Preparing for the Birth
In my midwifery care practice, the process of preparing to give birth takes place months before the woman’s due date. Preparing for labor happens throughout the pregnancy. The woman learns about the process, asks questions, reads, and decides what kinds of things are important to her.
Labor is a unique kind of experience, and each time the same woman gives birth it’s different for her. A first time mother, looking ahead to her birth experience, may want to prepare and not know exactly how to do this. She’s never given birth before, and she doesn’t really know what to expect from her body, her spouse, her baby, and the process itself. Pregnancy can already be a surreal experience at times, emotions are charged, and the physical changes are not always the easiest to adapt to.
The preparations for labor can be divided into two main groups; physical preparations and emotional preparations. Physical preparations can include; exercises to prepare the body for labor, eating a good diet, using herbal teas or supplements to prepare the uterus to give birth, getting the water birth tub set up, and of course logistical preparations for the birth (who takes care of other kids, ride to hospital), and for after the birth (arranging time-off for the husband from work, maternity leave), assembling the necessary supplies (these will differ depending on chosen place of birth), packing a hospital bag, and of course cooking and freezing meals for you and your family to eat after you give birth.
Emotional preparations for labor are very important, and many times they are not given much credit. The relationship which naturally forms between a midwife and her client during the pregnancy makes the process of emotional preparation a natural part of the care. We discuss what attitudes are helpful for giving birth, and which are not. We talk about the value of processing previous birth experiences BEFORE giving birth, discussing particularly a past traumatic event or even something that happened that the mother still doesn’t quite understand. This can be something that happened in a last pregnancy, birth, or postpartum. It can have to do with a family situation, a situation with her care provider, or a physical event which she still hasn’t fully dealt with. As her midwife, there is a bond of trust and she usually feels comfortable speaking to me about the issues. We wouldn’t do this at the first visit, and only when she feels ready, and there is enough time set aside for the process to feel relaxed and unhurried. Working to eliminate any fears the woman has before the labor will go a long way towards having a healthy birth experience. Fear increases tension, and tension increases pain and decreases coping ability, which sets a woman up for interventions.
Emotional preparation often includes spiritual preparation. What’s the difference? Spiritual preparation includes connecting to a higher power in anticipation for birth. In Judaism, women often compose a list of names of people who need a blessing. The list may include the names of couples trying to get pregnant or people who are in need of a recovery from an illness. The birthing woman reads the names of these people during the hardest part of her labor, asking G-D to bless them. In Judaism, the woman in childbirth is considered to be the closest one can get to G-D, and therefore has a special ability to make requests.
Overall, the preparations a pregnant woman makes for giving birth can really vary. Each woman must decide for herself what is important to her. Reading and learning about the basic process of childbirth is a wise thing to do, though for a woman who has already given birth normally once or twice, she may not feel such a strong desire to review that information again. Certain preparations will be repeated prior to each baby.
There are no rules for preparing for the birth. In general, the woman will be more empowered in her decision making if she prepares a bit for the experience. Informing herself about the process, making sure she has a supportive care provider and birth place which takes her wishes into account and honors her personal dignity, and a positive attitude are, in my opinion, the most important things a mother can do to prepare herself for labor.