Often the first question I am asked when talking to someone for the first time since Rad’s birth is, “How was your labor? How was the delivery?” Just the other day I was asked to share my birthing story with a women’s health magazine, and I delicately declined. It’s a pretty standard story, but I am conflicted. It’s so good to share a story – I appreciated hearing the stories my friends and sister-in-laws shared – but it was just such an intimate and amazingly personal moment for my family that I think it’s one that I will keep for us.
What I would love to relate though are some things that I wish I would have done a little differently and maybe these thoughts can help guide you a little in the pursuit of your ideal birth.
It likely all starts with knowing quite early on that I should have switched my midwife. We didn’t feel like a good fit. I sometimes came in with seemingly innocuous questions like how much DHA or EPA should be in my prenatal and she would look at me like I had come up with an unheard of inquiry. When I was newly pregnant I had also asked for any books she thought would be helpful to read and she seemed taken aback, saying she didn’t really have any ideas for me. (Sigh.) I had also hoped for tools that would allow me to birth independently of pain medication – a water bath, the ability to move around constantly, different body positions. I didn’t get that upfront from this midwife or from the team at the hospital where I delivered and ended up seeking out the information and tools I needed on my own, then worked on implementing them with the admirable support of my husband and mother who found themselves asking questions like, “You want another watermelon popsicle?” and “Massage you where?” What I hadn’t done is properly research the ideal practitioner when I first found out I was pregnant. I did some research but not in depth enough. My advice is to visit with a couple of different professionals and ask a lot of questions. You’ll start to learn the different ways in which you can approach labor and delivery and you truly can find the best support team for you, at the best place for you. And, if you decide on a doctor and along the way you start to feel like the match is not made in heaven, don’t feel awkward changing and don’t be afraid to. Someone else can easily step in and can start building a relationship with you and the babe. Just because one doctor started your care it certainly doesn’t mean another can’t continue it. It’s one thing to have someone checking your progress but what a nice thing to have someone who will hear your concern and dole out a little education along the way. Change if you feel you need to.
Another piece of advice – laboring at home. I knew I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible but I ended up going in early – around 4 cm. We really just didn’t know. (It’s so essential to stay home. Not only do they really want you to, it’s best for you. The most comfortable place you will be is at home and comfort is critical for your body to feel alright doing what it needs to do. Asked to jump up into a hospital bed so they can monitor your vitals every so often is not comfortable. Especially after 20 hours.) I liked a tip that I had picked up along the way while reading and should have tried to implement; it was this – when labor has started, start making cookies and continue to make them. Once you can no longer make cookies, it’s time to head into the hospital. (I wonder how many batches I would have yielded.)
Eating homemade watermelon popsicles. Prep snacks like this for yourself. Easy to eat and they help with hydration!
In terms of the actual labor, it did go so well. I struggled a bit against what I had hoped for and what the resident and nurses naturally feel inclined to do – “No, thank you, I wouldn’t like to be hooked up to the IV,” “No thank you, I would prefer to be able to move around,” “But, I brought snacks – are you sure I can’t eat them?” etc. etc. So, I definitely had to advocate for my wishes, but, it was honestly just all amazing. And exhausting. (This is the workout of your life ladies.) And, every step may not go as you had hoped or planned but there is this – my friend Diana had said to me about a month before Rad’s birth, “It doesn’t matter how it ends up unfolding, in the end you get your prize.” And it’s true. It really is. You may think, “No way, it’s just not going to go down like that, here is my birthing plan,” but really your best ally is adaptability. To know that you are a woman and your body is made to do this and to also know that you haven’t delivered a baby yet, so you don’t know how you or your body are going to do it. In the end, don’t worry so much about how you delivered, or how you chose to deliver. You’ll be so smitten the second you lay eyes on that wonderful miniature version of yourselves that how they got into your arms can be left behind as simply a memory.
What I am certain helped me during my pregnancy and then into my labour and may help you are: yoga, an onslaught of vegetables, and some fitness – you do need some stamina for this marathon– (my husband and I rode bikes all summer long leading up to my due date – it’s a nice exercise that can be easy when you need it to be.) I have also heard it is wise to meet with and hire a doula. We did not and I knew leading up to my delivery that I should have, and would like to for baby number two. Your doula is your voice. She will speak for you when you can’t and she will hand you tools from a toolbox of support the two of you have built together that will remind you how to move and work and feel to help your baby safely on his or her way into your arms.
Lastly, if you can, give these books a read, at any stage in your pregnancy and no matter what your plan for birthing is. These books offer a gentle but realistic insight into having a baby and offer useful and practical tips.
The guidance in “Mindful Birthing” by Nancy Bardacke will serve you in any life situation, not just birthing. It teaches you how to prepare for a very intense chunk of time – how to retrain your perception of pain and how to relax and focus.
Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” offers a holistic approach with plenty of first-hand accounts while repeatedly reminding us that women are totally capable of giving birth – our bodies were made for this.
For a humor-filled but just as informative read, reach for “The Pregnancy Countdown Book” by Susan Magee.
Lastly, “Birthing From Within” by Pam England and Rob Horowitz was recommended by my yoga instructor and seemed like a righteous read, but I ran out of time to finish it or to even integrate some of the ideas into practice. (I did dog-ear some pages in the hopes that if Zach needed a last-minute idea to help in the midst of labor he could flip the book open and say “Here! Try this!” but we never did get to a point of desperation. ;))
So, there is a birthing story. I hope it offers some insight or a connection or a bit of advice and I do hope you pick up some of the above books. I enjoyed them so much. And please share as much of or as little of your stories below. Would love to hear from you and I know so many other women would too. Here is to finding our own best way of helping our little ones make a graceful entrance into the world. Cheers to all of you beautiful mommas (and your amazing support teams.)