You would think, after years of teaching Lamaze classes, that I would be the Queen of Relaxation. I haven’t achieved jellyfish status yet – guess that’s a good thing! – and after a long weekend at home over the holidays, I actually started to notice some bad body habits that I could use as signals to relax.

Whether you’re pregnant (why use up energy in your body during labor? Let your uterus use that energy to make the labor shorter!) or coping with the joys and challenges of a new baby, here’s some things to think about.

You don’t have time to think about stress and how it’s affecting your body? Take a moment to breathe and do a little body tour when you’re driving (the white-knuckle stop at the light? The long drive on the interstate?), or take a few deep breaths as you’re getting ready to go to sleep.

Then take my little quiz here and see what you learn. Relaxation tips are in the future here on Baby Steps!

When I am under tense or under stress,
I feel tension in my

  • Head
  • Jaws
  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Stomach
  • Back
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Somewhere else _____________________

My body reacts to tension by

  • Sweating
  • Heart rate increasing
  • Heart pounding
  • Difficulty catching breath
  • Clammy skin
  • Trembling hands or legs
  • “Butterflies” in stomach
  • Nausea
  • Gripping fists
  • Itching/scratching
  • Pumping top leg when legs crossed
  • Biting nails
  • Grinding teeth
  • Speech difficulties
  • Other ____________________

I can recognize signs of tension in my body by _____________________________________

I can prevent tension from overwhelming me by _____________________________________

I use the following calming techniques when needed

  • Paced breathing
  • Consciously relaxing muscle groups
  • Imagery
  • Other _______________________

To cope with pain I

  • Need quiet to tune into myself
  • Need to think about something else
  • Need someone to be with me
  • Need to talk with someone
  • Need to be doing something
  • Want help from a medical person
  • Want to be alone
  • Other _________________________

As you can see, this knowledge is not only useful for labor – it works for lots of things. (I used to get sick for midterms every November – as in respiratory problems. Once I recognized that pattern, I was able to change. You may find this useful too!)

If you deal with pain/tension on a regular basis, or you are looking forward to having a baby soon, be sure you ask your partner to think about these things too. You don’t want them rubbing your shoulders (their place to keep their tension) while you are needing a footrub!

Next time in Baby Steps we’ll take a look at “natural birth” techniques. Sometimes people think it means you do nothing – but it’s usually a very active approach to birth.

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