I recommend a childbirth education class, and especially one that promotes physiological birth and deep relaxation. As a HypnoBirthing teacher supporting my students as their doula, I've seen how beneficial these methods can be. In person classes are a also great way of connecting with other parents and creating a sense of community throughout your pregnancy. However, they may not be convenient, in which consider an online class (I don't have a particular class that I recommend). I generally don't like classes taught in hospitals (except when it's a set curriculum such as HypnoBirthing), because they tend to prepare someone for a medicalized birth; that is, they teach you to expect medical interventions.
If you haven't been getting bodywork throughout your pregnancy, it's great to invest in self-care in the weeks ahead of your due date. First, your body is accommodating the maximum amount of stress with a fully developed baby stretching your muscles and ligaments and bones and weighing you down. So, it will feel good. Second, it's a wonderful way to manage any anxiety that comes up ahead of the birth, especially if you've gone past 40 weeks and you're feeling the pressure to have a baby from your provider, family, friends, and people in the grocery checkout line. Third, bodywork can help to align a baby for labor, making it a shorter and smoother ride. And I guess fourth, if you don't have other children, then it's going to be a while before you can spend this much time on self-care--enjoy it.
Modalities I recommend include massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture.
In the United States, the most common ritual to prepare for the birth of a child is the baby shower. You might not think of it as a ritual, but it is a way of stepping outside of our regular schedule and celebrating that a baby is coming, which is a big deal and a definitely a reason to celebrate. Some people have a shower before the baby comes, and some wait until after, but either way, it's an opportunity to gather a loving community together to honor you.
I intentionally don't use the term Blessing Way. A Blessing Way is a traditional Navajo/Dine religious ceremony, and there's been growing awareness of the ways that this ceremony has been culturally appropriated by (predominantly white) women. If you'd like to do something "traditional," take a look at your own ethnic and cultural roots and see what comes up. You may have to dig, but definitely if you go back far enough you will find rituals to mark the transition into parenthood. Or, create your own!
If you're past 40 weeks and under pressure to induce, or at a point where you are just physically and emotionally done being pregnant (usually around 41 weeks!), or if you have a health issue that requires induction, check out my induction resources.
If you know that your birth will be induced for health reasons, you can use some of the methods listed in the link above to prepare your body to respond favorably to a medical induction. Amy Grant, an acupuncturist in Concord, NH, told me that beginning acupuncture at 36 weeks is a great way to soften and ripen your cervix.
Just relax! Ha ha, kidding. I find "just relax" to be two of the least relaxing words in the English language. So if we can't do it on command, then how do we enter into that state of blissful abandon? A state that is wonderful for us to experience in pregnancy, but one that also mediates the intensity of labor, reduces muscle tension (and therefore pain), and encourages us to drop down into our endorphin-pumping, animal, birthing brain?
Not like you need anything else on your plate, but it's practice. Making "relaxation" a regular part of our self-care means that we build that muscle, bringing us to the point where we can quickly and easily drift into a state of relaxation because, ideally, it becomes second nature.
Childbirth education methods like HypnoBirthing make a guided relaxation practice the cornerstone of their approach, and whether or not you take a class, you can adopt this as part of your birth preparation.
There are a million different pregnancy books out there. I can give you specific recommendations based on your interest, but generally I like Birthing From Within, Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, and Ina May's Guide to Childbirth.
And watch lots of great birth videos and documentaries! Here's my YouTube playlist of births and info:
Being pregnant, you might notice that people love to tell you their scary birth stories. I think it's a way of processing trauma in a society that doesn't create safe spaces for people to talk about their births. It's critical to set some boundaries, because you don't need that swirling around in your brain at 3am. When people tell us their stories, they don't tell us the context, the choice points, the decisions that their care providers made or why, all we know is the outcome. That's not your birth, those aren't your decisions.
Create positive expectation by surrounding yourself with stories of birth that affirm our power, our joy, our capacity to overcome obstacles, and which just generally inspire us to step into our power.
Pregnancy brings up so. much. Even if you didn't have the hormones rocking your brain and body, you're still about to become a parent. On top of that, there's so much that just happens in life. I haven't seen it all, but what I have seen includes: ambivalence about a pregnancy, severe pregnancy symptoms causing ambivalence about a pregnancy, previous pregnancy loss, addiction, PTSD, depression, high risk pregnancy, physical and/or emotional abuse, divorce or separation, partner infidelity, death of a partner, financial challenges, and being a teenager about to become a mom. I list that there not to freak you out, but to affirm that if you're going through some serious shit, just know that you are not alone. Instagrammable pregnancies, relationships, and births are pretty, but that's not the truth. No one's life is perfect, and some people who make it look perfect overcompensate by insisting that theirs is.
I want you to know that as my client, there is nothing that you can't come to me with. I will hold space for whatever you bring. If you need support for anything at all, I can recommend local therapists for you, and any other referrals as needed. This goes for the postpartum too (even if you're three months postpartum and no longer technically working with me). <3