Through careful research and daily preparation, I was able to have an amazing and peaceful birthing experience. I chose to see a certified midwife and have a water birth in the birthing center of a local hospital with the use of no drugs and only the necessary monitoring (they checked the fetal heart rate twice with a doppler and also took my blood pressure when I first arrived). From the very first contraction to my daughter's arrival, it took 4 hours. In fact, it was only 1 hour and 5 minutes after we arrived at the hospital that I caught my daughter myself! Our birthing experience was the most powerful and amazing thing I've ever gone through, and I'm convinced that it wouldn't have been like this if I hadn't take then time to carefully select and prepare for what I wanted to happen.
To prepare for the birthing experience YOU want to have, make sure you consider the following:
1) Insurance coverage; did you know that many providers in the US (including major ones like Blue Cross, Blue Shield) cover attended home births at the same rate that they cover hospital births? Midwives are also generally covered at the same rate as an obstetric physician, but unless you ask, you won't know! Most other countries (socialized ones in particular) are very much in favor of home births and midwives and the rates of using these are much higher (like around 30%) than in the US (which is currently at less than 1% for home births--interesting, because home births have much fewer complications than comparable births!).
- Mother and fetal monitoring requirements (do you have to be hooked up to machines for the whole time? Do you have to have internal exams every so often?).
- What sorts of things can you refuse (Vitamin K shot, eye drops, cutting the cord immediately after delivery, leaving the vernix on to be rubbed in, bathing the baby yourself, etc.)?
- How supportive is the hospital of breastfeeding, skin to skin bonding (did you know that skin-to-skin is the best way to warm up a cold baby?), delayed vaccinations/procedures, and bed sharing?
- Things you are allowed to bring with you and use while laboring/birthing (CD player, food, beverages, aromatherapy machine, etc.).
4) Consider various birthing methods/philosophies; "Lamaze" is the popular thing around my neck of the woods, but frankly, after seeing enough women give birth using this method on TLC's A Baby Story, I wasn't sure I wanted much to do with it. :-) Panting, pushing, counting...come on, seriously? Instead of signing up for the first class I found, I spoke with colleagues, my midwife, and did Internet research (including watching lots of YouTube videos) before deciding that I wanted to go with HypnoBirthing (the Mongan Method). With this method, you learn and practice deep relaxation (self hypnosis) to help you achieved a very relaxed, peaceful state of mind (with complete awareness the whole time) during birthing. There are also supportive things like deep breathing, massage, and positioning that all help to ensure that your body doesn't fight against your uterus as it ends up doing with Lamaze any method that has you panting and pushing by force. It worked awesomely for me to allow a gentle and fast birthing that wasn't even the most painful thing I'd ever felt. This involved me practicing the HypnoBirthing scripts every night for weeks before the birth, though!
5) Communicate your desires; You can't expect people to be mind readers, so open communication is key. Discuss your desires and your plans with your provider well in advance; also discuss what his or her reasons would be if they were ever to override your communicated wishes. While this will hopefully prevent any problems when you give birth, be prepared to be assertive if you need to be. Sometimes, a mother's rights and desires are cast aside during labor and delivery--be prepared to speak up and advocate for yourself should this happen. Since I know I will be concentrating on my body during birth, my husband is the person responsible for advocating for my wishes when I give birth.
I didn't actually write a birth plan, but I was sure to make my desires known to my midwife, husband, and the nurses who met me when I arrived at the birthing unit. A birth plan can be a particularly good idea if you don't see the same practitioner each time or if someone unfamiliar to you is assisting you in your birthing. Earth Mama Angel Baby offers a very comprehensive one online that's free and easy to personalize with many natural options.
6) Expect the best! You've done your research and preparation--spend time every day listening to or reading positive birthing affirmations and doing things that will help you feel prepared and in control of your experience. A relaxed mother may be the most powerful force in having a relaxed birthing both for the mother and the baby.
Giving birth is a beautiful experience that should be celebrated at every level. It is natural, normal, and a woman's body knows how to do it. Deciding on and preparing for the birthing experience you want you and your baby to have is so very important. Don't leave it up to someone else to decide for you!
Some links I recommend:
LoveBug's Birth Story
Birthing Q & A
MotheringDot Community Forums (scroll down to the birthing section)
Diaper Swapper's Birth Stories & Announcements Forum
What if...you did everything you could to plan for a beautiful birth, and then it didn't happen? It'd be nice to think that the birthing experience is completely dependent upon the mother's preparation and attitude, but the truth is that sometimes, things don't go as planned and dreams go out the window. My friend, Carrie, from http://ohbabyo.wordpress.com, experienced this and will be sharing a "when your birth doesn't go as planned" article with us as a guest blog. Stay tuned to be sure you don't miss it!