She asked how life in AZ was treating me and I was sharing with her my experiences as a doula, what I had learned, how so many things have changed. My energy shifted, there was passion, joy, enthusiasm. She made a comment: "Wow, Nancy, It seams you really love what you are doing?"
That comment stuck in the back of my mind...I really do! Its amazing what happens when you find things that just align with who you are, that open you open to help you become someone you never thought or could imagine myself being. Its being a crazy trip. As I was sharing with her all that I was learning, she said "Well, since we are on the subject...I am pregnant!" I couldn't have been more excited for her. I contained my joy and asked her how she was feeling, thinking, what her husband was thinking. I was just so elated for her.
I began to think about our conversation, about what it must feel like to find out you are about to bring a human into this world. So many emotions...decisions, choices. Seriously, where to begin. I started to mentally come up with a couple of things I thought were important...based on my experience supporting moms and families through this process....
And so it becomes:
10 Recommendations for Expectant Moms
"Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." - Marianne Williamson
1. Investigate your Beliefs around Childbirth:
Discuss with your husband/partner/significant other. If you don't know, start with this questionaire.
As I mentioned before, birth is something that is not dicussed in our current culture. Our only knowledge of birth usually comes from what we see on TV or in movies (unless you were surrounded by a different viewpoint growing up). Water Breaks, Mom gets upset at father, screams bloody murder, is lying with her legs up and BAM! clean, baby is given to mom...so easy!! Nothing to practice here! The reality is, birth is a process. Do you remember your birth? Have you asked your mom what your birth was like? What are some thoughts that come to your mind when you think of this experience you are about to have?
2. Invision your ideal birth:
Do you want a medicated or un-medicated labor/birth? Do you want a Natural Birth? What happens during a 'natural birth'?What feelings come over your body? How does labor progress? What kind of environment are you in? Are there lots of lights, unknown people, door opening and closing? Or are you in a quite space, dim lights, no interruptions, just you and your support team? How do you WANT your birth to unfold? By allowing yourself the space to vision, you open up your mind to new ideas and things you might never have thought of. I have done this exercise a couple of times and each time I am left with the thought of "geez, I really need to learn more about _______" to investigate if I really want that in my space during birth.
3. Keep an open mind of stories that are shared with you:
"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends." - J. K. RowlingFor some reason, the horror stories come out when people begin to learn you are pregnant. "My DR wouldn't let me do that" "I had to have a Cesarean because my body didn't work" "Homebirth is dangerous" "What if something happens" "I was in labor for 80 hours!" Thank the people for sharing, but KNOW that EVERY birth is different. Appreciate their experience, it does not have to become YOUR experience.
4. Birth Where You Feel Safest:
Choosing where to give birth is a personal decision and varies (unfortunately) by what your state (or insurance) will allow. The most familiar option is Hospital. Are you familiar with Birth Centers? Are you familiar with the option of Homebirth? Know the benefits and challenges of each option and birth where you FEEL safest. Why is it important? For some women, that is the hospital. Others, they want to be in their home. Others choose the comfort of a Birth Center. Here is a great article on the different options and the benefits of each.
5. Build a Strong Support Team:
After you determine where you are going to give birth, its important to assemble your support team. Ob/Gyn? Midwife? (do you know the difference between a CNM and a LM/CPM?) If you have chosen a hospital, PLEASE get the additional support of a doula. There are numerous research studies that show the support of a Doula during childbirth benefits the mother and baby. Unfortunately, with our current hospital medical model, the majority of the time Nurses have multiple clients, so they are unable to be with you for the duration of your labor. DRs normally come in when you are about to give birth, so its important to have someone who is educated in birth and understands ways to help you alleviate any discomfort, support you in your desires and be your loudest advocate in the face of uncertainty.
6. Receive Evidence Based Care:
Policies and procedures have overtaken patient centered care in the majority of hospitals. What is Patient Centered Care? Moms often feel left out of their own birth experience because they end up feeling more like a number than a human being. Are your needs being met? Do you know what kinds of questions to ask your care providers? If you aren't being heard and your questions being answered, maybe its time to think about changing care providers. Know you always have a choice.
7. Attend an Indepedent Childbirth Education Class:
When I was pregnant, I didn't even think about attending a childbirth education class...I just thought I would do enough research on my own, ask a couple of friends and viola! I would be prepared. After going through my Doula training, supporting women (and their partners/husbands/significant others) during the birth process...its imperative you attend an INDEPENDANT Childbirth Education course. Why Independent? Since 98% of births happen in the hospital in the US...the majority of the time Hospital Birth Classes are about teaching you to be good patients, not empowering you to honor your birth experience. Some great suggestions are: Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, Hypnobirthing, Birthworks, CAPPA and many more independent ones. Check your area because your local birth professional network (of doulas/midwives/lactation consultants) might offer their own version of classes.
Think about this: we spend thousands of dollars on dresses, flowers, food, music, tuxedos, destinations for weddings...do you think its important to invest some time into helping your baby come into this world a better way?
8. Practice Exercises to Help Prepare: Mental, Physical, Emotional
Birth is not just a physical act, its emotional, physical and spiritual. Doubt and Fear are usually the most common concerns that are discussed with women who are pregnant. Did you know that FEAR actually inhibits the birth process? We instinctively revert back to our 'fight or flight' system. Learn to address the fears and concerns you have. Investigate them! Prepare your body for labor, during your pregnancy. You dont need to go run a marathon, yet know that birth is an intense and physical act, your body needs help preparing just as much as your mind does. Eat foods that are nutritionaly sound, attend a prenatal yoga class (will help you establish your own breath), make sure you are moving throughout your day.
9. Educate Yourself on Common Procedures:
What procedures do you think are mandatory during pregnancy, labor and birth? Do you know the benefits and complications that can arise from normal birth interventions? They might be common 'procedures' but how do they affect the laboring mother? The baby? Do they hinder babies development or make it harder to establish a physical bond? Do you know what procedures you want done once baby arrives? What about the placenta?
10. Enjoy the Process:
You are not pregnant forever (although some days it might seem like it). You have created a miracle! You are growing a human inside your body, that needs to be celebrated! What you are doing is unique and something not everyone gets to experience. Focus on the moments that make you smile. Feed your soul the joys of your experience. Birthing a baby is not only about having a child, its about becoming a mom and creating a family unit. How you remember your experience will be with you for the rest of your life. Empower yourself. Stand firm in your choices. Ensure you are being supported: emotionally, physicaly, spiritually in your experience. Plan, prepare and let go, enjoy the ride.
"The mystery of life and birth is a profound invitation to be authentic as you trust and tremble your way through labor's Gates of doubt and fear. It is possible that you will become more intuitive during labor than at any other time...Allow your body to guide you in your breathing, in your unique movement, in knowing...what to do...even when you don't know what to do." ~Pam England "The Labyrinth of Birth"