How to have a Positive Birth Experience (From a third time mom)
My first birth was horrible. I felt disrespected by some of the staff, and the whole thing was a fairly disappointing experience. For a long time, I looked back at felt so much pain over that birthing experience. I did so much soul searching before it was time to have my second baby, spoke to so many people, did a lot of researching and reading, and was determined that the second time around, I would have a positive birth experience, where I would feel empowered and overjoyed at the experience.
I am so happy to say that it was exactly that! There were complications, interventions did need to happen – but I still reflect on it and think that was one of the most amazing days ever. (Which sounds crazy – you’re in an enormous amount of pain, showing your everything to a number of people – but I truly loved it!) I speak to so many moms who are scared of giving birth, and I love to share with them how beautiful I found the experience to be. Of course, sadly not every birth will give beautiful memories like the birth of my second baby, but you’re much more likely to have a positive birth experience if you’ve planned, prepared, know what to expect, and trust your medical team.
Practical ways to have a positive birth experience
Attend birth classes and Read Up
If this is your first baby, it’s really helpful to go to prenatal classes. Your body is made to give birth, but it’s a lot easier if you and your support person know what to expect going into it. All the nitty gritty bits (yes – you probably will poop) are a lot easier to handle if you know they are coming. You can attend in person classes, or even online ones, like this one. If you don’t want to do that, there are heaps of books and programs that are designed to help you through the whole experienced that you can do in the privacy of your own home. Knowing what to expect is empowering you to make informed decisions on the care you are receiving.
Pick a supportive birth partner (or two)
Make sure they’re able and willing to give the support you need while you’re in labour. These people will be the ones cheering you on through the tough bits – make sure they’re up for it. (If you think Dad is going to faint, it might be a good idea to bring mom, sister, or a friend to support you while he is passed out on the floor).
Get acquainted with the hospital
Knowing where you need to go, where parking is, what the rooms look like, and what to expect will help reduce anxiety when you do go into labour. Know what things they have to use when you are in labour – for example, Dimmed lighting, fake candles flickering, music on.
Read up on relaxation techniques.
Deep breathing exercises. The sound of rain – all these little things will help calm you. Birth is painful, and being able to stay calm and focused on the end result is really powerful.
Make a birth plan that details what your own personal positive birth experience looks like.
It’s so important to plan what you would like. Write it down, discuss it with your birth partner/s so they know what you would like, and can advocate for you accordingly. When you’re in birth, you might struggle to be speaking for yourself, so it’s important that the people you have alongside you know what your wishes are.
But, be prepared for plans for change. One of my mom friends told me said that I was absolutely not ever having an epidural and was doing it naturally. She was also adamant she wouldn’t labour naked. Well, she ended up with an epidural, and naked. You know what? She made the best decision for her at the time. She didn’t care that she was naked, and told her husband that very sternly when her tried to remind me of her no nudity birth plan. In all seriousness, it’s amazing to want things for your birth. But it’s okay to change your mind, and if things change and your medical team needs to change things to get your baby here safely, that’s okay too.
Create a positive environment to labour in.
Think about what calms you down. For me, this is essential oils, cups of tea, burning candles, and music I love. I could burn candles, but there were also fake ones. I diffused some lavender oil while I was labouring at home, and made a playlist ready to go. In fact, the anaesthesiologist who was giving my epidural commented on my awesome music taste! 😉 I think what made my positive birth experience so positive was that I felt control of my environment, and that I had made it ‘my own’ (as much as you can make a hospital your own!)
Be ready to move about (it’s seriously recommended by the World Health Organisation).
Speak to your L&D nurse about positions to try when you’re in labour. You might like to squat leaning on a chair, bounce on a ball, get into the bath, or head into the shower. This is so helpful – it’s much more painful laying on your back in the bed.
Have healthy snacks on the ready.
Giving birth is really hard work. Eat healthy food in small amounts, and make sure you keep hydrated. These should be in your hospital bag. For more advice on packing your hospital bag, check out my advice here.
Trust your body.
Your body is literally made to give birth and you can do it, even when it feels like it hurts too much and you can’t keep going.
Trust your medical team – they want to help you have a positive birth experience
Most are amazing people who have devoted many hours to learning how to get your baby here safely. They love their jobs, and are invested in both helping you have a positive birth experience, and getting your baby here safely. Make sure your wishes are known, but be prepared to listen if they suggest things need to change. Don’t be afraid to ask why so you fully understand their rationale.
Know that it’s okay to speak up if a medical staff member isn’t making you feel safe or comfortable, and it is okay to ask them to leave.
When you are giving birth, you are vulnerable. There is absolutely no room for rudeness, or lack of consent in any capacity. If a staffer (doctor, midwife, L&D Nurse…anyone) is being rude to you, you are within your rights to ask them to leave, and to ask to speak to the Nurse in Charge. There are unfortunately awful stories about women being subject to procedures without consent, or being spoken unkindly to by medical staff. It is not acceptable! Don’t hesitate to boot them out of your delivery room and file a complaint if there is a valid reason. I wish I knew this the first time around – I probably would have had an entirely different experience giving birth.
Remember, birth doesn’t have to be like the movies
You know, women screaming in agony, miserable, swearing? If that is what you want, that’s totally fine – it’s your birth and you do what you need to do. Moms are exposed to a lot of scary birthing horror stories that scare the heck out of moms who know they have to give birth. Know that so many people do have genuinely amazing birth experiences, and put the dramatic movie scenes out of your mind! What my birth looked like: lights dimmed, candles on (well, they were fake but still awesome), my favourite songs playing, and slow dancing with my husband. I’m not here to lie to you though – it did still hurt bucket loads, but it was so very with the end result!
Good luck mom – although you don’t need it. You’ve got this!
There we go – that’s exactly how I had an amazing, beautiful birth experience. Unfortunately, plans do change, and despite best intentions, things may not going accordingly. It’s always best to plan for a positive birth experience, and being informed really helps.