“You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, so you shouldn’t birth naturally without preparing or training.”
Like every over-used statement, the sentiment behind this saying has been lost. What does it really mean? What are the similarities between training for a marathon vs. preparing for natural birth? The more I thought about it, the more relation I found between physically and mentally training for a sport and natural childbirth.
First of all, let me address the nay-sayers.
Nearly every time I see the “birth is like a marathon” statement, there is usually at least one person in the crowd who feels offended. “Our bodies were made to give birth. We don’t have to train,” is a common comeback.
It’s true. Females bodies- human and animal alike – are designed to give birth to our young. This is how our species continues. But how we human beings differ from our mammal friends is our ability to completely relax and enter a deep meditative state during our births, the way a deer or cat might do, tucked away in a dense thicket.
That’s not to say there aren’t those out there who can have this kind of birth – I absolutely believe in pleasurable, pain-free birth. But I also think that experience is somewhat rare. Natural childbirth preparation is a proactive to having the kind of birth you want.
Labor can be long and arduous.
Mental attitude, place of birth, diet and physical capacities – endurance level and strength – all play a major role in the length and intensity of our labors. A complete natural childbirth preparation course, including exercise, can greatly reduce the need for all kinds of interventions from pain relief, to oxygen, iv or in the case of home birth, transfer to hospital due to maternal fatigue.
Thinking of childbirth prep as “training” will help you.
A marathon runner knows that race day is not the most important – it’s all the days leading up to that day that really matter.
My step-father was a marathon runner. He trained year-round for once race, the Boston Marathon. In the lead up to that race, he’d begin by changing his habits. He would go to sleep earlier, drink more water, eat healthier and of course, he ran every day. Those runs started at 2 miles, working up slowly. Getting his head in the game. Eventually he’d run 15+ miles at a time, but only after his body could withstand it – he had to slowly build up the endurance and strength to run that long.
What if he had run the marathon without training? Could he have done it? I’m sure he could have, especially since he’d run it for more than ten consecutive years. But his time would have been terrible. He might have had to stop running to throw up. His muscles could have seized up. You see what I’m getting at, right?
Often a good, effective labor and birth depends on how much time and energy you put into preparing for it.
True natural childbirth preparation takes more than a one-day visit to the local hospital to sit in on a free class.
Think of your pregnancy as Labor Training. There are hills to climb. Squats to hold. How will you react in the throes of labor? Contractions might start and never stop, coming one after the other without a break at high intensity for a short period of time. Or your rushes might feel more like strong pressure, but make you extremely nauseous go on for 27 hours. What will you do if you’re faced with a labor you weren’t expecting? (Which is very likely to happen.)
My best advice to you is to attend an independent natural childbirth course.
Search for something local if you can, and if nothing is offered in your area, Birth Boot Camp is the next best thing. I highly recommend their 10 week natural childbirth online course. It comes with an awesome Field Manual and breastfeeding DVD.
If you are here reading this post, I know how important your pregnancy, labor, birth and postpartum healing time is to you. Do yourself and your baby a favor and toss every notion that sitting around on your butt eating donuts during pregnancy is okay. It’s not. Re-train yourself to think of pregnancy as the best time in your life to become active – get physically and mentally fit for one of the biggest, most precious days of your life. You’ll thank yourself for it. I promise.