By Megan Powell
The other day I saw something that really surprised me.
I was on a babycentre forum and came across a post of a large group of expecting moms talking about “winging it” for the birth. The vast majority were first time moms who had never gone through labour or childbirth.
Some said they didn’t have time to do birth classes or didn’t want to, while others thought it would be easier not knowing about the pain. They all seemed to be supporting each other in their decision to not do any preparation for birth.
The statement that stuck me the most was one woman said she figures it will be painful anyway, so the less she knows beforehand, the better.
What??? Am I in the minority here when it comes to labour preparation or did I just happen to stumble across a rare group of women who feel being prepared is not the answer to a better labour?
My thoughts about pregnancy and childbirth are pretty much opposite: I think being educated and knowing beforehand what is happening to your body is the best thing you can do to prepare. Not having any idea of what is going on and the reasons certain things are happening can be scary as heck!
If my partner and I hadn’t taken the awesome birth classes offered through our midwifery clinic, watched documentaries and read birth books, I’m not sure my labour would have gone as smoothly as it did.
Your mindset plays a huge role and is so connected to the physical. I might have worried and wondered if what was happening and the pain I was experiencing was normal, especially during the transition stage.
But I’d read enough accounts to know that labour pains and duration vary hugely depending on the woman and that everything happening to me was happening for a reason.
I won’t sugar-coat it: childbirth is tough, painful work. It’s called labour for a good reason.
Think of it as the most intense triathlon you would ever compete in. Would you lace up for that the morning of, not having trained? I don’t think so. So why go into something as powerful and tiring as birthing a baby without a hint of what's to come?
I understand not everyone is able to devote a large amount of time to classes, books and movies, but we should all choose what works best for us and make sure we feel at least somewhat prepared instead of terrified of the unknown.
For me, the classes were super helpful. Along with explanations of what happens to your body at each stage, we learned coping techniques including counter pressure, options for pain relief as well as the side effects, and connected with other parents-to-be about our worries or desires. It was well worth the one Saturday we had to give up.
My hubby found the classes really helpful, but what worked for him was watching documentaries. He’s not a huge reader like I am, so for him, visuals and movies were a better option.
Reading accounts of birth also really inspired me and if you think that will help you too, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin is probably the most empowering book when it comes to preparing women for childbirth.
Gaskin discusses the physical and psychological aspects of pregnancy, labour and birth and the included accounts of women from every background are totally empowering for anyone hoping for a vaginal birth.
For first-time moms who have no idea what to expect, as well as for their partners, The Birth Partner is the best book!
I actually didn’t read it during my first pregnancy, but I recently picked up a copy from our local library and realized how incredibly helpful it is, even for someone who has already given birth.
In simple terms, it outlines exactly what happens to your body at each stage of labour as well as how you might be feeling, coping techniques, AND what a partner (doula, spouse, mom, sister, friend, etc.) can do to help you cope.
Right now my hubby and I are taking turns reading it, with me marking particular sections for him.
And let’s not forget pregnancy books. I personally disliked the (dated) What To Expect When You’re Expecting as I found it not only very old-school but also fear-inducing. If you’re a worrier already, I’d steer clear of this book.
Instead, I find Dr. Sears’ The Pregnancy book, his Birth Book (and also, for post-partum, his Baby Book), to be much better. He’s pretty middle-of-the-road and lays out the facts with all your options, which I appreciate.
If you’re looking for a straightforward book written by a reputable doctor, he’s your go-to.
If you’re on the crunchier side, I also really enjoyed Aviva Jill Romm’s The Natural Pregnancy Book. She’s not only an MD, but also a herbalist and midwife.
Whether or not she fits your style, her chapters on pregnancy ailments and accompanying remedies are helpful for anyone (crunchy or not), and I found myself constantly referring to these pages in my first pregnancy.
I also think that since hers was the first book I read as soon as I became pregnant, I really felt confident and prepared from the get-go.
What it really all comes down to for me is that knowledge is power. I really hope the women in the forum do end up doing some prep instead of winging it, even if it is just picking up a copy of The Birth Partner.
If we don’t understand what’s happening in childbirth or what are options are, then we’re not really giving ourselves the best set-up to begin with.
We’re so lucky in our age to have options for providers and other services like doulas, so why not take advantage of all the information out there and arm ourselves with knowledge to prepare?
momstown’s list of books:
The Natural Pregnancy Book; Aviva Jill Romm
The Mother of All Pregnancy Books; Ann Douglas
The Pregnancy Book; Dr. William Sears
LABOUR AND CHILDBIRTH
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin
The Guide to Childbirth; Ina May Gaskin
The Birth Book; Dr. William Sears
The Baby Book; Dr. William Sears
The Mother of All Baby Books; Ann Douglas
What's on your reading list?
Follow along as Megan Powell prepares for her second baby—due this spring—while chasing her energetic 3-year-old and trying to squeeze in bathroom breaks and naps. Megan also blogs at henfamily.com