3 Ways to Prepare for Birth
It is important to remember that when it comes to birth, there is really no set plan. Your body and your baby will not always cooperate with the plans that you have set for your experience. It is, for some women, important to make plans in order to prepare themself, their team, and their partner/family for what is and is not wanted. For others, it is easier to "go with the flow" and listen to their body in the moment. Understanding which of these you align closer with is the first step in preparing yourself for childbirth. Regardless of which of these you align with, there are 3 questions that are, in my opinion, important to have answered.
What is your ideal birth environment? (i.e. location, sounds, scents, people)
What things are "absolutely nots"? for your birth (i.e. Induction, Epidural, etc.)
Who is your ideal birth team? (i.e. OB, Midwife, Doula, etc.)
Choosing Your Ideal Birth Environment
Choosing the location for childbirth doesn't have to be a difficult decision. There is no wrong answer. Your ideal birth environment is the place that stresses you out the least. Stress hormones can inhibit labor, so you will want to be in a location that does not add to the stress of childbirth for you. If the idea of a hospital birth sounds uncomfortable, then a hospital birth may not be for you. If the idea of a home birth is scary or makes you nervous, home birth may not be for you. It all depends on your connotation of each place. For some women, home is the only place they can imagine themselves feeling at ease. Some women feel most comfortable having the support of a hospital staff. Some women find a middle ground and choose a birthing center. There are many options for the location of your birth, take your time and find the one that seems the most comfortable and stress free for you. You are never "stuck" with your first choice. Keep looking if something doesn't feel right.
Take some time to create a peaceful environment for yourself. What sounds do you want to hear? What scent is in the air? Have fun with this and create a memorable environment. Share these things with your doula or your partner and ask for their help ensuring you have what you want and need around you during labor. This includes what people you need around you. Child birth is not a time to people please. This experience is for you, partner, and baby. If someone will add stress to your day, it is important for the health of your baby and yourself to not allow them to attend your birth and not so important to save their feelings. Find the people you need with you.
Figuring Out Your "Absolutely Nots"
Not everything can go to plan when it comes to childbirth, but there are things that you can decide against entirely. Take out a piece of paper and write down all of the items you can think of that may be offered to you during labor and delivery by your provider, doula, partner, or anyone else attending the birth. For example, for many women an Episiotomy is off the table. Some good examples of comfort measures commonly offered are massage, hot water bath or shower, counter pressure, deep breathing coaching, heating pads, meditation/prayer, music, nitrous oxide (laughing gas), opioids, epidural, and many others. Next to each item on your list, "rate" them by number indicating 1. Absolutely not, 2. Maybe, 3. Yes I would like that. You can even go as far in your list as to indicate, for example, which areas you do and do not like to be massaged, etc. Keep this list throughout your pregnancy and make changes as you change your mind. Nothing is ever set in stone, but it helps some women to have a list on hand and can help the birth team (including partner) understand the mother. It is important to understand that you do have options and get to make the decisions you find best for you and your family.
Choosing Your Ideal Birth Team
There are many options for birth care providers. Obstetricians, Family Medicine Practitioners, Midwives, Home birth Midwives, and free birth are all options that you can look into. In my area of Kentucky, we have all of these options and it is fascinating to be in my position and hear why each expecting mother chose her provider. Choosing your birth team is the most important thing you can do to prepare for birth. You are never stuck with a provider. It is okay to "shop around" and find the one who makes you comfortable and the least stressed. It is also important to find a provider that is on board with your choices and willing to allow you the birth you desire as well as communicate with you about the risks and benefits of said choices if warranted. On top of your primary birth care provider, you can choose other members for your birth team. Some women choose to have a doula, specific nurse, perinatal chiropractor, or other professionals that can aid in the birthing process. Again, think about the number of people and if that many bodies would be stressful for you. It is okay to ask for certain members of the team to be there in certain stages of labor and delivery (i.e. chiropractor only during early labor, etc.).
The most important thing you can do to prepare for birth is to remember that there is no "birth plan" but there are birth choices. Do your research, ask questions, and make sure you get your answers. You were made for this and you know what you might need in order to birth your child. In the end, it doesn't matter what choices you made, only that you experience birth in a way that you are comfortable with.