Over the last few weeks I have written about several comfort measures that can be utilized in labor. The next few posts I’ll be addressing comfort measures that address the emotional side of labor more than the physical. Many of these are similar but also have significant differences.
Using affirmations may sound a little New Age, self-help guru. It may bring to mind a hippie or maybe a smiling prosperity televangelist. These people may use affirmations to sell their worldview but is there something good and true about affirmations?
I had surgery a few months ago. I had never had anything more serious than my wisdom teeth being removed but this was a major surgery.
Even though I have worked in hospitals and operating rooms for over ten years, I was more than a little apprehensive. Add to that, I knew that for several weeks I would have to rely on others to help me do the very basic of tasks, I was nervous as to how I would react emotionally.
Before surgery, I wrote in a notebook several sentences that my mom or husband could read to me or I could read to myself should I become frustrated or depressed. I didn’t end up using them after surgery but as I was being wheeled down the hallway on the stretcher, I kept repeating to myself in my head, “My surgeon is very skilled and very good at what he does. These nurses are professionals and care for my safety. The anesthesiologist is nice and very experienced.” This helped me to calm down and rest in knowing that God is in ultimate control.
What are affirmations?
So, what exactly are affirmations?
“Affirmation” is defined as a statement or confirmation of a truth or validating a prior judgment. It is also described as emotional support or encouragement.
When I speak of affirmations, I do not mean a statement that will cause something to become true. This is not “positive confession,” “speaking into existence,” a magical incantation, or “the law of attraction.”
An affirmation may be a Bible verse or quote or true statement than reminds you Who is truly in control, reminds you to rest in God’s peace, and encourages. They are true statements, not wishful thinking.
Not everyone defines “affirmations” in this way so if you are searching the internet looking for ideas, remember to use discernment.
Do affirmations work?
“‘Although we know that self-affirmation reduces threat and improves performance, we know very little about why this happens. And we know almost nothing about the neural correlates of this effect,’ says lead researcher Lisa Legault of Clarkson University” according to an article at the Association for Psychological Science.
Scientists have not been studying the effects of affirmations for long but one study did cause researchers to “speculate that participants who were self-affirmed were more receptive to errors which allowed them to better correct for their mistakes.”
In another study, however, researchers discovered that if a person didn’t really believe what he/she was saying, it actually had a negative effect on them.
“The researchers suggest that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as ‘I accept myself completely’ can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem. When positive self-statements strongly conflict with self-perception, the researchers argue, there is not mere resistance but a reinforcing of self-perception.”
So, yes, affirmations can bring encouragement, increased endurance, relaxation, and patience but only if it is a true statement and one that you actually believe.
I advise not writing statements that are just wishful thinking. For example, one affirmation I found was “I will birth painlessly and easily.” This is unlikely a true statement. Birth is rarely, if ever, a painless or easy experience. Rather, I would suggest writing something like, “My body is working hard to bring my baby to my arms. I will relax and let my body do the work it needs to do.”
Here are a few I found and some I wrote:
- God has given us this child and has chosen the perfect time to bring him into the world.
- My body is fearfully and wonderfully made, and it is designed to give birth.
- God has given me all the strength I need for this moment.
- I receive the birth of my son with joy and peace.
- Each surge (contraction) brings us a little closer to an answered prayer and a fulfilled promise.
- I did not conceive in my own strength and I do not labor in my own strength. I rely fully on God.
- I am surrounded with love and prayers from family and friends.
- This is the first day of an amazing new adventure with the love of my life.
- Tomorrow none of the discomfort will matter anymore.
- I can do anything for one minute.
- I am stronger than I realize.
- I am a warrior.
- I am a pillar of strength.
- I have a great doctor/midwife.
- My care team are professionals and well experienced.
- My support team loves and fully supports my decisions.
- God is sovereign.
- God is omnipotent.
I did not include any Bible verses because I plan to write a separate article on the use of Scripture in labor. However, when making your own list of affirmations, I highly recommend using the Bible and prayers.
When used properly, affirmations can be very helpful when faced with the emotional changes in labor. Every birthing experience is different and mothers can become scared, exhausted, unsure, anxious, and tense even if she has had many children before. Short sentences that remind her she is safe, her care providers know what they are doing, her family supports her, and God is in control can help her to relax and be encouraged.
What affirmations have you used or plan to use? Do you have any that you find particularly helpful?
If you are in the Denton, TX area and are interested in hiring a doula for your birth experience, contact me today to schedule a free consultation. If you are interested in learning about more comfort measures in labor, check out my Comfort Measures page.