Preparing for the birth you want

A good birthing experience doesn’t simply happen on its own. Thoughtful reflection, selection, and preparation are needed to ensure a gentle and positive birth since left to itself, a woman in our culture is all too often taught that giving birth is a medical problem requiring hospitalization and treatment. While this certainly can be the case should complications arrive, most births are uncomplicated and should instead be considered a normal part of life that a woman’s body is designed and knows how to do. Given this realization, each woman should be given the opportunity to prepare for the birth that she desires, whether it be an all natural home birth or a hospitalized birth with an epidural. Many women don’t know where to start when preparing for birth since they don’t know what options are out there or even that it doesn’t have to be a traumatic, medicalized, or significantly painful experience.

Through careful research and daily preparation, I was able to have an amazing and peaceful birthing experience. I chose to see a certified midwife and have a water birth in the birthing center of a local hospital with the use of no drugs and only the necessary monitoring (they checked the fetal heart rate twice with a doppler and also took my blood pressure when I first arrived). From the very first contraction to my daughter’s arrival, it took 4 hours. In fact, it was only 1 hour and 5 minutes after we arrived at the hospital that I caught my daughter myself! Our birthing experience was the most powerful and amazing thing I’ve ever gone through, and I’m convinced that it wouldn’t have been like this if I hadn’t take then time to carefully select and prepare for what I wanted to happen.

To prepare for the birthing experience YOU want to have, make sure you consider the following:

1) Insurance coverage; did you know that many providers in the US (including major ones like Blue Cross, Blue Shield) cover attended home births at the same rate that they cover hospital births? Midwives are also generally covered at the same rate as an obstetric physician, but unless you ask, you won’t know! Most other countries (socialized ones in particular) are very much in favor of home births and midwives and the rates of using these are much higher (like around 30%) than in the US (which is currently at less than 1% for home births–interesting, because home births have much fewer complications than comparable births!).

2) Hospital and birthing center philosophies; being a paramedic, I was pretty familiar with the differences in how the hospitals around me viewed women and babies in labor. I was sure to still visit each one that I was considering though, to take a tour and ask questions. There is a HUGE difference in the philosophies from place to place and this will probably be the biggest impact on whether you have the birth experience you want or not (aside from any physical complications whose necessity overrides any desires). Some good questions to ask are:
  •  Mother and fetal monitoring requirements (do you have to be hooked up to machines for the whole time? Do you have to have internal exams every so often?).
  • Can I wear the clothing I want to birth in, or must I wear a hospital gown?
  • What are my options for birthing environments and positions (bed, stool, tub, shower, etc.)?
  • Number of people allowed in the birthing room
  • Will you stay in one room for labor, birth, and recovery?
  • Can the baby room-in with you, and may a parent be with him or her at all times?
  • What sorts of things can you refuse (Vitamin K shot, eye drops, cutting the cord immediately after delivery, leaving the vernix on to be rubbed in, bathing the baby yourself, etc.)?
  • How supportive is the hospital of breastfeeding, skin to skin bonding (did you know that skin-to-skin is the best way to warm up a cold baby?), delayed vaccinations/procedures, and bed sharing?
  • Things you are allowed to bring with you and use while laboring/birthing (CD player, food, beverages, aromatherapy machine, etc.).

3) Interview the practitioner; your midwife or Dr. will become very well acquainted with your body and emotions, so choose wisely. I always feel bad when someone tells me they aren’t too happy with their provider–if this happens to you, change to someone else that you’re more comfortable with! A few key things to learn before you decide, or to prompt you to switch to a different person is how much they will respect your wishes for a natural birthing experience, if you will be seeing the same provider at each appointment, how much he or she will listen to your concerns or if they’ll just be overlooked, how available they are between appointments and during the night and weekends, and how overall supportive they are of you and how comfortable you are with them. Don’t let someone else take away the experience you want to have from you!

