After my post above, I felt it was important to address how we can better navigate the maternity care system to begin to stack the odds in our favour when it comes to having a positive birth. This list is not exhaustive and, hopefully, the first point addresses the most important issue of all:
1) Let go of the expectations of others and prioritise your own wellbeing- what I mean by this is, get clear on what matters to you and begin to work from there. Don’t worry about other mums are doing or what your sister did or what the celebrities are up to. Just get clear on what you want and need.
2) Find someone ‘in-the-know’ to support you- ideally hire an independent midwife or a doula but if finances are a strain then speak to anyone you know that’s had a positive birth, ask them if they would mind being your birth partner or being available for you on the phone. Trust me, the support of someone that has been there and done it is invaluable.
3) Write a birth plan- yes, controversial I know but if you don’t write it down, how will your midwife know what is important to you. Write down your ideal scenario, then write what is still important to you, even if things don’t go perfectly and finally write down what you’d like if you need a c-section. Do you need someone to stay with you and talk you through what’s happening? Do you still want skin-to-skin? Do you want certain music? Anything you need to keep you in that positive mindset and feeling that sense of control is really important and it does matter.
4) Think seriously about where you want to give birth- being completely frank and honest, if you plan to give birth in hospital you have to understand that that comes with a massive rise in unnecessary medical interventions. I’m not saying ‘don’t give birth in hospital’, I’m just saying make sure each decision you make comes from an informed place and that you are making it for the right reasons. Which leads me on to the next point…
5) If you are faced with a decision to make, ask all the questions that come to mind and make sure you make the decision with all the facts at hand. Own that decision and it will be a lot easier when you look back.
6) Remember- we live in a society that fails to understand the magnitude of the impact of birth. It barely values women, it certainly doesn’t value mothers and it has no regard for birth. So, when it comes to giving birth, no matter what happens, it isn’t your fault. If we have a negative experience, it can be easy to feel as if we did something wrong or that we must be the one to blame. If you do have a negative experience, please, please, please talk to someone about it. Birth trauma is becoming more and more widely recognised now and there is more and more support available for it. This is especially important if you are pregnant following a previously traumatic experience- let your midwife know and she can refer you for more help from a specialist midwife or a mental health specialist.
Of course we cannot predict the future, we can’t control every last aspect of what will happen when we give birth but we can stack the odds in our favour. We can ‘plan for a positive birth’. The above suggestions are far from the whole picture, if you’d like further support- we can offer you antenatal education, we can offer you in person support at our weekly Cake Club and soon I will be able to offer you that support in the moments of birth too. If you aren’t local- then search your local area for support or check out online resources, such as Make Birth Better, The Positive Birth Movement or Birth Rights or contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can support you in that way.
Finally, to end on a happier note- change is coming. The world of birth is beginning to shift and by the time our daughters come to birthing babies of their own, they won’t be navigating the broken system that we are today. They will be birthing their babies, with the innate knowledge of their own power and they will be doing it surrounded by the love of everyone around them.