Birth: Would You Run A Marathon Without Training?
There may be some naturally athletic individuals who could run a marathon with little practice, but for most who choose to, it would take months of preparation.
Marathon runners play close attention to their diet, research by reading and talking to other people who have ran them, to obtain tips about how to best train etc, and of course they run regularly and train their bodies and minds, so they can be of peak physical and mental fitness at the time of the marathon.
While running a marathon, there are inevitably people on the sidelines, who will be cheering the runners on: “you’re doing a great job,” “keep going, you’re almost there.” I wonder how much harder the runners jobs would be, if they surrounded themselves with people who told them that running a marathon was too painful and too hard, if they watched TV shows and You Tube clips which only focussed on the pain of running?
I wonder if people shouted out “perhaps you should take a break” or “I’m going to step in, if you don’t complete this marathon within an hour” or “you’ve only run 10 km, you’ve got a long way to go yet”, how many people would give up or struggle to complete their marathon?
I’ve not run a marathon, but my husband has, and I watched him train and prepare himself physically and emotionally for this extremely challenging, but very rewarding event (a few years prior to completion of the marathon, he was barely able to run to the end of the driveway, without breaking up a sweat!). While there are obvious differences between marathon running and giving birth (!) my husband I have discussed some of the similarities.
I can certainly say giving birth was the most challenging and most rewarding experience in my life and a marathon is also incredibly arduous, but extremely rewarding and often an emotional experience, when achieved. We both prepared for months in advance and used similar affirmations in our head, when confidence was waning “I CAN do this, just a little bit longer, just keep going etc.”
Also, for both of us, we identified the experience of “pain,” as our bodies doing their job. If my husband gave up, as soon as he felt discomfort during his marathon, he wouldn’t have made it very far. Similarly, if I became fearful at the first sign of discomfort during my baby’s birth, it would have made things much harder to cope with. Instead, I had a mantra of “every surge is bringing my baby closer to me.”
So, I was able to see that discomfort was a sign of my baby’s imminent arrival, not a dysfunctional sensation, like a broken limb.
Of course, there is only so much you can do to prepare for birth, as you will never know what it feels like, until it happens. However, it’s reassuring to know that, according to the World Health Organisation, 85% of women are capable of giving birth safely with minimal intervention. Further, there is much a woman can do to make sure her body and baby are in peak condition for the marathon event a birth can be and to decrease the need for interventions.
To help prepare, in my own experience, which is also supported by research, the following points may be useful:
Seek out the positive stories about birth (there are many online to read and watch)
Tune out to the negative, put a ban on “One Born Every Minute and politely inform people not to tell you about their negative birth stories.
Train your body with safe pregnancy exercises (yoga, swimming, walking, light weight training etc) – you will be better able to cope with the length of the birth and maintain strength to stay upright, so gravity can help baby move down the birth canal.
Eat a balanced diet to give you energy and baby nutrients for optimum development
Read as much reliable information as you can about birth and interventions (e.g. induction, pethidine, epidurals, episiotomy, forceps, ventouse cap and caesareans), informed websites such as Belly Belly, MyBirth, Hypnobirthing Australia and books with reference lists
Carefully choose your care providers
Ask questions about their approach to birthing, commonly used interventions and under what circumstances these are used.
Look for caregivers who listen and speak encouragingly. When you come to birth – language such as “you can do this, you’re doing a great job” instead of “you’re only 3 cm dilated,” or “I’m going to give you 1 hour to push, then we’re going to intervene” will help to minimise fear and empower you
Train your birthing partner too, when you are giving birth, it’s too late to be telling your partner what to do, as when birth progresses, the mother will go “within herself” and should not be engaged in conversation. The birthing partner also needs to be informed and calm, in order to communicate the mothers preferences with caregivers, as mother will be unable to while giving birth.
Think about hiring a doula – a trained birthing support person. Women who have a doula supporting them have been consistently found to have 50% less caesarean sections and use less medical interventions to cope with the intensity of birth.
Consider independent childbirth education classes, such as Hypnobirthing Australia. Hypnobirthing Australia provides education about the physiology of birth and how fear impacts on the body’s ability to birth. Learn strategies (visualisations, breathing, relaxation, self hypnosis) to remain calm throughout birth, to overcome any fears you may have about giving birth, to cope with the intensity of sensations, remain focussed on birthing preferences and how to communicate this with care providers, how to let your body release and let go to the birthing and to educate and inform the birthing partner how to be an active and calm support during the birth.
Remember that your body and baby already know how to birth. You don’t have to give conscious attention to the baby growing all their organs, during your pregnancy, obviously your baby does this all by him/herself. Similarly, your body and baby already know how to give birth, but we do need to surrender and allow it to happen, without fear.