Here is the third instalment of the serialisation of my little book. If you are reading this, now is the time to start practicing techniques with your birthing partner.
Let’s get comfortable
Before you get started with practicing the breathing techniques, consideration should be given to your birthing environment and as this dovetails in to physically how well you and your partner may cope in the birth scenario.
So when you think about the birthing environment, have a quick think about how you are bodily and what will be comfortable physically for you both. As the birthing partner, do you have any back, neck or shoulder pain? Are there any bodily restriction that might impact how you can help your partner? If so, what are you going to do? Typically, I will have bolsters, cushions, blankets, birthing balls and chairs to hand.
Thought should be given to what you have in your home birthing environment, what you have access to in the hospital birthing environment and what you may need to make yourselves comfortable in both.
Breathing’s just breathing, right?
So to breathing and practicing. Firstly, think about breathing in isolation and the different types of breathing you can imagine. There are so many ways in which we breathe, from the soft and gentle breathing we make when we are asleep, through to the heaving, raspy breaths one may imagine having just finished a marathon!
What do you imagine your partners breathing will be like in birth? Like something out of the movies? If you are happy and inclined to research, take a look at something like YouTube or perhaps watch one of the many programmes about birth now on television. These are ideal research resources should you wish to use them…
Using appropriate breathing techniques can help to bring calmness to the body and mind, allowing the heart rate to stay steady, giving the mind something to connect to and bringing a sense of focus and control to the person engaging in the practice. Breathing gives us life and is the most natural function that the body performs. It has been used in birth since the start of time after all.
What breath may help?
1) Ujjayi breathing (victorious breath) to help when trying to relax throughout your labour
This is a lovely practice to do during the early stages of labour as it has a tranquilising effect on the body.
I suggest that this practice can be done together. I feel it is valuable, especially if you are labouring through the night or in the early hours, in either a laid or upright (back to back) cuddled up position. This way you can monitor your partner’s breathing and they will benefit from the lovely relaxing, heat from your body.
Once you are snuggled in together and relaxed, the awareness should be turned to calm and rhythmic breathing in and out of the nostrils. After some time here, the awareness should be taken to the breath within the throat space and imagining that the breath is moving in and out of a small hole within the throat.
As the breathing becomes slower and deeper, it is then time to turn the focus to the glottis (the swallowing muscles within the throat) and gently contracting the muscle to allow the breath to take on a light snoring sound. The breath should not be forced, rather a focused easily maintained inhale and exhale. This can be practiced at any time for as long you can both feel comfortable or can stay awake!
As the shepherd, your initial role is simply to guide your partner through the practice up until they are breathing and contracting the glottis. Then join in and relax.