I’m Positive! (How to use affirmations for pregnancy, labor, and beyond)

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Affirmations and visualizations are proven ways to affect thoughts and beliefs (which, in turn, affect actions and outcomes). These techniques aren’t just for “crunchy, new-age types”; athletes, executives, spiritual leaders, and many others have benefited from practicing positivity for ages. These are some useful tools to have in your kit, not just for pregnancy and birth, but in any life situation for which you desire confidence and positivity. And, best of all, there are no negative side effects! Here are some tips and points to remember for enacting these simple techniques.

*Is there a certain worry or concern which seems stuck in your head and is holding you back from feeling confident and free? Turn that negative thought on its head and make it into a positive affirmation. For example, if I am feeling very worried that I won’t know how to be a good parent, I might use the affirmation: “I am the perfect parent for my child.”

*Creating affirmations requires POSITIVE NOW LANGUAGE. Notice the affirmation above is in the present tense and framed in the positive, (rather than “I am not going to mess up as a parent.”) Our brains latch on to the negatives in a sentence, giving the opposite results we desire. And if we’re using a future tense, the desired outcome will always be ahead of us, just out of reach.

*Many of us react more intuitively to images than words. If you can add a picture or image to your affirmation (even a simple symbol, doodle, or stick figure), it can make it easier for your mind to connect  with the positive thought.

*Sometimes we become discouraged when working with affirmations because we have a hard time truly believing in the positive statement. Start by sitting with your affirmation and envisioning the positive outcome. How does it feel in my physical body if this statement is absolutely true? Focus on that feeling and let it wash over you.  Each time you read the affirmation, bring yourself back into that feeling and the good way your body reacts to it.

* Place your affirmations/images in places where you’ll see them often throughout the day: on your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, or the refrigerator door, for example.

*Try writing each affirmation ten to twenty times a day. Repetition and writing are both powerful methods for auto-suggestion.

*It can also be helpful to make a recording of your own voice or of a loved one reading your affirmations and then listen to them when your mind is relaxed such as when you’re driving or falling asleep.

*Positive visualization is another form of affirmation. For this technique, spend time visualizing your dream labor and birth scenario in as much detail as possible. Add plenty of sensory input to your visualization. Feel warm water on your skin, the smell of lavender massage oil, the sound of your favorite relaxing music in each moment of your imagined story. You can add some of these details in “real life” as you visualize in order to strengthen the association, and then later use these same relaxing sensations in your real labor experience to increase pleasure sensations and to “cue” positivity. Your visualization story can also be written or recorded.

During pregnancy, heart and mind are often “open doors”. Take care that you only let in positive, empowering thoughts and feelings at this time. The choice of what you let through the door is yours.

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Just like many other techniques that are useful to us in labor and birth, these tools can continue to serve you in other areas of life beyond this time.  This is a wonderful opportunity to learn these skills for use on your continued parenting journey.

Check out my other posts on this blog to see specific affirmation ideas!  Please contact me if you would like to purchase your own set of beautiful laminated affirmation cards for your own enjoyment or to give as a special gift to an expectant friend!

Packing Your Hospital Birth Bag

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One of the questions I am asked most often is, “What should I pack to take to the hospital?”

I have heard many great suggestions from students and clients about the things they’ve found most useful to have in their hospital bags. I have also heard often that many mothers find they’ve “overpacked”, not using half of the things in their bags. In general, my response to the question of what to pack is, “Don’t stress about it. You can always ask the hospital staff for stuff you forget or send someone home to pick things up after baby arrives.”

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 (image courtesy franky242)

However, those notorious nesting instincts make many of us feel the urge to have a definitive list to check off in order to feel truly prepared.

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So, without further ado, here is “The List”. Please feel free to add your own necessities in the comments section!

-Any toiletries you need for your own comfort. (Face cleaner and moisturizer, lotion, shampoo, cosmetics, hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deoderant)

-Lip balm (this gets its own spot on the list because it can also be used as a labor comfort device!)

-Bed pillows in bright cases which won’t be confused with the white hospital pillows

-Medications and supplements

-Robe, sweater, or sweatshirt

-Slippers/slipper socks/socks

-Pajamas with easy breastfeeding access or other comfortable clothes such as yoga pants and nursing camisoles

-Breastfeeding support pillow (I love the My Brest Friend pillow for nursing support. The Boppy isn’t as sturdy for this use but it does make a great pillow for sitting on to avoid pressure on sore bottoms after birth.)

-Any labor coping tools you plan to use. This could include massage tools, tennis balls, rice sock, yoga ball, massage lotion, affirmation cards, focal point, meditation mandalas, battery-powered “candles”, essential oils and diffusers, music players or speakers, etc.

-Snacks and beverages for labor and postpartum (Your hospital “doesn’t allow” eating and drinking during labor, you say? Check out this article for evidence-based information on making a choice about if this is a beneficial policy for your needs.)

-Camera, plus extra batteries or charger

-Phone and/or laptop chargers

-A couple of changes of clothes for baby (including something special for photos if these will be taken in the hospital)

-An outfit for you to wear home from the hospital (Maternity clothes are still the best option for fit and comfort immediately postpartum.)

-Breast soothers (Soothies or other brand) and nipple ointment (lanolin and coconut oil are both popular choices.)

-A white noise machine or app to drown out some of the constant noise of the hospital.

-An empty duffel bag in which to carry home supplies and gifts you receive while in the hospital.

Hospitals generally provide many of the care items you will need for immediate postpartum comfort including witch hazel pads for soothing hemorrhoids, ice packs, large pads and mesh underpants, stool softener pills, cooling spray for a sore perineum, perineal wash bottles, etc. You can also take many of these things home with you; just ask your nurses what’s available.

Packing for Partners

Partners will want to pack their own bags for comfort during labor and the postpartum stay. This should include many of the same items listed above, with the obvious deletions! A button down shirt that can be worn during skin to skin time with baby is also nice to have in the bag. They may also find it handy to have the handbook from your childbirth education class and/or a copy of The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.  Or, this great cheat sheet.

I would love to hear from you if there are other “must haves” for the bag. What were the things you were glad to have on hand? Were there items you found just took up space?

Affirmations: My Body is Strong and Beautiful

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So much of the process of feeling prepared for birth is about having trust in and love for your body: how it has served you in practical and pleasurable ways, how it has conceived of and lovingly grows your baby, how it was perfectly designed to give birth.  There are so many ways to build body-trust and body-love.  Here’s a list of just a few of my favorites:

-get a massage (from your partner or from a professional massage therapist)

-take a bath

-go for a walk

-stare lovingly at your gorgeous, glowing self in the mirror

-work up a sweat exercising

-make love

-take a nap

-eat a nourishing meal with mindfulness

-rub your favorite scented lotion or oil all over your juicy self

-have a belly casting made

-get your belly decorated with henna

-visualize your ideal birth

What are some ways you practice love for your body? How did that self love “pay off” for you?  (Yes, YOU are beautiful!)

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