Cot built. Check. Car seat installed. Check. Baby clothes washed and folded away. Check. Preparing for birth course completed. Check. We have just done a brilliant birth preparation course with LushTums and already I am feeling a lot more calm and positive about what's to come. We did the course with one other couple who hosted it at their house, which made it feel friendly, relaxed and personal. We arrived, naturally feeling a little apprehensive; my husband very graciously putting up with some of my now pretty standard, hormonal shit: "we should take snacks — better get them from Waitrose, we want to make a good impression"; "we really need to go, we don't want to be late" [said whilst shooing him out of the door at an overcautiously early time]; "are you sure you want to wear that t-shirt?” After initial introductions upon arrival, we chatted easily and started to feel much more relaxed. We discovered that we were all about to become second time parents — a certain sign that all parents need information and support, whether or not it’s their first baby. We began by noting down some points about our birth wish list, our fears or concerns and what we hoped to gain from the course. This was a nice ice breaker that helped us to think about the possibilities surrounding the birth, both the positive things and anything we were feeling anxious about. A lot is made of “birth plans”, and from our first birth experience, I am aware that a birth plan is just that, a plan. The use of the term “birth wish list” was really helpful, acknowledging that birth can be unpredictable and that it can be beneficial to take a flexible approach to enable you to prepare for any eventuality. One thing we do have control over is our preparation, and equipping ourselves with knowledge is a great way to feel empowered and be able to make choices that are informed, whatever circumstances pregnancy and birth present. We went on to cover the signs and stages of labour, what contractions actually are and what the body is doing during this important process. My husband and I did a different birth preparation course before our first son was born but this wasn’t something that was covered then. I think we are often programmed to focus on the pain of contractions and not on their function, which leads to a very different perspective, and quite possibly a different experience. Knowing that contractions are necessary, natural and, perhaps rather obviously now, very useful, feels like a much more positive take, and is definitely something that will help me to feel like I am making progress with each one. Having discussed the process of labour, we talked about coping strategies, particularly using breathing, yoga positions and mindfulness as ways of managing the sensations of labour and birth. These were things I was particularly keen to focus on and really wanted my husband to have a greater insight into so that he could help me with them during labour. Definitely one of the useful jobs a birth partner can have. However, it doesn’t have to be a husband, of course. A close friend, parent, sibling, or even well behaved border collie can do similar. Alternatively, if you’re likely to be without a birth partner, having some moves drawn or described in your birth notes might be helpful to trigger your memory. Or for the more technically able, some videos of yoga moves and breathing techniques, or some guided relaxations that you can access easily on your phone might work well. There are heaps of fabulous resources on the LushTums website that will be useful during pregnancy, labour and beyond. We moved on to talk about interventions, pain relief and how to make decisions about the possibilities that we might be presented with during labour and birth. This was another particularly helpful aspect of the course, and followed its open minded and non-judgemental ethos. Finally we spent some time talking about the 4th trimester, about those early, blurry, new born days, with reminders about feeding and sleeping and setting the expectations dial to low. It’s easy to forget that keeping the baby and yourself alive each day is a big win, even if that’s done in your pyjamas on a diet of crisp sandwiches and cold cups of tea. We also had a very useful discussion about recovery after birth and giving ourselves enough time for our bodies to heal, which is crucial after every birth and can be extra challenging when caring for older siblings as well. We talked about dedicated postnatal core strengthening exercises, which LushTums also offer new mums, and how they help recovery. The course was informative, useful, and also really enjoyable. All the information was very clear, sometimes explained using props or diagrams, and always with a chance to engage in discussion about the things we wanted to know more about. We were able to come away with all the information we had hoped for and spend some important time together as a couple thinking about our hopes and plans for the birth and beyond. We are now feeling even more excited about the prospect of welcoming our new baby and looking forward to putting into practice all that we have learnt.