The birth journey is different for introverts and sensitive people, because they process the experience deeply.
I remember how relieved I was when my doula instinctively turned down the bright lights in the room once my epidural was placed. I remember the weirdly melodic intermittent beeping of the monitors that punctuated the calm that fell over the room. I remember the gratitude I felt being able to recharge my inner realm again.
Similarly, I’ll never forget the rocking chair from my first birth. It’s where I rode waves of active labor contractions, my pelvis and backside defiantly rejecting the hard frame of the chair.
Birth has a way of clouding exactly how it all goes down. It skews our memory of the major details, like what time it was or how long it took to get to the hospital. The rhythmic release of hormones, like oxytocin and endorphins play a big role in this hazy experiencing and recollection of birth. After delivery, time and sleepless nights go to work, massaging those memories even thinner.
The Birth Journey Is Different for Introverts and Sensitive People
While I do remember a surprising number of details from both of my birth experiences — like, say, that hard rocking chair — what stands clearest in my naturally introspective consciousness is how the overall experience made me feel.
Did I feel empowered?
Did I feel cared for?
Did I have a good balance of hands-on support and the precious solitude I thrive on as an introvert?
These kinds of questions are likely on the minds of a lot of expecting parents. But if you happen to be introverted or sensitive and expecting, your mind might be running laps around them. That’s because when it comes to being in our heads, we introverts and sensitive people go for broke. We think, process, and put deep thoughts away to marinate overnight, then pull them back out and further process till perfection. It’s just the way we’re built.
The birth journey asks us to take a deep, honest look at who we are, who we desire to be (for ourselves, as well as our burgeoning little humans), and finally, what we need to make this transition.
*Phew!* Yeah, it’s a lot.
Any parent-to-be could be overwhelmed preparing for this life-altering experience. That’s why preparation is key when you’re training for the marathon of birth, especially as an introvert or a sensitive person. Here are five ways to prepare for your birth journey.
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5 Ways for Introverted or Sensitive Mothers to Prepare for Their Birth Journey
1. Plan a calming atmosphere, from the music to the lighting.
When you curate your birth environment, you are taking a detailed look at the space where you’ll labor and/or welcome your baby. The goal is to plan a space that supports the low-stress atmosphere that is foundational to normal physiological labor and birth — and for introverts and sensitive people.
Find a moment to be still and take a couple of deep breaths. Close your eyes and begin to imagine yourself in early labor. What does this space look like? Who do you see there? Are there affirmations on the wall? Are the lights dim? Do you hear soft music or the sound of your partner lovingly encouraging you? Can you smell anything? Invite all your senses into this visualization.
Afterward, journal your thoughts. Try this a handful of times on different occasions to see what comes up. Feel free to include these thoughts in your birth plan. Thoughtfully envisioning how you want to navigate labor and birth can be a deeply meaningful process. When we curate our birth environment, we allow ourselves that safe space we need as introverts to daydream, process, and ultimately make decisions ahead of time that will support us during the challenge of labor.
Whether you’re planning to birth at home, a hospital, or birth center, curating your birth environment is possible with varying degrees of control.
2. Pay attention to any and all triggers.
Speaking of a thoughtful birth environment, paying attention to the birthing parents’ sensitivities is another valuable venture. Many introverts are also highly sensitive. That means that we lean toward protecting ourselves from sensory overload.
Introverts and sensitive people thrive in calm and solace. We tend to shut down with a bunch of stimuli, like loud noises, too many surface-level questions, or on-the-spot decision-making. For instance, the well-meaning shoulder rub and periodic asks of, “What do you need, Love?” from our partner could get incredibly annoying… really quickly. These things could be stress-inducing to any birthing person trying to work through a tough contraction, but could put an introverted birther way off the physiological tempo of birth without warning.
So while you are journaling about the things you’d love to have in your birth space, save a page or two for the things that tend to grate on your nervous system. Things like sudden loud noises, unpleasant smells, and unexpected changes are not 100 percent avoidable — because birth is still real life — but it’s important to identify these triggers.
These details are especially important for your significant other/support partner and birth doula to know, so they can fill your labor toolbox with grounding exercises that help bring your focus back — or, better yet, keep it centered.
Is the chaos of life overwhelming you as a highly sensitive person?
