What I Learned from Birth and Want to Pass on to Expectant Mamas

1. Clarify Your End Goal
When planning on a natural, un-medicated birth it is easy to lose focus on what the end goal is: your baby. In my case, I was so focused on having a natural birth that my motivation shifted so that the natural birth became the means and the end. It was a state of mind that I never wanted to be in. In some ways all the reading I had done to prepare for birth clouded the original purpose behind all the research: to do what was best for my baby. An early adoption of the attitude, "I just want a healthy baby" would have been a good start, but I think that thought could be taken further. I read somewhere that the word "healthy" should be dropped from the idiom. To make that statement that "I just want this baby," with no stipulations attached. Our babies are fearfully and wonderfully made, whether considered "healthy" or not. Desiring my baby above and beyond everything else, would have helped with the very high possibility of labor not going the way I planned.

2. Practice Makes...Labor?
This may be TMI, but I have to mention it because it helped me so much! Throughout pregnancy I would "practice" labor in the only place possible: the restroom. One bodily function uses the same muscles as the pushing stage in labor. Every time I would actively use only my pelvic floor muscles to gain muscle memory of only using that muscle group. Don't use your glutes! {I told you this was TMI!} This is the reason why pushing on a birthing stool is so effective, it resembles a commode. My nurses and midwives were surprised at how well I was able to focus my pushing at the correct muscle group, especially with an epidural. I believe my practice pushing made every pushing contraction effective so that I wasn't wasting precious energy. Although this next "practice" doesn't have any thing to do with labor, if you are planning on breastfeeding I would practice. What I did to "practice" was to hold a doll or a stuffed animal in the various nursing positions. I got familiar with where I place my hands and arms. I also tried to get accustom to my nursing pillow. I found this helpful in the hospital and in those first few difficult weeks.

3. Let Your Heart In On It
After we chose the natural birth/birthing center option for the birth of Ethan, I understood that there was a chance of needing to transfer to a hospital. I asked my midwife every question I could think of relating to transfers. I wanted to know how, when, where, what the ratio of transfers to successful births. I covered every detail because I wanted to be prepared. I even named my birth plan "My Birth Preferences" because I knew that life intervenes and the plans that my husband and I had made may not reach fruition. I knew everything that could happen. My heart just wasn't prepared for it to happen to me. There was a disconnect in the 18 inches between my head and my heart. I wish I had stopped researching and filling my brain with stats and info for just a bit. I should have found a quiet place and prayed repeatedly about the various potential outcomes of Ethan's birth. I know that if I had laid every outcome as Jesus' feet, my heart would have been content, being consciously confident that Ethan's birth was in His hands.

4. Confront Your Fears
Before Ethan's birth I had never been admitted to a hospital. No broken bones, no surgeries, nothing. Thoughts of having a hospital birth made me nervous. I was more scared about the procedures that would be standard at the hospital than I was about childbirth itself! This fear had a part in me choosing to have an un-medicated birth at a birth center {or so I thought!} Actually, I believe it was when I learned that you needed to have a catheter for an epidural that pushed me over the edge into the "au naturelle" camp. Yes, I was more freaked out about a catheter than the device that gets inserted into the spine. So when I was told that I needed to check into the hospital, an overwhelming wave a fear washed over me. The first thing I thought of is that I would have to have an IV. Yuck! In hindsight, it seems silly how frightened I was. Getting my first IV was a turning point. I unnecessarily dwelt how I thought an IV would feel, which wound me up into a little ball of nerves. Although I know that dealing with fear is usually found when in the midst of experiencing said fear, I could have curtailed a few irrational fears with frequent talks with my husband, mom, or my dad {who has seen his share of IV's}. However fruitful those conversation could have been, Ethan's birth forced me to deal with those fears and I am happy to say I am now IV-phobia free!

5. Over Prepare
I don't want this to read "drive yourself crazy." My meaning is more about the physical than mentally preparing. Dan and I had our "go bag" packed for several weeks {since week 37}. Obviously, I had been packed for a birth center stay rather than a hospital stay so there were some items {mainly food} that I could have done without. Honestly, I didn't use much out of our go bag but of the items I did use, I couldn't imagine my experience without them. I imagined Ethan's birth with me being all hot and sweaty and I hate being sweaty. I packed many items with this in mind: a fan, headband, etc. In hindsight, I don't remember sweating once in the five days I was at the hospital. All I remember is being freezing cold. The one item that I was so close to leaving out because of sheer laziness became my most used comfort measure: one of Dan's clean tube socks filled with white rice. Dan threw that in the microwave countless times for me to put by chest or underarms to keep warm. Over prepare means including anything you could possibly need for labor even if you think there isn't even a remote chance of you using it. You may be surprised at how often those remote chances pop up.

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