I joined a prenatal yoga class a few weeks ago. I was surprised to find myself the only mom who was not experiencing her first pregnancy. I was not surprised to find myself the only mom over 40. Listening to the expectations and fears of the group of moms with various backgrounds and ethnicities I was surprised to discover how many did not feel ready. At 37 weeks so many of these moms still have unanswered questions. Of course, there will always be those questions that only birth itself will answer: How long will labor be (only long enough to do its job, of course), can I handle the pain (how did you prepare?) or will things go according to my birth plan (not likely, sister)? Aside from the unanswerable, there were questions they were eager to discuss that were fairly fundamental: What does a contraction feel like? Will I be able to nurse if I have a C-section? What do I do if the epidural doesn’t take?
I am no professional, nor expert, but this is my third birth and I have seen a handful of others, all natural. I have seen and experienced what we women are capable of and it is amazing, beautiful and inspiring. It happens in despite of, and not because, medical professionals being involved, just like it has for thousands of years. These professionals are rarely necessary, but we are happy they are there, just in case. Don’t mean to step on your toes doc and nurses. Lots of love to you. But take a look outside our culture. I want to give credit where credit is due, to the laboring moms through time and all over the earth. You ladies really do rock.
I would encourage moms to go beyond What to Expect When You are Expecting and the fairly useless hospital tours and hospital birth or LaMaze classes and face your fears. Get answers, even if you are afraid to hear them. There are a myriad of techniques for making your contractions productive instead of fighting them and causing yourself pain. Get to understand the simple mechanics of labor. I have been known to stuff a doll in a sock to demonstrate cervical dilation and how contractions are your friend, not your enemy. It really is all about how you view your labor and your body. It is not something to be feared or fought, but labor is something to lean into, to embrace. Birth is just the toughest workout of your life. Your uterus is just a big muscle doing a big job.
My husband and I really enjoyed the Bradley Method of Childbirth classes. The classes prepared us both well. My labor with my firstborn was typical, aside from her starting posterior and swirling her way down (not making it quite all the way before emerging with her big 90% percentile head!). Pushing is what wore me down. Without having practiced relaxation and pain coping techniques I would have been hard pressed not to panic, even with my deep seated natural stubborness and determination to go natural (meaning no pain medication and no interventions). Birthing from Within was a great book chock full of art techniques to help you face your fears and pain coping techniques to equip your labor. I admit, I find some of the stuff in there a little hokey and new age weird for this Christian, lawyer, evenly divided between left brain and right brain thinker. But I would still recommend the exercises for dealing with fear and pain.
I believe you should birth where you are comfortable, can relax, and feel safe. For me that is my home and in the water. I can’t express how much easier a contraction is to handle in the water than out of it! The most important thing is not necessarily which birth path you choose though, but rather that you made a choice; that you examined your options, the research and yourself and made an informed choice, rather than doing whatever everyone else is doing. Resist the herd mentality. Do your homework. This is one of the first very important parenting decisions you will make for your child: how and where you birth. Start your parenting with intentionality.
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