or if you have it naturally or have a c-section that makes it a beautiful birth. It’s how you choose to handle your own situation.”
Jemima says the most important things she kept returning to during her birth experience are mind-set and perspective. “It’s a bit scary, but you have to be really honest with yourself, admit your fears and know your strengths,” she says. “Having a positive and open mind-set can help handle whatever birthing situation you’re in. It’s also not something that just happens instantly either. I definitely worked on keeping a positive and open mind-set throughout the pregnancy with daily breathing and listening to affirmations. The mind and body connection is a strong force, and keeping baby happy and safe can be difficult if you’re feeling worried or stressed.”
“Additionally, being physically prepared and body aware can help too. Growing, carrying a baby and then giving birth are great physical accomplishments and it makes your body work really hard so staying active with walking, Pilates and practicing breathing techniques helps condition your body for the big event. What works for everyone is different. For me, being prepared and being informed made me feel more relaxed but for another mum, that might be too overwhelming. It really helps to be honest and know what works best for you.”
* Name has been changed for privacy