Sensitive people have certain brain differences that make them more susceptible to stress and anxiety. Thankfully, there is a way to train your brain so you can navigate the challenges of sensitivity, access your gifts, and thrive in life. Psychotherapist and sensitivity expert Julie Bjelland will show you how in her popular online course, HSP Brain Training. As an Introvert, Dear reader, you can take 50% off the registration fee using the code INTROVERTDEAR. Click here to learn more.
3. Find (and practice) coping strategies, like mindful breathing exercises.
Comfort and pain coping strategies are invaluable for maintaining your center during labor. Not only do they help keep you calm, grounded, and in your body — instead of in your overthinking introverted head or left brain — but they can actually lessen the intensity of labor pain and support the hormonal loop feedback, the rhythmic way hormones deploy during labor.
Long story short: Stress is disruptive to the rhythm of birth, while calm supports it.
This is where recognizing what we need comes into play. Most of us will birth in a space with at least 2-3 medical professionals and support people. What kinds of things support your calm, even when you aren’t alone?
Pregnancy is a great time to develop a daily breath awareness or mindfulness practice, like meditation. For the especially noisy introverted or sensitive mind, mindfulness is a balm that helps quiet all the open threads and focuses instead on a steady return to our breath. The key is consistent practice, so that you’re building that mental muscle for birth.
Whatever you choose to do, explore comfort and coping strategies that will train your mind to stay on beat during labor.
4. Prepare for labor with a birth class.
Nobody exactly loves to be caught off-guard. But there is a high probability that an introvert will shut down if we feel ill-equipped to handle a challenge. So get ready for one of the most rewarding challenges you’ll experience — the birth of your child — by taking a childbirth preparation class.
Most childbirth classes will teach you different coping strategies, laboring positions, relaxation and visualization techniques, options for pain management, and what to expect in the moments after having your baby. Fewer speak about how to effectively push, how to rest in between contractions, or how to navigate decision-making during the birth. And even fewer get into what I believe is a sweet spot if you’re introverted and expecting — the unique seeds of self-discovery that are along the birthing year.
If you are naturally anxious about having a baby, find a birth class that feels like it can speak to that part of you.
5. Create a postpartum healing plan.
Our ability to know what to do, how to do it, who to call on, what to eat is in shambles after having a baby. Rightfully so. Our babies are new and so are we! Our bodies, minds, and hearts prioritize healing and bonding, and de-prioritize anything that isn’t conducive to those things.
Just like planning your labor and birth environment, planning for your postpartum healing can be incredibly helpful (and we introverts tend to be planners anyway!). A postpartum healing plan allows us to align resources, help, and support ahead of time. Think of your postpartum plan as a lovingly thought-out map for the way back to yourself.
For this, make various lists of:
- Friends, family, and support people. These are folks you can call if you have questions, needs, or concerns while you heal and bond with your baby. (Keep this one close!)
- Things that bring you joy. For introverted moms, that might look like an hour to sit in the sun and finish that book you started, a solo trip to the movies, or an afternoon with the house to yourself while Emily King plays in the background.
- Meal Angels. Meal Angels are volunteers (either through a church, non-profit, or your own family) who will take the task of cooking off your plate (no pun intended!) for the first few weeks after your baby arrives.
- Visitor guidelines. This is a big one! Everyone is excited to see the new baby, ask how you are, stay a while, and chat about how the birth went. Fast-forward: It’s been two hours and you find yourself exhausted, maybe trying to calm a fussy and almost hungry baby… and definitely well past your socializing limit (which isn’t high to begin with for an introvert). So put some guidelines down now — like no unexpected guests — that will help visitors know when to politely wrap it up. Save it in a notes folder so that you or your partner can text folks these gentle reminders before they visit. And don’t be afraid to ask them to bring along a warm meal or groceries either.
How you remember your birth journey deeply matters. It can affect your bond with your new baby, the confidence in your abilities as a new parent, and your overall mental and emotional wellness. Being attentive to your unique needs as an introverted parent-to-be is well worth planning. You’ll see.
Join me for Overflow, a 4-part childbirth preparation class that combines invaluable inner work with practical labor, birth, and postpartum recovery strategies.
You might like:
- How to Survive Being a New Mom When You’re an Introvert
- Why Many Introverts Are Extremely Good Planners
- 4 Meditation Tips for Introverts Who Struggle to Focus
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