Women are so capable. We’re strong and independent, and for many of us, being pregnant is something amazingly natural. Looking back on my own experience of pregnancy, I know I thought I had it all figured out. I had my copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” in my handbag all the time! I had vague memories of the stories my own mum had told me about giving birth, but this book was my guide.
I projected this image of myself as someone who was totally prepared for birth, that I was in control. Everything looked perfect.
But it wasn’t.
Like so many other women I’ve spoken to, I was completely overwhelmed. A whole new little human in life? One I was meant to take care of 24/7 for the next 18 years? Not to mention the part where said a little human has to come out of me. Beyond the plan I’d had with my midwife for this last bit, I had no real idea what I wanted – let alone how I could get it.
I was focusing so hard on what life would be like after I’d given birth that I had unwittingly developed a total blind spot about the birth itself. Looking back, I wish I’d put the book down, and researched a bit about the real-life experiences of other mothers in labour.
We all know that labour is a huge physical stress. Even quick labours are totally exhausting, and the ones that aren’t quick can go on for some time. And complications happen. I wish I’d accepted this fact and read about my options before the birth, so that I could have been totally prepared for when we had to go ‘off plan’.
There is a way to having a positive experience of labour and birth, of feeling ready and calm when your labour starts. You need to manage your expectations, and spend a little time thinking about what you’d want to happen in different scenarios. Consider what kind of pain relief you’re happy with, so that you’re able to advocate for yourself. The best way to do this is to speak to real mums.
Put the books down for a bit, and find out what these eight mums have to say about their experiences.
Labour can also be wonderful. It can feel empowering.
Not so “secret” advice to preparing for a positive birth:
1, Have Support
“Really know your birthing options and preferences, and be realistic – you may have a caesarean, so don’t just plan for a home birth (for instance). And have someone with you during labour who you can trust to articulate those preferences, and have discussions on your behalf if those preferences may need tweaking.”
2, Keep Your Options Open
All births are different, no two are the same. Being prepared to be flexible on your birth plan takes away a lot of pressure and stress, it’s not a failure when things have to change.
“Take as much time to think through all the options as you would about what pram you’re going to get. Feeling like you’ve failed, because your birth plan didn’t cover emergency section or whatever, can cause no end of really horrible problems, like PND, PTSD, guilt, and resentment, after the event.”
3, Don’t Panic If It Doesn’t Go To Plan
The top priority is the health and well being of you and your baby during the birth process, so stay calm and trust in the process.
“I worked in a maternity unit for several years and I was surprised by the number of ladies who came in and felt like everything was going wrong before it had really started because they couldn’t have their birth plan exactly as they wanted. Knowing your preferences but being ok with the fact that it might be best for you/baby to go down another route, makes you much freer.”
4, Go With the Flow
All births are different, even when it’s your sixth time. Birth is unpredictable, so go with the flow and let nature take over.
“I’ve had 6 children and can honestly say each birth has been different! My advice is to go with the flow. People that have such set ideas about what will happen will be much more stressed when things may go differently. As long as you are both well at the end, that’s a success.
Using breathing techniques such as hypnobirthing can bring calm and a sense of empowerment.
“I did hypnobirthing and it was the best thing ever. It allowed me to have two successful natural births after a c-section. The breathing techniques, low lighting, making a playlist, visualisation, bringing clothes of other children or things from home, all make you feel comfortable. A birth partner who knows your wants and can recite them without you needing to get involved. Going within, I literally affirmed every day that I am a woman and my body was made to give birth and I trusted that wholeheartedly”
6, Whatever Makes You Happy
Don’t feel silly about what music you want playing or where you want to give birth if it makes you happy and comfortable go with it.
“I had my first and third in a birthing centre, and my second was a home birth. Third was in the centre due to low weight concerns but was a really chilled out labour and delivery. I remember asking for my friend to play Maroon 5 “Moves Like Jagger” during my first labour. For me keeping calm was about doing what made me happy. Each time I said that the most important thing was keeping me and the baby safe if my plans went in another direction, so be it. Breathe, breathe, breathe and don’t fight the contractions.”
7, Trust The Professionals
These people do this daily and they have years of experience, so while it is your birth, it is their job and you can trust them.
“I had 2 emergency sections resulting in preterm babies and my saviour each time was my midwife and my consultant! It’s so easy in hindsight to say don’t focus on what can go wrong and don’t be scared… I was scared out my head… all I can say is trust in whatever the doctors and midwives say is best for you and your baby! Have an idea of what you would like to happen in your birth plan but don’t be disheartened if it goes another way. At the end of the day, whether you deliver naturally or via c section, you still have given birth and it’s not at all easy, but it is absolutely amazing!”
8, Plan For Help After Birth
The focus will be all on the birth, meeting your baby and making sure you are both healthy, but spare a thought for what happens after that and make sure you have support in place.
“Women should also make sure they have enough help in the days, and weeks, after birth! It’s hard work enough keeping a little one fed and slept. Make sure there is someone else looking after you!”
So, stay calm, mums, keep your options open, have support around you, and do what makes you happy. The above are all great pieces of advice from women who’ve been there.
Remember, no two birth experiences are the same and it’s an unpredictable journey, but it’s a wonderful journey that results in your beautiful baby. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have the perfect birth, do it your way and put the birth first and you will have a postive story to tell!
I have created some cute printables for you to use to get you in a positive mindset, print these affirmations and put them somewhere you will see them all day.
Also, I have created a positive birth plan that you can also fill out in your own time to help get your prepared 🙂
Right, click the image to save for your own personal use