Note: The following is strictly my opinions based on my own experiences and casual reading on birth. I am not a professional, and everything you do should be run by your personal caregiver first.
Last post I shared a couple printable birth planning pages that I created, and shared why I think creating a plan of sorts matters. (Hint: It's for you, not them). This week, I'm sharing some ideas for intentionally preparing for birth.
I've been contemplating birth a lot lately, especially as my due date sneaks up just four weeks away. (Third time in, I now grasp a little more how slowly this time feels and how fast it really goes.) As I look back on my other two births and process stories I hear, read or see on screen, I'm putting together a slightly more proactive view of birth than I had over six years ago when I went through it the first time.
I feel grateful to have had two smooth labor and deliveries when I did little-to-nothing to prepare for them. And having read more and heard lots of stories since, I now realize how different they could have turned out.
Especially as I think about what would have happened if I went in to the hospital during my first set of contractions with Brylee--they would have seen me go to 5 centimeters dilated and stall out, and likely given me pitocin rather than send me home. (You can read about Brylee's 6-hour epidural birth >> here. She was born at 39 weeks and weighed 8 lbs 4 oz.)
And especially as I think about what would have happened if I had a doctor instead of a midwife with Ian--they would have noted his large size and either had me induce early on or required me to have a c-section, instead of giving me the chance to push him out myself. (You can read about Ian's 5-hour epidural birth >> here. He was born at 39 weeks 5 days and weighed 11 lbs.)
But why dwell on fear when everything turned out fine, right? Right.
Still, those thoughts linger as I prepare for this third birth. I'm ready to approach this birth equipped with a little more knowledge and preparation that I didn't do before. I'm ready to be empowered as a capable woman, not a fearful patient. And I'm doing that by going forward focusing on truths and what is within my realm to do.
Specifically, with this birth I will intentionally (instead of passively, like I did twice before)...
1 | prepare for birth mentallyFor me, this means learning about natural birth. I didn't read much on birth before my first, because I just didn't want to go there. When someone describes something, I wince in pain and I didn't need to dwell on that. That's likely because the little bit I was reading and the few stories I was hearing were all heavily medical. Episiotomies, possible interventions, and the terribleness of pitocin. Yuck.
This time, I've intentionally chosen all of my reading based on the natural birth process. Sure, they also share the necessary information on vacuums and forceps and pitocin. Being generically educated on all of it is good. But that's not the focus. The focus is a happy, healthy labor and delivery. Descriptions of how our bodies were made to labor. Empowering stories of normal women like me having babies without all of the fear and concerns. It's so encouraging, empowering and equipping.
Preparing mentally, for me, also means visualizing and keeping positive. Instead of focusing on fear and what-ifs, I've gathered some positive thoughts to keep me moving in the right direction. (See the "encouragement" section on my Birth Notes pdf >> here.) My most used mantra: I am calm, comfortable and capable in Jesus.
2 | prepare for birth physicallyHere's the deal: Beyond some walking and the occasional stretching, loss of energy knocks me out in my pregnancies. This isn't a huge deal. My labors, luckily, were short so I managed fine. But labor is exhausting. The breaks are short and get shorter as labor progresses. And the best positions for pushing (even if laying on your back in a hospital bed) require some hip-opening and spread eagle legs--wider than they've been stretched in nine months or more.
Even if I've slacked on working out, these last few weeks are as good a time as any to jump into the physical preparations. Daily walks to improve stamina. Daily stretching, specifically working on areas necessary for delivery or that could provide relief in labor (child's pose, squat, frog, butterfly). Simple, but effective.
3 | learn about medical interventions before they're necessaryThis goes along with #1 preparing for birth mentally. These medical interventions are the very reason I didn't read up on birth before. However, as noted before, I can learn about them from more natural sources that will give the necessary facts in a less dooming way. Learning about them doesn't set me up for them. It helps me become familiar enough if the need for them comes up. No need to dwell on it--just know what they are so I can make my best educated decisions should the need arise. And, better yet, know ways to avoid them in the first place if at all possible.
4 | keep partner in the loopAs I avoided reading on birth or attending classes, my husband didn't prepare either. While we still have yet to attend a birth class or read a birth book together, I am attempting to have more open communications about birth, my fears and concerns, and my hopes and intentions for a happy, healthy labor and delivery. This time I am aiming to be clearer about what I hope for him to do in birth, and how he can help me through the process.
5 | create a comfortable atmosphereBoth times, I showed up at the hospital and went with whatever they had set up. This wasn't terrible. Except that the truth is, I intended to have music both times and forgot; I hate fluorescent lights and would have been much more relaxed with different lighting; and while I only wanted Daniel in the room for the delivery, it would have been nice for him to tag out to eat somewhere else instead of in front of me.
