It's a fact that saddens me to this day, but I put more effort into planning my first child's first birthday than I did planning his actual birthday. The truth is that birth overwhelmed me. My pregnancy continued despite me being in denial about just how important and transformative his birth would be. This post is all about providing others that might feel the same way I did with some guidance.
You've reached that magical 20 week stage, seen your little bub wiggle around at your 20 week scan, and maybe even been told your little miracles gender. Its an exciting time, you might start to think about nursery furniture, baby names, those oh so gorgeous teeny-tiny baby outfits.
Its also time to start thinking about how you are going to welcome this little person into the world. How do you plan to meet your child for the first time? This will be their first chance to see the world, what will their first impression be? Each birth is unique, but one thing is for sure, this is a moment that will be etched in your memory like no other. While the 10000 onesies and those gorgeous cot sheets are important, are you spending more time on the things that are fleeting and less time on that which will be everlasting?
Preparing for birth can be overwhelming, so I have put together my tips on how to get started.
Step 1 - Plan
What do you want for this birth? What would your baby want? What does your partner want? Start with a conversation, and see where it takes you. In the ideal world, how would you like to give birth? What is important to you, and what do you think is important to your baby? Write a list, draw a picture, or take some time to relax and visualize your perfect birth. Now spend some time writing a list of how you can achieve this.
Most of the significant achievements that we experience during our lives involve some sort of plan. Whether is be a sporting achievement, wedding, party, or celebration, the first step is to plan. Traditionally, the birth plan is something put together at the end of a pregnancy, and is sometimes seen in a negative light. I recommend that families start planning early on. A birth plan is not just a piece of paper that you have in your hand at the end of your pregnancy, a birth plan is also the steps that you will take leading up to the end of your pregnancy. Are there fears that you need to work through? Does your partner have fears that they need to discuss? Is your caregiver supportive of your choices? All these questions are best answered early on in your pregnancy so that you can address them. I was told during my first pregnancy that planning would only set me up for disappointment. Now, as a birth worker, it is one of the most common questions I get asked - If I plan for my birth, will I be disappointed if things don't go as planned? My answer is that a birth plan is a way for a family to be in control of the choices that they make. Studies show that the key to a positive birth experience is a sense of mastery of the experience. A birth plan is a way for families to discuss their preferences, list their choices, and to be in control of how decisions are made during this most momentous event. Birth plans or preferences are not about sticking doggedly to a set of pre-determined events, its about putting families in the drivers seat so that they do not become passengers in their own birth. Most people have a plan when they go to the supermarket, so don't be afraid to plan for what will be one of the most significant moments of your life.
Step 2 - Prepare
Read, read, read. Books, positive birth stories, and blogs. Start building your library. Look back through your plan, and pick out 3 things that you would like to learn more about, and find some recommendations for articles or books to read. (I have created a list at the end of this article). Whether it be birth, breastfeeding or parenting, there are a plethora of wonderful resources out there for you. Reading positive birth stories is also a great way to feel inspired and help you prepare. Join a prenatal yoga or exercise class. These are wonderful way to prepare your body for birth. Its also a great way to start to build you village, and meet like minded women. Start thinking of some positive birth affirmations. Positive affirmations start with words like “I will” or “I trust” “I am”. Look at the list that you created in step 1, and create your affirmations from this. For example, if you have written that you would like to birth by using your own instincts, a great affirmation would be “I trust my instincts to birth my baby the way I want.” Relaxation and meditation are other great ways to prepare for birth, and a wonderful way to enjoy your pregnancy.
One of the best investments you could make in your birth is independent childbirth education. There are many opportunities in the community for childbirth education. You could try checking local hospitals or birthing centers for classes.
Step 3 Create your village
Becoming a parent starts to moment you become pregnant. There is a famous saying that it takes a village to raise a child, so why not start creating your village while pregnant? A family that has a strong support system in place before your birth, which stays in place after birth, is more likely to have a positive birth and postnatal experience. Education and support can come in so many variations, but there is an army of dedicated birth professionals out there who feel it is a privilege to support families during this life changing time. Your village might be a group of like minded women (either online or in person), Doulas (both birth and post natal), childbirth educators, midwives, supportive caregivers, and postnatal support professionals such as health nurses, Doulas and breastfeeding counselors. Some of you might have a large village, and others a smaller village. Surround yourself with people who support your goals, and your preparations will flourish.
Lastly, if you need help, start researching birth professionals in your area. Ask at your local council or mothers group, breastfeeding groups or midwife clinic. The birthing community is a wonderful network of professionals who are well trained and perfectly suited to support you during your pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
<Remember, this is the only chance that you will have to meet your baby, and the only chance that they will have to be born. Don't be afraid to explore options, and don't be a passenger in your birthing experience. So, how will you and your baby meet?
“Birth Matters” Ina May Gaskin
“ina Mays Guide to Childbirth” - Ina May Gaskin
“Birthing From Within” - Pam England and Rob Horowitz
“New Active Birth” - Janet Balaskas
“The Thinking Women Guide to a Better Birth” - Henci Goeer
birthwithoutfearblog.com - great inspiring birth stories
documentingdelight.com.au - some wonderful positive birth images and stories