I knew next to nothing about pregnancy and childbirth when I first got pregnant three and half years ago. I knew even less about the medical industry. Thankfully, my husband and I had talked about a few things before hand, like using a midwife and having a natural childbirth (which didn’t seem like a big deal before I got pregnant), but I was pretty much clueless. I think some people thought Johnathan was brainwashing me/making all my decisions for me (not true, for the record), but I could not be more thankful that he encouraged me to research and learn. So, I hope you do, too. I hope you research and know what you are getting yourself into with childbirth. I am super passionate about informed decisions. 😉
Even though it’s gaining much ground in the US, I still think it’s pretty common for people to roll their eyes when they hear the words “natural childbirth”, “midwife”, or “waterbirth”. It seems to me like there is a growing animosity towards the whole “natural living” thing. I’ve realized that a lot of people are offended when you make decisions different from them, even though it most likely has nothing to do with them. A lot of people are not going to understand why you would want to have a natural childbirth, and by that I mean un-induced, un-medicated, no medical intervention birth. (You do not have to be in a birth center or having a homebirth, it is possible to have a natural birth in a hospital. Some places just make it harder than others.) So it is likely that some people will think you are crazy or dumb.
So the first thing I would say, is that it’s ok to figure it out. IT IS OKAY to not have your mind made up about all this the moment you find out you are pregnant. Give yourself the space, and demand the space from others, to think about it all. It is also not too late to change your plans as long as that baby is still inside your body. I have heard countless stories of people who were unhappy with their care provider, but stayed with them anyway. There are some amazing doctors, nurses and midwives, and there are some horrible ones. I have read articles making fun of “that mom with the birth plan”, but let me tell you, you have every right to want your birth to go a certain way. Depending on who/where you choose to deliver your baby, it is possible that you will be the only one fighting for your birth to go the way you want. The biggest thing you can do is find a provider that you trust, that respects you, and gives you room to make your own decisions. Of course, you have to understand that hospitals have certain policies and protocols that may interfere with some of your plans, and each provider has certain preferences as to how they provide care. There are different freedoms and limitations depending on if you are at a hospital, in a birth center, or at home. So talk through how you want things to go. A good provider will be able to tell you what is within and outside of their control, and will do it without insulting your intelligence.
The internet is a wonderful thing, so google the crap out of everything. This is another thing people want to scoff at, but the truth is, there is a ton of good, quality information out there. Of course, there is bad information, too, and you have to use proper discernment to figure out what is valid and what isn’t. It’s always a good idea to click on the links in any articles you read, and make sure more than one person/site is giving the same information. I can’t tell you how many times I have clicked on links to find that they don’t actually back up what the author is saying. Be very wary of any info you come across that is more or less attacking one side or the other. If an author sounds like they think this option is great and this option is stupid, then that’s probably what they think, and they aren’t being realistic about both sides. The most common approach I’ve seen people take in trying to persuade others that they are right, is trying to convince them that the alternative is unintelligent, which is powerful stuff if you aren’t aware of it. Another good rule is to not put too much stock in personal stories. I’ve read an article about a mom’s waterbirth that went horribly, and the article made it sound like this was the norm. There are articles out there about how someone’s waterbirth was beautiful and blissful. I had a waterbirth with Miles, my second, and you know what? It wasn’t that great. I probably won’t do that again if I ever have another kid. You can read these stories and learn from them, but then move on. Every single person’s experience is different and it is unwise to think yours will go the way someone else’s did. On the same note, while the internet is a truly amazing resource, so are the people who have been through childbirth. It is all too common for us to turn to the internet and never ask our questions to real people with real brains and insight. I would have never known that some people eat or encapsulate their placentas (yes, that is a real thing) if I hadn’t talked to a real person about it. I actually only knew two people who’d had a natural childbirth, and I think I would have been much better prepared had I had more conversations with people who had done it before.
Understand that part of making decisions is being prepared for the potential consequences. If you are educated about the options, and aren’t making decisions out of feeling pressured or manipulated, then you need to accept that you will have to live with your decisions, whatever the outcome. Part of being able to do this peacefully is knowing the risks, benefits, and the likelihood that those things will occur. I can’t even count the times I’ve heard someone say “I would just be so scared something would happen” but it felt like people were really trying to say, “Wouldn’t you blame yourself forever if something horrible happened? Cause it would be your fault, ya know.” The truth is, there is absolutely the chance that something could go wrong no matter where you give birth. (People seem to forget that horrible things happen in hospitals, too.) There will be things that no one can predict or control. But thankfully, there is a God who is completely in control of all things. There is no decision I can make that will abate His sovereignty. We are human, and we have to do our best and be wise in the choices we make, but the Lord is always bigger than us, and fully capable of accomplishing his will regardless of us.
Lastly, know that natural birth is excruciatingly painful. In all honesty, I am saying this because I was not prepared for this one. I don’t know if it’s just that most people get epidurals or what…but this is something that I didn’t take all that seriously. I have actually heard more than one person talk about how much they enjoyed childbirth, but most people tend to just gloss over and joke about the pain. I know it’s not the same for everyone, but they usually say something like “It hurts, but then you have your baby and it’s all worth it!” They don’t say (or didn’t to me, at least) that having that baby in your arms at the end of it will not make it hurt one ounce less in the middle of it all. I wish somebody had sat me down, told me to listen really close, looked in my eyes and said, “This is going to be the worst, most unimaginable, “kill me now” kind of pain you will probably ever be in. It is going to absolutely suck.” Then maybe I would have paid attention. My default mode of thinking was “Women all over the world do this every day without medicine, and I can do it, too.” Which was 100% true, but I did not know that during labor I would have truly given absolutely anything for someone to just cut that baby right out of me and end my misery. Not in a joking kind of way. In a very real, get me a doctor with a knife, I don’t care what my research has told me, I want this over now, kind of way. Don’t get me wrong, “they” were right and it was totally worth it, but I won’t be sad if I never have to do it again.
For us and our “low-risk” pregnancies, the potential for unnecessary intervention inside a hospital was riskier than having our baby outside a hospital. We believed that a natural birth was the safest option for our babies and for me. For every risk of birthing a child outside a hospital, there is a risk to birthing a child inside a hospital. The likelihood of those risks coming to fruition is what pushed us towards a birth center.
Unless this is a completely normal thing where you live or among your friends, be prepared for some judgment. The people who go against the grain don’t get the luxury of making uninformed decisions. That privilege is only afforded to those who do what everyone else does. Believe me, people will ridicule you for doing something different no matter how much research you did. Maybe things are different now, but the first time I got pregnant I had pretty much no one around me, besides my husband, encouraging me in this decision. I felt pretty lonely in all of it, but we did it, and I couldn’t be happier that we took the route we did, and I would absolutely do it a third time…if I had to.