We are hitting the 34 week mark and this is the time that I know I need to start preparing for things… Preparing for labour, birth, who is going to be with the kids while I’m in hospital and Cesar is working, my hospital bag, a comfy cluster feeding area at home, and just preparing for life in general with three small children. For those who have followed me for a while now you know that I had a little bit of a tough but ultimately fine birth with my first and a very rapid, intense birth with my second. So we are preparing for an even more rapid arrival this time around, but in a very different part of the country and in an unknown hospital. I have previously written about the possibility of having a completely natural birth experience in a hospital (if that is what you want), but from my own experience it is also something that you need to prepare for. In the US it is not always possible to have a homebirth, or find a birthing centre near you that is also accepting new patients, and not all hospitals are equal. Insurances cover some areas and not others, some states actually deem assisted homebirths to be illegal, and some places have one hospital in their area, and nothing else for miles around them. I’ve come up with a few things that I do, and will be doing, to prep for another unmedicated birthing experience, and hopefully everything will follow through (as we all know birth is never predictable).
I learnt during my first pregnancy that your pregnancy support team needs to also include the hospital team. I had a wonderful midwife but she didn’t deliver at the hospital. I thought it didn’t matter… I was SO wrong! The second time around I went to a clinic where I was followed by two OBs who also delivered at the hospital I wanted to give birth in. I walked into the L&D and my favourite OB delivered our second daughter less than an hour later. It was night and day from my first experience where I saw 4 different OBs in 24 hours, none of which I had a personal relationship with, or any affinity with either. For personal reasons (and due to past experiences) I don’t feel comfortable with male OBs so I now make it an important step to make sure I’m comfortable with my birthing team. (This is in no shape or form a jab at male OBs, I have just a history and some experiences that make it uncomfortable for me).
I think this next step is a very important one for anyone: know your rights and know what you want. While things can always go the opposite way during labour and delivery, and every birth is different, I learnt that if you don’t have certain requirements that you are sure about, and if you don’t talk about them confidently, you may lose your voice at some point and then feel upset because you feel that people didn’t listen to you. Mine are easy: no IV, freedom of movement, ability to push when I want (no controlled pushing), immediate skin-to-skin, breastfeeding within a few minutes of birth, and no bathing of the baby. I like all the tests to be performed in the room and to be able to get up and showered as soon as possible. Unless there is a medical necessity that a doctor can prove to me, then I am the one in control, not the medical team. A good medical team will be totally fine with this and not fight it.
Personally I have a high tolerance for pain and can go for hours without mentioning anything, which has both good sides and bad ones. It means that I was able to tolerate a rapid and intense labour with my second child, but it also means that I walked around for most of it pretending to my partner that it was nothing, that he should sleep while our firstborn was sleeping, and that I also told our babysitter to not come until later. This means that Cesar missed the birth of his second child by 10 minutes and I ended up giving birth alone. The latter wasn’t a problem, but I do feel guilty that I sort of robbed him of the experience, especially as he really wanted to “catch” her as she came out. This time around I don’t plan on being such a “trooper” but instead will be honest about the pain levels, just so that I’m not standing in the shower alone groaning as little as possible so that I don’t wake anyone up! You can be TOO strong in some cases, and I think this was one of them. The more support you have and the more you let your people support you the easier it will be. (Unless they keep asking you if you maybe want to try that epidural after all… It’s sometimes hard for those who love you to see you in pain, so it’s important to keep that in mind too). Cesar now has strict instructions to talk me through transition and remind me of what I want.
I used to not like my body very much. With all of the changes that it has gone through I have learnt not only to love it and cherish it, to trust it, but to also listen to it. Instincts are not usually wrong and if you allow your body to do what it was made to do it will. I still remember each stage of my second child’s birth very clearly, and each stage was a big step towards the end. It’s hard to imagine actually wanting to be in pain, but labour pains ARE a means to an end, and by visualizing that instead of focusing on the pain it makes it much easier to get through. And there is no shame in being vocal about the pain either. I read a lot about these calm and silent birthing processes, but for some of us it’s not possible. I learnt that externalizing my pain is more beneficial to me than internalizing, and no one cares in the hospital if you have to yell.
I do also think that childbirth can be romanticized a little… I mean I am guilty of it too. And we all want those beautiful postpartum pictures with our little baby latched on and happily breastfeeding. I have them. And that’s what I want the world to see, and that’s how I want to remember my child’s birth. But at the same time, childbirth is painful, extremely messy, scary, and there is a certain loss of self and all inhibitions at one point (right after transition for me). I think it’s important to keep this in mind, especially when you are lying on an unfamiliar hospital bed wearing a hospital gown. While some hospitals have come leaps and bounds with their birthing suites, they are still hospitals, and it’s still uncomfortable. And it’s not all flowers and softly playing seaside music (The Cure for me thanks very much). It’s messy, painful and beautiful all at once.
Other than that I basically don’t really prepare for anything else… A little breathing practice, a little meditation, here and there. I updated my playlist and decided I just couldn’t be bothered to practice Hypnobirthing this time around, as I only did a little last time and didn’t even have the chance to use anything I had practiced. I DO recommend first time mothers delving into different pain tolerance techniques though, the first time around I felt completely unprepared! And labour isn’t always as fast and intense as I experienced it, so it’s good to prepare for the long haul. There is also nothing bad about asking for pain meds either, if it helps you get through it then go for it! I had an epidural with my first and hated the lack of control during labour as well as the back pain afterwards for months, so it isn’t an option for me. But even if you plan to go completely unmedicated but things end up changing, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Birth can go completely haywire with the blink of an eye, and we are lucky that we have preferences and choices nowadays. What you are aiming for is a happy, healthy, easy birth and a happy, healthy baby. And it’s a good thing to remain flexible! I’m planning for another unmedicated hospital birth but also keeping in mind that we may not make it there in time, so also kind of planning to deliver unassisted at home just in case. We will see, I suppose you will find out after the baby arrives!
If you are interested in searching for more pregnancy and birth topics, you can head over to BabyPrepping.com where they have a ton of information on all types of subjects, and load of cool advice for getting through pregnancy, birth as well as the fourth trimester.