Peace is a choice. We can choose to do those things that invite peace into our lives, even when so much around us seems out of control. And that's the topic that we want to introduce to you guys this week- what you can control in your pregnancy and birth. We fear that there's this illusion out there amongst birthing women, that there is no control.
In fact, what triggered this topic for us was coming across a birth story post on Instagram. This woman shared her rather traumatic birth story and concluded it by telling her followers that there's no point in having a birth plan or preparing for the experience because it's all out of your control.
Maybe having that perspective was a coping strategy for her, a way to process a disappointing experience. Because when you don't believe you can control anything, perhaps you're able to maybe more easily release the experience you've had, especially if it wasn't a great one. BUT! women who head into pregnancy and birth believing that everything is out of their control are often the ones who do hardly anything to prepare. And then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when they have a traumatic birth story.
We're not trying to downplay emergency interventions during the course of birth. But 1 in 3 women claiming that they needed a life-saving cesarean? Nope. Research shows that only about 5-10% of birthing women actually needed that cesarean...the others could have avoided the procedure had different choices- choices within control- been made.
Our goal is to give you empowerment and confidence so that you can feel good about the decisions you make for your birth going forward. Don't get us wrong, birth can absolutely throw you curveballs. Things that you cannot control. For example, you can't decide where your placenta decides to locate itself within your uterus. ou can't always control how your baby is going to respond to certain medications or interventions that you have during the course of your birth.
To help you start to see where you have control, we'd like to share two birth stories from mothers who took the My Essential Birth course. (Shared with their permission, of course!)
Major kuddos to this mama & her partner. They both prepared very well together for birth. In the situation they encountered, both voices were absolutely needed. Because her husband prepared so well, he was able to tell her everything she needed to hear- including her options- when they faced a medically-necessary induction due to high blood pressure. In the midst of the Pitocin, she was feeling like her birth was out of control.
Her husband pointed out that even though the induction was out of her control, they were still accomplishing a lot from her birth plan! One of the amazing choices they made was choosing an incredible provider who, in the mother's own words, "gave me options rather than telling me what needed to happen even as things got hairy."
"I’m thankful my husband and I took this course for several reasons. He was a great support system through it all, advocated for me when I couldn’t, and reminded me of the end goal when nothing felt like it was going “right”. I felt very frustrated by all of it because things weren’t going to “plan” due to my BP complications, but despite feeling this way, I felt prepared just knowing what the options were. If it wasn’t for the course I think both my husband and I would’ve felt like we were going in blind, and I wouldn’t have been so adamant in finding the perfect fit in a provider. In the end, it all worked out and we got our healthy baby girl!"
This mother still was able to have a vaginal birth, hold her baby skin to skin, and have a lot of the things that were the end goal on her birth plan. She chose where to give birth, she chose a provider who wasn't going to force anything on her, and she and her husband chose to prepare which meant KNOWING all these choices existed in the first place!
This mother had gestational diabetes and did an amazing job controlling it through diet, but was ultimately put on a small dose of medication. Her provider wanted to schedule an induction as he did for all women on this medication, but in her words, "This went against my plan so I had decided to continue with dates and my exercises and start the raspberry leaf tea. At 39 weeks, I started pumping 15 min/day and walking a total of mile when I could. I started having contractions after the first day of pumping. At 39, 5d the ultrasound measured baby at 7 lbs, 10 oz and I was still 1 cm dilated. A few hours later I had my first labor contractions!"
Wow! This mother, knowing she was healthy and her baby was healthy, chose to avoid an induction by using a few of the "Jumpstart Your Birth" techniques from the My Essential Birth course!
After laboring for a while with very intense contractions, she was about four to five centimeters dilated and her pain was just more than what she felt like she could handle at that point. They chose an epidural, and she talks about how she was grateful for that because it allowed her to get much-needed rest. "I barely had the energy to move on my own, so I wouldn't have been able to push." After pushing for three hours, her little boy finally arrived, they found out he was in a sunny side up position that can make labor quite intense.
"Thank you so much for the podcast and course. I’m thankful for the tips on jump-starting labor so I didn’t have to endure 40-50 hrs of labor like other (woman) at my hospital!"
So did everything go according to her plan? No. But we hope the theme that you're noticing through these two births is what they chose to do.
They chose their provider. Pick one with a low cesarean rate that is 100% supportive of your birth goals!
They chose their birthplace. Pick one with a low birth rate and welcomes your requests!
They chose to avoid an induction by taking matters into their own hands. You and your partner can both control your level of education, commitment, and preparation!
They chose to be admitted to the hospital, they chose an epidural. You can choose to make informed decisions. Let us give you an example... Your baby's heart rate is dipping. Because you're prepared, when your provider comes in you can listen to their suggestions, you can ask smart questions, you can know in advance what your options are and feel good about proceeding.
So your mental dialogue might look something like this: "I recognize that baby's heart rate might be responding to the epidural medication, that's okay because I knew that was a possibility when I requested that epidural. I'm going to choose now to switch positions or switch to an internal fetal monitor, or since things are more of an emergency, we're going to choose that emergency episiotomy or that cesarean birth and we feel good about that choice."
That's a lot of choices involved and it definitely influenced the positive outcomes that they had!
Even when you're faced with situations that are not going according to your plan, if you're knowledgeable about what your options really are, you can influence the outcome positively.
Whatever comes our way, we also get to choose how we feel about it. We can choose to focus on our top birth goals or priorities. Maybe you didn't have an unmedicated birth. But did you have a vaginal birth? Did you get to wear your own clothes? Forego an IV? Did you wait to get the epidural until you were well into active labor? Did you feel knowledgeable, prepared, and a part of the decision making? Have freedom of movement? Did you feel supported and encouraged by your provider and staff? Were you able to avoid an episiotomy? Avoid tearing? Get delayed cord clamping? Did you hold your baby skin to skin or breastfeed within the first hour?
Due to COVID-19, many mothers are feeling like a lot is out of their control. Maybe your doula can't be with you at the hospital. You might have lots of "what-ifs" running through your mind...what if your husband is COVID positive and can't be with you? Will they test your baby? Try to separate you from your baby?
Fortunately, we've tried to give you lots of resources regarding COVID and birth in this podcast. We've certainly done that within our private members' group- given lots of tools to help you have power over that situation. For example, we've given you the World Health Organization and the CDC guidelines that you can put on your phone and take with you to the hospital. That will give you the confidence to say, "These are the guidelines and I actually require my baby to stay with me and I would prefer to nurse them. I'll use a mask, but my baby will stay with me and have skin-to-skin even if I have COVID-19."
Your birth never needs to feel left up to chance or at the whim and mercy of fate! There is so much that you can control even in situations that might not be entirely in your control.