I recently came across an article about “control” that I think is really relevant to the way that we approach birth in the present highly-medicalized system. We are accustomed to handing over control to our doctors and to the hospital with the (often misguided) notion that they will make the best decision for us.
Anyone who has met me knows that my mantra is: “Women need to take responsibility for their birth.” What does that actually mean, and what does it have to do with control? If you are pregnant and reading this then I suggest that you take some time to think about a few questions related to the way that you view your pregnancy, your choice of care provider, and the way you are preparing for your birth.
Who (if anyone) is in control throughout the birth process?
Birth is personal. You are the only one who can give birth to your baby. Sure, you will be in the hospital, under the care of your chosen provider(doctor or midwife) and nurses, but you will be the one who is experiencing labor and you have ultimate control over what is happening.
Any decisions that need to be made at any time should be done as a team. Have a discussion between yourself, your husband and your doctor – with the best outcome for all as the best possible solution.
How much control can we maintain?
You control your mind. Your mind controls your body. You control your fear (or your ability to confront or move beyond fear). You control how you experience the intensity of the birth experience.
Is letting go a necessary part of the process?
Yes, absolutely. There are certain things that are out of our control. Things like the position of the baby, how long labor may take and certain situations that may arise necessitating a change of plan. Let go of what you cannot control. Hold on to what you can. You can control your attitude, your ability to be flexible in the face of unexpected circumstances. You control how you stay connected to your baby, your body and the process of giving birth. You can control your mind, your thoughts, your beliefs and your expectations.
How is the birth experience affected by our attitudes toward authority and autonomy?
Do you blindly agree to everything your care provider suggests? Do you question decisions and routine procedures and how (or if) they relate to you and your pregnancy? Do you feel comfortable discussing your fears and expectations with your care provider? Would you consider changing providers or even hospitals if you felt that after having several discussions, your wishes are not being respected?
Here is a little acronym that I use in my birth preparation classes to help parents form a framework for opening discussions with their care providers. Think BRAT - Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Timing
Benefits: What is the problem we are trying to prevent or to fix? Will this procedure fix the problem? If not, what would we do next?
Risks: What are possible risks or side effects?
Alternatives: What are the possible alternatives? What would happen if we did nothing?
Timing: Is the situation urgent, or is it possible to wait?
This is a great way to discuss things with your provider so that you can prepare for and have a no fault, no blame birth. If you confidently participate in all the decisions made during your labor and delivery–even those that were not in your birth plan--you are likely to look upon your birth with no blame and no regrets.