Imagine if you knew exactly what your birth would be like and therefore could prepare accordingly. In my work teaching childbirth preparation, I think about what we need to know about to have a good experience, feel informed, confident and ready, all the time? What do we need to know to have a positive birth, regardless of how our birth unfolds?
‘Birthing From Within’ always inspires me greatly and yet again, as I am continuously searching and working on this issue, I was inspired by Pam England’s ‘knowings’: The Primordial Knowing or instinctual knowing, the modern knowing and knowing yourself.
So what do you need to know as preparation for a positive birth, without knowing how your birth will unfold:
Way back in pre-historic times, a woman obviously didn’t know the same things about birth, as we do today. She wouldn’t have known about her due date in the same way we do and therefore she would not have concerned herself with being ‘overdue’ or induction either. She wouldn’t have known her baby’s sex or her blood type. When she went into labour she wouldn’t have known how many centimeters she was dilated or whether she was labouring at the ‘right’ speed.
What she probably did know about though, was what instinctual and normal birth looks like and sounds like. She would most likely have seen other women birth and she would probably be very familiar with labour behavior. Most of us women today have not had much contact with birth, apart from the media’s picture of drama, emergency, danger, flat on your back with green cloth everywhere.
But apart from all this she would have had an instinctual knowing as well, a bodily knowledge about what to do and how to do it, and this knowledge we still have inside us today, programed in to our bodies. We just don’t know that we know it and it is today a skill to filter through fear and scary images of birth and tune into this bodily knowledge we already have.
This pre-historic woman would probably instinctively have been upright as she birthed, she would probably instinctively have moved her body in the most optimal way for her baby to get into a good position, she would probably also have seeked out a dark, quiet, safe place to birth her baby undisturbed. She would have breathed and used sound instinctively to cope.
So part one of preparing for a good birth in our modern birth culture, is to know what instinctual and undisturbed birth is like. What it looks like and sounds like and how this kind of birth works; what supports it and promotes it. It is also very important to start practicing tuning in to your body’s knowing and trusting your intuition.
But these days we also need knowledge that a pre-historic woman didn’t need. We no longer birth in a cave, surrounded by women with heaps of experience and knowledge of undisturbed birth. We are part of a modern, high technological birth culture, no matter where we choose to birth. Birthing in such a culture is not part of our internal knowledge, it is a skill we need to acquire. The pre historic woman didn’t need to know about induction and due dates, she didn’t need to know about procedures and policies and she didn’t need to know how to communicate with caregivers, who might be coming from a completely different attitude to birth than ourselves. But today we do need this knowledge if we want to maximize our chances of a positive birth.
So, to be able to have a positive birth in our high technological and institutionalized birth culture, we need to gain some very specific skills, which has never before been necessary to a birthing woman:
These skill are things like:
- How does the hospital work, and where does their policies and guidelines come from?
- How can I communicate and negotiate effectively with my caregivers ?
- How can I ask useful questions and make decision in labour and birth. Being part of the decision making process is one of the key elements for a positive birth.
- Do I have to do what the hospital say’s or can I say no? And what does that mean for my birth?
This is not knowledge that is taught in main stream classes at all and it is not knowledge that is available in many books either.
So part two of how to prepare yourself for a positive birth, is about gaining skills for birthing in our modern birth culture.
Now the third thing, which I find very important in preparing for a good birth in our modern birth culture, is to take yourself serious on an emotional level. Take yourself and your fears and worries serious and be brave enough to prepare for the unexpected. Pam England calls this knowing for : “Knowing thyself” . She also believes that this is the most important part of preparation for birth.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I was actually underneath very scared of the ‘un-known-ness’ of birth. But on the surface, I was going to show them all how I definitely didn’t need any of their intervention help. I skipped the cesarean chapters in the birth books and snorted at the epidural part of my hospital class. I was going to have a natural birth!!!!!
Now when I look back, I wish someone would have dared to pull me up here, dared to go into those scary places with me and helped me prepare for the unexpected and prepare to have a good birth, even if I didn’t get the natural one. We can influence birth and make good decisions, which supports and maximizes the potential for natural birth. But we can’t control birth. We can’t immunise ourselves against the things we most hope won’t happen. But if we are brave enough to go there before birth, and open and prepare in our hearts for those things, we immediately maximize our chances of a positive birth. Not necessarily the birth we had hoped for, but a good and positive birth none the less.
So, when I got pregnant with my 2nd baby, I made a lot of different choices to maximize my chances of having a beautiful natural and undisturbed birth. I chose a private midwife and a homebirth and I did lots of preparation. But as I was preparing I realised that even though I had made all these choices to support me in my hopes and wishes for this birth, I could not be sure that I wouldn’t, for whatever reason, need a cesarean. So in order to maximize my chances of having a positive birth, I needed to prepare myself, to open my heart for this possibility and to work out and prepare for how I would make that a good experience if it came to that. It was so hard for me! It was so hard! I had to prepare for what I most hoped wouldn’t happen.
So part three of preparing for a good birth in our modern birth culture, is to take yourself seriously, know who you are and where you are coming from, and prepare for the unexpected.