I can't adequately express how important it is to educate yourself about your options. I mean, we find out we're pregnant and it's exciting and sometimes a little scary. We go to the providers that we've seen since our first pap and figure that of course they'll delivery this baby. We read about what to expect week by week and books of baby names. We pick out the most adorable baby clothes and all the coolest new gadgets. We spend hours on Pinterest looking up cute gender reveals, baby shower, and announcement ideas, but often stop short of looking up ways to prepare for labor and birth because we just don’t know.
I encourage you to read books that tell positive birth stories like Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. Goodness knows women come out of the woodwork to tell a pregnant woman the horror story of their best friend's sister's birth, but often leave out all the amazing ones. Watch documentaries that show what a great birth experience can look like. We’ve seen women screaming and laboring on their backs in movies and on TV for as long as we can remember. No wonder so many of us are scared to have a baby!
Speak with your current provider and find out if they share the same vision of what your birth should be. Hopefully they do and you will have an amazing experience together. If not, it's ok to consider finding someone new. Even though there's a hospital 10 minutes from your house, it's ok to go to the one 30 minutes away because the hospital policies will allow you to labor the way you want. Do a hospital tour and do it early. You don’t have to wait until you’re close to your estimated due date. Ask about squat bars, birth stools, & the use of a tub/shower. Can your baby stay with you the entire time you're there? Do they have birth balls? What are their policies regarding family centered cesareans should it become necessary to have one?
Have a discussion with your provider about their cesarean and episiotomy rates. Find out at what point (if you go post date) they may start discussing an induction. Find out what intermittent monitoring, hep lock, and perineal massage are. Find out why laboring in bed is not the laboring woman's best friend.
Learn why staying well hydrated and having the ability to eat even when in the hospital are so important. Research why you want to remember 3-1-1, 4-1-1, and what color your meconium is.
Consider taking a childbirth class offered by an independent childbirth educator in addition to or instead of the one offered at the hospital. Do you want to try Birthing From Within, Birthworks, Bradley, Hypnobirthing, or Lamaze? Find out who DONA & ToLabor are. Go to Birth Talk, Babywearing, Cloth Diapering, Meet the Doulas, & Meet the Midwives events.
Think about why you might want to labor at home for as long as possible and what kind of environment you want to labor in. Would you prefer to have a homebirth? What are your current techniques for relaxation? How will they help when labor starts? Is your birth partner familiar with your current coping techniques so they can translate them into helping you when the time comes?
Think about birth affirmations and what you want to invite to your birth. Write your birth plan, call it birth preferences, and discuss it with your provider.
Have your partner read The Birth Partner and then discuss your expectations for not only labor, but also postpartum. Create a postpartum plan. Have you considered a hiring a Postpartum Doula? Will you have a support system in place once the baby is born? Sign up or have someone sign you up for takethemameal.com. When the time comes, strongly consider taking everyone up on those offers of help with your laundry, dishes, vacuum etc. so you can plan to spend your first few weeks just snuggling with your baby.
I absolutely encourage you to do all the “fun” planning, but I urge you to put as much effort into preparing for these parts of your journey. Think of how many options you will miss out on if you don’t inform yourself about them. Having a baby is an amazing experience, enjoy it!
Cristina Evans is a Mother of 3, Wife, & Birth Doula