Plan for the Birth you Want, Prepare for the Birth you Don’t

Sound easy? Sound impossible? I promise it’s neither. Going into birth, especially the first time, you have no idea what is going to or could happen. There are so many variables, so many possibilities – you just never know where your birth experience might take you, no matter how much you think you are prepared. Especially in our society, where birth is made out to be the scariest thing to happen to a woman (thanks t.v. and movies).

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The birth of your child(ren) can be an experience you look forward to, if you know what to expect. When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter I knew I wanted a medication-free birth. My initial reasoning was that our ancestors did it over and over, I can do it too. On further research I realized that it was also the best option for me and my baby. The process of natural birth is beneficial in so many ways for both mom and baby that I couldn’t think of any other choice.

Unfortunately, in my preparation, I knew I needed to be ready for the possibility of a caesarean section (c-section) delivery. No matter how prepared I thought I was something could have gone wrong or it would be unsafe to continue with a natural birth. It comforts me to know that, in an emergency, the doctors and techniques are available to me to bring my child more safely into the world.

As I’m preparing for the birth of my second child, I keep thinking about how prepared I am – mentally, physically, emotionally. The birth of Sweet Girl was unexpected. Not in that I wasn’t prepared for her to come, or she came too early (she was born at 38 weeks). It was unexpected in how quick it was.

My water broke at 4 am and I was so excited I just knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. From everything I had read and heard, I knew I would have hours and hours before we would need to go anywhere. I was prepared to wait until contractions were 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour. I also knew that because my water had broken there was an increased risk of infection so I may need to go to the hospital a little sooner. Well, I didn’t have to wait very long to head to the hospital. At 5 am my contractions started, 5 minutes apart from the get go. That was unexpected. So off we went, to the hospital. And less than 3 hours later, I had a baby in my arms.

Precipitous labor/birth – lasting 3 hours or less from the start of contractions. That’s what I had. I was completely unprepared. I was not pushed into interventions, a c-section wasn’t required. But the birth I experienced was so far outside of what I could have imagined to expect that I struggled to get through it. There was no adjusting through each phase of labor, there was no easing into transition. I was thrust through the process of birth to find myself on the other side, baby on my chest, wondering how in the world that happened.

Birth is unpredictable. No matter what you know, no matter how many children you have had in the past, each labor and birth can surprise you. I think it is important to plan for the birth that you want. The birth you are most comfortable with and that will be the most fulfilling for you. Whether that includes pain management medications, a c-section, or you at home with no medical assistance – choose the birth you want and fight for it if you have to. Find the support you need to achieve your ideal birth.

But don’t close yourself off completely to the possibility that it won’t go according to plan. Things happen. You could change your mind in the middle of your natural birth and decide you need an epidural because the pain is too much or you have had a long and exhausting labor. Baby could get stuck or mom or baby could be in distress and need to go in for an emergency c-section.

Having a baby is a wonderful thing. It is the miracle of life. A woman’s body – working together with her baby/babies – creating, sustaining, and bringing a new life into the world. It is an incredible process and should be approached as such. Birth is also an unknown, and should be approached respectfully, with the understanding that things won’t always go according to your ideal plan. I encourage you, as you prepare to get pregnant, or already are, research all possibilities, even if you don’t want them. Don’t know what options or possibilities there are? Here is a small list to get you started:

  • Unassisted home birth – laboring and giving birth at home, without a qualified medical professional (doctor, EMT, midwife) present
  • Home birth – laboring and giving birth at home, with a qualified medical professional present
  • Precipitous birth – labor and birth lasting 3 hours or less from the start of contractions; could lead to unplanned home births, or births in transit
  • Birthing center – home-like setting, typically attended by a midwife, with some of the medical amenities found in a hospital setting
  • Unmedicated (natural) hospital birth – birth in a hospital, attended by an OB or midwife, without use of labor augmentation (drug or physical augmentation) or medicated pain relief
  • Medicated hospital birth – birth in a hospital, attended by an OB or midwife. Could include the use of labor augmentation, continuous IV, epidural, or other medical interventions
  • Caesarean section (c-section) – birth in a hospital, attended by an OB or physician. Could mean you are partially sedated, only use an epidural, or require full sedation.
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