Expectant mothers typically have their mind set on how they want to give birth, down to the tiniest details. Some even arrive to the hospital and hand over a perfectly typed out birth plan to the nurses, midwives, or doctors so they can better understand the vision. But for various reasons, there’s always the possibility of a birth story going off the map — meaning, a completely different turn of events. And it’s vital that mothers prepare for this outcome, because at the end of the day, we don’t want Mom to feel disappointed in herself.

Sarah Clark, owner of The Dainty Pear (all things lifestyle, birth, travel, and family), was here to share ways to prepare for a different birth experience. And who better to take advice from than a doula and mother of five than Sarah herself? Exercising some of these methods will make for a smoother, more relaxed birthing process.

Relaxation Techniques: Here’s where you want to really think about what relaxes you! Is there a soundtrack that always gets you in the zone? A smell? Memory or photo? Think about it ahead of time, and bring those power tools with you in the event that you start feeling overwhelmed by sudden changes.

In the case of a failed epidural, a longer labor than expected, not being able to get to the hospital on time, or having to go into an emergency C-section, here are some specific ways to bring your body back into a calmer state:

  • With this first technique, you’re going to breathe in to the count of 4, and breathe out to the count of 8. The numbers don’t matter as much as the fact that you’re breathing out twice as long as you’re breathing in. This brings your heart rate down, helps to make sure you’re not hyperventilating, helps with oxygen flow, and keeps you out of fight or flight. This is a technique taught in HypnoBirthing, and it works well to calm you down even outside of a birthing situation!
  • The next technique is called square breathing. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 4 counts, and hold out for 4 counts. Repeat at least 4 times. Giving your mind something to focus on besides discomfort or intrusive thoughts can do wonders for anxiety, and it has similar physical effects as the other technique. Sarah’s e-book goes more in depth with other breathing techniques.
  • Last but not least, physical touch. Not everyone enjoys physical touch, which is fine! But for those who do, studies have shown that physical contact can help reduce anxiety by a lot. So, whether your birth partner offers a hand to hold, some light touch massage on your shoulders and arms, or plays with your hair, it can help those stress levels come down. And, it can release Oxycontin, which is also known as “The Love Hormone,” and can help move labor along as well.

Think Happy Thoughts: During labor, expectant mothers are allowed to feel scared, overwhelmed, or even have thoughts like, “I can’t do this.” It’s only natural. But it’s important to keep things as positive as possible. Remember the reward! Remember that even though it may feel like it, the pain won’t last forever. Try to think about all the sweet things that accompany a birth — if you’re having a baby girl, think about the cute bows waiting for you back at home. It’s simple, but can act as a helpful distraction from the pain and realign your focus.

Support Team: Whoever you decide to bring into the birthing room, it’s a good idea to let them know specific ways in which they can help you! Don’t be afraid to use your voice to speak up — it’s likely they want to know how to help! So clue your loved ones in on things you like and dislike, and even your birth preferences, before labor starts.

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Best (With some Detours): Above all, Sarah wants you to remember you are strong. You are capable. And you can do this! Birth isn’t a new concept — it’s been happening for ages! And the human body is truly incredible. That being said, it’s easier said than done. Things can get a little tense or even scary, so remind yourself that you have chosen a competent team that you trust to take care of you and Baby. That’s why choosing your care providers is such a big deal! If you don’t feel comfortable or confident in your care, there are so many options out there. So don’t feel trapped — you can still switch providers and find one you’re more comfortable with.

Along with the relaxation techniques and amazing support team, try practicing positive affirmations — even if they seem silly! Building these exercises into your muscle memory can help bring you back to a good place when you use them during labor.

Head over to Sarah’s page http://www.thedaintypear.com/ for more on her personal birth stories, and discover how else you can prepare for the birthing day!