Last week I went to my local Positive Birth Group Meeting, a monthly meet-up of mums to be and local birth professionals - midwives, doulas, lactation consultants and hypnobirthing teachers like me.
At each meeting we take time to share positive birth stories, to help prepare the expectant mamas for birth and early motherhood and answer any questions frankly and honestly. So often, the final days of pregnancy are undervalued and treated with irreverence but in the eyes of most birth professionals and perhaps also current mamas, they are critical - both magical and unnerving, all at the same time.
Here’s the advice I gave them, that I wish I’d known when I was still pregnant:
Make slowing down a priority
I meet a mama to be at the meeting who was working so hard on house renovations that she admitted she was exhausted. At 37 weeks, this seemed so sad to me. Admittedly, pre labour jitters can be soothed by keeping busy and taking your mind off what is to come but bringing yourself to the edge of what’s possible, this late on, is wasting your precious mental and physical energy.
A great example of planning for slowing down would be getting as much as you can ready for the baby before you start your maternity leave. Washing and folding a few baby clothes, making your bedroom ready and choosing toys are lovely last jobs to do, even great ways to occupy yourself during early labour but try to complete as much of the painting and choosing furniture as possible.
Also, as I’m sure every parent to be knows, sleep will be at a premium. Getting annoyed by that constant night waking now you’re in the last few weeks of pregnancy? Think of it your body’s way of preparing you for life with your newborn. Learn to balance the wakeful nights with naps during the day. The more you practice, the easier it will get to switch off quickly and grab some rest when you get a window of newborn sleep.
Prepare your body for labour
You can do so much to get you and body ready for labour. These are all small things but they all add up.
Gradually start drinking more raspberry leaf tea once you have past 30 weeks, building up to 4 cups a day providing it doesn’t make your Braxton-Hicks too strong. Eating your 6 dates a day will improve your hormone sensitivity (making it more likely that you’ll start labour naturally) and yoga will keep you strong and supple - very useful when you consider how physical labour can be.
Add sitting on your exercise ball when you’re watching TV to keep baby in a great position plus some acupuncture in the final weeks and you should be ready to go! Last but not least - perineal massage and pelvic floor exercises are the jobs no-one likes to think about but really will make you feel more comfortable, during and after your birth.
Meditate, relax or practice
Whatever birth ethos you’ve chosen and whatever kind of birth you’re hoping for, now is the time to keep your mind clear, positive and focues. Read as many positive birth stories as you can, help your baby stay calm and happy by minding your own adrenaline and stress levels and relax as much as you can.
This can be much easier said than done when you have 3am insomnia after receiving a swift little kick in the ribs as a wake up call I know. I relied heavily on relaxing music playlists and mediation apps in the final few weeks before I was due. My snoring husband was not that much help.
If you’ve taken a hypnobirthing course, now is the time to really master your breathing techniques and make sure you know how you’ll use what you learnt in labour. You can always contact your teacher if you have any questions.
Triple check your birth plan
Your birth plan is a crucial document, especially if you’re going to be asking for choices that aren’t routine practice or are less common. You have time now to research any choices you’re not sure about - Vitamin K shots, cord clamping and how you want to deliver your placenta commonly get overlooked. Discuss it with your birth partner and midwife then when you’re happy, print out some copies to put in your notes. The best way to make sure it becomes a reality is for your birth partner to know it so well, it doesn’t need to be looked at all that often. Again, now’s the time to get familiar with it and your choices.
Spend quality time as a couple
Although the later stages of pregnancy can seem endless, there is definitely much more chill time now than there will be on the other side. Spending as much as you can with your partner is a great idea. For now, you’re still a couple, not mum and dad as well as a couple. Some quality time can also help reassure each other that although a huge change is coming, the basics of your relationship and how you feel about one another are still solid. Any fears or worries that come up are much easier to discuss without a layer of sleep deprivation on top.
I so wish someone was there to give me this kind of advice. I wouldn’t say I wasted my final weeks of being just me but I certainly didn’t enjoy them as much as I could. Time is so precious and your little one will be here soon enough. Then you’ll have trouble imagining life before they arrived.
This post was written for and first appeared on The Natural Parent Magazine.