Not a friend of the mysterious? The unknown? The ‘out of your control’? Used to having things done a certain way? Your way? On time? Planned out? Checked off the list?
Welcome to childbirth, Mama. All that control you’ve been exercising over every situation your entire life, that control your pride yourself on, is, well, for the most part, gone.
Does that statement scare the heck out of you?
No sweat. It makes sense. We live in a world of Instagram, ‘I’ll just Google it” and GPS. We, women of the Northeast, like to have answers. Answers = control. We are smart. Accomplished. Ambitious. We get stuff done. When it comes to labor and the thought of actually having your baby, the biggest fear you may have is the not knowing what it’s going to be like–how long it will last, how long you will last, what the contractions will feel like.
It is natural to fear the unknown. While there is a lot in childbirth you can’t control, there is a lot you can control. Focus on the following “can-do’s” so you can go with the labor flow feeling grounded and empowered.
1. Where you give birth. At the hospital? At home? At a birth center? There are many choices and the choice is yours. It’s never to late to switch sites or providers, pending your pregnancy is a healthy one, if someone or someplace just doesn’t feel right to you. Go with your gut and don’t feel like you have to justify your feeling to anyone, including your partner or yourself. You want to feel safe and supported. Once you know the location of your birth, and if it’s not your home, gather some elements to make your laboring space your own: a small lamp so you can leave overhead fluorescent lights (oxytocin blockers) off, candles (hospitals and most birth centers prefer electric ones), music (calming and energizing options), old soft T-shirts to wear, your pillow from home, photos of your favorite place, a birth ball, and perhaps most importantly…
2. With whom you give birth. Good people! Care provider, doula, husband, partner, mother, sister, cousin, dog? All of the above? Care provider + only one of the above? Birth is a sacred event and this one’s yours. You choose who gets to be there. Invite only those around whom you can totally be yourself. Patience, sensitivity, consideration, helpfulness, and a good sense of humor are qualities to look for.
3. Your breath. This one can take a little practice. The art of being centered isn’t attained over night but with consistent practice of watching the simple inhale and exhale of your breath–even 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference!–taking a few minutes’ timeout to connect with your breath will become a new favorite. Breath is a tool you have everywhere you go including gridlock traffic, the line at the grocery store, and the delivery room. Watching your breath is a powerful way to center yourself and it’s something only you can control.
4. Feeling good in your body. I know it’s tempting to throw your feet up at the end of every day with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s but that will wreak havoc on your changing body and growing baby. You’ll feel way less than optimal throughout your pregnancy and labor won’t be any easier with tight hips and high blood sugar either. Go for walks, practice squatting, and sign up for a weekly prenatal yoga class (also a great place to connect with other expectant mamas). Of course, take time to rest when you feel tired, but know that, overall, if you stay active throughout your pregnancy, you will feel better before, during, and after your birth.
5. Your attitude. Are you nearing labor thinking “this is going to kill me“, “I won’t be able to do this“, “I’m not the kind of woman who can go without the drugs“, “I’m definitely having a natural birth“, “I’m just going to breath my baby out like in all the videos I’ve been watching“? Having a vision in your head for a safe and positive birth experience is definitely helpful. Having rigid expectations, however, is bound to leave you disappointed. Better than holding onto one specific idea of what your birth will look like–this is that urge to control maneuvering its sneaky way into your life again–approach the birth focused on what it will feel like. Hold the intention to feel your body, to be able to come back to your center and to stay with yourself. That way, you’ll be able to make decisions from a grounded and steady place. Whether the question is: “do I keep pushing in the tub so Baby is born into water?” or, “is it time to consider that helpful, evidence-based medical intervention?”, the answer will come from within and you’ll feel empowered in your choice.
Birth doesn’t follow a timeline nor does it fit neatly on any to-do list. Its inherently uncontrollable nature is part of its power and magic. Our job is to create a safe and supportive birth environment and to get open and centered in our body so we can stay curious and keep present as the journey unfolds.