On Climbing Mountains and Birthing Babies

My most-replied to email of all time is the mountain mama email in my mini-birthing class series (you can click here to sign up for that). That's right. Mountain mama.

It's all about climbing mountains. Wait… what does that have to do with birthin' babies?



Preparing for the Climb

We hold female athletes up as examples for our daughters to follow.  There are strong parallels between preparing for birth and preparing for an athletic challenge – be that a mountain climb, an endurance race, a sprint – any kind of sport.

A mountain climber celebrates her body's exquisite design, function, and capability to bring her to the top.  She prepares for her “big day” in multiple ways:

  • She pays careful attention to her diet – it's the fuel that's giving her energy, building her body, and keeping her healthy
  • She works with the muscles she'll need for the climb, first becoming aware of them, then preparing them for her ascent
  • She practices techniques and skills she'll use at all stages of the journey
  • She prepares herself mentally – acknowledging, exploring, overcoming fears
  • She visualizes herself climbing the mountain.  She doesn't picture pain or terror.  She pictures hard work – followed by victory and euphoria

She is preparing herself for this journey in every way.  She recognizes that this is more than just physical.  It takes mental toughness.  It may be a spiritual journey.  She may face fear and apprehension, but she keeps her mind on the goal.  She knows she will triumph.

If you can think this way when you're preparing for a sport, why is it so hard to think this way when you're giving birth?  Birthing a baby is like climbing a mountain.  Some of the raw glory, the celebration of what the female body can do, has been stripped away by medical technology.  But that doesn't change birth fundamentally.  It is a journey you can make.

Getting to the Top

A mountain climber does not expect her climb to be easy. She knows she is pushing herself.  She knows she is working with her body.  But her focus is never on pain.

She knows she may twist her ankle, scrape her knees, fall and be jerked up short by a safety line.  Those things hurt.  But her focus is never on pain.

She's not going into this climb trying to figure out how she can avoid aching muscles, shooting spasms, or unexpected obstacles.  Her focus is on getting to the top.  Her focus is on climbing a mountain, on the goal that awaits her at the top.

Birth can move smoothly and comfortably – but it doesn't always.  Sometimes there are interventions in the way (okay, a lot of times there are interventions in the way, at least at “medical” births).  Sometimes you're just not ready – you need things to slow down.  You need to rest.  You need time to process something emotionally.  That happens.

And no matter how smoothly things are moving along, giving birth is always intense.

There may be pain.  But pain is never the focus.

The focus of birth is your baby.

You're Not Making This Climb Alone

You're in this together, and you have been from the moment of conception.  Maybe even before that awe-inspiring moment.  You've gone through your pregnancy taking good care of yourself so you'll have a healthy baby.  The focus of birth is your baby.

When I say this, I don't mean it in the “the only thing that matters is a healthy baby” sense. That point of view is pervasive in our society and it's wrong.  There is way more to pregnancy, birth, and mothering than a “healthy” baby – however you choose to define that.  This is not a “get the baby out no matter what the cost is to the mother” mentality.

But it is an acknowledgement of the baby being part of all of this – indeed the goal of all of this.

See, you tell people you're planning a natural birth, and that you're not a martyr.  Then you turn around and start looking up “natural pain relief” information.  I know.  I did it too.  I have those articles on my site – I know you want them 😉

Now I invite you to move beyond them.

Pain is not the focus of birthing.  Nor is it escaping the pain.

The focus is your baby.  You work together with your baby.  Focus on his or her body, and how it's moving through your body.  Feel what your body is doing, and know that work is to bring your baby down and out.  Out so you can gaze at him or her.  So you can gather your precious babe into your arms.

That's way better than getting to the peak.  It's more breathtaking than any panoramic view.  The smell of your freshly-born newborn is more intoxicating than the most pristine mountain air. And you reached this goal together.

Preparing for Your Baby's Birth

So how do you do this?  How do you let go of thoughts of pain, of fear, of anxiety?

It's not easy.  This is a new paradigm.  But if we hold up female athletes to our daughters, telling them to reach for the stars and accomplish what these women have…. Certainly we can hold up the pure power of a birthing mother, the beautiful teamwork of mama and baby in what will be an ultimate victory.  Certainly you can prepare for natural, empowered birth where the beauty of a female athlete is what is celebrated – your strength, dedication, and perseverance.

Climbing to the summit of a mountain does not happen by chance one day.  It takes purposeful preparation.  It takes nutrition, training, dedication, handling anxieties – all before the day of the climb.  It may be as much a spiritual journey as a physical one.  Birth is the same.  You may not prepare for it all in one day.  It may take months to discover your body, to bond with your baby, to prepare for a birth that will take only hours of your entire life.  That's OK.  Pregnancy and birth are a journey.  A new soul is both your companion and the destination.  Along the way you may find a deeper understanding of yourself.

And at the end of the journey you realize it's only the beginning.  A strong, safe, ecstatic beginning that sparkles in the endless beauty of your newborn's eyes.

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Photo by Adam Kubalica

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

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