Set a clear intention; consider having a birth affirmation or resolve.Write this as a clear sentence and place it in various places around your home. Repeat it to yourself everyday before birthing, reminding yourself that your attitudes to a certain degree will affect your birth experience. It is useful to word the resolve in a way as if it has already happened, for example, ‘the experience of labour is joyful and empowering rather than I hope / wish the experience of labour will be joyful and empowering. Adapt the resolve to your personal birth situation, for example if, for whatever reason, you know you will be having a cesarean and you are fearful of the surgery your resolve might be something like I will be calm and breathe deeply when my baby comes into this world.

Prepare the physical space, again there are many ways in which you can do this according to where you are choosing to birth. At home in your pre-labour you could place some lavender or sandalwood oil on your pillow, you could also do this if for any reason you are going to have a caesarean or epidural. If you can take your own small pillow into hospital, it will make you feel at home (as well as preparing you for the problem that many hospitals I’ve worked at recently have of pillow shortage). Make a small alter in your space, place a couple of pictures of loved ones, teachers or deities that inspire you. Make sure the space where you are birthing feels clear and clean. You can burn camphor or sage if you need to clear the space energetically, if this is not possible (in a hospital setting for example) you can buy or make your own aromatherapy ‘space clearing’ sprays; a good one is available from the ‘Bush Flower Essence’ people.

Have a birth plan but don’t be overly attached to it.
A woman I worked for once, when I was very young and she was having her first child gave me some words of wisdom that have stayed with me until this day. She said what I learnt in giving birth was that you can’t control what happens, but you can control your reaction and response to it. A birth plan is a very useful (and in Australia legally binding) document. You should make sure you give it to midwives, obstetricians and other support people at least a couple of weeks before your due date so they have time to familiarise themselves with it’s content and discuss any issues with you. A birth plan should cover your hopes and dreams as well as your favoured choices if things to not go according to plan. Be careful about the way you write your birth plan, choosing language that is open hearted and respectful. For example, avoid statements like I don’t want to have, but rather use phrases such as I would like to be supported in or I would prefer. If you have a good doula (more about that in a moment) she will help you formulate and think through your birth plan.

Choose your support people carefully.Being present when a child comes into this world is not a spectator sport. Ideally the people who are present will be those with whom you are very close and feel comfortable. Research has shown that if you have met your midwife at least once before, and felt a good connection with her, you will birth better than if your midwife is unknown to you until you are in labour. I believe it is important to avoid having someone at the birth because you feel obliged, unless you really want that person to be there.

Consider having a doula (trained support person), a doula will visit you several times before the birth helping you prepare and think things through. She will then provide consistent care and support for you and your partner throughout the birth, as well as visiting you post-natally. A doula can be an invaluable source of information, support and skill. See for more information. A doula may also help you in keeping interventions to a minimum, as most doulas are skilled in supporting natural birth wherever possible.

Be responsible.‘the word responsible implies having the ability to respond. This means keeping the journey of labour in perspective and remembering it is your journey. It also means endeavoring not to blame others for your birth experience however it may be on the day. You will be most easily able to take responsibility if you have discussed your hopes, fears, dreams and expectations with your caregivers in advance so there are as few surprises as possible once you are in labour.

As you take the steps towards becoming a mother, and as labour comes closer and closer it is valuable to remember that human incarnation is a blessing. Do not doubt this, or doubt yourself. Bringing your baby into the world happens quite literally once in a lifetime and the process of labour can be a joyful reminder of this miracle if we can remain focused, self-assured and ever present in the moment.