December 11th, 2006

Your Turn: Childbirth

Do you (or perhaps your readers) have any advice or opinions on how to achieve childbirth as naturally as possible? I am nearly four months along with my first, and I would like to have a birth free from medications, if possible. I’m just not sure which methods or ideas work. I’d like to go into birth somewhat educated about how to help myself… Or do you think it’s one of those things that you can’t really “prepare” for the first time? I’d appreciate your help!

I suppose Advent is as good a time as any to talk childbirth. Afterall, isn’t Mary fully pregnant and traveling toward Bethlehem on the back of a donkey right about now? So. Gentlemen (and any others who are so inclined) feel free to leave the room.

A basic message I have for first time mothers would be this: Take the classes, read the books, grill your doctors, talk to everyone you know who has ever had a baby and then come up with a plan that makes sense to you. Just keep in mind, though, that childbirth is not a skills competition, it’s not a toughness competition, and it’s not a test you need to pass. It’s a means to an end — and that end is a healthy, intact mother with a healthy, intact baby. That may or may no tmean having medical interventions.

That said, I think your goal of having as natural a birth as possible is a laudable one. Natural childbirth is my own preference and I have been blessed in being able to do that for my eight babies so far. Your reading and research will surely demonstrate that there are many natural childbirth methods and philosophies to choose from, but I have to tell you: For me, when it came down to actually being in laborfor the first time, all the books and methods quickly went out the window. In their place I did whatever felt right to me at the time. Out with the crazy breathing patterns and in with clutching my anxious husband’s hands and rocking in place through contractions! Have confidence in yourself and in body’s ability to labor. You don’t have to do things a certain way just because the books (or medical staff)say so.

I would further add that if you are having a hospital birth, you should be sure your husband knows your preferences and is prepared to encourage you when you feel weak as well as intervene on your behalf if necessary. A woman in labor can be rather a helpless creature. I distinctly remember being wracked with pain during intense contractions during labor with Juliette and having a nurse continually harass me: “I think you should use a birthing ball, no? Shouldn’t I get the birthing ball? Would you like me to get the birthing ball? Have you ever used a birthing ball? They’re great. Do you want me to get the birthing ball?”

I was in another world at the time. Birthing ball? What? I wanted to tell that woman what she could do with the birthing ball, but was unable even to speak. Never was I more grateful to my precious husband than when he finally said, “You know, I don’t think she wants the birthing ball right now.”

Ultimately, I would encourage you to do your research and have a detailed plan, but keep in mind that it all might need to be tossed out the window. Too many women wind up feeling like “failures” when their baby’s birth does not go as perfectly as they had planned. You might plan a perfectly natural water birth (Hey, maybe even with a birthing ball! Why not?) but in the end you might wind up accepting pain medication or having an emergency C-section.

Be prepared to be flexible, for your sake and for your baby’s.There is no failure here. If you make some changes to your plan along the way in order to increase your chances of a happy outcome of a healthy, intact mother with a healthy, intact baby, I’d call that a success.

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