Dr Grantly Dick Read was an amazing guy. After watching women give birth and being with women in labour, he published his philosophy in 1959, that birth needn’t be a painful fearful experience for women. When certain steps were followed during pregnancy, a woman could give birth naturally with more ease and without pain relief during labour. He noticed the babies were more alert after birth and that women were more attentive to their babies when they gave birth without medical pain-relief interventions.
The first step, he reckoned, is good antenatal care, which includes antenatal preparation. Pregnant women like to be reassured and cared for when changes take place in their bodies during pregnancy. When a woman understands the mechanics, process and phases of labour she is able come to the labour with less fear and realise that labour has a beginning and an end. Information about the different stages of labour, and how the body may feel as the labour becomes more intense, helps the mother stay calm. A loving relationship with the father of the baby and tender exchanges of love and touch during the labour facilitate trust and the optimal release of ‘oxytocin’, the “love” hormone.
Pelvic floor exercises (Kegels) teach women awareness of their vaginal and perineal muscles and will help women to cooperate with their bodies when they have urges to expel the baby during the second stage of labour. (I of course love the Epi-no, which helps a mother to train her pelvic floor muscles and perineum to stretch before the labour and lessen possible pelvic floor damage).
The second step recommended by Dr Grantly Dick Read is to learn and practice deep breathing and relaxation exercises that can be used during labour. There are very few techniques of breathing that I teach and the most important one is the deep inhalation followed by long and slow exhalation. Shallow fast breathing is not conducive to relaxation in labour. Visualization of the birth process, choosing your place of birth and creating safety by surrounding yourself with trusted attendants are important factors to consider and are more likely to result in a natural birth. SpiritualBirth preparation workshops, Hypnobirthing classes, and Mamabamba workshops are superb ways to get in touch with your potential for success in birthing naturally. Having a doula or midwife may help you to use these techniques during labour and stay connected with your body and baby while you give birth. It is also important to be flexible in mind spirit and body because labour and birth are individual experiences and may take forms we do not anticipate. Sometimes medical intervention becomes necessary and is then a blessing for which we are grateful, even though we may not escape disappointment!
The third step, recommended by me, is to learn to communicate with your preborn baby in the womb and initiate and respond to conversations on a daily basis with your baby. Babies have a sense of self awareness in the womb from at least the sixth month of pregnancy. The skill of communicating with your preborn baby is taught during Spiritual Birth workshops as well as Mamabamba workshops. Meditation, singing, creating pictures in your imagination, stroking the belly and responding to movement are all froms of interaction with the unborn baby. Exposing your sensory systems to visual beauty, harmonious music that makes you feel good, the serenity found in nature, a diet of healthy and organic food, breathing fresh air that is free of toxins and an environment that minimizes harmful substances are all ways in which we can communicate love to our preborn babies.
And finally, a sensitive midwife, birth companion or doula who is able to ‘be with’ and imbue confidence and calmness to women in labour, may be the key to an empowering labour and birth experience. Labour and giving birth is an exquisite experience for both mother, father and baby when the mother feels supported and is confident and calm.
Choose people to be with you who resonate with your inner voice, the core of a woman’s knowing, the calm in the centre that makes you feel contained and connected, so that you come to your birthjourney with confidence and courage.