Hey, did you know I was pregnant?! I am! I’m in the last few weeks and feel so ready to have this baby.
I wanted to talk about what we’re planning, and how Andy and I have prepared for the birth. We have a wonderful midwife team and are all set for something I’ve long been passionate about: homebirth.
Before I get into it, I know that pregnancy and childbirth can be pretty controversial topics, as well as highly personal ones. Everyone has a unique experience, and no one way is right for everyone. I’m not trying to sway anyone or disparage those who have hospital births– that’s the last thing I want to do. Hospitals are the right place to be for many laboring women! I’m grateful that I’m ‘low risk’ (maternal age, pre-existing health conditions, and lifestyle factors all contribute to whether a pregnancy is deemed high or low risk), and so a homebirth has always been a good fit. Everything I talk about here is my experience, and doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. No judgments!
First and foremost, the number one thing I recommend if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant is education. Educate and inform yourself! Don’t let your provider, whether they be a doctor or a midwife, be in charge. This is your body, your baby, and your birth. You have the right to stay informed every step of the way! Learn about the tests that are routinely ordered in pregnancy and gain an understanding of the physiological processes of labor and birth. Remember, more knowledge = less fear.
I’m sure the reason I have so little anxiety about labor and birth is because I took a childbirth education class and doula training back in my early twenties, before I was even certain that I wanted to have kids. I’ve long been a fan of Ina May Gaskin, an internationally renowned midwife, author and speaker, and loved reading the birth stories in her book Spiritual Midwifery. For a long time, I even believed that I wanted to become a midwife. I loved the idea of bearing witness to such strength and such beautiful, life-changing moments. Women’s bodies were made for this!
Other books I highly recommend: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, and The Birth Partner (those are Amazon Affiliate links, so if you’re not comfortable with that, just do a manual search for the titles).
You know what also helps? Having a supportive partner who’s totally on board with everything! I’ve never had any opposition from Andy about our planned homebirth: he knew that it was never even really a choice for me. I have no problem with my OB/GYN, and when I saw her for my planning-to-get-pregnant visit last year, I remember feeling a bit wistful. Why can’t you be a midwife? I wondered. But deep down I knew I wanted to be attended by midwives, who are experts in normal, low-risk birth. And Andy never tried to dissuade me. It helps that he’s not an anxious person. He doesn’t jump to worst-case scenarios, and this whole process has really helped to cement our similar values and what a good team we are. (Yay!)
Bradley Birth Classes
One of our biggest tools in preparing for labor and birth is our Bradley birth classes. The Bradley Method is appropriate for any pregnant couple (we were the only ones planning a homebirth) and teaches you how to stay low-risk with the hopes of having an intervention-free birth. Andy and I attended a twelve-week course with four other pregnant couples, all in their last trimester. Our instructor was a wonderful childbirth educator and doula (a non-medical professional who offers physical and emotional support during labor).
The major takeaway from this course is that it was so thorough. As well as educating us about what a routine pregnancy and birth looks like, proper nutrition, informed consent, breastfeeding, and relaxation exercises, we went over routine interventions and possible complications. I hated the class where we went over what to do in the event of infant loss (let’s just say I got a bit emotional and had to bury my wet face in Andy’s shirt for awhile), but like my midwife said, it’s good to talk about it. It happens.
One thing: these classes are certainly not free. Costs vary depending on location and instructor, so I realize such a commitment isn’t a reality for everyone. Even though we don’t make a lot of money, it felt right to make the classes a priority, because I wanted us to be as prepared as possible. How I wish money never has to be an issue! I wish all pregnant women had access to classes like the Bradley Method (and proper nutrition, and prenatal care, and the option to have a homebirth, etc), but that’s a rant for another day.
One of the stand-out memories from our Bradley classes is the waterbirth videos we watched. It feels so natural to me, to float in a pool and have my baby transition from a watery environment in my uterus to more warm water on the outside. Laboring in the water has so many benefits: less pressure on the abdomen, relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles, enhanced overall relaxation, greater comfort and ease of movement, and natural pain relief, to name a few.
We have a pool on loan from our midwives and we’re doing a practice run as I write this, to see how long it takes to fill up. We had to remove our kitchen table and chairs, since that’s the only spot in the apartment it would fit!
Accentuate the Positive: Birth Stories and Affirmations
I asked someone who has a one-year-old how her birth went, and she said I’ll tell you after you have the baby. You don’t want to know. And that was a wise response! There’s no reason to endure other people’s less-than-positive birth stories, because often that cultivates fear and self-doubt. We hear about other people’s struggles or interventions and think that it’ll probably happen to us. (This is similar to basing our idea of what birth is like off of the media: TV shows and movies love to show dramatic, painful births. It doesn’t have to be that way!)
Instead, read the birth stories in Ina May Gaskin’s books. I’ve been listening to satisfying birth stories on The Birth Hour podcast all afternoon, and it’s wonderful hearing all of these women’s various experiences. One of my favorite things to do lately is watch homebirth videos on YouTube. All of these things help to build a more positive picture in my mind of what labor and birth can feel like, and build my excitement for when it all starts happening.
Another way to stay positive is to utilize birth affirmations. I’ve written up a bunch of positive phrases and hung them on mirrors and doorways around the house, so that I whenever I glance up or pass one I repeat it to myself:
- All the strength I need is within me
- I have everything I need for a beautiful, healthy birth
- My body knew how to grow this baby and my body knows how to birth it
- Surrender to the surges
- Inhale peace, exhale tension
- I am calm, I am safe, I am relaxed
- My baby will come at just the right time
All that being said: I know I’m not in complete control. We can do all the planning and preparing we want, but sometimes unforeseen circumstances happen. If we need to, of course we’ll transfer to the hospital. But the point of all this preparation is to have the most positive experience possible regardless of any deviations from our plan.