How to Plan for a Positive, Empowering Birth

Photography: Brandi Johnson

By Hannah Mearns 

A lot of mums-to-be have their heart set on a particular kind of birth, yet nature and circumstances can mean that their actual experience is pretty different to what they had hoped for.

Of course, in the short term every new mum is just glad to have their healthy baby in their arms but later on, once the initial oxytocin rush is over, having a birth experience that wasn’t the one you had dreamed of can weigh heavy on the mind.

The very first thing to say is that you did the best you knew how to at the time and given the circumstances. Ideas like, ‘I did something to make my birth hard’ or ‘I should have said no’ are worth forgetting about almost immediately. Knowing what to do or say when under time pressure, and in the heat of a moment as intense as having a baby, is not easy. Allow yourself some peace of mind.

After knowing and understanding that, I’d share these tips with any woman planning a birth.

  1. Get informed and understand how birth works

This doesn’t mean watching gory birth videos or One Born Every Minute. It does mean learning about how your body and hormones are designed to work with your baby – about how birth is actually a normal, physiological process, not a medical emergency. For example, did you know that the mother’s body receives the message to start labour when the baby’s lungs are mature enough and begin to release a special kind of protein as a signal? Or that pushing with all your might may actually be counterproductive?

It can seem like daunting medical detail at first but you don’t need to be a scientific genius to do this. Keeping an eye on parenting and mothering blogs or Facebook groups is a great way to start. Taking the time to talk to your midwife or a local doula or hypnobirthing teacher would be even better. They are often very passionate about what they do and could talk for hours.

  1. Be an active participant

From a really early age, we begin to receive the wisdom that doctors and caregivers know best. We know they have vast knowledge and experience and want to help them do their job. When you’re worried, uncertain or afraid, it can be comforting to know that there are people around who have seen and done this a million times before. However, this doesn’t mean they know you, your body or your baby. It also doesn’t mean that you should override your very powerful mother’s instinct easily.

Being active and vocal, right from the start, will set the right tone…

By being passive when it comes to interactions with caregivers, you will give them no choice but to treat you as a standard patient. They will do what they know best and follow a well-worn path. You will still need to consent to everything but they might then assume that you’re happy to go with their first suggestion and not present any alternatives. Being active and vocal, right from the start, will set the right tone – you value their experience and will take their advice but you want to make sure you feel that all the decisions taken were the right ones for you.

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