The environment that you labour and birth in has a huge impact on how you feel about your birth experience. Taking time to prepare your birth space can help you feel comfortable and in control.
Today, in Part One of my three part Preparing Your Birth Space series, I am going to talk about a simple and easy way you can add your own personal touch to your birth environment – birth affirmations. Birth affirmations are words of encouragement that you can make or buy to hang around your birth space. These can be helpful whether you birth at home, hospital, or birth centre.
You can buy your own (check out some Badass Birth Affirmations here!) but I recommend that you make at least some of your own. Taking some time to send yourself some positive energy gives each affirmation a deeper meaning. Set aside an hour or so, sit somewhere comfortable, put on your favourite music, and light a favourite candle or diffuse your favourite essential oil blend. Grab some paper and whatever medium suits you. For my most recent birth, I used water colours and markers, but you can use whatever you like (paint, pencils, crayons, pastels, etc). Close your eyes and imagine being in a state of absolute peace. Whatever comes to mind, incorporate that into the affirmation. It can be as simple as a specific colour or as complex as an entire illustration. Whatever speaks to you is the right thing. After you do that, think of encouraging words that you think will keep you going. It could be a reminder that you are strong and capable. It could be a phrase that your parent always said to you to cheer you up or motivate you. I like using inspirational quotes (“Nevertheless, she persisted” was hanging in my birth space!). Put one phrase on each piece of paper. If getting creative on the computer is more your style, you can create your own on websites like Canva very easily.
Another great project is to have friends and family create one affirmation each. Then, they feel included in this part of your journey, and you will be surround by love!
Once you arrive at your birth space, have someone on your birth team (like your doula!) hang them around the room. If you are birthing outside the home, pack a few different ways to hang them. I recommend bringing painters tape, sticky tack (like they use in schools to hang children’s art) and a string with clothes pins. That way, if there is a policy against hanging things in certain ways, you have back up options. Before you are in labour, discuss with your birth team where to hang them. Put them all around the room at various levels, so they are easy to see when you are walking around, squatting, sitting on a birth ball, and laying down. Be sure to put some in the bathroom, too! If you are having a home birth, you can take your time to hang them up in the days and weeks before you give birth. Hang a few in every room that you think you might labour in (don’t forget the hallways!). When you are in labour, use the affirmations as your focal point. Even if you are not able to focus on the words, focus on the imagery you used. Allow the positive energy embedded in each affirmation to wash over you.
What if I have a c-section?
Affirmations can be helpful if you have a c-section! When preparing your affirmations, try to steer away from things that are encouraging of only vaginal birth. Using phrases like, “I trust my instincts” as opposed to, “I trust my body”, gives you room to change your plans if emergencies arise and can be helpful for planned c-sections as well. Phrases that encourage you to be confident in your ability to make the best choices for yourself and your family are very helpful. (The Harry Potter quote, “It’s our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities” comes to mind). If you are planning a c-section, talk to your care provider beforehand to figure out where you can hang affirmations in the operating room. You can also have your support person wear affirmations. They can make or buy t-shirts with affirmations on them, and even temporary tattoos! (Check out some tattoos here).
Here are some affirmations to inspire you!
What else should I hang in my Birth Space?
Affirmations are wonderful, but they are not the only things that you can hang in your birth room. There are two acronyms that I recommend you hang as well. The first is BRAINS, which walks you through the steps to make informed choices. When you are labouring and have to make a decision, it can be overwhelming, because you have a task at hand that your body and mind would rather focus on. Having a reminder about the steps to go through to get the information that you need to make informed choices makes it easier stay in control and feel confident.
The second acronym is FRIES. This acronym is a reminder about what consent truly is so that you (and your team) can recognize if it is not being properly given.
While hanging these acronyms is intended as a reminder for you and your support people, hanging them in a prominent place gently lets everyone that comes into your space know that you know that you have the right to informed consent, understand what that means, and have an expectation to be given the opportunity to give or refuse that consent.
More about both acronyms to come in future blogs!
Feel free to print these off, or use them as inspiration for your own: