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My pre-natal yoga experience

12 Mar

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I’ve practiced yoga for almost 8 years now and always planned to continue when I became pregnant. But the truth is, I hated prenatal yoga in the beginning. I missed the intensity of “real” yoga! I actually did one heated class early in my pregnancy after getting my doctor’s OK, but immediately felt that it was too much. It was early in my first trimester and the nausea was unbearable in the heated class setting. I continued on with pre-natal classes, supplementing at home with pre-natal pilates DVDs which I absolutely adored, but didn’t begin to really appreciate my pre-natal classes until I started my third trimester and really started to get uncomfortable and achey.

Which brings me to this past week. I’m 38 weeks today and had two of the most incredible pre-natal yoga classes ever, just in the last week. We focused on really restorative, relaxing poses in Lara’s class and I had one of the best experiences in shivasana that I’ve had throughout my pregnancy…maybe even ever. I also received some tips for guided meditation and music to check out on Spotify that I’ll share at the end of my post.

In Bec’s class which was just three students large today, we were able to get really hands-on attention and focus on exactly what we needed. I mentioned the tightness in my pelvis, hips and the knot in my shoulder and left the class feeling so much looser. I also have a new favorite move for dealing with those knots in my shoulders and back:

Yoga move to relieve knots
1. Laying on your back, place a block under your upper mid-back.
2. With hands in prayer pose, elbows extended out, rest hands between eyes.
3. Slowly lift your pelvis up off the floor.
4. Adjust, wiggle and massage the knotted area as needed.

I think the most beneficial aspect of regular yoga practice is breath awareness. It’s amazing how my breath aligns itself to postures automatically. So for newly pregnant women who haven’t practiced, absolutely start pre-natal classes early. But for more seasoned yoga practitioners, I’d recommend a different approach. I would have practiced on my own at home even more than I did in the beginning to encourage continued muscle development and toning as well as the meditative benefits of just breathing in a meditative way. I also would have been more proactive about seeking out really seasoned instructors with children, who know about the physiology of pregnancy. Stretching and relaxing yoga is great, but too many of my early pre-natal classes felt like a waste of my time when I should have been building muscle strength and exploring what was possible as my body changed and my belly really started to develop.

Now, at 38 weeks, I look forward to class and leave the studio feeling incredibly centered and calm. And as I prepare myself mentally for labor, I’ve really enjoyed working through guided meditations and playing the same music we use in class to help guide my breathing while I’m at home. If you have Spotify, check out Deuter’s Buddha Nature album and Michelle’s Young’s Hipnobirthing playlist. I’ve been loving them lately.

Preparing for labor

11 Mar

As I approach my due date, I’ve felt an unexpected absence of anxiety about labor, but have this nagging sense of urgency. Like I should be mentally preparing.  I think it may be because I don’t feel like I’ve “prepared” for labor in the way I’d imagined I would — as if studying for a test. Reading as much as I can, then quizzing myself. The more informed I am, the less room for fear.

Early on, I watched birth video after birth video (sobbing with my surging first trimester hormones as each mother is handed her child); read Birthing From Within cover to cover in a sitting; and poked all over the web in search of real labor stories. I think I’d imagined that closer to my due date, I’d re-visit all this first trimester information for one last download, but I just haven’t felt like it’s necessary. My calmness is unnerving.

I read about birth plans before I was even pregnant and had always planned to write one, but the truth is, my plan is nothing more than “just get the baby out”.  I have complete faith that my body can do it and don’t want to be overly prescriptive as far as my expectations for how it unfolds. I’d love the room to be darkened and peaceful, sure, and I plan to bring in some flameless candles, my own pillow, and some essential oils to help me relax, but I only pray for a healthy, happy baby. With pain relief or without.

That said, over the last 9 months, I’ve had plenty of time to confront my fears about labor and can sum them up fairly easily.

I’m most concerned that:

– I’ll require augmentation
– My labor will be needlessly augmented
– Augmentation will hurt the baby and my chances to labor naturally
– I may require a C-section
– A C-section will be forced on me
– I’ll regret not working with a midwife and/or doula
– I’ll regret not delivering at the Cambridge Birth Center
– I won’t be able to handle the pain

I guess in a less formalized way than I’d imagined, Brian and I have been mentally preparing ourselves. We’ve talked through these fears but have also spent time practicing pain management techniques. Without recapping the whole experience, our experiments involved taking turns holding ice cubes in our hands or against our wrists, then talking each other through the pain using techniques like distraction or visualization. We learned that I don’t appreciate humor in painful situations, although I do tend to laugh myself when I’m in pain, and that Brian’s reassurances of “You’re OK” are NOT appreciated when I’m hurting! We both had a good laugh when, 15 seconds in to the ice on the wrist and a lot of heavy, labored breathing I screamed I want the epidural!!! I’m just hoping in the moment, I’ll be able to reign that in and that Brian can support me.

