You know how there are times when you’re talking to someone and you just know it’s not socially acceptable to say what you’re really thinking? UMMM, me neither.
But really, there are several statements I hear repeatedly from people who are getting ready to have babies.
And as a birth worker it can be hard to know exactly how to respond in a way that is supportive and loving, but communicates the importance of breaking through these misconceptions.
On the one hand, I know people are expressing what they feel in the moment-their perspective at that point in time. In fact, they say a lot of things I said when I was expecting my first son. And maybe it will be fine...or at least as good as they expected it to be. Sometimes that's enough for people.
On the other hand, I want to offer an opportunity to get through the paradigms that statistically put them at risk. I want to share the stories of friends and clients who had birth experiences they wish they had invested more time and effort into.
And, so I humbly offer what I am saying in my head when I hear the following:
“Our schedules are so crazy that we don’t have time for a birth class."
Make the time. That's all there is to it. Make the time as if it were required. And don't sign up for a one day class. You can't learn, absorb, and process all there is to know about your coming birth in one day.
There are resources that fit you and your schedule. Get an e-course that you can watch 20 minutes at a time, take a private birth class with an instructor that will work with your schedule, and if all else fails, give yourself permission to say “no” to anything that conflicts with making it to a class.
This is important-your active participation in preparing and experiencing this is important. Consider how much time and effort families put into a wedding. The transition into parenthood (even if it's a repeat) deserves the time. You deserve the time. Claim it. Take it.
“Morons have babies everyday and it’s fine.”
Are you friends with these morons? Or have you at least had an in-depth conversation with one about their birth experiences? How did the birth go? Is that what you want? Don’t assume these “morons” are having great or even ok births.
Keep in mind one in three babies is born by c-section in large part due to poorly (usually overly) managed labors and miseducation. Models of care that focus on a "wait and watch" approach have c-section rates well under 10%. We know it's harder to take care of a new baby and recover from major surgery at the same time. We are only beginning to understand the life-long implications of cesarean birth for both the birthing person and the baby.
Additionally, according to research 25-34% of families identify their birth experience as “traumatic.” If you think staring life with a new baby is going to be a challenge, consider how it would be with a caregiver who has PTSD. Healthy families need healthy parents from the start.
Finally, remember that our birth-related mortality rate is the highest of all the developed nations even though we spend more on our births than other developed countries.
Things aren’t fine in the birth world. And parents have a lot of power to change that through becoming educated including being thoughtful about choosing your provider. (That includes asking some hard questions. There are some gems here, but don’t limit yourself to this list.)
Don’t do what the morons do unless you are aspiring to be one.
“The doctors, midwives, and nurses will tell us what to do.”
(For this one, I need to take some deep breaths.) I have worked with many awesome doctors, nurses, and midwives. And I also have a “do not work with” list. The doctors who are on my list aren’t bad people, but I've seen them do things that make it extremely hard for my clients to feel safe and supported.
Doctors, midwives, and nurses are people. People with individual experiences and perspectives. They have their strengths and they have their weaknesses, blind spots, and struggles. Just like you and me.
In the end, it’s your birth. Own it. Don’t give your power away to someone you have only known for a collective few hours (or haven’t even met yet.) What one doctor, nurse, or midwife tells you may be different from the next one. Birth is that nuanced.
Use the experience and expertise of your carefully chosen care providers, but take the time to create a vision for your birth. Even if you want an epidural as soon as you can get it, still give attention to how you want your birth to go.
"It’s going to be terrible no matter what.”
I could go into how our thoughts manifest into our realities. I believe and experience that every day. And many have done a darn good job explaining it so I won't.
I'll just say be aware of what kind of information you're consuming about birth. Are you seeking out positive birth stories and videos? Or are you overly preparing yourself for what could go wrong and listening to the terrible birth stories from every stranger you pass? (Side note: Why do we tell terrible stories to expecting families?!)
Birth is a distinct experience. What you see on TV and in movies is not birth-or rather, it’s part of birth (maybe) but certainly not the whole. You could go your entire pregnancy (and life) seeing a lot of scary and chaotic images of "what birth is like." But it's not the truth.
I can’t really put into words what birth is like because it’s such a distinct experience. For one thing, it is experienced with a completely different side of the brain than we usually use. So if I say, for example, there will be a point where everyone in the room has seen your vagina and you really don’t mind, your brain might not be able to compute that until you've lived it.
Birth is an opportunity to learn about yourself-to come face to face with your world view and see how it’s working (or not working) for you. Your feelings about sex, your body, your place in the world are at play here. (Can you see why it's so important to take a holistic birth class?) Sometimes these realizations come hard, but they are worth it.
And going into birth with the expectation that it’s going to be terrible is like going into your wedding expecting the caterer to skip town on the day of. Maybe it will or maybe it won’t happen, but if it’s something you’re expecting you’ll add a lot of stress to your life waiting for it to happen.
"It’s our first time so we’re just going to see what happens…"
Your first birth experience isn’t an excuse to skip the preparation. Yes, there will be things about your birth you'll wish you could have done differently. But don’t set yourself up for the entire experience to be like this.
Lean into your birth. Lean into figuring out what you want and how to get it. Then let go of what happens. The work is worth it no matter what happens.
If you’re afraid of over preparing, over analyzing, over stressing (and yes, that happens) get some help-someone who has done it a lot (like a doula) who knows how to put it into perspective for you.
So maybe this post was only half as snarky as I expected.
In fact, maybe with a little work I could turn these responses into loving and supportive encouragement.
What do you think? What types of comments have you heard that made you want to open the conversation?