The other night I lay awake thinking about this little one that will be arriving in the next few months and doing so caused my to do list to continue to grow. I'm thinking about the birth, my birth team, vaccinations, breastfeeding, among other concerns and plans that expectant moms often think about.
One thing actual brought a wave of comfort and peace that helped lull me back to sleep. I was reflecting on when my now three year was six-months old. I had taken her to her six month check up and was giving my husband the report that evening over dinner. "Petite little thing, not uncommon for breastfed babies, thriving, overall a healthy happy baby". As this little one sat on my lap my husband's face changed to one of adoration and pure sweetness as if he'd gotten a beautiful revelation.
He looked at me and said, "That's amazing. You've kept her alive just with breastfeeding her. I can see how much of a sacrifice it is for you but you do it with out complaining and our baby is healthy and thriving because you were determined to do it." He went on to remind me of the trials in the beginning, but how I had become a pro and baby and I became a team.
At that time I don't think I really grasped what he was doing or what he said really meant to me. I went on to breastfeed until she was a little over two years old and having a support spouse made all of the difference. As I sit and think about what my life will be like the next few months or years (depending on how long new baby nurses), instead of thinking about what I will be missing out on; freedom of spontaneity, clothing choices, convenience and other things I can't think of now, but will while I'm nursing, I will instead think about how short of a time it really is and the gift I am giving this little one and those kind words of encouragement my husband gave to me.
Do you have anyone who is encouraging your decision to breastfeed? Feeling supported is one component of successful breastfeeding and how you will feel about the experience. Seek out other moms who have had good experiences, have open communication with your spouse or partner about why it's important to you and baby and how they can help. A lot of times they want to help but are unsure of how to. There are also local La Leche League International groups that are available by phone and also meet on a weekly or monthly basis. I found this connection to be invaluable especially when I would hit a breastfeeding obstacle.
I would like to note that if you have decided not to breastfeed or are/were unable to for what ever reason that this article is not meant to be condemning but supportive to those who have chosen to do so. Truth be told, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful, natural things in the world but it can also be one of the most challenging situations a woman may encounter. For some women knowing that they are not alone and have support is enough to help them go a few more weeks, months or year if she and baby decides.
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.
About a year ago our twelve year old made an interesting proclamation. She said, "I'm not having kids, I want to adopt". We were naturally surprised at the humanitarianism that this young girl possessed but as we dug deeper we discovered the root to this assumedly noble decision.
My husband has a saying that he says to me when I am thinking and speaking negatively about myself or a situation. He immediately says, "Where did this come from. Who told you that?” For example, when I question my competence as a mother or wife he says, "Where is this coming from, who told you that you weren't a good mom, etc." He doesn't let up until I navigate through the information highway I call my brain and land at the heart of the issue.
I decided to try this with our daughter. In short, she was afraid of birth, the pain to be exact. She had already made up in her mind that instead of enduring the "excruciating pain" of childbirth that she'd rather pass and go another route. Who told her it was too much to handle?
I know as a woman (especially if you are expecting) that you sometimes receive unsolicited advice from everyone. I once had an older man at a checkout line ask me “if I planned on breastfeeding because it was the best thing I could for my child”. Although I agreed with him, I was taken back by the fact that he thought he had a say in how I fed my child.
This conversation with my daughter opened my eyes to the fact that there is another influence that we tend to overlook. It can be as subtle as in your favorite sitcom or drama to as graphic and extreme as the baby shows on TLC and the Discovery channel. About a week ago I was watching one of my favorite shows, Friends. My husband doesn’t understand how I can watch the same episodes over and over again and laugh as if it were the first time. This particular episode really struck a nerve in me and I found myself arguing with the TV.
It was the one were Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) water broke and they immediately went to the hospital. Now every woman is different, and our bodies respond differently to labor but on average, after a woman's water breaks it could still be hours before active labor starts. Ok, rant done. When she was admitted to the hospital 90% of the time she was laying down. The episode prior to this one she commented that she was only being nice to her obstetrician because "she has the drugs". These were funny scenes and lines but sad seeds planted unknowingly into the minds of woman.
You may be thinking, “It was show; they wrote it for entertainment not to educate women on childbirth”. How many of us watch movies or television shows when the woman is in labor, she's always on her back, screaming at the top of her lungs, threatening to kill her husband and begging and pleading for drugs? Would you agree that most of them portray that stereotypical labor and delivery? If we believe that disrespectful music, violent movies and video games have an influence on our young people, then images of women treating childbirth as a sickness and as something to be feared may be negatively influencing us as well.
In the movie Nine Months with Hugh Grant and Julianne Moore there were two women who were totally out of control during labor. The whole scene (although very funny) was incredibly chaotic and didn't portray labor and delivery the way that it can be 90% of the time. I would love to see "normal birth" shown in movies and television shows but it may not be as entertaining because it can be pretty serene, peaceful if allowed.
I am not trying to tell any one what to do, including my daughter. If she wants to adopt, then I would support that. She’s more informed now, maybe too informed, but I believe whatever desicion she makes won’t be fear-based. There is no perfect birth scenario, no template as to how it should go. Some women (my self included with my first) do not understand their options and feel that every one knows what's best for her body better than she does. If a woman wants to labor and deliver on her back, have at it. If a woman wants to have a natural birth, hospital or home birth, pain relief, induced labor, have a water birth, use a birthing stool or have an elective c-section, it's her choice.My wish and passion is for women to take ownership of their birth experience(s). To not let TV or someone’s negative experience lead them to make uninformed decisions. Having fear of the unknown is natural. It’s not uncommon to have fears throughout your pregnancy. However, to have an enjoyable pregnancy, labor and delivery you need to address those fears and concerns. Speak with your doctor or midwife, a childbirth educator, in some cases a counselor may be required. The more you know about how your body is working with you and not against you it will help quiet some of those fears.
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.