Preparing for childbirth: How you do it, according to Doula Kassandra Schreuder

02 September 2022

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During pregnancy, you're often busy with all sorts of things. Which baby clothes do I get? How to decorate the baby's room|? And of course: what will be the babys name?! Regular appointments with your midwife, arranging maternity care, and most importantly, preparing for the delivery are also part of the process. Most people have a practical approach, in the form of a birth plan. But it's also important to prepare yourself mentally for pregnancy.

There are a lot of taboos on this subject, which is mercilessly scrutinized by social media and stories in magazines and on the Internet. For this reason alone, it is extremely important to be true to yourself and try not to let yourself be influenced by the opinions of the outside world. Your body, your life, your way. Sometimes that can be tricky, so it's fine to put those blinders on.

That's why we sat down with doula Kassandra Schreuder. Owner of Doula Tribe, which offers doula services. What exactly does a doula do? A doula is someone who helps parents prepare for childbirth in a nonmedical way. Tips & tricks to make sure you are mentally ready for childbirth. How do you deal with embarrassment during childbirth, for example? How to ensure peace and calmness during the most violent storm ever. 

"My work as a doula feels accomplished when a mother feels empowered in her own choices" - Kassandra.

In this article, Kassandra covers 4 components to prepare for childbirth:

1. Slow down - Male vs. female values

We live in a world dominated by masculine values. For example, we live more often from our heads than from our hearts, we prefer to move forward (decisiveness is valued more than slowing down) than standing still, our attention is more often on the external world than on our inner world; we value logic more than intuition. Male values and/or energy represent decisiveness.

And all that decision-making, while barely checking in with our feelings, can cause us to ignore our inner wisdom. We pay very little attention to the subtle signals our body gives during pregnancy. Perhaps your body has even started to take harsher measures, and you are experiencing frequent hard bellies. This is really a signal from your body that you are racing past your limits.

Do you want to get back in touch with your body, that wise body that can grow a baby all by itself? Then take half an hour every day to live more from the feminine values: tune in to your own feelings, what do I actually feel in my body? Try to take a quiet moment for yourself and bring your attention to the inner world instead of the external world. You can do this entirely in your own way, but a tip from me: if you want to honor the pregnant goddess that you are; lie on your bed for half an hour and rub your belly or your whole body while closing your eyes and really feel how your hand touches your body. Is there still tension anywhere? Where can I give my body a little more attention?

2. Shame

So much can be expected of women in daily life (you can be like this and not like that, you have to look like that, etc.) resulting in feelings of shame and self-consciousness amongst many women. Especially during an uninhibited process like giving birth, many women experience feelings of shame. You, too, may have noticed how many women find it awkward to poop during childbirth. And some of them (especially women who like to overthink) don't consciously realize that they are experiencing these feelings, but they'd rather push them under the rug.

Shame and self-consciousness, reduce the production of the hormone Oxytocin (which just has such an important role in creating good contractions, and through that, dilation). This is why it is sometimes said that you can only give birth in a place where you could also have sex with your partner. It is incredibly important that you do not feel watched during your parturition.

So make sure that you feel very safe with your caregivers and that there is a bond of trust. You can switch to a caseload midwife if necessary. Let unknown people 'watch' as little as possible during your delivery. If you unexpectedly become 'medical' (your care is transferred from the midwife to the hospital), make sure there are no people walking in and out, or hiding in the bathroom, of your delivery room. This will ensure that you stay in your own bubble while you are dealing with the most profound, transformative event in your life.

3. Surrender

During labor, all sorts of crazy feelings will take place in your body. The contractions, nausea, and trembling, are all feelings we would rather run away from or avoid in everyday life. And actually, it's a great pity that we don't have more time and attention for the discomfort in everyday life because being able to accept difficult feelings increases our tolerance to them.

During the birth of your baby, you won't escape surrendering to these feelings anyway. You will have to deeply accept their presence. This sounds very complicated, but in fact, it is very simple. You keep saying "YES" to what you are experiencing, instead of resisting it. What is very helpful for this is your breathing.

Imagine you are on a boat in the raging sea; you are going back and forth, and there is nothing you can do to stop the rocking back and forth. All you can do is hold on to the mast incredibly tightly until the storm subsides. So it is with the intense feelings during birth. Your breathing is your mast. You can continue to concentrate on your inhale and exhale; put your full focus on clinging to that mast. It may be rough at sea, but you are holding on. You can allow the waves to rock you back and forth.

4. Bubble

When you are preparing for the birth of your baby, you have the chance to focus solely on that event. Everyday life fades into the background a bit; you don't need to participate as much. You will soon have a life-changing experience, and in order to be able to do so, you can increasingly start to envelop yourself in a safe bubble. You can feed your bubble with physical, emotional, and spiritual care for yourself. And you make sure that nothing enters your bubble that does not serve you or your baby.

This can result in you becoming increasingly aware of a number of things: what am I filling my day with, are my relationships and friendships energizing or draining, does reading the newspaper or watching the news actually have a positive effect on me, am I treating my body like a body preparing for a marathon, am I allowing negative energy from others into my bubble, am I letting fear get the better of me, etc.

Actually, these questions apply to everyone, including non-pregnant people, but during pregnancy they may be even more important. Giving birth is a life-changing event. So start optimizing your bubble as soon as you are pregnant, and make maintaining it more and more sacred as the birth approaches. During labor itself, have your partner guard your bubble, or if you want your partner to have his or her full attention in your bubble, have a doula guard your bubble.

About Cassandra:

"During my own pregnancies, I realized how important it is to have options and to be supported along the way. These experiences sparked the fire in me to support and advocate for other women as well."

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