My mother would tell me how much she admired my confidence and courage. This surprised me because I never thought I was ever doing anything out of the ordinary. There were just some things I was determined to do and would move in that direction. As a mother, when my oldest shares an idea or a goal with me, sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to think of all the obstacles that she will face and to make sure she has thought things through. But I resist. I know my daughter. I know that she has thought things out and that she is capable of doing more things than I can ever imagine.
You may be thinking, “That’s a perfectly normal response. It’s your kid you are just looking out for her.” The problem is when that knee-jerk response stems from my own fear, rooted deep down. In spite of my mother’s pride in my abilities to face the unknown head on, as a parent my fears for my own children tempt me to project that on them.
I understand now the blessing my mother spoke over me in only the way that she could. She spoke life.
Our words have such a power to influence. For better or worse.
During my time as a doula and childbirth educator I often hear from the mothers I work with how someone in her life questions, judges or makes fun of the choices or plans she's made.
“You’re pregnant again?!”
“You’re having a natural birth?”
“You’re having a home-birth?”
“You’re planning a waterbirth?”
“You’re switching providers and you’re how far along?”
“You’re electing to have another csection?”
“You’re breastfeeding how long?”
And the list could go on and on…
To the mama who has shared her goals and plans with you, those thoughts are interpreted as:
Wow. You’re brave.
“You will change your mind once those contractions hit.”
“Putting your baby in danger.”
It’s that knee-jerk reaction. I believe we are projecting our own fears, our disappointments, and our misinformation onto women when they are the most vulnerable. And it is affecting them. It’s not right. And we need to stop.
I know there are exceptions to the rules. There will always be someone who makes a decision, willy-nilly, uninformed and may be harmful to themselves or their unborn child. But I promise you. That is a very small exception.
I am talking about your sister, your daughter, niece, best friend and co-worker.
Instead of allowing our first thought to come out what if we took a beat and considered what our true thoughts may be:
“I am not sure I could do that. I admire you."
“I tried that and it did not work out for me but I wish you and your baby success.”
“My provider, insurance, partner, situation did not allow for that.”
“I did not know about this, I wish I had.”
“I would have done things differently if I could.”
“It is not something I would do but I think that is great that you know what you want.”
“I have heard scary stories of bad outcomes and that makes me afraid for you.”
“I have regrets.”
“I have no regrets.”
“I am interested in learning more.”
Pregnancy is the foundation that she will build motherhood on. Let’s speak love, confidence and build each other up and not be a reason her foundation may be shaky. if you are important enough to have her share her plans with, your words (spoken and unspoken) may have more weight than you think.
In my last post I spoke of the possible influences that affect the way women and society view childbirth. In this post I would like to help from a different angle. We’ve heard that knowledge is power. I wonder if we’ve really grasped the meaning of this, or is it just another inspiring quote. One way to combat fear head on is to know your enemy or the perceived enemy in most cases.
I am going to use a job interview as an example of having fear and anxiety about the unknown and methods to overcome them that can be applied to childbirth. When you are interviewing for a job it is not uncommon to begin to have some anxiety about the interview itself and the outcome. Sometimes we begin to play in our mind all the negative possibilities that can take place only paralyzing us all the more. There are several books and websites dedicated to preparing potential job hunters for their interviews. One in particular allbusiness.com has helped me compile this list which I will apply towards childbirth.
1) Do your homework. Although childbirth is a natural process which a woman’s body is designed to achieve most people do not understand the physiological, psychological and emotional components that go along with it. Childbirth classes help expectant parents learn about and prepare for labor and birth. There are several kinds to choose from.In childbirth classes you will learn about the labor and delivery process, how your body is working with you (not against you), ways to manage pain and other information that will help you feel more comfortable about the process and knowing what to expect. Research them as much as you can to become familiar with each technique until you find an course that seems right for you.
2) Know where you’re going. Are you having a home birth, birth center, or giving birth at a hospital? Will your health care provider be an obstetrician, a midwife or your family practitioner? Each option has their strengths and weaknesses and it is best to know beforehand who you’d like to be involved with the delivery of your child.
3) Look the part. Well, your body is already taking care of this one. I would add that it is not only important to take care of yourself physically during this time but your overall well being is important as well. If you exercised before baby keep at it (with doctors guidance). In fact, if you abruptly stop your routines it may cause some stress and anxiety. If you did not exercise regular before baby, I don't believe doctors recommend starting up a program, but Pilate's, walking, stretching, etc. not only benefit you but baby as well. There are (thank God) a lot of great maternity clothing now. Have fun, enjoy this time, get a massage, a facial, be pampered. This is your time, in a few months it wont be so much.
