The final weeks of your pregnancy can be, well, pretty uncomfortable. It can feel like a Christmas morning that never arrives, each sunrise you’re faced with a “not yet, not today.” It can be a strange phenomenon to feel physically and emotionally prepared, and yet there is nothing you can do to move things along. In mindfulness practice, we call this Horticultural time. It’s the understanding that certain things like childbirth have their own wisdom. And the practice becomes understanding that your body is just where it needs to be. You are not alone in this either, you are among a tribe of women, anxiously waiting on their baby to arrive. That is the first thing!
The second thing is that YOU WILL NOT BE PREGNANT FOREVER. I promise. These last weeks can be challenging, especially when you pass your due date, and everyone you know is calling you to ask if you’ve had the baby yet.
The good news; there’s nothing wrong with you. You and your baby are healthy. You are safe. So let me offer you some ways to come back to the present moment. To be here now.
Statistically, first babies arrive around 40 weeks and 5 days. Meaning, you are closer to going into labor with this baby today than you were yesterday. But you still might have another week or so. Keep breathing, your baby is safe inside, and you have a competent care provider, confirming that for you. You are also deeply connected with your baby and his movements. How would it feel to drop into those movements to connect with the actual baby inside of you at this very moment? Try it.
Bring your awareness to the sensations of your baby moving inside of you. Breath into those sensations. See what you find. Perhaps a feeling of peace and calm? Maybe some tension around the stretching sensations of the baby’s movements? What happens when you breathe into it, can you release that tension?
You might even experience a break from the mental chatter that’s been driving you bananas. I invite you to practice being with your baby throughout the day. Just pause what you are doing to notice your baby’s movements.
What else is there to do?
I bet you are doing everything you can to get labor going, like having lots of sex, going for walks, maybe getting acupuncture, and making plans with helpful friends. Perhaps it is time to stop doing?
Are you feeling like you are putting pressure on yourself? If you are, then do the opposite of that. I invite you to reframe these last few weeks as an opportunity to do the things you might not get to do once your baby arrives. Watch t.v. all-day, go out dinner, see a movie, get a massage. Perhaps connect with your partner.
One of the foundational attitudes of mindfulness practice is called “Beginner’s Mind.” The reality is, we do not know when you will go into labor, how long the labor will last for, or how it will feel while it is happening. Making peace with this requires a little bit of letting go of how you think it should be. Instead, redirect your attention to how things actually are at this moment. The practice of letting go isn’t about giving up; alternately, it requires focus and determination to respond to the situation at hand. This is also an excellent tool for parenthood. You can be aware of your hopes and plans, but the practice is to not cling to them. When you can be with things as they are in the present moment, you might find they are not as bad as you thought. The suffering we feel arises when we resist reality. In fact, there is a lot of research to prove the efficacy of mindfulness practice and stress reduction, especially during pregnancy.
This mindfulness practice can come in handy right about now. Basically, when you have a thought like “OMG, I’m never going into labor, will I be induced? I’m totally going to be induced. I’m going to get a c-section too, everyone who gets induced gets a c-section. Crap, I better research c-sections” You can catch yourself. Stop. Breath. Sink into your belly, notice the movements of your baby. And repeat the phrase “Don’t Know, I simply don’t know.”
This might sound a little stupid, but it is the only thing that’s true. Right now, at this moment. We Just Don’t Know.
You can then repeat the things you DO know, I am safe, my baby is safe. I am loved and supported, no matter how my labor goes.
You may go into labor on your own, or you may get induced, these things are likely out of your control, and it is essential to keep your (really super smart, genius) brain out of it for a little while. You can’t think your way into labor. You can only go about your business as usual and schedule in some fun things to do to distract yourself. And remember, you can also come back to your breath as an anchor.
I know it’s hard! You want to meet your baby! Give yourself a little bit of time to be pissed off. Then circle back to thankful. Focus on what is in front of you. Is that a good fiction book I see? Oh, maybe a phone call with a supportive friend?
What about Induction?
At the moment, induction is not on the table for you. You still have plenty of time for labor to start on its own. You are already doing what you can. You don’t have to research inductions unless you are seriously going in that direction. Remember, come back to the present moment. If induction seems likely, don’t worry, many women have beautiful, successful vaginal births with induction. Just ask your care provider to explain the process to you so that you are fully informed about the benefits, risks, and alternatives for your particular situation.
Finally, acknowledge that this is your childbirth, you are supported, and you get to be an active and not a passive participant throughout the whole process.
Your doula, Kristy.
Kristy Zadrozny is a Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting instructor and faculty member for the Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association. She has worked with hundreds of families in NYC as a labor and postpartum doula. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and is now training the next generation of doulas.