We have all been programmed to believe labor and birth is this horrific event. We see it in movies - mom’s water breaks at the most inconvenient of times, she’s doubled over in pain instantaneously, goes to the hospital immediately, dad is clueless, and everyone is a frantic mess. Then we hear all the horror stories from our own mothers to the grocery store clerk who just happens to notice your protruding belly and feels the need to terrify you with her own awful experience(s), including the most intimate of details to boot.
Yes, labor and birth can take crazy, unexpected turns and although we strive for our birth preferences to be seen through, it sometimes just doesn’t play out that way – whether there is a medical issue or mom has a change of heart in the moment. However, the majority of women can and should have a labor and birth experience far from what the media portrays to be the norm.
Here are a few tips to get your desired birth experience:
1. Choose the right birth place. Some women feel best in a hospital/birth center and others feel most comfortable at home. Whatever place speaks to you, make it happen!
2. Choose the right birth team. This includes your care provider (obstetrician or midwife), your doula, and your family and friends. Include those who you feel comfortable being your most vulnerable with and those who you know have your best interest at heart.
3. Be proactive and prepare yourself. Get educated on birth – take classes, read books and articles, watch documentaries and videos. Prepare your body with regular physical exercise for stamina mixed with additional pregnancy exercises for birth and postpartum. Practice relaxation techniques regularly.
4. Create a birth plan. There are so many aspects of labor, birth, postpartum and newborn care that one must think about and decide on. Know what your options are and make decisions based on the science/evidence as well as your gut instinct and desires. As your doula, we will guide you through your options and help you prepare a birth plan bias and judgment free!
5. Don’t allow horror stories and the media’s exaggerations to worry or persuade you. Trust in yourself, your baby and the process that is childbirth. Women have been doing this since the start of time.
The truth is, labor almost never starts with the bags of water breaking (<10%), the contractions and pain that accompanies them is gradual and manageable in early labor, you don’t leave for the hospital until you are in the active stage of labor (likely hours after labor begins), and the birth team has the ability, and furthermore, the responsibility to remain calm, present and supportive of the mom through her entire labor and birth experience. Another truth is that every single birth is different because every baby is different and every woman’s body is different. So the next time you see Katherine Heigl screaming at the top of her lungs for an epidural in the movie “Knocked Up” or notice a grocery store clerk gearing up to share your worst nightmare in a nutshell - take a deep, diaphragmatic breath. This is not YOUR story. Mind over matter.