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How to Have a Conscious Birth

Written by

Kristen Vandivier

Photography by

Photographed by Rebecca Coursey

Almost as soon as the reality of those two little lines sinks in, it hits you that you are going to give birth. This moment of realization can be a bit overwhelming, and for good reason. Birth is no minor experience and comes with a lot of decisions: Is an epidural for me? What is hypnobirthing? Should I let my mother-in-law in the room? No matter what you decide for your perfect birth, or what ends up actually happening on the big day, you can choose to experience a conscious birth. That is to say, a birth in which your awareness stays present and you are an active participant in the process. Experiencing birth this way can be one of the most empowering events in your life. It is a rite of passage that has the potential to completely transform how you see yourself and the world. A conscious birth takes you to the very edge of yourself, and afterwards you carry with you the realization of how expansive you really are. Below are some steps for achieving this kind of birth.

Listen To Your Intuition
This one is number one for a reason. People will have very strong opinions about where and how you birth, but the only one that matters is yours. The chemistry that flows through our bodies when we’re afraid scrambles our minds and hinders the birth process—it’s nature’s way of keeping us from giving birth in a dangerous situation. Therefore, giving birth in the manner that makes you feel safe and supported is fundamental to a safe, as well as a conscious birth.   

Prepare Your Mind And Body Before Birth
Stress causes or contributes to almost all birth complications. Starting a meditation practice while pregnant, finding a doula, as well as taking a birthing class will set you up to be present during your labor. You can even take a birth preparation course without ever leaving your house—the Birthing Better Childbirth Preparation Course is a great online option. The visualizations and breath-work exercises help keep your awareness centered even during the most intense contractions.

Be Selective About Who Will Be At The Birth
Birth is a very inward experience, and having only those who will be supportive nearby will protect that process. This is one time when you don’t want to deal with other people’s needs. Consider hiring a doula. Your midwife or doctor will be focusing on the birth process, whereas the doula has all her attention on you.

Keep A Connection To Your Baby
Remembering you’re in this together during the birth process will give you courage. She can feel you and you can feel her. If you choose to birth without intervention and with fewer distractions, it is easier to do this. But no matter what type of birth you have, you can hold this connection in your awareness. It’s a good place to anchor your attention between contractions.

Channel All Mothers
As well as connecting to your baby, connecting to all the mothers who have come before can be very empowering. There is a beautiful ancient fresco in India that depicts women all connected by a lattice of umbilici. Where men are in the lattice, the connection stops, but with women it continues. Traditional western lineage is through the masculine last name, but this image depicts that the true lineage is through women. Remembering and connecting to the strength of all those women who have endured birth before can help you if your confidence begins to waver during contractions.

Be A Witness To The Intense Sensations
When you watch yourself, you identify less with your thoughts and actions and more as the silent inner witness observing the actions. This separation gives distance from the intensity and lessens the pain. Starting a meditation practice during pregnancy will help you practice this, but even if you don’t meditate, you can bring your awareness to this place within yourself in labor.

Use Visualizations
Imagine each contraction as a wave rising, and you are riding along the top of it. If you panic or try to control what’s happening, you start to be tossed about, so bring your awareness to your center and find your breath, and feel yourself surfing again. Another visualization is from Birthing Better called the Pelvic Clock. Imagine your cervix is like a rubber clock and with each contraction, consciously expand starting at 12 and circle around until you hit 12 again.

Use Your Breath
If the contractions are like waves, then your breath is like your surfboard. Directed breathing can relax especially tense or painful areas. Use your inhale to breathe into your pelvis, feeling it open and expand making room for your baby, and use your exhalation to relax specific parts of your body. Between each contraction, take a deep cleansing breath. Staying with your breath will keep your focus in the moment and on the task at hand.

Let Go Of Expectations
You may have a birth plan figured out down to the minute, but with birth rarely do things play out exactly as planned. No matter how it happens, bringing your baby into the world will be beautiful. If you’re less rigid about the details, you will be more present to meet your new little one in whatever manner her arrival unfolds.   

Author Kristen Vandivier is the founder of The Vedic Method. You can read more of her work via her Mom Talk essay on leaving her children for three months to go on a spiritual journey.

For more on this topic, check out our pieces on Why We Need To Ditch The Term “Natural” Birth, Mindful Pregnancy Tips, How To Have A “Feminist” Pregnancy, and our favorite Minimalist Pregnancy Essentials.

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