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When asked about their upcoming birth, some first-time moms respond with, “I’d like to go naturally, but I’m going to play it by ear.” As someone who said the same thing before my first birth, I get this.
We don’t want to commit to something when we’re utterly unsure of the process – what it will feel like, how we’ll respond, what might happen. In truth, we don’t commit because there’s a chance our plans might fail.
And with a first-time birth, the possibility of failure feels big. It’s not like you can practice being in labor!
If you have your heart set on a certain kind of birth (be it natural or not) but tell yourself you’ll “see how it goes” without preparing properly, chances are likely that you’ll be disappointed. Even though I had a relatively easy vaginal birth with my first child, the experience was not at all what I had hoped. An epidural, Pitocin, feeling scared and helpless – most of those things could have been avoided if I had prepared differently.
At the other end of the spectrum, if you approach birth with a rigid mindset of “I will have a natural birth, no matter what!” or “Of course I’m getting an epidural!” you may be just as disappointed as women who “wing it.” The reality is, birth is unpredictable. You can no more “plan” a birth than you can plan a thunderstorm! You can, however, prepare for birth.
As a doula, I encourage my clients to create “birth preferences” rather than a “birth plan.” In this case, semantics are important. By writing your preferences instead of a plan, you maintain the understanding that circumstances beyond your control may change and you’ll need to adapt your preferences accordingly. Women who end up with an epidural when they hoped to go without or a cesarean when they wanted to avoid it often report feeling like they failed. Women, hear me out: You CANNOT FAIL at birth. You can only do what you can with the circumstances you are given – that is the best you can do for yourself and your baby.
The following tips will help you prepare for birth by learning about all of the options available to you in labor and birth, and developing preferences for your birth.