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Preparing for Birth

By Jeri Carr

As you prepare to give birth to your baby, it can be scary thinking about what your labor and birth will be like--whether it is your first child or fifth child. As much as we know about birth and how it works, there is still the element of the unknown, for anything can happen. Remembering that our bodies were designed to give birth and that women have been giving birth since the beginning can help encourage the fearful mother. Indeed, birth is a normal process, and it’s truly amazing and beautiful.

Birth can be exhilarating and empowering. Some mothers feel little pain and even describe giving birth as pleasurable. Other mothers feel quite a lot of pain, especially if they experience the dreaded back labor. But once you hold your little one in your arms, it is worth it all.

You can help to prepare by learning about labor and childbirth by reading books and birthstories. Focus on reading joyful birthstories and books that discuss the naturalness and beauty of pregnancy and childbirth.

For some women it can also be important to become aware of potential complications and to face any fears you have head on. Don't stuff your fears away, and, on the other hand, don't dwell on your fears. Deal with them, and then let them go. For instance if you are fearful of having a stillbirth, imagine in your mind what could happen and what you would do--would you like to hold and cuddle your baby, what preparations would you have to make, etc. Then let go.

It can be encouraging to join e-mail lists or be part of a message board. Talking with other moms who are going through the same things as you or who have gone through them already can be enlightening and fun. Some lists and message boards seem to promote a more medical-minded view of birth, while others focus on natural childbirth. There are a plethora of choices available such as lists and message boards about waterbirth, unassisted birth, vaginal births after cesareans, and natural birth.

Also, consider taking a childbirth class with your birth partner. Participating in childbirth classes with your husband can encourage him to be more involved in your pregnancy and birth. Research the different types of childbirth classes. They all have different philosophies about birth. Many hospital classes offer you the least opportunity of becoming truly informed about your options.

Explore the different places where mothers can give birth, and then choose to give birth in the environment where you will feel most comfortable. For some moms that will be the hospital. For others it will be a birth center or at home. Also, choose the care provider you feel most comfortable with. . . a doctor, a certified nurse midwife, a lay midwife, your husband, alone, etc.

Much of the pain associated with childbirth comes from being tense and afraid, so one of the key things to help labor and childbirth go smoothly is to be able to relax and let your body do it’s job. You may find that the intensity of labor takes you by surprise. Give relaxing techniques a chance. When you relax, your body releases natural painkillers that can help you through labor.

Find out what helps you relax. You can learn some ways to relax in childbirth class, but also consider what normally helps you to relax. Consider what smells help you relax. What sounds help you relax? Do you like quiet or do you prefer a certain type of music? Would low-lighting help? Would a warm shower or reclining in a warm tub of water help you relax?

Things like keeping your breathing under control and using different breathing techniques can help. Patterned breathing works for some women. Natural deep breathing works well for others. Focusing on an object or just staring into space at nothing or closing your eyes are different things to try. Some women find it best if they ignore the pain as much as possible and concentrate on, for instance, patterned breathing. On the other hand, some women find it helpful to think about and be in tune with what their body is doing.

Be open to trying different strategies. During labor you might be surprised at some of the things that help you feel relaxed--perhaps a cool washcloth on your forehead, moaning through the contractions, dancing, rocking in a chair. Listen to your instincts during labor. If you feel that you need to move into a certain position or make a certain noise or breathe a certain way, go ahead and do it. Every labor is different, so don’t worry about doing everything “by the book.”

Don’t let fear be part of your labor and birth experience. It’s especially important to have only supportive people around you during labor. Have people there who know your desires for your birth and will help you and give you encouragement. Also, let those at the birth know what you like and don't like. Be honest. . . but be polite if possible. Consider hiring a doula, especially if you plan on having a hospital birth.

As your uterus tightens and pushes your baby down, as you feel your baby move down the birth canal, as you feel the ring of fire, trust that your body knows what it is doing and that it’s a marvelous thing. Know it will soon be over. Focus on the fact that your baby is coming! Try to reach down and feel your baby’s head. Reach with expectant arms to catch your baby or to hold your baby soon after birth. Feel the exhilaration that birth brings and revel in the joy of finally holding your precious child.

This article was first published on Suite101.com.


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