No matter your plans for your labor, birth will bring with it some surprises (here are a few). Even with a 3-page birth plan and all the preparation in the world, your birth experience may throw you some curve balls.
However, in the midst of the unknown, you still have choices. You can still reach out to connect and be present with the medical staff, your family and your baby. This can help soften the impact of unexpected interventions, to remember you have people around you to support and care for you. It can also help in the throes of even a more straight-forward labor to see yourself as part of a team.
So how can you do this? What are some practical ways to connect with your birth team?
Hire a provider you connect with:
Get to know that provider (or group). I have a kick-ass workbook (free!) to help you choose the right provider for you. Seriously, your choice of provider is one of the most important influences on your birth experience. Some doctors and midwives will have a standard 10-15 minute prenatal appointment when you come in, but some have longer sessions of 30-60 minutes. If that's attractive to you, then seek it out! If you're armpit deep into pregnancy and unable to switch providers, you can still bring intention to your prenatal visits. Ask friendly questions of your doctor or midwife. Try to see them as individuals and not just their medical role.
Spend time connecting with your partner ahead of time:
Click that link for great ideas to help connect you with your partner ahead of time and through the birth. One of the most crucial roles a partner has through birth is just to love on the laboring mother. By investing in each other in the months ahead of time, the dividends are paid out during the labor.
Decide now who you want to be with you in the labor room:
Invest in that relationship and expectations. Will you want your mother there? Your best friend? If so, hash out expectations NOW. Let them know your hopes for your birth experience. Send them articles and videos that reinforce your desires so that they can prepare their minds and hearts to be present and supportive. I have also written an article about “How to Talk to a Woman in Labor” to help prepare them for the experience.
Talk to your parents about what their first birth experience was like:
What did they learn through it that helped them become better parents? What were their hopes and imaginings as they became new parents? What wisdom would they like to pass on to you?
Hire a doula:
Hire a doula that you really jive with. Aside from the partner, she will be a near constant presence through the birth experience. It's so important that you feel comfortable with her, that you feel supported and encouraged by her. A good doula will embody the following two tasks, as well: process-focus (as opposed to outcome focus) and flexibility. She will be able to give you emotional and informational support no matter what your birth asks of you.
Spend time connecting with your (non-medical) “birth team”:
Have everyone over for dinner as you near your due-date (the doula, family, partner, etc). You don't need to talk about the birth, necessarily. A long, comfortable evening just surrounded by these people who will help you through the most intense day of your life is a fantastic inoculation for labor-day.
Connect with people ON game day:
You may have built a solid foundation of connection prenatally, but there will likely be a few strangers helping you as the birth plays out. Triage nurses, midwife assistants, shift-changes, lunch-break relievers, etc. will bring in new faces and new names. Find out their names, ask about their day. (If mother is 800 miles into laborland, this task of connection and humanization may fall to the partner or doula.) Bring something delicious to share with the hard-working staff. Medical professionals rarely have a moment to rest or eat during their long shifts. Give that loving-kindness out to fill the room up. It can change the entire tone of the day for you.
Connect intentionally with your partner during labor:
There are ways you can maximize his or her role as your lover: check in with each other about medical decisions through the birth, lean on other support people so you can both just focus on the labor, recognize that you and the partner are both experiencing the birth from your individual perspectives. Need more ideas? I have a great[optinlink text=”cheat-sheet of “Tips for Partners”” id=”1709″] available in my free resource library.
Finally, build a partnership with your baby:
Talk to your baby about the birth and the first time you will meet. Choose to remember and connect with your baby through the labor. You are working together in a symbiosis of call and response. Now, you may be feeling intense contractions while your kid takes a nap, but your baby IS flooded with the beta-endorphins of labor. If medical intervention becomes necessary, choose again to connect with your baby through it. Breathe deep into your belly and send your love and affection down to your little one. For the last few hours of pregnancy, you are one for the last time. Revel in it.
This list is not exhaustive, but just a few ideas to get your gears turning. What else can you think of to help you bring that good lovin' vibe to labor?