Since the second trimester, I’ve relied on him for massages and accupressure to help relieve the excruciating lower back and hip pain I’ve felt since my belly really started to pop and he’s basically an expert at this point. At one of our birthing classes a few weeks ago, we actually learned that one of the hip moves I’ve been requesting since Thanksgiving actually has a name: the “double hip squeeze.” Apparently, with a little bit of a tilting motion worked into it, it can help to better align the pelvis for passage of the baby’s head. Who knew?

It was reassuring to realize how well we’re already working as a team, but I do still feel like we should have a scheduled “study” session lined up each week to make sure we’re consistently practicing so we’re prepared. Always the nerd, I suppose.

In early February, I experienced some really horrific belly pains that I blogged about here. Going through that experience may be the reason I’m so “zen” about everything. I have complete faith in myself and in Brian to support me during labor. And I think my expectations are reasonable as far as what I hope for my birth “experience”. There are going to be so many variables once labor starts that the only thing you can do is be flexible and roll with it.

Since I feel like I’m in a good place as far as my expectations, I haven’t found it very helpful when others share advice gleaned from bad birth experiences. I know they are coming from a place of wanting to spare and prepare another woman from feeling the same surprise or disappointment they felt, but I feel like my positive mindset suffers each time I hear another labor horror story.

What I have found really helpful is to just read other women’s labor stories and pull tips, inspiration, and advice from there.

Here are a few pieces of advice I’ve found particularly helpful for me to read, that helped other women though their labors:

- Confronting any fear and accepting that there was going to be a lot of pain
– Knowing that the pain will be more intense than I could imagine
– It’s called labor for a reason; it’s meant to be work. Painful work. Remembering that the pain is accomplishing something with purpose helped me get through.
– I used an image that helped me to visualize the force with which nature was working in my body. I used a heavy rushing waterfall. Something with such force that it was useless to fight against it. I told myself to just ride the water. It ended up being much less painful than I expected.
– Knowing that labor averages around 24-hours, I thought: I can survive 24-hours of pain. Then it’s over.
– Being told “You ARE doing it” each time I said I couldn’t do it anymore

So that’s where I am mentally lately. I think part of the sense of urgency I’m feeling is just needing a distraction for myself because I am SO EXCITED. I have a million other things I could (and probably should) be doing, but all I want to focus on lately is what is standing between me and my baby. I can’t believe we’re so close!

Update: 37 Week Appointment

4 Mar

Just returned from my 37-week appointment and learned that I’m 2 centimeters dilated, 80% effaced, and baby’s station is a -2! My OB said that things are progressing beautifully for a first pregnancy and that I’m a great candidate for natural childbirth. I was thrilled to hear this since I’d really love to try to go naturally if at all possible. I’m not putting an epidural out of my mind, but my goal is to try to go natural and if I decide I need some relief, to delay for as long as I can so I don’t stall progression. No matter what happens, my only goal is to deliver a healthy baby. 

I anticipated that I’d progressed a bit more since last week because the baby feels like she’s really engaged in my pelvis and the Braxton-Hicks have been more noticeable this week, so I’ve definitely felt a shift in my body that aligns with these changes. The BH contractions feel like a tightness in my belly paired with a dull lower back ache that Brian is constantly applying counter pressure to with me bent over the kitchen counter, the coffee table, etc; followed by light, lower abdominal cramping. The only thing that eases it is firm, one-directional pressure with both hands, out towards my hips.

Yoga usually helps me to relax, but my experience at Monday’s class was absolutely miserable! Everything felt uncomfortable and I just didn’t want to be there.

Sleep hasn’t been bad really, except that I’m regularly waking at 4 AM, unable to fall back asleep. A lot of it is excitement and wanting to wrap up my “To Do” list before she’s here.  It’s challenging to roll side-to-side and my hips ache from all the pressure of long stretches of the night on them, but I’m only averaging 1-2 bathroom trips a night, so I’m not waking up terribly often. My snoogle/body pillow combination has been incredible throughout my second and third trimesters. I don’t think I’d have been sleeping so well throughout my pregnancy without either.

Brian is definitely on alert though. He’s usually a deep sleeper but has been waking with me for weeks now and always checks to make sure I’m doing OK. He’ll help me roll from side to side or rub my back or hips when the pain is keeping me up. Thankfully, I’ve been able to nap during the day as needed and still keep up with work.

To manage the pain I’ve had in my hips and all the pressure on my tailbone when seated, I’ve been cycling through 30 minute periods each of sitting at my desk to do work, standing and leaning over my desk (or just taking a break and walking around), and laying down on my side. It’s been really nice to take a quick little snoozes in the middle of the day when I need it! And she’s always so active the moment I lay down. Earlier this week I started listening to a hypnobirthing track I found on Spotify and was out in about 10 minutes, lulled by the narrator’s voice and the baby’s gentle squirms in my belly. In the warm glow of afternoon light, it was as close to the most perfect nap I’ve ever had — even counting the occasional marathon naps in college! The nearer I get to the end of my pregnancy, the more I’ve been loving my belly and feeling her movement. Despite all the aches and pains (and scares), I will miss it! But I’m most excited for her to finally be here, so for now, I’m just trying to enjoy every moment.

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