While every mother has her own personal preferences for birth, there seem to be a few things that connect across the board. No matter if mom chooses a home water birth or schedules her cesarean, they all desire the same things, even if they aren’t able to articulate them:
1) Information. Mothers and their partners both want to feel well-prepared for the birth of their choice. Being a childbirth educator, I naturally think classes are the way to go here. They offer a safe place to gather information, meet other expecting couples and create community, and have their questions answered by someone who has (hopefully) done the research. Some couples opt for reading a lot of books and gathering information via the internet. This works for some and if that works for you, perfect. But, please, do prepare for the kind of birth you want by being informed. If you choose to take classes, remember that not all childbirth classes are created equal and do not come in one-size-fits-all. Do a little research and choose something that works well for you and your hopes for your birth.
2. Respect. Just as all women are unique and lovely in their own ways, so are our desires for our births. Every mother should be able to choose how she would prefer to give birth without negative feedback from family, friends, care providers, co-workers, or even strangers (isn’t it amazing the things people feel it’s okay to say to pregnant women???). This is your body and your family and your birth and should be respected and supported as such. If, by some awful chance, you find that your care provider is not fully supportive of your birth wishes, please consider switching to someone who is. We do, after all, live in a consumer driven society and birth is no exception.
3. Support. Speaking of those who will attend your birth, after you settle on a wonderful care provider, also think about who else you will invite to that Birth Day party. Choose people who will listen to you, love you, and support you emotionally, physically, and mentally throughout your entire birth. In addition to your partner, this might include knowledgeable and loving family or friends. It might also be worth your time to consider adding a doula to your birth team. But invite those people with intentionality. Also choose a birth place that will support your wishes for birth as well as your parenting choices (breastfeeding, newborn care, etc.). If what you really want is a home birth, the hospital may not be the best choice for you, and vice versa.
4. Peace. Oh how laboring mothers crave peace! If the above three are present, peace usually follows. But creating a peaceful environment might also include dim lights, quiet, and other environmental factors. It also usually includes everyone on the birth team working together as well as staying well informed during labor and making informed choices as things progress.
Birth is not a predictable matter (other than the fact that it will occur), and it may become necessary to deviate from your wishes, hopes, and dreams for your birth. Having these things in place will make that possible transition smoother and minimize long term, negative effects. I have known mothers who get everything on their wish list and mothers who ended up with none of it, and every single one of them who had these four things say the same thing, “It was a beautiful birth!”. The birth of your baby is a memory that will last your lifetime, so bless yourself, your partner, and your yet-to-be-born baby by seeking out these precious things.