We all grew up with the TV depictions of a terrifying birth experience. A woman hysterically screaming and doctors yelling to “push.” Birth does not need to be this way. Talk about traumatizing. Did you know there is a correlation between traumatic births and postpartum depression? As a therapist who works with moms postpartum and most importantly as a fellow mama, it is so important for you to feel in control and empowered during your birth. Less hysteria, more “I am woman, and I am built for this.”
I delivered my first child at home with music playing, surrounded by a supportive team. It was calm and peaceful. I just pulled off delivering my twin boys, naturally, albeit in the hospital. Sure my surroundings were not so lovely, but I was surrounded by people cheering me on. The single most empowering moments of my life have been delivering my babies. I planned, studied, interviewed, and worked to ensure I had these life-changing births. I think we would all agree that the moment we become mothers is a life-changing moment. But why do we spend more time planning a baby shower and nursery than we do planning our births?
Disclaimer: All births are beautiful.
Natural Births, medicated births, C-sections, water births. My ideal birth is probably not yours. Your dream birth will not be the same as your girlfriends’. It is all okay. The goal is for you to feel empowered and in control of your birthing experience, whatever that may look like. Here are some tips on how to set yourself up for a successful and empowering birth experience.
Find your Team
This is the single most important part of birth planning. Hands down. No exceptions. Interview OBs, midwives, doulas, everyone. Listen to the recommendations of others, but don’t blindly go with your sister’s doctor because he is your sister’s doctor. It doesn’t matter if you are 12 weeks along, or 35 weeks along. If you have a bad feeling about your provider, find a new one. Why does this matter so much? Because there are so many factors that are beyond our control in birth. You need to trust your team wholeheartedly. You need to know that in that moment, when things may not go as planned, they have you and your baby’s best interest in mind.
Educate Yourself/ Yourselves
For my first birth, my midwife in her ever so loving way told me, “If you want to have a home birth for your first birth, you are going to need to read this… and this.” I was a little thrown off. Never did an OB office give me a book list. I understand now why she did this. The more I knew about birth, the less afraid of it I was. My husband and I knew all the stages of birth. I knew that when I threw up and began shaking, that it was normal. Instead of a panicked thought of, “What is wrong with me?” instead it was, “this is exactly what my body is supposed to do.”
If you want to have your baby in a hospital, your education needs to be twofold. You need to understand the birthing process but also understand the protocols and interventions of the hospital. A doula is a great professional to help you navigate this aspect of your birth plan. In the middle of labor is not the time to try to learn fancy medical interventions.
Not sure where to start? The documentary The Business of Being Born is an easy place to start. Any book authored by Ina May Gaskin, and go ahead and order your partner the book The Birth Partner. Happy Learning!
Birth Plan Details… May Not Matter
I was able to follow my birth plan to a T with my daughter, down to the essential oils I wanted pumping and what music I wanted. It was magical because I got those things. With the twins, I wanted to watch Beyonce’s Homecoming while in the early stages of labor (because she is the ultimate empowering twin mom). My water broke at 4 am. No Homecoming for me. Due to a hospital issue, I ended up doing almost all of my laboring in a triage room. No essential oils, no music, actually barely any room to move around. It wasn’t great but those details didn’t really matter in the big picture. I felt confident and supported. I didn’t need my Beyonce inspiration for that.
Consent in the Birth Experience
It can be easy, especially in a hospital to feel like you are at the mercy of the staff. You still have to consent to everything. Every check, every dose, every monitor, they need your consent. If speaking up is a struggle for you, prepare yourself with some useful phrases to use that feel comfortable:
“Can we have some privacy to think about this?”
“Can you explain the risks of this?”
“What happens if we do nothing?”
Are all good phrases to remember with birth professionals!
We all know births can go unplanned, but even the unexpected birth can be empowering when you feel confident in your decisions. As a mama and a postpartum therapist, I hope these tips can help you feel confident in your birth and your birth planning.