In birth, as in all of life, there are no guarantees. Unexpected events and circumstances can and do happen, but there are several steps that you can take in advance to maximize your likelihood of achieving a happy, joyful birth, even if it does not go exactly according to plan.
1. Be as healthy as possible as early as possible
Even before you are pregnant, prepare your body by eating well, exercising and avoiding potentially harmful substances. In addition to working for a healthy body, do everything you can to prepare your mind and emotions. Eliminate or lessen sources of stress, spend time focusing on relaxation, prayer, meditation or your preferred means of calming your mind. Starting your pregnancy with a healthy mind and body will go a long way toward a healthy, happy journey all the way through. But even if you start making healthier choices in the third trimester, it is better than not at all.
2. Get educated
A comprehensive childbirth class is an excellent starting point for learning about your options, connecting with other parents and discovering local resources. Many parents enter pregnancy feeling unsure about what questions to ask or how to start establishing their preferences. A class will give you resources, clarity and direction.
3. Choose the right person and the right place
It is noble to try and change the system, and we applaud those who work to do so. However, when it comes to having your baby, it is wise to surround yourself by people who are already fully behind your own philosophies. When choosing a provider and birth place, ask other parents about their experiences, learn statistics, and make sure that your doctor or midwife sees you as an equal partner and will support your goals.
4. Don’t ignore red flags
If something doesn’t feel right, you feel like you are simply being “pushed through” the system, you get inadequate answers to questions or your questions are avoided, or you have any other nagging concerns, it may be wise to consider why you are feeling this way. If something doesn’t feel right, odds are that there is a reason behind those doubts and they are worth addressing.
5. Make decisions for yourself
You are the parent and hold the ultimate responsibility for the decisions that are made about your body and on behalf of your baby. It is very important to have a doctor or midwife that you trust, and it is also very important to discuss questions, concerns and options with your doctor or midwife. But don’t surrender your decision-making abilities or throw out your critical thinking skills. Gather information, then make the decision that you feel is best.
6. Surround yourself with support
When the time comes to give birth, you’ll need all your focus for the work at hand, and there shouldn’t be any question about the support, encouragement, love and most importantly, respect that will be shown by every member of your birth team. If the right people are in place, then even if a challenge or complication arises, you’ll have this most critical piece in place. As Anna Verwaal said, “A woman, as long as she lives, will remember how she was made to feel at her birth.”
7. Have expectations that can be met
You can’t necessarily expect to have a certain kind of labor or expect that nothing will veer off course, but you CAN expect to be given choices and to have options explained to you. If these things happen, then you can have a happy birth. Being treated with dignity and respect is a simple request and it should be standard across the board (though it is not always). As Penny Simkin (respected author and doula) wrote “Feeling in control (not necessarily of the labor, but of your response to it and of the decisions being made) and feeling well-cared for are more important to your long-term satisfaction than whether your labor is easy or difficult, normal or complicated, long or short, painful or pain-free. Do what you can to make your child's birth a good memory."
A happy, harmonious birth happens when the reality of the labor and birth experience lines up with the expectations a mother has for the experience and she is treated well through out the experience. These "rules" will set you on a path to a joyful experience as you welcome your child into the world!
To learn more, check out our Birth Choices and Preparing for Birth books. These guides have the perfect balance of information without being overwhelming and walk you through the steps for planning a happy birth.
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