4) Consider various birthing methods/philosophies; “Lamaze” is the popular thing around my neck of the woods, but frankly, after seeing enough women give birth using this method on TLC’s A Baby Story, I wasn’t sure I wanted much to do with it. 🙂 Panting, pushing, counting…come on, seriously? Instead of signing up for the first class I found, I spoke with colleagues, my midwife, and did Internet research (including watching lots of YouTube videos) before deciding that I wanted to go with HypnoBirthing (the Mongan Method). With this method, you learn and practice deep relaxation (self hypnosis) to help you achieved a very relaxed, peaceful state of mind (with complete awareness the whole time) during birthing. There are also supportive things like deep breathing, massage, and positioning that all help to ensure that your body doesn’t fight against your uterus as it ends up doing with Lamaze any method that has you panting and pushing by force. It worked awesomely for me to allow a gentle and fast birthing that wasn’t even the most painful thing I’d ever felt. This involved me practicing the HypnoBirthing scripts every night for weeks before the birth, though!

5) Communicate your desires; You can’t expect people to be mind readers, so open communication is key. Discuss your desires and your plans with your provider well in advance; also discuss what his or her reasons would be if they were ever to override your communicated wishes. While this will hopefully prevent any problems when you give birth, be prepared to be assertive if you need to be. Sometimes, a mother’s rights and desires are cast aside during labor and delivery–be prepared to speak up and advocate for yourself should this happen. Since I know I will be concentrating on my body during birth, my husband is the person responsible for advocating for my wishes when I give birth.

I didn’t actually write a birth plan, but I was sure to make my desires known to my midwife, husband, and the nurses who met me when I arrived at the birthing unit. A birth plan can be a particularly good idea if you don’t see the same practitioner each time or if someone unfamiliar to you is assisting you in your birthing. Earth Mama Angel Baby offers a very comprehensive one online that’s free and easy to personalize with many natural options.

6) Expect the best! You’ve done your research and preparation–spend time every day listening to or reading positive birthing affirmations and doing things that will help you feel prepared and in control of your experience. A relaxed mother may be the most powerful force in having a relaxed birthing both for the mother and the baby.
 Giving birth is a beautiful experience that should be celebrated at every level. It is natural, normal, and a woman’s body knows how to do it. Deciding on and preparing for the birthing experience you want you and your baby to have is so very important. Don’t leave it up to someone else to decide for you!

Some links I recommend:
LoveBug’s Birth Story
Birthing Q & A
MotheringDot Community Forums (scroll down to the birthing section)
Diaper Swapper’s Birth Stories & Announcements Forum

What if…you did everything you could to plan for a beautiful birth, and then it didn’t happen? It’d be nice to think that the birthing experience is completely dependent upon the mother’s preparation and attitude, but the truth is that sometimes, things don’t go as planned and dreams go out the window. My friend, Carrie, from, experienced this and will be sharing a “when your birth doesn’t go as planned” article with us as a guest blog. Stay tuned to be sure you don’t miss it!

5 thoughts on “Preparing for the birth you want

Add yours

  1. wonderfully written post! I am so happy that your birthing experience was so beautiful! I just had my 2nd daughter just over a week ago and it was at home w/a midwife as planned. Everything was not exactly perfect (her shoulders got stuck which required my midwife's assistance) but otherwise it was great. It's so nice to have the options, and I agree with you that we just need to educate ourselves and make our own decisions.


  2. When I was younger, I always thought that I would be heavily medicated when I gave birth. Once I became pregnant, I did a lot of research about birthing methods and c-section rates. After reading everything that I could get my hands on and talking to a lot of people that have had hospital and alternative birthing methods, I decided that I wanted to have a water birth.

    I had my son at a local birthing center within 1 block of the nearest hospital (just in case of any complications). It was a wonderful experience where I stayed in the same room almost the entire time from my arrival until we were allowed to go home (within 4 hours of giving birth to my son).

    If we have another child, I hope that I am able to have the same wonderful experience.


  3. Thanks for sharing! I am 5 months pregnant and have always thought I would just go with the typical hospital/epidural birth plan but after reading this post I plan to look more into the other methods out there, thanks for the great links!


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