You probably have experience participating in or watching sports. When you take what you already know from sports and bring it to birth—another physical activity—you’re ahead of the game! You’re building on an area that you’re familiar with.
It’s important to me to demystify birth for expectant parents so that they can have a positive experience!
I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about penalty shootouts that drew parallels from penalty shootouts to other high stakes life events. A lot of what was discussed also pertains to birth. Author Ben Cohen highlights the research of Mr. Geir Jordet, a psychologist who is an expert in World Cup penalty shootouts in the article:
A Psychologist Spent Five Years Studying World Cup Penalty Shootouts
The article states:
"Players who hurried through penalties missed more than players who took enough time to
compose themselves, according to his research. His recommendation: Slow down. Taking deep breaths and trusting in routine is a good way to exert agency, which is important, since players who feel like they’re in control outperform those crippled by the unpredictability of chance. But this kind of mental work must begin long before a World Cup, said Dr. Jordet, who suggests practicing every detail of the process down to placing the ball on the penalty mark. 'You want to have an almost machine-like, robotic approach,' he said."
There are many ways to feel in control during your pregnancy, while in labor, and at other times in our life. Even though many elements of birth are unpredictable and uncontrollable, it pays to have a long list of small ways to be in control.
The most important way for expectant parents to feel in control has to do with mindset. Keep in mind that at a certain point in labor, our brain has a hormonal tendency to “go rogue” and any thoughts that our rational brain knows to be helpful tend to be lost. This is why it’s not only important to cultivate our own mindset, but also to make sure that the people who are around us at our birth are also supportive of our wishes and to understand the needs of a laboring woman on a deep level.
Another way for expectant parents to feel in control has to do with the way that other people will talk to us and with us when we are in labor. It’s worthwhile to be choosy when deciding where to give birth, who will attend (in terms of the professionals), and which loved ones will accompany us and how they will prepare. When moms are in labor, we don’t always have the wherewithal to participate in a conversation. Others will be deciding how to speak to us, so it’s important to know that we can know what to expect from those who will be at our birth.
It takes being intentional to get to a place of feeling in control, along with some planning, and consulting people.
Taking the time to practice, especially with your partner, will help you to be satisfied with your birth and to give you the best possible chance of having the sort of outcome you are hoping for!
Another surprising point highlighted in this article. "The most counterintuitive of his findings may be that penalty shootouts reward teamwork. . .There is an emotional contagion in which the mere reactions of players can shape the events on the field—for good and bad."
The same is true in birth and in other high stakes events. When someone is calm in a situation that others find stressful, it’s much easier to be calm, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Getting comfortable with the various ways that labor typically unfolds helps moms and dads bring a sense of calm and control with them to their birth.
If you’ve already given birth, you may have learned things at your birth that help you in your everyday life, or in unique challenges. Another topic for another day!
If you want to learn more about bringing your best game face to your baby’s birthday, please reach out to me!
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It's me, Julia. I'm here to think, reflect, and inspire on topics related to birth and family transitions.