In preparation for birth, many pregnant parents like to create affirmations written out on paper or strung up in a style inspired by prayer flags to keep them encouraged and focused during labor. There are even online shops that sell beautifully crafted affirmations for birthing families to display.
How They Can Help
Rehearsing affirmations helps to change the internal dialogue of the unconscious mind and encourage the brain to move toward solution-focused thinking, rather than problem-focused thinking about what the parent would like to avoid. Affirmations can inspire you to begin acting in a new way, even if you don’t fully believe those statements yet!
How to Write a Helpful Birth Affirmation
- Keep it about you. You can’t manifest someone else’s actions with your thoughts, but they can affect your own actions. By the way, your body is a separate entity from you. More on this below.
- Keep your affirmation in the affirmative. In other words, don’t make it a negative. For example, don’t think about giraffes. No, I said don’t think about giraffes. Now think about butterflies. That’s a much easier pathway for your brain to follow, right?
- Dig deeper. Don’t stop on the surface with a particular birth outcome. Think about what is motivating you to want a certain kind of birth, or to perform in a certain kind of way.What is it about a vaginal birth, for example, that appeals to you? Are you wanting to increase the odds of connecting with your baby right after birth? Are you wanting to prove to yourself that you’re strong? Perhaps a part of you knows that birth is a major ordeal…a transformation…a rite of passage…and that to get through something so deep and profound, you will likely experience some moments where you don’t feel strong.
What is underneath the word strong for you? Is it resilience? Determination? When you dig down to the deeper desires behind your birth preferences, you’ll notice that they can actually be found in any kind of birth, and your affirmation becomes much more powerful, almost like a heart’s question, a walking meditation, or a Zen koan.
When you push beyond medical outcomes and tap into your heart’s desire, the gates of compassion are thrown wide open and you begin to think about birth and yourself more expansively.
You find that you can connect with your baby by talking to them in the moments after a cesarean birth, helping them acclimate to this new world with the voice they have known since just a few weeks after their heart began to beat. You find that you can tap into your resilience while sitting still and breathing through the process of receiving an epidural. You find that you can access determination by pumping breastmilk for your baby even when you are separated from them by the walls of a NICU.
What to Avoid
Stay away from clichés and overly simplistic messages about birth that could fit on a bumper sticker. While well-intentioned, black and white messages about birth can leave parents with an un-wished for outcome feeling as if they have somehow failed if their birth outcome doesn’t match that message.
For example, “Your body was made to do this,” has a beautiful intention to empower birthing people, and the unfortunate potential to leave someone feeling less-than if their birth requires medical technology or outside help to bring baby earthside.
It’s important to be mindful of the messages you tell yourself about your very human body and to remember that you as a person and your body are two separate entities. Avoid the temptation to make your affirmations focused on birth outcomes, which are influenced by many, many factors, both known and unknown. If your affirmations lack compassion for whatever you and your body each need to do to get through any given moment or circumstance, they are not serving you.
Examples of Helpful Affirmations
Here are a few examples of affirmations that focus on you, are stated positively, dig deeper into heartfelt desires, and aren’t attached to a particular birth outcome:
I am doing my best
I send loving kindness to my baby, myself, and my body
I am resilient
I am opening to what this moment calls for
I am loveable, always
I am a mother/father/parent
I am enough
Breath (The E is left off intentionally. It’s a reminder that the breath is there, not a command.)
Each step forward brings me closer to my baby
Birth unfolds on its own time
I can focus on what’s working in this moment
Certified Birthing from Within Mentor, and Birth Story Listening Facilitator