Duh duh duh.
Let me start by disclosing a few things:
1. I've only given birth once; I'm not an expert. I'm just opinionated and good at Googling.
2. I really love science. I think modern medicine is a wonderful blessing.
3. Every woman, pregnancy, and situation is different and therefore requires different things.
4. Even the most carefully laid birth plans are subject to some measure of fate. Birth can be a wonderful, transcendent experience, but in the end I believe a healthy baby matters more.
When I found out that I was the only one of my siblings whom my mother gave birth to without any pain medication, I came to a few conclusions: 1) I really was my mother's biggest pain, 2) my mother was amazing, and 3) I was going to do that, too. So when Nathan and I decided we were ready for a baby, I started researching my options so I would be ready.
The more I learned, the more I was astounded at the sheer amount I didn't know about birth. Before Googling "natural birth," I had no idea that some routine medical procedures increased the risk of complications; I had no idea what the difference was between midwives, licensed midwives, and certified nurse midwives; I had no idea what "transition" was ... and on and on. I devoured this new information like a pregnant lady devours Panda Express egg rolls (or store-bought egg rolls if Panda Express is closed, despite the fact that their sign said "OPEN" = pregnant lady rage).
|Me, preggo, researching in my sherpa boots.|
While the amount of information available was sometimes overwhelming, for the most part it was empowering and exciting. Because I was educated about my options, I could choose from those options the plan that was right for us. This is my first tip to having an empowered birth experience: Research your pregnancy and birth options. Explore different perspectives and gather information from a variety of sources. Sources of information I recommend: birth accounts from women who share your values, reputable internet sources (I loved babycenter.com), books (I read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears), and films (The Business of Being Born was awesome). Learning about different perspectives and procedures helped me feel confident about my final decisions. Instead of blindingly trusting the popular opinions of our culture or feeling unable to question a healthcare provider, I was able to formulate my own opinions, using my healthcare provider as a trusted consultant (as opposed to cowing before the authority our society grants their additional education--won't go there in this post, :) ). Education is power--don't be the player who doesn't know the rules when you should be the referee. Don't be afraid to ask your healthcare provider "why?" "what are my other options?" "what are the risks?" etc. Remember that your doctor/midwife works for you, not the other way around.
|Melting Pot ... thank you, Zofran for allowing me to partake without barfing.|
When I found out I was pregnant, I already had some decisions made about what I wanted:
-I wanted a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) to attend my birth.
-I wanted to give birth in a hospital.
-I didn't want any pain medication.
-I didn't want any unnecessary interventions.
I really feel like choosing a great practice of CNMs was the best decision I made in that I found a healthcare provider who supported and facilitated my philosophies surrounding birth. They didn't have an agenda they tried to pressure me into--their purpose was providing care, safety, and expertise while also doing everything they could to preserve the experience Nathan and I wanted. This is something I think is so important to having an empowered birth experience: Choose a healthcare provider whose values align with your own. Whether it's a granola midwife or a traditional OBGYN, don't be afraid to ask your potential healthcare provider where they stand on the issues you think are important.
|Remarkably not wearing lounge pants.|
Because my CNMs valued the same things I did, I never had to fight for my preferences. I knew they would never try to pressure me into being induced unnecessarily, they wouldn't offer me unsolicited pain medication, they wouldn't give me an episiotomy, and they wouldn't make me hurry or slow down to fit their schedules. I loved my experience with them.
|Kind of hate this pose.|
Do what you can to promote the success of your birth plan, but also be prepared for a different experience. Don't set your heart on a natural birth and then do nothing to prepare for the intensity. Research the different classes available--for whatever kind of birth you want! Even if you're planning a traditional hospital birth, it helps so much to be informed about what's going to happen or what could happen. Tour the hospital/birth center. Do a hospital run rehearsal.
While Nathan and I took a Hypnobabies class to help prepare for the physical aspects of labor, we procrastinated packing the "go bag." A week before my due date I started getting contractions during our ward's Valentine's Day activity, and I realized we still had a few important things on our shopping list (baby blanket, onesies, snacks for labor--because a midwife will let you eat!). So instead of heading home right after the party so I could start to relax to my Hypnobabies tracks, we headed to Walmart (I cringe when I think of how ghetto Graham's life would be if I would have given birth there). By the time we got to Walmart, my labor had intensified more quickly than I'd anticipated. When we got home--things were even more intense. Nathan was left to gather the things on my list on his own. I was in "the zone" and so not available to give guidance on what to pack--so Nathan ended up throwing everything he could think of into a cardboard box that we hauled into the hospital.
|In labor ... unable to walk ... relegated to the Walmart scooter. Too excited to comprehend the shame.|
Take responsibility for your role in the process. I think one of the most important elements of having an empowered birth is your attitude about your role. If you go into the experience believing your doctor, the nurses, or simple "fate" is in charge--that's how things will go. However, if you claim your rightful role of conductor, in charge of one of the most beautiful orchestrations on the planet, you will have a much different experience. Being the conductor doesn't mean being the crazy woman depicted in all the movies--it means knowing the score beforehand; hiring skilled and trusted "musicians" who play your style of music; rehearsing; keeping your cool if a violin string breaks or a cymbal player comes in on the wrong measure; and trusting your own innate, God-given ability to conduct the symphony your body was made for. After the final note is played, you'll have something in your arms worth more than all the standing ovations in the world.
|Best feeling in the world.|
Educate yourself and make informed decisions. Choose a healthcare provider who shares your values. Be prepared. Embrace your role. Be empowered.
Fellow mothers: What did you learn from your birth experience? What helped you feel empowered?
Future mothers: What are your thoughts? What kind of birth are you hoping for? Any questions? :)