Today I have handed over the blogging reigns to another American mother living down under.
Rachel is a mother of three who lives in Sydney. She loves cheese, books about Scotland, and things that are blue and white striped. She blogs at A Mother Far from Home about parenting and motherhood…she shares tips and advice about how to get your kids to sleep well, behave, and be strong kids that turn in to strong grown-ups.
Here she is talking about how to have the best possible birth whether you’re in a hospital, a birthing centre, your home, or your car (but hopefully not your car)!
I’ve naturally delivered three babies in the past three years on three different continents in very different situations. From midwives I didn’t know to a doctor who induced me without permission, I’ve been around the block and am more confident now in the birthing process than ever before.
However, when I was pregnant with my first I was clueless. I had always assumed I’d have a medicated birth because who likes to be in pain, right? Then I had a sweet friend send over a book called The Bradley Method and another friend send a book called Supernatural Childbirth, and after I read those I knew I would give natural childbirth a go.
I won’t say it was painless. In fact I’ll say it hurt, but that’s not always a sign something is wrong. Sometimes pain is a sign that something is right. I learned that a contraction hurts because your body is preparing yourself to deliver a baby. That’s good pain. In pregnancy, childbirth and life this quote has been encouraging to me. “Faith isn’t an epidural. It’s a midwife who stands next to you saying, ‘Push, it’s supposed to hurt.’”
Of course, two out of three of my non-medicated deliveries I screamed and begged for drugs during transition. I’m no superwoman and there is no shame in doing what you have to do. However, I think you’re more likely to have the birth you desire if you keep in mind the following.
1. Prepare and empower yourself during pregnancy.
I had my first daughter in Scotland. The Scotland midwifery system is renowned so it was a no brainer for us. Throughout the pregnancy I saw one midwife and, on delivery day, had a woman I’d never met deliver my daughter. I didn’t bat an eyelash and here’s why.
Throughout the pregnancy I read. And read. And read so much that everyone hated being near me because all I could talk about was what happens during pregnancy and labor. What happened was I internalized the birthing process, I owned my impending delivery as my own, and realized that pretty much no matter what, I was going to be the one in charge.
Sure, there’d be doctors and midwives and nurses there, but it was my body. I knew what happened and why it happened and it didn’t matter to me whether it was Mother Theresa or Audrey from General Hospital delivering my baby, I simply needed someone to help if times got tough.
2. Learn to say “no.”
Even the toughest person is prone to give in to strong suggestions during labor. You aren’t working with your full decision-making capacity and you pretty much want everyone to leave you alone and make the baby come out now. If you are prone to say yes even when you mean no due to people pleasing, then you really need to prepare yourself.
My second child was born here in Sydney, and the midwife knew I wanted no interventions unless absolutely necessary. She was a Godsend and kept the lurking doctors at bay. They wanted to hurry things along and she told them to wait or buzz off.
If you don’t have someone who will run interference for you (husbands and family members will do well here) then you’ve got to get some steel in your backbone during pregnancy. If you aren’t able to be firm about your wishes then you may find yourself down an intervention path you didn’t want to go on.
3. Create a birth plan and share it kindly yet firmly.
I did a post on my blog about why you should do a birth plan, and I made a printable birth plan in blue, pink or green. In a nutshell, a birth plan is what helps you plan out your wishes and desires, and what the medical professionals can refer to when it’s go time.
My third child was born in the US. I found one midwife, but she only delivered in her home and it was far away from hospitals so, while I’m very into natural labor, I knew I wouldn’t be able to labor well under those conditions. I ended up by going to the nearest hospital. This place was swanky and my doctor was kind, but I was a tad worried when she said, “Oh, yes, we’ve delivered two babies naturally I think!” Accordingly, I told her exactly what I wanted and didn’t want in no uncertain terms. I was nice, I was kind, but I looked her straight in the eye and told her what I did not want. I won’t say she respected all my wishes, but I did what I could.
4. Know your limits and discern when you have to let go.
I don’t know how many friends I have that say their birth didn’t go how they’d planned. They became too tired. They were strongly suggested to take one course of action (and honestly, who will argue with a medical profession when they are telling you to do what’s best for your baby?) and you end up under the knife and don’t know why.
Be prepared to go after what you want, and be prepared to change if necessary. My US doctor did an internal membrane sweep at 38 weeks without my permission. Immediately afterwards she looked at me and said, “Oops, I probably should have asked.” I was shocked and tempted to make a scene, but honestly, I was so over being pregnant. I decided if this intervention led to another then I’d just take it as it came.
Turns out, the next day I saw my 2-year-old leaning over the side of the pool (I didn’t know my grandmother was with her) and thought she was going to fall in. My entire body shook with adrenaline and I thought I peed in my pants. Turns out my water broke. Much more dignified. I had my third child a few hours later.
5. Be proud of yourself no matter what.
While childbirth is completely natural and people do it everyday all over the world, there are still so many factors out of our control. Our body doesn’t always do what we want how fast we want it to. We get tired. We stop progressing. We have someone tell us we need to do what’s best for our baby when, perhaps, what they are suggesting isn’t necessary.
Either way, the goal is a healthy baby. I feel proud of myself for how hard I’ve worked after each delivery, but having a non-medicated birth doesn’t make us super human. Have your ideal, plan for it, pray for it, and hope for the best. Hold firm to what you believe, but manage your expectations in a way that you’ll be able to feel proud no matter what happens.
Proud that you are a mother. Proud that you delivered a baby. Grateful for the privilege of giving life. No matter how it happened, no matter if you wanted a home birth and ended up in the hospital. No matter if you wanted a natural birth and took every drug they offered you.
Although there’s nothing wrong with wanting a pleasant journey – in childbirth – the destination is the goal.
If you are interested in learning more about having the best possible birthing experience, then perhaps consider the upcoming Hypnobirthing and Yoga Retreat. It will be a weekend full of birth education, parental preparation and relaxation. We would love for you to join us!