So, I'm thinking more about creating a more relaxing and supportive ambiance this time around. I'd like to have back-up support, music playing, less artificial lights, and other tools from my Birth Notes sheet. We'll see how those efforts for a more comfortable atmosphere turn out.
6 | do exercises to get baby in positionOur first was side-lying. If she didn't flip by the time she was full term, the doctor talked to us about trying to manually rotate it which might not stick, or a c-section. I didn't like either option. And I didn't do anything about it, but thankfully she flipped into proper position on her own and was delivered fine. Then, our son was forward facing in the final weeks ("sunny-side up"), so our midwife gave me exercises to do to get him to rotate and engage in the pelvis the right way. It worked and he also got positioned right and came out fine.
If this baby doesn't settle in properly, I plan on going the proactive route and finding ways to help him along. Hopefully the yoga poses I'm doing are also helping him get settled in right for a smooth delivery. There's no reason to settle for medical intervention when baby isn't positioned right--may as well make a good effort before it comes to that.
7 | induce naturallyThere are a variety of ideas for inducing naturally: Sex, castor oil, acupuncture, evening primrose oil, etc. My thoughts on those in my experience is that they generally only work when body and baby are ready. So, I'm all for trying to get things moving around 38 weeks. (Of course, they should only be tried if baby is full term and everything checks out well with caregiver.) I prefer to kill some time in those last couple weeks trying natural methods rather than doing nothing and then jumping into medical-induction at my due date.
It's also good to note that some of these natural inducers might bring on stronger contractions temporarily that don't necessarily result in active labor. I experienced that with both of mine. Intimacy especially seemed to bring on strong contractions. With my first, that lead to cramping/contractions/dilating to 5 centimeters at 38 weeks, but active labor didn't start until a week later. With my second, it lead to false labor landing me in the hospital a couple times before labor really began.
Which brings me to the next point of laboring at home as long as possible...
8 | labor at homeBoth of my labors started with my water breaking, which isn't as common as TV and movies lead on. I've read as few as 10% of women notice their water break at the start of labor. That meant heading straight to the hospital to prevent infection. However, I took that a little too literally and was headed to the hospital within minutes of my water breaking. I likely could have hung around home a little while, moving around comfortably and freely to get contractions started. Thankfully, with both I was already 5 centimeters dilated before going into active labor, so I didn't get pressured into pitocin to start contractions or hurrying labor to prevent infection.
The truth remains that once I check into the hospital and seem to be in active labor (regular contractions or broken water), I am on their timeline. If labor seems to stall out, I'm not as likely to have freedom to wait for it pick back up. So, I plan to wait it out. If contractions seem to be getting more regular, I'm going to be sure that they're getting stronger and wait until they're harder to manage. If my water breaks, I might linger just a long enough for contractions to get going before rushing to the hospital.
9 | follow body and baby's leadI had epidurals with both of my previous deliveries. The first, I was so numb that I didn't know when I was having a contraction and had no idea if I was pushing. With the second, I felt lots of pressure and every contraction which I surprisingly liked better. I was able to say when I felt the urge to push and follow my own intuition rather than the traditional count to ten with contractions. I felt much more connected to the birthing experience, and noticed a more immediate connection to baby too.
In general, I hope to incorporate more of that in this birth. Over and over nature proves that females are made to labor and deliver and a majority are able to do so by instinct without intervention. For a happy and healthy labor and delivery, I hope to tap into more of that natural instinct. Following my body and my baby, knowing that we were made for this. If something serious comes up, I am thankful for the presence of medical interventions. Otherwise, I'd like to be left to do what's natural for my body and my baby.
10 | embrace this birth as a love storyNo matter what happens and possibly above anything else, I am preparing myself to embrace this birth as a love story. Births are all so different and unique, and when things happen different than expected, it can be all too easy to feel disappointment. There are other aspects of labor and delivery that can lead to a feeling of detachment or other slightly negative perspectives on the experience.
However it plays out, I want to focus on the positive. I want to seek the beauty and the blessing, dwelling in appreciation and contentment. That's up to me, not the unpredictable specifics of the birthing experience.
extras | birth readingFinally, here are a few resources I've enjoyed reading this pregnancy (the following are affiliate links; see full note below):
- Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
- The Yoga Birth Method by Dorothy Guerra
- HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie Mongan
- Holistic Pregnancy and Childbirth by James Marti
Other resources I've heard about or seen referenced, but have not read myself:
- Childbirth Without Fear by Grantly Dick-Read
- Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
- Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way
What are you doing to get ready for birth? Any resources helping you feel better prepared?
related posts:birth notes
final weeks + hospital bag checklists
a few favorite reads
new baby checklist
Note: Amazon affiliate links used above. Purchases made could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to the buyer. Thanks :)