How to Prepare for Birth
Recently I was tagged in a facebook post that contained a graphic titled “This is not preparing for birth...This is preparing for birth”. The first column listed ways in which a lot of expecting parents can begin to prepare for having a baby, most of which included buying things. The second column listed ways that expecting parents can begin to prepare for the realities of labor and childbirth.
The graphic was created by a pretty “crunchy” group, and although I have absolutely nothing against
that group or people who may subscribe to that method for childbirth, I felt it was lacking well-roundedness in the column of “This is preparing for birth”. Things like “reducing toxins” and “empowering yourself with natural alternatives to common medical interventions” just might not be important or relevant to a lot of people’s goals for birth. However, the main message behind these juxtaposed lists resonated with me in a big way.
I’ve walked alongside too many friends who simply check off the “to buy” and “to decorate” list thinking that they’re really preparing for having a baby! I’m not at all saying those things shouldn’t be done. A lot of it is necessary - and fun! But I also don’t believe that a completely “natural”, unmedicated, hypno-birth is the right or chosen path for many couples.
I do think that people want to feel respected as they make decisions about their care. People want to feel a sense of agency - that they are not being coerced or pressured by other more powerful people. People want to feel cared for and that their birthing environment is safe - and not harmful or careless.
So, after staring at that list for a long time, I decided to write my own. The list is not exhaustive, nor is it meant to be a checklist of what to do and what not to do. The “Preparing for birth” list is really how I try to guide my own birth clients. It will take you deeper into the things that really matter, the issues that will have a lasting impact on how you remember your entry into parenthood. So...you are getting a huge peek into the ways that I guide conversations with expecting parents! Of course, being well-prepared for having a newborn in the house also means checking off items on the second list...so go ahead and check those off your to do list as well.
If this list seems overwhelming, choose 5 things that you can focus on during pregnancy. Reach out to friends and family (and a doula!) that can help keep you on track, maybe send you some articles and resources, and boost your confidence along the way. As always, I’m here to help!
Preparing for birth:
Getting good nutrition
Getting daily/weekly exercise
Talking with friends and family about their births
Asking your mother about your own birth
Exploring your and your partner’s beliefs about birth
Hanging out with a breastfeeding mom-friend and asking to observe (in the least creepy way possible!)
Going to a La Leche League meeting before your baby is born
Taking a private childbirth education course
Writing out your birth plan and researching terms
Interviewing different care providers to choose the best fit for your family and values
Hiring a birth doula and/or postpartum doula
Calling an IBCLC to set up a private consult, especially if you plan to go back to work while pumping/storing milk
Writing a positive postpartum plan
Practicing comfort measures for labor
Mentally preparing for different birth scenarios (medicated, unmedicated, c-section)
Choosing your birth team carefully (partner, care provider, mom, sister, friend, doula, etc)
Addressing personal issues and receive counseling for things that may affect labor and birth (past trauma, abuse, unhealthy relationships, etc.)
Discussing your birth plan in detail with your care provider; asking lots of questions
Creating a values-based birth plan that can be maintained regardless of the mode of delivery or the specific circumstances
Identifying risk factors for postpartum depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders; noting if you are predisposed to any of these disorders
Identifying strengths and weaknesses in communication and trust with your spouse/partner; how you solve conflict, how each of you likes to rest/recharge/de-stress
Maybe necessary or fun, but NOT preparing for birth:
Washing and folding all the baby clothes
Researching stroller, crib, monitors, baby carrier, all the gear, etc.
decorating the nursery
Googling a birth plan and printing it out
Buying a breast pump
Packing your hospital bag
Picking a baby name
Installing a car seat
Buying nursing bras
Receiving weekly emails in which the main message is “Your baby is the size of a [mango]!”