Having an unplanned cesarean birth did much to expose this part of me that often gets me into big trouble – or at the very least exhausts me in unhealthy ways. I spent the five years between these two births wading through that mess and trying to come out on the other side a healthier person who can just let go and relax. I would like to think I have come a long way.
But…I’m still me. And these things will be part of my personality that I will have to fight to manage in healthy ways for the entirety of my existence.
I started this pregnancy with high plans to just. relax.
“My only New Years resolution is to eat, exercise, and sleep well so I don’t turn into a hippo who has to try to birth another giant. That and have a relatively peaceful birth experience. And more whitespace which means more bonding with my couch over Netflix marathons. The end.” (January 1, 2015)
Which was all well and good and easy to accomplish during the zobmie-like state that is first trimester. But when I reached the second trimester, I was hit with wave after wave of intense energy, obsessive thinking, and nesting instincts. I wanted to do and do and do. All. The. Things.
At 25 weeks, my husband told me that I was attacking this birth. And he was dead right.
I struggled with guilt over this. This is exactly what I was aiming NOT to do. Not run headlong into trying to control everything and check all the boxes and be perfect. Not to obsess. But I felt like a freight train with these insatiable urges to plan for this birth with levels of proactivity that astounded even myself.
On days when I would “fail” – or try to “relax” which meant giving into sweets while being a couch potato – I would be overcome with a lot of discouragement.
It was a constant emotional tug of war between Do. All. The. Things. and Sheesh…chill out girl…just relax already.
I knew that diet, exercise, posture for fetal positioning, and education were incredibly important in having a successful VBAC. I also knew that rest, relaxation, and not being stressed were just as important. I didn’t know how to find a proper balance between the two.
I finally reached a point where I had to make peace with it all. I let it be okay that I am who I am. I gave in to the proactivity and embraced it while I had the chance (while my son was finishing up the school year and I had the energy to do so).
I tried to look realistically at the calendar. I knew that when I reached 29 weeks, Ezra would go from being gone 6 hours a day to being gone 3 hours a day. And that the last five weeks of the pregnancy, he would be home with me all day. Therefore, I felt more justified in pouring all of my excess energy into pregnancy projects and birth preparation.
I also knew that my energy levels would greatly decline during the third trimester, so again, it was okay for me to channel this obsessive energy into things that were going to help me in birth and save the relaxation for the third trimester, when I was really going to need it.
1) Remember that this is a delicate dance.
Hormones and a strong Type A personality can combine to make a woman be overcome with surges of obsessive energy – and when preparing for VBAC, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
2) Find active ways to make relaxation a priority.
I sent this question of balance into Kristen Burgess at Natural Birth and Baby Care because I very much got the idea from her podcasts that she was a lot like me – a doer. She sent me back a very sweet response that basically said, “I get it.” She encouraged me to make a list find ways to relax that maybe don’t involve eating sweets or lying around, but could still beneficial to both me and baby. I found this to be incredibly helpful because I could pursue relaxation with a checklist – which is pretty much #winning.
My advice to you is to make a list of things you find relaxing and try to “do” a few of them each week. Make a list of Netflix shows to watch or books to read. Sometimes even just the act of writing down what you want to DO to relax can help you FEEL proactive while still relaxing.
I added progressive relaxation, listening to music, and taking epsom salt baths into my weekly routine which helped.
3) Find ways to make your proactivity relaxing: multitask
While I walked 5 miles a day, I had pregnancy and birth affirmations and scriptures on a key ring so I could practice mindfulness, positivity, breathing, visualization, and relaxation while walking. I wasn’t power walking – I was walking with purpose. Many of the affirmations I chose to focus on talked about breathing, opening, relaxing, and visualizing a positive experience. So it was relaxation, birth preparation, and exercise rolled into one event.
While I stayed busy around the house working on birth projects (such as setting up the nursery, stripping diapers, or just doing general housework), I would listen to pregnancy and birth podcasts. This is one of the reasons I loved podcasts and chose them over taking a more intensive childbirth class or reading books, because I could do it while staying busy with other things. This helped me to utilize my time more effectively and actually made me feel like I was doing MORE to prepare.
I also did fetal positioning exercises on the birth ball while watching Netflix and listened to podcasts or my pregnancy playlist while taking bubble baths or resting in bed.
In this manner, I was able to birth preparation with rest and relaxation.
3) Take advantage of extra energy when you have it so that you will have the space to relax when you really need it the most.
For me, this meant giving into freight-train Aprille during the second trimester (because, who am I kidding, not much was going to stop her anyway), and actively planning for more intense levels of relaxation in the third trimester.
ie. Bookend the pregnancy. Here’s what that looked like for me:
- First Trimester
- Lots of Netflix
- Yoga classes at the YMCA and swimming
- Second trimester
- Walking five miles a day, some YMCA yoga and swimming
- Lots of research and listening to podcasts
- Pregnancy and birth projects like art therapy, cutting out affirmations, burning CDs, making list of what to put in my hospital bag, shopping for maternity clothes, setting up the nursery, etc.
- Lots of baking and cooking (and lots of eating to help support blood volume expansion in pregnancy)
- Working on this blog series
- Third trimester
- Daily napping and going to bed early
- Gentle walking, prenatal specific yoga, and lots of swimming
- Guided relaxation and hypnotherapy
4) Be okay with being you.
If that means one day you spend the entire day on the couch, it’s okay. If that means that one day you don’t sit down, that’s okay. You know what you need, probably more than you think you do.
5) Always keep in mind birth is out of your control.
You can “do everything right” and still end up with a cesarean. There can always be unforeseen complications. Keeping this in mind is paramount during this process. Be proactive. Do what you can to prevent those complications. Then let go.