Control during birth is one of the most sensitive topics. Ranging from Hypnobirthing theories on letting go, to people who think the idea of control is blasphemous and impossible, because birth is in G-d’s hands. If I may, I’d like to bring your attention to a happy medium:
I find that while labor is something we can’t plan meticulously, we can maintain our control to some extent. Maintaining that control, whatever little amount we have, is actually vital to our success as mothers. These small moments of control that women witness in their births are the pieces that will shape their birth memories. Birth memories, according to a huge range of studies (most importantly the Listening to Mothers Survey), have been proven to stick with women for years to come. Birth isn’t only a means of getting to a goal, research has shown that birth, in itself, is a goal. The process of birth shapes mothers. It can better prepare them for motherhood, or tear them down. Pregnancy and Birth has the ability to strip mothers of every ounce of trust in themselves, confidence in their body and their ability to be enough. One of the biggest outcomes from that same survey, was the discovery that feeling like we made the choices during our births, is what shapes our experience of birth.
I commonly hear the phrase, “but your baby was healthy, so don’t complain,” and others like it. As a Doula, the spirit of this statement pains me.
Have we really gotten to a place in society where our goal for birth is just reproducing?
Are we just making more people, to make more people, to make more people?
I strongly believe that the quality of life we have, and the feelings our experiences give us are also deeply important. Are they the end all and be all? Maybe not. Is a healthy baby and mother in the end of the day also important? Of Course! But that can’t be our goal, as a society, when it comes to birth.
In hopes to help mothers find the courage it takes to embark into motherhood, to help them create a birth memory as beautiful as their baby, rather than being pushed around during birth, here is a short list of tips for maintaining control during pregnancy, hospital birth, and postpartum.
Make sure you educate yourself. I know I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but the proper education should be first on your list of “things I’m willing to splurge on” when it comes to birth. I mean a GOOD, not-hospital-based, birth class. Hospital funded classes can be great sometimes, but always remember they can only teach you whatever is in their hospital policy to teach.
Decide what’s really important to you ahead of time. While making a list of birth preferences is always a good technique, here in Israel, I would recommend just writing a small note card with your TOP THREE preferences, otherwise the midwives get overwhelmed!
Come in the Love. The most important thing I ever learned from my Childbirth Education teacher, Rachelle Oseran, is that when you come in with love, you get love. Remember that the hospital staff coming into your room is not there to attack you. While they often need to follow hospital policies, they are there to help you safely deliver your baby into the world. Don’t be confused though, they may not always know what’s best for YOU. So feel free to trust your gut, and ask questions- respectfully of course. Which brings me to my last tip:
Ask questions. There is almost never a situation that is too dire to ask questions in. Always remember you can ask: Am I ok? Is my baby ok? If the answer to either one of those questions is ever no, you know that the advice being given to you, is most likely the thing that needs to be done at that moment. If the answers are “Yes, but…” know that you often have more time to clarify things before feeling pressured into a decision.
Lastly, remember that unless you’re giving birth at home, on your own turf, expect that there will be things you will need to give up your control over. Most hospitals have strict policies about heparin-lock insertions (putting an opening for an IV line, incase of emergency) and other such things, like extensive fetal heart rate monitoring with induction.
Remember, your body is yours. And while it’s the vehicle to bring your baby into the world, you don’t need to relinquish control of it to the people around you. YOU are the one who will be left living in it, far after the birth of your baby, so you should be the one who can make the choices.