When I was thinking about getting pregnant, I was terrified. Y’all, I had panic attacks!
All I had ever heard about pregnancy and birth were horror stories! I saw people screaming and writhing around strapped to beds on TV anytime someone was having a baby. I heard people in person talking about how terrible their births were and would see people's horror stories in response to birth-related memes on Facebook. I was really, really scared.
It was very important for me to have children. I've always loved the idea of being a mom and I realized that I was going to have to find a way to get over my fear if I wanted to make some mini Katies. So, I journaled and I looked up some books about pregnancy and parenting to understand what I might be getting myself into. One book that I found especially helpful was Parenting Begins Before Conception: A Guide to Preparing Body, Mind, and Spirit For You and Your Future Child. It was encouraging, it helped me think about the kind of parent that I wanted to be, and as the title promised, it gave me some practical advice on how to prepare my mind, body and spirit for this journey. I also listened to a ton of podcasts and birth stories- all things pregnancy, parenting, breastfeeding etc.
Once I immersed myself into this birth world, I started to see past what mainstream media and your mother-in-law would have you think about what birth is, how it goes and what it means. Through my research I learned the radical concept that birth doesn't have to suck. It doesn't have to be this scary, mysterious black hole of suffering and misery. It can be peaceful. It can be joyous. It can even be orgasmic! For real! When I learned this, I wanted it! So I started doing more specific research. What are the things people are doing to have peaceful, joyful births and how do I get in on that?
I'm not here to give you a formula on how to have your version of an ideal birth. That’s up to you and what your priorities are. However, I do want to give you 3 things that every pregnant person should consider to help increase the likelihood that their birth will not suck.
1. Find quality education
I have spoken about this a couple times on this blog and I do encourage you to read my post about why you should definitely take a childbirth ed class and how to find the right childbirth class for you.
Learning different coping techniques that you can use during labor, and even being familiar with the various medication options you have available at your place of birth can give you a sense of control and preparedness as you think about going into your baby's birth.
2. Hire a doula
After studying the differences between doula-supported births and births that did not involve a doula, Dr. John Kennell, a renowned pediatrician and researcher came to this conclusion- “If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it." If that's the case, why do only about 6% of births in the United States involve doulas? We need to do better and make doulas more accessible to anyone who wants one, but that's another blog post for another day.
If you can swing it, please hire a doula! It doesn't even have to be me! Having a professional support person who is intimately familiar with pregnancy, labor and birth, who will stay by your side continuously from the moment you call them until a couple hours after your baby is born, and whose only agenda is for you to feel safe, heard, supported, and informed is just so important. Birthing people who use doulas are less likely to need Pitocin, have an instrument-assisted birth, have a caesarean birth and request pain medication (though people who intend to use pain medication greatly benefit from having a doula as well!). Doula-supported birthing people are also more likely to breast or chestfeed and rate their childbirth experience positively.
3. Reprogram your whole mindset about birth
Chances are, like me, you have also been bombarded with negative depictions of birth for a good chunk of your life. We need to basically throw all of those negative stories out and rewire your mind’s perception of birth. My favorite method of doing this is by listening to and reciting positive affirmations every day. You can find a ton of lists online. Just find some that appeal to you and listen to them or read them every single day without fail. If you find a recording, listen to it while you’re doing chores, driving to work or going to sleep. If you find some written ones you like, hang them up around your house where you will see them often- on the front door, the fridge, the bathroom mirror, etc., and say them out loud whenever you see them. It’s a low-effort task that yields great results. Pretty soon, you might find that you have a more positive outlook on birth and your confidence has grown. You might even become excited at the prospect of giving birth. That’s a thing!
Dearly beloved, you are not destined to have a terrible birth experience as a fact of life. Many people have wonderful births! Why not you? It takes some planning and preparation, but there are things that you can do to reduce the likelihood of having a birth experience that sucks. Give them a try!
Did you have a wonderful birth experience? Share your story below 😊