When we discover we’re pregnant and start to ponder all the changes and challenges ahead of us, it can feel exciting and overwhelming all at once. Everyone has advice and a story to share, and there’s certainly no shortage of information online and on social media. A lot of it is pretty scary stuff.
We also hear stories about women loving their birth experiences and there are some incredibly beautiful birth scenes and videos shared through social media (more and more recently thanks to the uncensoring of birth and motherhood).
It starts to become quite clear that there’s a really wide spectrum of experience. I encourage you to ask yourself why. Why is there such diversity in how women feel about their birth — from the traumatic to the ecstatic?
In my experience, it’s not down to luck.
There’s a tiny smidge of luck involved, but so much of the difference comes down to how we prepare for birth and parenting. Any big event goes more smoothly and feels better with planning and preparation. Birth is no different and there’s actually so much to be gained, for the long-term health and wellbeing of you, your baby and our whole community through positive birth.
You’ll hear many people say that there’s no point having a birth plan because birth is unpredictable. Actually, there’s a lot that is quite predictable about birth and how our body and baby’s behave in labour. Birth planning is not about sticking rigidly to a specific way of giving birth. It’s about exploring all your options together as a couple. So that you can work together to have the best possible experience with the circumstances as they are, and make calm, confident decisions along the way.
Starting with a curious mindset is the key. Asking questions like …
- How does my body work in labour?
- What makes contractions happen?
- What makes labour slow down or ‘fail to progress’?
- What role can birth partners play to help the process unfold?
- What can I do to stay focused and cope with the intensity of labour?
- What did those women who rave about their births do to prepare? What didn’t they do?
- What do the statistics show about birth outcomes in the different birth places available to me?
- What are the actual and absolute risks (versus relative increase in risk) of something happening?
- How can I prepare mentally, physically and emotionally to stay in control of my birth?
- What can I do to make it as easy as possible for my baby to navigate their way down and through the pelvis in labour?
Listen carefully when people tell you their birth story or when listening to birth story podcasts. How did labour start? At what stage did they go to hospital or, why did they choose to birth at home? What things did they find helpful in labour? Who was there and what type of support did those people give?
The answers to these questions will send you off on different pathways than you might have walked down if you hadn’t asked. The knowledge you gain gives you power. Power to help you to make the right choices for you. Choices about:
- Birth place
- Primary caregiver and support team
- Testing / screening in pregnancy
- Childbirth education — hospital-based or independent
- Setting up your birth space and what to have in your birth bag
- Exercise and diet in pregnancy
- Induction versus ‘expectant management’ (where no medical issues present).
Some great sources to get you started (my top 5 for inspiration and information):
- Dr Sarah Buckley
- Evidence Based Birth
- Australian Birth Stories
- Hypnobirthing Australia birth stories
- Dr Rachel Reed’s blog
It doesn’t matter how you give birth, but it does matter how you feel about your experience. Rates of postnatal depression and even birth-related post-traumatic stress are on the rise, which is such a tragedy. We all deserve to feel stronger for our experience as we step into the challenges of parenthood.
Your birthing day can be one of the most beautiful, empowering, triumphant times in your life and such a wonderful foundation for parenting. Embrace the challenge to discover just how amazing you are.
About the Author
Kathryn is an experienced birth and postnatal doula and childbirth educator. As a doula, she supports couples throughout pregnancy, birth and postnatally to feel calm, confident and prepared for all the challenges of birth and early parenting. Before birth she helps couples to explore all their options, based on up-to-date information, and shares tips for coping with labour and establishing breastfeeding. This time is also about getting to know each other so they can gel and work really well as a team. During labour, Kathryn is there to give physical and emotional support to both parents, helping to create the easiest, most comfortable, safest and most beautiful birth experience possible.
Kathryn teaches regular Hypnobirthing Australia Positive Birth courses at BUMP Health & Fitness in Dee Why.
Beyond her birth support work, Kathryn is mum to two girls and loves picnicking, pottering in the garden, bush walking and lazing about at the beach.
www.kathrynbellbirthsupport.com.au | 0450071503 |firstname.lastname@example.org