In a day and age where there are so many choices, how in the world do new parents begin to navigate pregnancy and birth? Planning a Positive Birth Experience was the name of a class I wrote back in 1993 and later taught at Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando Florida to help parents navigate all the choices. Yes, I have been teaching and supporting expectant families for 30 years now! So I am in the process of turning that class into a book.
Are You in the Wrong Class?
I used to open the class by welcoming everyone and then making sure they were in the right class they registered for. “This is Planning a Positive Birth Experience Class, if you signed up for the Horrible Birth Class, that meets on Friday nights at 7pm” I would say. Everyone laughed, but I wanted parents to make a conscience thought about how silly it would be to actually go to a class that helps you learn how to prepare for a horrible or bad experience. In reality people don’t plan for a bad experience they just don’t always do the work towards creating a positive birth experience!
So how do you see yourself in labor? Are you calm and breathing through contractions, or are you scared and praying this baby magically appears? In other words, what is your birth value or philosophy? Some of you may know right away how you see yourself giving birth, and other think “I have no clue”. For those of you who say you have no clue or are not really sure, I invite you to do a little exercise. Make a mental note, or jot down the first three words that come to mind when I say “giving birth at home”. Was the general feel to your words more negative or positive? Now do the same thing with the words “giving birth in a hospital”. Was the general feel of the words you thought positive or negative? I could also use the words natural birth/no pain medication or Epidural. The point being that you instinctively have a thought process around different options around giving birth. Most likely those feeling are running around in your subconscious. It doesn’t mean you must keep these thoughts but pregnancy is a time to evaluate how you really feel and if you want to make any changes in your thought processes. I invite you to begin exploring different options and see how you feel about them.
Care Providers & Birth Location
I do recommend expectant families to think through who they choose to see for care and where the provider practices and delivers. These two choices alone can have a huge impact on your experience and birth outcomes. Ask co-workers or friends about their experiences with providers, not just who did they go to and did they like them. In some areas in the US, because of the ‘culture” of birth, can increase your chances of a surgical birth just by the zip code. Find those providers where you feel respected, listened to and their office staff matches the provider’s care of you. Do your best homework upfront, but also don’t be afraid to change providers if you feel something isn’t right for you. Trust your gut!
The Right Support
Every step that you make toward the birth of your baby is important. Most people wouldn’t plan a trip oversees without researching and educating themselves on the various aspects of the country, lodging, food and activities. The same should go for planning for your baby. Some say birth is as strenuous as running a marathon. Think about who you would want next to you encouraging you. Do they support your decision or would they to talk you out of something that is important to you because of their own bias? Consider what their birth philosophy might be, does it align with yours? Choosing the right doula, a labor support person, is another option for your birth team. Each year more and more families are partnering with doulas for labor support. When hiring a doula you ultimately are hiring her ability to articulate her years of experience into your birth experience. Once again trust your gut when interviewing.
Learning is Foundational
In full transparency, as a childbirth educator my bias is naturally towards education. I do feel strongly about the importance of birth, postpartum, breastfeeding and parenting education. Some choose not go to class and do just fine as the body does know how to birth a baby! But I prefer people to educate themselves and have better birth experiences by feeling empowered and understanding the process that your body and baby will go through. There are all different kinds of books and classes available. By choosing a class that covers relaxation techniques for natural, medicated and c-sections you will be well rounded and prepared. Look for classes that align more with what your are wanting to do in labor.
Is Birth Plan a Four Letter Word?
In truth, I love and hate birth plans! I strongly feel that they are a communication tool of desires that can be quickly communicated to the birth provider team. I love the fact that just the concept and thought of writing one out invites expectant couples to begin to explore options they may have not realized they have. I hate them because they are not meant to be written-in-stone agreements, and can be disastrous if expected to be. Ask your provider how they feel about them and what their experience has been. Their response may give you further insights to how they will work with you during labor.
Weathering Bumps in the Road
As poet Robert Burns wrote ” the best laid plans of mice and men” means no matter how well you plan, things may not always go your way. Often time parents forget that there is a baby, a little tiny human being, that also gets a say in how they arrive earth side. So in all your planning I encourage you to check in often with your baby. It may seem weird to do this, but science has proven babies in the womb can hear and are conscience beings, they sense and feel what mom experiences. I bet some people speak more to their pets than they do the baby in their belly. I invite you to begin having conversations with your baby and what your plans are, you’d be surprised how smart they are.
When ever you are experiencing a bump in the road, you can do a very simple, and fast technique to called Heart Focused Breathing (click here for a 2 min video). Close your eyes and focus your attention to your heart. Imagine that you are breathing in and out of that region of your chest or heart. As your breathing slows and goes deeper, imagine something that is calming, peaceful or that represents safety and peace. Keep your focus there for a few minutes, this will help your body, mind and emotions come into coherence. Did you know that your heart send more messages to your brain than your brain to your heart? Sit a minute with that. Are you making decisions from your heart or head?
No Judgement Zone
No matter how you choose to birth or the outcome of your birth, I want you to be able to look in the mirror and be proud and satisfied with your birth experience and how you navigated decisions that needed to be made. Our society shames so many women for so many things. There is no right or wrong way to give birth. Create your own NO JUDGEMENT ZONE! This comes from a deep knowing and belief in your ability to make the decision you need to for you and your baby! Healthy boundaries are part of delivering your own peace of mind!
Kathy Bradley, IBCLC, CD, CCE is available for “Planning” appointments/consulting. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org