5 Things Expecting Moms Can Do To Prepare For Birth
Belated Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing moms out there! In light of this amazing day (and month!) of celebration, we give the spotlight to the expecting mothers who are most likely super excited to see their little one but at the same time racked with nerves in the face of the many things they have to study and get ready for in the days leading up to their birth.
Pregnancy is a wonderful journey to parenthood but it can be very challenging with the dramatic changes that are happening physically, mentally, and emotionally all at the same. Preparation is key as one enters this new phase in life but it’s normal to be clueless on where to start so here are some tips that will hopefully help you jumpstart this adventure towards motherhood:
1. Be in touch with your feelings and fears.
Rather than deny or reject the anxiety and stress simmering inside you, it’s better to acknowledge them head-on. Carve out some quiet time in your day to look into these feelings and write down all your worries and fears about birth or being a new mother, particularly those that give a physical reaction in your body when you think about them.
In the book Birthing From Within by Pam England, there’s the concept of Worrying Effectively and it listed 10 common worries of expectant mothers:
Not being able to stand the pain
Not being able to relax
Feeling rushed or fear of taking too long
The pelvis is not big enough
The cervix not opening
Lack of privacy
Being judged for making noise
Being separated from the baby
Having to fight for their wishes to be respected
Having intervention and not knowing if it is necessary or is there something else to do
What are yours? After listing all of them down, try to seek answers from birth professionals and birth keepers who support gentle birthing. These can be obstetricians, midwives, nurses, or doulas. You can identify and connect with mothers who had gentle and healthy experiences, those you have witnessed as women of strength and wisdom. Listening to these women can help you understand yourself more and also gain confidence in the journey to motherhood. It will also help you come up with the vision of the birth that you desire for yourself.
In line with this, we highly recommend Blessingway: A Journey to Motherhood, a session for expectant moms that is also a special celebration of a mom-to-be's pregnancy journey. This event's goal is to fully align your body, mind, and spirit for the upcoming birthing of your baby and forge sisterhood connections with the birth keepers and fellow expecting mothers.
2. Rediscover your body’s innate capacity to give birth.
Nowadays, women don’t trust their bodies anymore. Majority of us rely completely on medical professionals when it comes to birthing, having forgotten that birth is a natural process. Our bodies already know how to give birth. History tells us how our grandmothers would give birth spontaneously and unmedicated at home, surrounded by the women of the community (like aunts, neighbors, “hilot”) as their support persons.
During pregnancy, you can read books that will help change your mindset about birth. Books like Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan, Birthing from Within by Pam England, and Ina May Gaskin’s books like Ina’s Guide to Childbirth and Spiritual Midwifery are such books that can help prepare your mind as well as your heart. As Marie Mongan would say, “When you change the way you view birth, the way you birth will change.”
3. Start listening to your body.
Our bodies undergo a dramatic change during pregnancy. We feel and see many changes happening within and outside. Our body communicates to us and tells us if we are hungry, thirsty, tired, sleepy, stressed, need exercise, need to urinate or have a bowel movement. How are you responding to this?
Your body knows when you are nourishing or harming yourself not only through the food you eat but also through body responses like tensing up or relaxing in stressful situations we are in. You need to have this care for your body in pregnancy because after birth, in the postpartum period, you need to do self-care in order to go through your new life as a new mother. Your body knows how to keep yourself healthy and even how to heal.
When you enter the labyrinth of birth, you need to listen to what your body is telling you to do. You need to have that awareness of what comforts you or relaxes you. You need to be sensitive to the languages of your body. Pain in labor is a guide for the expectant mother. It’s befriending the different sensations––pain, pressure, and contractions––and responding to it through breathing, relaxations, changing positions, eating, hydrating, or movements.
4. Prepare a Birth Plan.
A Birth Plan is a letter you write to everyone who is attending to your care during labor and birth. It’s also called a Birth Preference List, Birth Wish List, My Birth Vision, or Birth Intentions. In a Birth Plan, you express your concerns and preferences about the management of your labor, the support persons you want to be present, your birth preferences, and the birth environment that you want.
It also serves as a values clarification exercise for you as expectant parents. It helps you to have a deeper awareness of what pregnancy and childbirth mean to you; it helps you decide on what is important for you in the birth process, what your goals are, and how you would handle decisions that need to be made at the moment. In a sum, it contains your wishes for the treatment of you, your partner, and your baby.
Although a Birth Plan lets you express your priorities and preferences, it is not a contract that dictates the actions of all your care providers nor is it a guarantee that problems won’t arise that will require a change in your plan. It is more of a communication tool that the expectant parents can use when discussing with care providers the personalized care that they need when the big day comes. The goal of the Birth Plan is to enhance your satisfaction with your birth experience because it helps you to make informed choices throughout the course of your labor and birth.
Expectant mothers should start making their Birth Plan by having a quiet time with herself and with her baby (Baby Awareness). You need to search within the kind of birth that she truly desires. After you have identified this, you can make a draft of your Birth Plan. Then you should review it with your partner and share your feelings, concerns, and preferences with each other.
An expectant couple should also choose their doctor or midwife well; they must believe and fully support the vision for your birth and their preferences. Once you have chosen the right care provider, you may bring the Birth Plan to them in one of your prenatal visits. Each point in the Birth Plan must be discussed with your care provider. Ask for feedback. This is a good opportunity for you to get to know more about your care provider and how they will tend to handle different scenarios in labor and birth.
Here are some more tips on making your final Birth Plan:
- Keep it short. You can just use bullet points.
- Make the language positive.
- Have four (4) copies printed out. Give one to your doctor and have three (3) copies ready in your hospital bag (one to be given upon admission to the birth site and the other two for your partner and other support persons like a doula)
- Have a document folder or clear book where you can put all necessary documents: first, admitting orders; second, your Birth Plan; third, PhilHealth or other health insurance documents; and fourth, medical test results.
- One last reminder: Even if you do have a beautiful and well-prepared Birth Plan, remember, we cannot really fully plan our birth. The act of birthing can be unpredictable and even the most resolute mother may change her mind about what she wants in labor. Even with a Birth Plan, it’s best that you continue to be open to whatever will be the outcome of your labor and birth.
5. Attend a birthing class with your partner.
As mentioned in the previous point, so many things can happen during birth and pregnancy. It can be very unpredictable. Thus, a proper mindset is important coming into pregnancy and birth. A childbirth preparation class or a birthing class can teach you the different perspectives and proper mindsets in looking at your birthing journey that can ultimately change the way you build your family.
You will have the guidance and wisdom of facilitators who will share information on how you can have the birth option that you desire amidst the current obstetrics system being practiced in Philippine hospitals, helping you make informed and empowered choices for your birth. Practical knowledge––like a variety of exercises and pregnancy tips––are also taught during birthing classes.
At a Birthing is a Blessing, we hold monthly birthing classes for expectant mothers and their partners called The Birth Basics Workshop and it's led by Doula Betty and her husband, Manny San Luis, a knowledgeable and compassionate couple mentor. It’s the only childbirth preparation class in the Philippines that has a couple facilitator, giving you both the mother and father's perspectives in preparing for birth.