There is no hierarchy when it comes to birth. All women are equal in labor – rich or poor, famous or common place, fat or thin. All laboring women go through the journey of birthing their babies. The breathing, laughing, crying, fear, shock, excitement, rocking, walking, swaying, leaning, kneeling, hugging, and pushing their baby into this world. Whether born through a c-section or naturally, induced or on its own, late or early, it does not happen without blood, sweat, and usually tears. And all birthing women are beautiful and heroic.

Every moment in the journey of conception, pregnancy and birth is important Birth is about accepting the challenge that is a pregnant woman's destiny. Many people think the end result is all that matters in birth – a healthy baby is all that matters. How can this be true? Is not every moment in this world and every breath we take, significant in our journey to reach our potential/our individual tikkun olam, rectification of this world? What about the courageous women that labor hours or days only to deliver a baby that does not survive? Sometimes there is no prize at the end of the tunnel of pregnancy. Yet every moment in the journey of conception, pregnancy and birth is important. As my rabbi says, "The purpose is to grow; the challenge is to know."

How we think, feel and create our rituals regarding conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery is what is important. We must have honor and respect for our bodies, our babies, and ourselves. Therefore the process is important, in addition to the end result. All our experiences regarding conception and birth will be imprinted in our individual books of life and death forever.

It is usually said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is only half true in birth. It is true for your part in your partnership with destiny. There is no absolute right or wrong decisions regarding birth, only the decision that is right for you. Educate yourself about pregnancy, labor and delivery. Choose an appropriate care provider – the one you will trust to guide you in the journey of birth and who will care about the health of you and your unborn child. Think about where you will feel most safe and comfortable to give birth. Decide who will be most comforting to have around you, and who is best able to support you in your child birth experience. Pray for good results… and then let go of expectations. Because birth happens. Humility that leads to surrender is the key to unleashing your inner power of birth.

There are many stories of women/couples struggling with infertility — treatment after treatment, year after year, and when they give up or least expect it, a child is conceived.

Create a vision, plan, prepare, pray and then let go

One can plan and prepare day and night for the perfect birth experience and nothing goes as planned. Conversely, there may be women who know nothing about their bodies and are uneducated in birth yet are able to relax and have the most simple and beautiful birth experience. But clearly, the more prepared we enter our birth experience, the more knowledgeable we will feel in the decisions we make. So create a vision, plan, prepare, pray and then let go. G‑d willing you will find meaning and inspiration in your experience.

Practical tips for an Easier Birth

  • Hire a Doula, a labor coach, or surround yourself with capable support people that are educated about labor and ready to offer you hands-on relief and emotional reassurance.

  • Buy a birthing ball. The 65cm exercise balls are a terrific investment. They can be purchased online or from a sporting goods store. The ball is great for labor preparation and for labor. You will be surprised how comfortable you will be sitting on the ball. The ball offers a supportive seat that relieves pressure from the sacrum and lower back. When seated on the ball you are in a hip opening position and using gravity to encourage the baby to descend in the pelvis. This is a supportive squatting position that is excellent for labor. Definitely inflate the ball to full capacity (65cm) and get comfortable balancing on the ball and moving your hips around in a swaying motion before labor. If the ball is easily accessible and you are used to sitting on it you will be more likely to use it in labor. You can also put a pillow under your knees and rest your arms and chest across the ball. This position allows your belly to relax and hang like a hammock for your baby. In this position pressure is relieved from both your back and your abdomen.

  • Get wet!!! Showers and baths are awesome for pain relief as well as relaxation. However baths should not be taken once your water has broken unless you are under the guidance of your doctor or midwife due to the increased risk of infection. It is still perfectly safe to shower if your water has broken. Most women find significant relief from labor pain while in water. When we do not fight the contractions but allow them to be strong, our body's endorphins are released and we experience less pain. As long as contractions are progressing (getting longer, stronger, and closer together) you can stay in the water. It is not uncommon for women to get in and out of the water several times over the course of a labor. As with any position or activity in labor, if contractions seem to be spacing out or are shorter it may be time to get out of the water and try something else.

  • Go for a walk. Movement and walking is great for labor. Walking encourages effective contractions (longer, stronger and closer together). It provides pain relief and distraction while using gravity to encourage the baby to descend in the pelvis. When you are upright and moving, you are working with your contractions helping your body birth your baby. Walking also increases your heart rate allowing your baby extra oxygen and encouraging a healthy fetal heart rate.

  • Massage, massage, and more massage. This is the time to pamper yourself because you deserve it and need it! In pregnancy, and more so in labor, all the body's muscles are stressed. Massage helps to relieve the strain of labor and offer comfort and relief during contractions. EveryBODY is different and every woman likes a different type of massage during labor. Most women are sensitive about their lower back during labor. Many women like their lower back massaged and some women do not want it touched at all. Experiment- deep tissue or light touch, long strokes or kneading fingers on shoulders, back, neck, hands, legs, feet, even scalp and temples can be massaged. When the body is relaxed, contractions are more effective.

Other comfort measures for labor include:

  • Music
  • Dancing
  • Positions for labor
  • Breathing
  • Laughter
  • Crying
  • Candles/Dim Lighting
  • Aromatherapy
  • Physical Contact
  • Focusing on a Picture
  • Talk/Distraction
  • Counting Down Contractions
  • Visualization
  • Meditation
  • Hot/Cold Packs
  • Comfort Foods (under the direction of a doctor or midwife)
  • Remembering and being reminded that labor doesn't last forever and that there is the most amazing reward from this work
  • Prayer: thanking G‑d for the ability to have carried this baby and now to birth this baby. And to pray for those who have not yet been so fortunate, that they should soon be blessed with this very labor.

With wishes for an easy, meaningful and healthy birth!