As we prepare for an event like birth that is unique, instinctual and altogether unpredictable, how can we maintain our relationship with ourselves and our partner?
This is a question Kimberly Johnson, founder of MAGAMAMA, wants every expecting mom to consider. MAGAMAMA is an online community and resource hub for new moms who want natural, empowering solutions to the physical pain and emotional madness that can accompany childbirth.
Truth is, nothing can truly prepare you for what will be one of the most momentous and memorable experiences of your life. However, all birth educators agree that women birth better when they feel relaxed and safe.
Which begs the question, how can you foster that safe feeling in your relationship before the big day comes?
That safe feeling is determined by our outer surroundings, care providers, partners, and our connection to our own inner strength.
Here are five ways to boost your bond with your partner and foster your own confidence:
1. Push your edges by doing things that scare you.
Kimberly Johnson: Obviously there’s a lot you can’t do while pregnant, like rollercoasters and tasting the ever risky grilled blowfish. How about trying new things together as a couple?
For example, improv classes, traveling to new locations, cooking new foods, and really communicating to each other your struggles as you tackle new experiences.
Aim for some variation in your intimate moments—leave the lights on, or turn them off. Try to book a hotel for the night. Remember, once baby comes, you might not get an adults-only getaway for a while.
2. Find your voice.
Kimberly Johnson: If you’ve had trouble communicating with your partner in the past, try to work on that now. Having a baby is life-changing, and working on finding the language to relate to one another now, before baby comes, will help you bring that into postpartum life too.
The more comfortable you can be stating how you are feeling, without blaming or assuming how your partner feels, the more likely that you will be met with open-hearted curiosity that will lead to satisfying connections.
3. State your desires, and ask your partner about theirs.
Kimberly Johnson: Sushi? Pizza? Can’t decide. Thai food. Now is the time to work on stating your preferences without trying to figure out what would be best for your partner, or anticipating what they might want.
The next time “What’s for dinner?” becomes five minutes of back-and-forth, pause, check in, and find your preference.
What would you choose if you were by yourself?
Then say, “I’d like _____!” If your partner wants sushi, try to find a third option instead of compromising on your desires, “How about Thai food?”
See if you can find a win-win.
4. Find the inner “yes” and “no” in your body.
Kimberly Johnson: The next time someone asks you a question, and the answer is a resounding, “Yes!!” —notice how you feel in your body.
When I feel a 100 percent green light, my skin feels tingly, my heart races a bit, and my chest expands. How about you?
Then notice what happens when you feel a strong “No!” My jaw tenses, my muscles tighten and my brow furrows. What do you notice?
Most of us are either “yes” or “no” people, one being more habitual than the other. Sometimes if we listen to our body, we can develop a clearer sense of what we want. Without getting your overactive brain involved, as it does with indecision or fatigue, notice how your body is responding, and use your body as the gauge for your answer.
5. Breathe alone and breathe together.
Kimberly Johnson: All of us hold our breath sometimes or forget about our breath completely. Just noticing your breath is already a shift back into the present moment and your physical experience.
It’s also fun and connecting to sync up your breathing with your partner.
See if you can sync up without talking, just by watching and feeling one another’s movement. You can try it while facing each other, while sitting side by side, and while sitting back to back. Each will be a different experience and will prepare you for attuning during labor, and after.
Kimberly is chalk full of great anecdotes and advice. Here are a few more questions we wanted to ask her:
How do you make your mornings run smoothly?
Kimberly Johnson: I would like to say I make lunches the night before, that we both lay out our clothes the night before, or that I have a meal plan calendar. None of those things happen, ever.
The main ingredient of a smooth morning for me is having gotten enough sleep the night before. That way I have levity to deal with whatever mood my daughter wakes up in, and whatever other unpredictables arise.
What is the life hack or tip that has changed your life?
Kimberly Johnson: Somatic Experiencing Trauma Resolution Therapy is my life hack.
It’s like an experience of being deeply human and coming home to myself in my body. A less extensive one is leave my phone in the other room or out of my sight if I want to have a meaningful interaction (which I most often do) or if I want to get anything done.
What superpower have you discovered as a mom?
Kimberly Johnson: My superpower is improvisation. I have become a master of the “roll with it” attitude. Very little has gone as I thought it would or at all similar to how I was raised, so I have learned to let go of ideals, and go with options that work.
This quote inspires me…
A mother’s body against a child’s body make a place. It says you are here. Without this body there is no place.
— Eve Ensler, from In the Body of the World
To me, “motherly” means…
Kimberly Johnson: It means summoning the deepest of powers, that often get awakened through a descent, to hold onto ourselves as women, as we parent children. It requires real magic to hold all the spaces of mother, woman, daughter, lover, and creator.