Now that you have mastered relaxing your body, you will also need to master relaxing your mind. This does not mean that your brain should become useless and mushy, but rather you need to learn to keep your attention on something for more than twenty seconds. In effect, mental relaxation is training your mind to work better.
It is very easy to get distracted while you labor, and being distracted can cause you to loose your physical relaxation. If you loose your physical relaxation you will feel more pain. So to prevent this distraction, you must learn to focus your attention.
It does not matter what you focus your attention on, simply that you are able to focus it. There are various techniques you can try to, some that you can do alone and others that require the help of a coach.
The most common technique that is taught in childbirth classes is visualization. This is when you close your eyes and imagine a scene being played out in your head. The scene may be a vacation you enjoyed, your favorite movie, you holding your baby or even you sitting at the feet of the father basking in His glory. It should be a scene that is relaxing to you, and that you enjoy.
Another technique would be to listen to music or to sing yourself. Some women enjoy having a coach sing or read to them and focus their attention on the voice. Other women enjoy having their coach relate a story about their lives together, or simply tell them how much they are loved. Learn to shut out the other noises in the room as you focus only on the voice of your coach.
Some women find it helpful to make an audio tape of favorite songs or poems and use that to focus their attention on. Other women enjoy watching a favorite movie or television show to hold their attention. Some women find it helpful to focus on a picture. There is no right or wrong way to keep yourself mentally relaxed, but it will take practice.
After going through the steps to achieve physical relaxation, spend five minutes trying to focus your attention on something without allowing the surrounding environment to distract you. Try a few techniques to see what works best for you. You should find that certain songs, stories or visualizations keep your attention better than others.
Don't worry about increasing your ability to focus beyond five minutes. Five minutes should get you through two contractions and the rest between them during the hardest part of labor. You will most likely find that it is easier to focus your attention during contractions if you allow yourself to pay attention to what is going on around your between contractions.
Like the rest of the relaxation, this will be difficult to learn, but is a very useful tool to have while laboring. Hospitals are busy places with lots of smells, sights and sounds that are unusual. Even if you are planning a homebirth, those who are with you will not be able to keep the house silent. Your goal is to be able to ignore what is happening around you while you relax through a contraction.
It is important that you don't wait for labor to start to try to figure out how to focus your attention. It takes time to increase your ability to not be distracted, and you won't have the time you need once labor starts. Begin practicing this now, to allow you the most benefit in labor.