How do I prepare my body for birth?

Options to prepare your body for birth include dancing!

I have a not very popular confession....I hate yoga.

Anyone else like me? I know that yoga is a great thing for so many people. Calming the mind, centering the breath, grounding your energy, stretching your body, gaining strength. There is no denying the benefits, especially for pregnant people. But I just can’t do it. It has taken me years to figure out why.

I like loud music and dancing…you know, like Zumba! The stretching feels wonderful after you have boogied and released your energy. But to go in cold and stretch to slow moving music? Not my thing. A wise friend and yoga teacher told me once that I prefer my energy going out vs. going inward. She was right.

So when I was introduced to Dancing for Birth™ recently, I thought, “This could be fun.” I love dancing, and I want to learn anything I can to help women though their labors and postpartum experiences, so I thought it would be worth checking out.

It’s no secret I didn’t personally have great births. In fact, the only thing I enjoyed about them was that I got two awesome kids out of all that work. You might think that as a doula I would love birth, but not me. Endured would be a better descriptor. So I had to enter into the “preparation for birth” class with releasing some judgment about how hard birth was and allow myself to learn about how dancing could help other women.

We did some wiggling, some belly dancing, some stretching, and even some cool inversion positions for moving baby’s presentation. We played with scarves and even did a little booty shakin’ to Justin Timberlake (not sure that was part of the curriculum, but our instructor slipped it in there). We did some more traditional birth prep; affirmations, reflections, and even a candle circle.

And yes, we danced.

Light Bulb Moment

Reflecting on this process of movement for birth, I had a little epiphany of my own.

I was never taught to move in labor. I was taught--through 12 weeks of Bradley method--to relax, to breathe, to open and to find a position that made me trust in the process.

Except that it was awful. I hated every position, ached with the pain of a posterior presentation (both times) and nothing we practiced helped at all. My husband tried coaching me, but he had no instincts on how to help me and really struggled seeing me suffer. I was expecting something to actually help reduce the pain…nothing did. And it made me feel betrayed, mad, and I felt like birth was suffering, not conquering.

After Dancing for Birth™, I realized something was missing in my labor…


I did some walking early on, but why didn’t I move more? Now that I see all these women dancing in their labors (and while extremely pregnant) on Facebook, I can see the huge benefit to moving the body while going through such a huge process.

The second birth I got a labor doula, which made a HUGE difference. But for whatever reason, I still didn’t move much. I sat and tried to get through each contraction, all 20+ hours. I tried the tub. I switched positions. But I didn’t get up and dance.

If I just read enough, I will be prepared

Bradley is actually a very successful method, and great for intellectuals who like to understand the whole process and who find peace in relaxation techniques and stillness. I attended all my classes, read books and did relaxation exercises. I was ready for (and passionate about) natural birth…or so I thought. Then labor hit, and I was knocked off my high horse of “if I just know enough it won’t be that hard”.

Wrong. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life and I wanted to die because of the pain. I felt betrayed by all the birth talk (“just rushes,” “relax and it will hurt less”). Nothing helped and I felt like such a failure for ‘doing birth so badly’.

Truthfully that failure was actually really good for me. It gave me so much compassion and empathy for new moms and what they had just been through, and it changed me profoundly from being able to judge moms so easily to being more sensitive and more able to listen with my heart. So I do not regret it. (Plus…those kids! They were SO worth it.) But there is no reason for all women to have to repeat that journey. I want your births to be awesome!

Your birth preparation options

In Portland we have many options for birth prep. Hypnobirthing, The Yoga Way to Birth, Lamaze, Bradley, and so many other approaches really serve to equip families with tools and education that can help them. And now we have Dancing for Birth™, for those inner dancers who need to move to get the baby down and out.

How do you know what will work the best for you when you haven’t ever birthed before? Here is my test: Think for a minute what you do when you stub your toe really hard…like when you think you broke your toe. Do you stop, breathe, and hold your toe? Do you scream, shout, or loudly curse? Do you hop around rubbing your toe furiously, chanting or hollering? Do you sing, hum, or pound the table with your fist?

This is my “what you might do in birth” test. Because most labors involve pain. Not all, but most. Stubbing your toe is hard. And it isn’t a “rush.” It hurts.

(BTW I am a hopper, a fist pounder, a toe-rubber, and a hollerer. My family will happily confirm this.)

Had I done the ‘toe stubbing test’ I might have chosen my birth preparation better.

Birth prep…in your body

We need to know our options and the potential outcomes so we can make informed choices that fit our needs. Once I realized there were other choices that emphasized helping your BODY be prepared, and not just your mind, I thought I better share it for the sake of my people--the hollering, jumping, toe-stubbers of the world!

Maybe the shaking during transition would be less scary if I had practiced it ahead of time. Maybe putting on music and moving my hips could have turned my babies into anterior positions that were easier for labor. Maybe had I been able to do some inversions to rotate the baby optimally, I wouldn’t have had to push for 5 hours with that 2nd baby.

If you also hate yoga (and I know there are a few of you, even though it is justifiably wildly popular) but you need to prepare your body for birth, take a look at Dancing for Birth™. It might be just the thing you need to boogie and shimmy your way through all the stages of labor and into holding that baby in your arms!

Then you can welcome that baby home and continue your movement once baby arrives…since babies love moving too! (That’s when my real skills come out, so don’t forget to hire a postpartum doula to make your life better with baby. You won’t regret it.)