Pregnancy is so exciting! Feeling that little creature fluttering inside you, everyone telling you that you’re glowing, batting strangers’ hands away from your swollen abdomen — it’s like no other time in your life. But, um, remember that thing looming at the end of these nine months? That inescapable and petrifying biological event? Oh yeah, that.
Whether you are pregnant for the first time or this is so not your first rodeo, I have one very important piece of advice for you to hold onto, tightly: don’t doubt your body. The female body is unbelievable. It was made for this purpose. It knows what it’s doing, even when we don’t. (Thank goodness!)
This is absolutely, positively, 100% not to say that there are not times when intervention is needed, or women whose pelvises are too narrow, or uteruses (uteri?) that rupture, or placentas (placentae?) that do things they’re not supposed to do. Even the crunchiest mama knows that in times gone by, even times not so very long ago, women died in childbirth all the time. Not trying to scare you. We are not in those times anymore.
However, in the huge majority of cases, your body can do this.
I have, in my extreme passion for natural childbirth and education for women on this topic, amassed a few pointers that I think all women who have a teensy tinesy stowaway need to know.
1. Read a book.
Moms. Seriously. How many women read What To Expect When You’re Expecting? Everyone? Well, how many women read obsessively about the actual birth?
I mean, this is only the biggest thing you will ever do. Birthing a human being. It’s kind of a big deal. Don’t you study for a huge test?! This is, some would argue, the biggest test of them all.
When I was laboring with my first baby I mentioned the term “transition.” The labor and delivery nurses were dumbfounded that I even knew what that was.
This is where apparently a lot of women should be embarrassed.
Are you pregnant right now? Do you expect to be expecting soon? Are you just a pregnancy enthusiast? Please, do yourself a favor, and go out and get a book about birth. Not pregnancy, not newborns, not toddlers. Something that gives you the nitty-gritty and tells you about the stages of labor and all that jazz. Take a Lamaze or a Bradley class. Something. Anything.
My personal recommendation, especially if you desire to have a natural birth, is to read the incomparable Ina May Gaskin‘s book Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. She may be a little radical for some, but she is amazing. I read this book, cover-to-cover, during each of my three pregnancies, and I have loaned it to friends who have expressed interest. It is such an amazing resource, and if you don’t know anything about Ina May, please look her up. (I have also heard good things about her original book, Spiritual Midwifery, but I’ve never read it.)
Once you have done some research, whether it’s in a book made of paper or on the internet, hopefully you will be familiar with a nice glossary of terms and phrases, but for me, this one was the biggest.
The magical thing for me about transition is that when you’re hurting and the breaks in between contractions are getting very short and you’re just thinking, “I don’t think I can do this!,” you’re at transition. You’re almost done. Don’t despair!
This was a huge comfort to me. As long as I could still stand it, I was okay. And when it became really, really horrible, I knew I was almost done. This can be your mantra. It hurts, and it hurts like the dickens, but it doesn’t last forever. And at the end of that seemingly endless tunnel is a squalling little pink thing that wants your boob. That’s a story for another post.
3. Don’t doubt your body!
This is another big one. Labor and birth are terrifying, especially when you’ve never done it before. (Spoiler alert: It’s terrifying even if you have done it before!) And really, who among us runs headlong into pain? Especially with the overabundance of information on the internet, telling us how childbirth is the worst pain the human body can withstand? (Yeah, thanks.)
But here’s the thing: Let it happen. Your body can do this. And it helps enormously if you’re armed with the knowledge from earlier that once it feels unbearable, you’re almost there.
How many women are pushed into unwanted, unplanned Cesareans because they “stalled out”? I know so many, personally. And Ina May has a lot of stories about how women sabotage their own labors because they’re scared and they’re doubting themselves. Trust your body. Let it do its job.
Have you done this crazy thing?
Mamas who have made this remarkable journey: What advice do you have to add? Please comment below and share your wisdom!