Birth affirmations: why and how
Most of you have probably seen birth affirmations on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. They are short phrases that reinforce positive beliefs about oneself and about birth. My body is not a lemon. My baby will fit. I trust my instincts. I am strong.
I wholeheartedly believe in the power of affirmations, but I do think they take a little bit of practice in order to be useful. In this article, I'll explain how you can make birth affirmations really work for you.
Birth affirmations - the why.
Birth affirmations are a great way to prepare your mind and spirit for birth. According to psychologist Ronald Alexander, "an affirmation can work because it has the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept."
Here's an example. Over the summer, I was on a long bike ride with my partner. We were several hours into the ride, and I was losing energy. I was hot and tired and starting to feel a little panicky because I wasn't sure if I could do it. My partner seems to have a sixth sense when it comes to my emotions and looked back at me and said "you are tough." This is something I believe, but wasn't necessarily feeling in that moment. I started repeating "I am tough" in my head over and over again. And you know what? I started to feel tough again. Even though I was still exhausted, the panic started to fade because I knew I could handle it. In this way, affirmations can change our experience of the world for the better.
Some birth affirmations will align with the way you view yourself and the world and be easy to believe, like reminding yourself of something you already know. In the example above, that affirmation worked for me in that moment because it was something I already knew to be true. If he had said "you are the greatest athlete in the world," I wouldn't have believed him and it wouldn't have had the desired effect.
Other affirmations may contradict hard-wired beliefs that you have about yourself and about birth and take more practice to become engrained. These affirmations must still be believable (unlike the "I'm the greatest athlete in the world" statement) but might take a little bit of practice to feel natural to you. If you have gone through life thinking that you're weak, your body isn't healthy, or birth is dangerous, now is a great time decide whether those are things that you still choose to believe. And if not, affirmations are a tool to help you reimagine the way you see yourself and birth. You have the power to decide what you believe. You can choose beliefs that support you in feeling powerful, safe, and confident going into your birth.
Birth affirmations - the how.
I recommend starting from within. Affirmations aren't one size fits all. You need to first take inventory of your beliefs. Identify the ones you want to change. Find affirmations that support you in changing those beliefs. Practice.
Grab several pieces of paper or a journal. At the top of the first page, write "Birth is _______." At the top of the second page, write "I am ________."
Shut off your phone and TV and computer. Get comfy. And start to write. Write what you believe about birth and about yourself. Try not to over-think or force anything. Treat this like a brainstorming session - write whatever comes to mind, don't edit yourself. Write down the good and the bad.
Spend a good 10 minutes on each prompt - give yourself time to really reflect and go beneath the surface. Once you're done, read through your lists. What surprises you? Where do you think some of these beliefs come from? And are there any you'd like to change?
Changing the beliefs that don't serve you.
Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
Chances are, you'll have written some things that give you a negative, heavy feeling somewhere in your body. Some things that you wish you didn't believe, that didn't come from you and aren't you. Spend some time examining each of those beliefs that you want to let go of. How could you re-write them to feel lighter? To feel good?
Get two new pieces of paper. On the first, write "Birth..." On the second, write ,"I am." And start to re-write your narrative. Now that you know which beliefs you are trying to change, you can start to look online (Pinterest, Etsy) to find affirmations that speak to you and support your new beliefs.
Practice and Believe
In order for affirmations to start to re-wire the way that your brain works, you have to practice them. Write them in your journal every chance you get. Now you can print out the pretty pictures and tape them around your home. Ask your partner to say them to you before bed. Notice when you find yourself feeling weak or scared, and correct yourself with your new positive affirmations. No brain, I'm not weak or scared. I'm actually a powerful and wise and amazing person, remember? And I know that I can birth this baby.
Share the affirmations that are meaningful to you with your partner, your doula, and your care provider. Bring them to your birth, and ask that your birth team remind you of them when you start to feel wobbly.
And believe that they will work.
<3 Claire Baker Madison Doula