4) Rehearse beforehand. Is there a breathing technique or hypno birthing method you would like to use? Most people make the mistake of skimping on the practicing; they figure they can wing it. The problem is with most methods and techniques they benefit you the most with when you put in the work before labor starts. Many times someone will try something and say it didn’t work, in reality they really didn’t commit to learning it completely. What are some ways you relax, distress? This is the time to practice some comfort measures to see what helps and what would irritate the daylights out of you.
5) Secure your references. Build your support system. Women who labor and deliver alone tend to have less than ideal birth experience. When I say alone, keep in mind that most obstetricians are either taking care of several patients at one time, and most only want to be called to come in when delivery is very near. Most labor and delivery nurses chose that profession because of their sincere desire to serve and comfort women during their most vulnerable time. Unfortunately they also juggle several patients and have to follow procedures and monitors which keep them from the one on one experience with expectant mothers. Midwives can vary depending on if it’s a hospital, home or birth center delivery. They can be more attentive to the laboring mother but as delivery become closer their role rightfully changes from solely nurturing the mother to making sure that a safe delivery is the end result. Whether it’s your best friend, your partner, mother or doula, you will want to consider who you will want with you as each person brings along their experience, fears, and expectations which can positively or negatively influence your birth experience.
6) Arrive early. Or maybe not. Most women (and the fathers-to-be) have anxiety about her water possibly breaking at the movies or trying to determine if she’s having real contractions, Braxton hicks or gas. You will want to discuss with your caregiver at what point you should contact them and head to the hospital, birth center, or should expect them to come over if you are having a home birth. Often women have reported being in labor and rushing to the hospital only to have labor slow down or stop, and this may be due the change in environment, paper work, unfamiliar faces, etc. Whatever the plan is make sure you have it and contact numbers close by and that your support person(s) have access to it a well. Also, taking a tour of the hospital before, finding out their procedures for admitting, labor, delivery and recovery is a good idea.
7) Bring necessary documentation. Make a checklist of everything you will need to bring to the hospital. Toiletries, music, comfort and focus items to name a few. Consider getting a new robe, a new night gown as a gift for yourself, any medications you take, journal, camera, whatever you can think of. This is helping you to be proactive. Being unprepared can caused unnecessary stress to an already potentially stressful situation.
8) Sell yourself. You have to advocate for yourself. This is your birth experience. Work with your doctor, midwife or doula about the benefits of a birth plan. The great thing about creating a birth plan is it causes you to learn about the pros and cons of interventions, how you would like to handle situations as they arise, etc. The process of creating a birth plan empowers you to take responsibility for your birth experience and may ease some fears of the unknown by leading you to search for more knowledge to make informed decisions. Don’t forget to present a copy to your doctor and discuss it with him and also the nursing staff when you are admitted. Be advised that like weddings, things do not always go as planned. Your birth experience may not go exactly as planned but you will have the information to discuss any changes so that you can make an informed decision that you can live with.
9 Don’t neglect to ask questions. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or fifth, there are no dumb questions. If your doctor or midwife responds impatiently or negatively to your questions, it may be time to look for a new one. If you are hiring a doula she can be a wealth of information and resourceful as well. Connect with mothers who have succeeded with the birth plan you desire. Another warning: stay away from people who only want to tell you horror stories. You’d be surprised (especially as an expectant mom) how things stick to you. Before you know it, you’re staring at the ceiling at 3 am wondering if you will have a 46 hour labor that will end up in a c-section because you were so exhausted and you had a small pelvis and the baby’s shoulder got stuck and they ran out of cranberry juice!
10) Follow up. After your delivery it can be helpful to find out from those involved what they experienced. As you mentally are revisiting your birth experience (journaling is great too) their feedback can help fill in the gaps of things that were missing from your story. It’s not uncommon to hear about things that happened that you didn’t notice because you were so focused and tuned in to your body.
Please keep this in mind: Every birth will be a different experience. Your level of enjoyment with each experience will be determined on how prepared you are for the journey. Knowledge is power. You will have the power to allow your fears to influence your birth experience or to face them head on and use them to push you to the birth you’ve always wanted.
My heart is to empower women to take more active roles in making decisions about their health care and lifestyle habits.
I am a mother, wife, daughter and best friend who is passionate about women having a safe and memorable birth experience that they desire. As long as I can remember I have been at awe of what we are able to do as woman and hope to help other women tap into their inner strength.
The blog posts on this website will be a combination of my opinion and research. I value your opinion and only ask that any comments be respectful and courteous.