I have to admit, it was not always easy for me to be on the affirmation train. They had always come across as kinda cheesy, too forced and just generally unfamiliar. I noticed pretty quickly as a new doula many years ago that affirmations were a big part of preparing for labor and I eased in gradually over the years to appreciate, enjoy and finally recommend them.
It's no secret that our thoughts control our actions and feelings. One rogue mindset can change the entire course of someone's life. One stray thought can derail birth goals as well. Our minds are powerful, and yet so underutilized. Most of us aren't even aware of the things we are thinking.
Why are affirmations needed in birth? Simply put, you gotta tell your brain to stand down sometimes- birth is all in the physical.
Our bodies have the knowledge of how to work, how to open, how to bring forth life- but it's our minds that can get in the way of allowing this normal and natural process.
Part of that is fear of the unknown, fear of perceived failure, uncertainty, unfamiliarity and lack of information or support. As women, we have to take the messaging we have heard all our lives about how birth is supposed to be, and reprogram ourselves in a relatively short time to trust our bodies, trust our babies and trust the process. Easier said than done.
Some of my favorite ways of addressing some of these negative thoughts and feelings in pregnancy is an affirmation exercise I have many of our clients do. I'll share it with you too.
First, take captive the negative thought that is replaying and causing havoc. Write it down, acknowledge it, call it out. Second, think of a statement that is the opposite- something you prefer to believe about yourself or your circumstances instead.
I encourage mamas to come up with as many as they can- here may be dozens of negative thoughts and dozens more preferred beliefs to go with them. Write them all down. Next, I have them spend some time thinking about the preferred beliefs they came up with that resonate with them the most. There may be 5-10 of these positive statements that feel good to think about, good to imagine as true and feel like life when they are spoken aloud and into their hearts.
Finally, I challenge my clients to write these down on paper or cards and hang them up in everyday places they will see them- the bathroom mirror, the kitchen sink, the inside of the front door, the wall next to the toilet, the dashboard of their car, etc. Seeing these often causes your subconscious to read them each time and store them away for gradual mindset shifts over pregnancy, and tools for overcoming negative thoughts in labor, postpartum, parenting and life in general.
Affirmations are not about making a wish with your words and hoping it comes true. Affirmations are about finding the thing that is already true and choosing to believe it.
Here are some examples of this exercise:
I'm worried I won't be strong enough for labor... I can notice what's happening and work with it in each moment.
I'm afraid that the pain will be too overwhelming... Intensity brings the change that I want.
What if I don't have the birth that I am planning for? ... There's no perfect way to do this.
Things are changing too quickly and I feel unprepared... I am able to release my expectations.
These sensations are too much, I can't do it... I have control of my breath.
This is scary and I don't know what's going to happen... I am not alone.
Anyone can do a variation of this and make it completely their own. You may even find that the affirmations change, as you and your circumstances change. We wanted to share some of our favorite affirmations for Birth and Postpartum. If some of them resonate with you, feel free to print them out and place them in areas where some encouragement is needed.
I think the postpartum ones are my favorite right now, especially since coming out of a season where so many of our clients had a lot of postpartum challenges at once. We found ourselves rehearsing affirmations for them during some of the harder times when all the practical needs had been met and overwhelm and strong emotions of doubt were so consistent in these new families hearts.
Another helpful aspect of processing birth, both the one you want to have and the one you already have experienced, is writing down your birth story. We have created a helpful writing prompt and organizer HERE. It can be utilized to envision what your future birth will be like and what some of the preferred beliefs you have in looking forward to that day. Let us know if you use it in this way, we would love to know!
What affirmations resonate with you the most? Where will you hang up some of your favorites?