I am a big fan of using exercise to manage stress. When I was preparing to have my second baby I decided to train for and run a marathon. I had never run a race before of any kind – why a marathon? I don’t know but it turned out to be exactly the prep I needed to pull off an HBAC (home birth after cesarean).
There were elements of the race that are very similar to birth – physically taking your body to a place it has never been, feeling like you might die, having people witness your physical distress, allowing your body to be vulnerable and to accept support. At the 21K point I felt afraid and my husband and older son (then 8yrs old) met me and biked by my side for the next 21k. They stayed by me, offering me drinks and encouragement – just witnessing my passage.
The way that played out allowed me a glimpse of the important role they would play when I decided to have another baby. My birth with my second son was exciting and smooth – it felt intense but I felt safe – and my oldest son made me laugh as he was crowning which really was my favourite memory of the entire experience. I’m not sure that running a marathon is the only way preparing for a birth but if you have the opportunity to push yourself outside of your comfort zone on a physical level and receive support at the same time give it a try. Tolerating the feeling of being out of control is an excellent skill when you are giving birth.