Excerpted from "10 Things I Wish All Women Knew about Giving Birth," by Aviva Romm, M.D.
1. Birth is a spiritual journey; it’s also primal.
Birth is, to say the least, a physically and emotionally demanding experience. Approaching the challenge as a spiritual journey can help you dig deep into your core for the resources to persevere, and to learn about yourself and your innate strength and power.
2. Birth should not be taken lying down.
Lying down simply doesn’t let gravity do the work of helping your baby come down and out! Walking, moving your hips like a belly dancer, and generally staying active facilitates a more physiologic process for your baby than lying on your back in a hospital bed, which increases your chances of a cesarean.
3. Contractions are amazing sensations that get your baby born.
During my own births, I used my imagination and awareness to dive deep into the sensation of my muscles working to help my baby get born. This focused awareness transformed my perception of the pain of birth into the power of birth.
I even used the term “expansions,” rather than “contractions,” to help me think about the sensation in a new way. It did not make the experience less intense, but it made the sensation my ally rather than my enemy. As I welcomed each new wave of labor, I knew I was closer to bringing my baby into my arms.
4. Fear stops labor.
So learning to transform fear into power and confidence is essential for a smooth birth. How is this done? Make sure you feel safe where you are birthing, that you have good support in labor, and that you have talked with your birth provider about any fears you are harboring or repressing about your health and safety, your baby’s health and safety, or the birthing process. Being educated and informed can help you to dispel fears.
5. Question authority! (Remember, nice girls can ask questions and say no.)
So if something is recommended or expected that makes you uncomfortable or you’re not sure of the reason, ask! And if you’re not comfortable with the explanation, you can decline. Having an advocate there who can help you sort through decisions, especially when you are otherwise occupied doing the work of labor, is especially valuable.
6. Women should eat and drink during labor.
Current scientific evidence has demonstrated that women who eat and drink in labor are not at significantly increased risk of food aspiration in the event of a cesarean, which has been the much-feared reason for keeping women on an ice-chips and fruit-pops-only regimen in labor for the past few decades.
In fact, keeping up your energy with light and nourishing fare has been found, by many midwives and mamas, to facilitate labor and reduce the likelihood of labor petering out, or needing Pitocin or a cesarean.
7. Your body is a marvelous, perfectly crafted force of nature.
Believing in yourself is powerful medicine! Yet most of us go into labor believing our bodies might be lemons—the reject in the batch that just doesn’t work properly and needs to be sent back to the factory on a recall.
The reality is, nature is amazing at creating powerful systems that work. Setting intentions and learning to have confidence in the birthing process—and your body—are among the most powerful tools you can use to go with the natural flow of labor and birth and gain some self-enlightenment in the process.
8. Obstetrics is big business.
There is a whole system of medicine out there, called obstetrics, making a fortune off of your body! In fact, there is enormous financial incentive for obstetricians to do ultrasounds (in my community, a doctor’s office charges the insurance company $700 per ultrasound), offer endless tests, and perform cesareans rather than support natural, vaginal births.
Want to avoid unnecessary medical interventions? Then make your body your business by getting educated. Read about birth. Some good places to start: Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, and my book, The Natural Pregnancy Book.
Related: Doula or Don't Ya?
9. Birth is something you do, not something that is done to you.
Whether you dance, groan, or Hypnobirth your way through labor, it ain’t called labor for nothing. It takes work, focus, and sweat to get a baby out. Powerful muscles move a 6- to 8-pound being (on average) a short distance through a relatively small space. This means effort is required.
Just as with any hard task, being realistic about what’s involved, setting your mind and heart to it by getting psyched ahead of time, and then having strategies to call upon when your energy or determination wavers will get you to the other side of the finish line with power and pride.
10. Birth can be ecstatic.
While there might be some huffing and puffing, grunting and groaning, and even a holler or two if you need to vocalize the intense energy moving through you as you bring your baby out into the world, birth can be an ecstatic experience, particularly when you appreciate yourself for the accomplishment of a hard job done with determination and experience the ecstasy of holding your new baby in your arms.
As you get closer to your baby’s birth, and even in labor, here’s a simple mantra to tell yourself: I’ve got this!
Read the full article by Dr. Aviva Romm in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine.