Doulas and childbirth educators will most likely talk about the 3 R’s of labor: Relaxation, rhythm and ritual (thanks Penny Simpkin). The three R’s help women to cope with the intensity of labor.
During early labor, we encourage the laboring mother to relax as much as possible during contractions. Trusting your body, relaxing and allowing yourself to open instead of tensing up when the intensity hits makes it possible to cope. In active labor it becomes much more difficult to “relax” during contractions so we encourage moms to relax between each contraction as much as possible, to save up her energy for the next one.
Rhythm & Ritual:
When labor becomes intense and contractions are happening longer and closer together, it is important for the laboring mother to find her rhythm and ritual through each contraction. That is why breathing techniques are important to learn in pregnancy. Some other important rituals are visualization, swaying, massages, singing and breathing with your partner or doula.
Each birth is unique and every laboring mother’s rituals will be different. And sometimes a mother might not even know what is going to be helpful for her until she is in labor. As a doula, my job is to help the mother find her rhythm and stay in it if and when she starts to fall out of it.
It’s also important to incorporate the 3 R’s into my life as a mother. Because most of the day is dictated by your new baby (or toddler or kid), we need to find time to relax and incorporate rhythms to stay healthy. I have quickly found that “mom guilt” is a real thing and have struggled with it most of Eleanor’s life. For example if I’m not with her 24/7 or or if I’m not…fill in the blank. We’ve all felt it.
I am learning though, that being healthy myself will help my daughter be healthy. Kids are always watching you and learning from your words and even more from your behavior. Finding rhythms for myself in the midst of mothering has helped me from burning out and helped my daughter see what a healthy adult looks like (she’s also inevitably seen what an unhealthy one looks like in some seasons).
Here are a couple rhythms we’ve incorporated into our week that I would love to share with you:
Rhythms where Eleanor is involved:
1. Morning: Every morning, I wake up and get Eleanor from her crib. I nurse her in our bed and when she’s finished, our family stays in bed as long as we can to play. Jeremy will eventually change her diaper and I will make coffee. Our family makes breakfast together, turns on some music and slowly starts the morning with coffee, breakfast and play.
2. Work: I also take 15-30 minutes to get something done in the morning when Eleanor is around. It’s healthy for her to be “bored” and find something to do on her own. Usually she struggles and then by the end of it she is playing a game she doesn’t want to stop playing after I’m done. (Again, this isn’t always a success, but something I shoot for).
3. Essential oils: This is something both Eleanor and I can do together. She likes picking out which oil to us throughout the day. If anything else, it makes the house feel cozy and that’s reason enough for me. We also use lavender in her bath and in her humidifier at night.
4. Walking every day: We usually take 2 walks: one where she’s in the stroller so I can get a good long walk in and one where she “runs around” as she calls it and we both just run around our neighborhood. We usually end up at the park and swing or play.
5. Cleaning: I use to wait to clean anything until she took a nap, but it’s really important for me to feel like our house is mostly clean throughout the day. Eleanor really likes helping for the most part. She helps unload the dishwasher, sweeping (it’s mostly her helping push dust around) and putting the books away (we take those out on and off throughout the day). With this rhythm, it was a learning curve for me. And it’s different throughout the phases of a baby and toddler in how you can do this.
Rhythms where Eleanor is not involved:
1. Making bread every week (I’ll include my recipe on a following post): On Saturday evenings, I make the dough and on Sunday morning I bake the bread. This has become a weekly tradition where I get to bake something (really easy) and our family has bread for the week. I also love the smell of freshly baked bread on Sunday morning – it’s like a little easter treat every week.
2. Book club/small group/hangouts: Every other Tuesday night after Eleanor is in bed, I host a book club with some women from our church and every Thursday, we host our small group. Throughout the week, I will also sometimes plan some hangouts with friends sans my little one because it’s healthy for me to have adult interaction where I’m not chasing a toddler around. I value quality time with my people so this is an important one for me.
3. Nap time work/getting things done: I still do most of my work during Eleanor’s nap. While I can get some things done when she’s awake, my most productive time is when she’s napping. I also use this time to just sit, read, drink tea.
4. Nights out with my husband: Paying a babysitter if you have to is so worth it. My husband and I still struggle with finding time to have away from Eleanor but for the health of our relationship, it’s crucial. Our goal is to have 2 date nights a month and work up from there. We love spending time together all three of us, but time with just the two of us makes us better parents.