1. Explore the reasons why you want a natural birth, examining your fears, expectations, and influence: So many times when I ask a potential doula client or clients in childbirth preparation class why they want a natural birth I get the same basic answer: Fear. You may think that's strange. How could fear motivate anyone to have a natural birth? But I assure you, it can and it does. I hear; "I'm afraid of needles". "I'm afraid of being numb". "I'm afraid the risks of epidurals". "I'm afraid of getting a cesarean section?" Fears like these can wreck havoc on the best laid plans because if you've made your birth choices with fear as the motivator you've already given power to negativity. I truly believe the only way to make a true decision in life is do so freely. Otherwise the fear has made the decision for you. Address your fears and motives. Place importance on the positives. Educate yourself and see what your desires truly are after you've done so.
It is also good to take time to explore any triggers of your past. Did you have a traumatic experience? A history of depression or abuse? Pregnancy, not just labor and birth, can trigger the memories and pain of these past events. Speak to your care provider, a therapist, your partner/husband, family member, friend, or doula about it. Choose someone you can trust and someone who will actively listen, having your best interest and goals in birth in mind. It's not a good idea to live alone with these feelings and let them fester.
2. Properly educate yourself and limit negative influences: Right now, in 2012, properly educating yourself on natural birth, hell on childbirth in general, goes beyond the $150 hospital birthing course we sometimes so eagerly sign up for. It can be unsettling to learn the last place you can gain true perspective on birthing choices would be at your hospital, but it's true. If your goals are to birth your baby without medication, vaginally (whether medicated or not), or with minimal intervention and augmentation then picking an independent childbirth preparation course is really the best way to go. You can pick an educator who specializes in specific methods (bradley, hypnobabies, lamaze) or one who doesn't have any of those specific affiliations. I would urge you to speak to more than one, interviewing them if you will, and ask specific questions; does your course cover comfort measures, relaxation exercises, variations of labor and birth? Do you cover hospital procedures, unexpected outcomes like cesarean section, etc?
Now, as for limiting negative influences, this can be tricky. Once you start showing everyone has an opinion. Many people share that opinion with you whether you've asked for it or not. There are some who will throw so much salt in your game about your plan to birth without medication or even vaginally, that it can be extremely overwhelming. There are a few things you can do. One is to limit who you share your plans with. Some women who find all the "poo poo'ing" too overwhelming try this. Another way is to simply ignore them. The my body, my baby, my birth so fuck off approach. Choose a way to deal with this negativity that is conducive with your personality, but also try to put yourself in situations where exposure to those negative nelly's is minimal.
Keep in mind that the negativity you take in isn't just by what people say to you in person. The web is teeming with people itching to tell you how crazy you are for deciding against epidural or birthing vaginally. Visit only natural birth friendly webpages, threads, and groups/pages in social media. Read positive books, watch NON-maintstream movies and documentaries on birth that are informative and positive. If you watch videos on Youtube, for the love of god do not read the comments! That last bit is an order :-).
Lastly, there is a wealth of resources on the web. Finding good ones can be hard, but I will gladly list a few of them here for you:
- Science and Sensibility - A great blog from Lamaze.org. There are articles and posts on various pregnancy, birth , and labor related topics. Well researched and well cited. http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/
- Childbirth Connection - Another great resource with many studies and citations. Topics include helping women to understand risks and benefits many pregnancy, labor, and birth related topics. http://www.childbirthconnection.org/
- VBACFacts.com - The name speaks for itself. If you are looking to have a VBAC this is an awesome resource! www.vbacfacts.com
3. Hire a doula: Doulas are an invaluable resource for women no matter what your birth plans are and this is especially true for those wishing to achieve a natural birth. Doulas take on a wide variety of duties from helping you write out your birth vision (plan), teaching and practicing comfort measures and relaxation techniques before birth, examining those pesky fears I talked about earlier as well as any anxiety, and helping you examine any previous life experiences that factor into either impeding or helping your birth. Doulas offer you a specialized kind of support that you can rarely find in another type of support person and their objective is to help you reach your objectives, whatever they are, and help you obtain on overall optimal and satisfying experience, no matter what arises in birth. Interview at least 2-3 doulas when you search for one, remembering to ask key questions. Here are few resources for finding doulas:
- Capital City Doulas - A great doula collective with many doulas of varying experiences serving many greater Sacramento and surrounding area cities in Northern California. www.capitalcitydoulas.org
- Doulamatch.net - A good tool for finding doulas in your area and matching up your EDD to their availbility. www.doulamatch.net
- BabyProFinder - Another good resources for finding doulas (and other birth professionals) in your area. www.babyprofinder.com
4. Get in touch with your spiritual side: Perhaps spiritual might not be the right word, but the goal is to tap into your inner strength, your inner self, and to quiet your mind and cleanse negativity. When I teach or when I conduct prenatals with my clients we practice some type of relaxation technique that includes visualization. I ask that all my clients practice the technique at least once everyday until the baby is born. Find a good relaxation exercise that you can do quietly once a day. Incorporate breathing, relaxation, stretching and visualization in this exercise.
In addition to visualization, it's important to understand the influence of energy in our lives and how it relates positively or negatively to pregnancy, labor, and birth. Allowing yourself time to reflect, calming your mind, and seeking positive energy at least once a day in your pregnancy is good practice for birth and for postpartum. It helps cleanse the unwanted energy from your life. Remember that each person in your life brings their own energy and that it may be prudent to determine whether or not you want a certain persons energy in your birth space or during your pregnancy.
Another great tool is birth affirmations. Birth affirmations help you build positives attitudes about birth. You gain mental strength and trust in your body, your baby, and the birthing process.
In closing please remember that your goals should be your own and that when you make informed, educated choices, it leaves little room for doubt. I hope that these tips are helpful and if you find them as such I hope you'll share this with others.
Happy Pregnancy, Happy Birthing!