She went to eight different places to find the dress.
She tried them all on, to find that PERFECT dress. The one that showcased and highlighted certain features while hiding imperfections. She wanted ivory. Not white. The perfect shade…not too light nor too dark.
And when it came to the reception, she and her soon to be husband looked over many locations and menus, decorations and accommodations. Many friends gave ideas. But they didn’t want to blindly trust their friends on these ideas. Or even their family. They took several Saturdays and visited many different places. They had to see it for themselves. They wanted to be the ones to talk to the chef. They wanted to see where their guests would sit, the kinds of appetizers that would be offered. They spent much time and discussion over the menu. The cakes, they sampled them. The taste, texture, color…it had to be perfect.
This after all, would be a day to remember forever. They were willing to invest the time, this couple. They wanted their pictures to be perfect. They wanted guests to feel welcomed. They wanted to enjoy this day. They had waited their whole lives and when that day came, they had no regrets of the time and careful thought it took to bring them where they were. Their day was beautiful with a couple mishaps, but they were married and started their lives together.
The years went on and they soon found expecting. They were over full of joy.
So excited and thrilled.
And she continued to see the doctor she had always seen and knew she would deliver at the hospital where she and all her friends and family had gone.
She read, “What to Expect When You Are Expecting.” It became almost like her Bible. She knew if she followed the book, it would help her have a healthy baby and pregnancy.
She took her hospital’s childbirth class. She listened and never asked many questions or researched anything more. She felt content and happy as she went along her way.
And she worked diligently at preparing her registry. She and her husband soon to be father contemplated every monitor, swing, bouncy seat, car seat, pacifier, bottle and boppy pillow.
After all, she would have only one shower and she wanted to make sure those invited knew what she really wanted and needed.
The excitement grew as she entered into her ninth month. She didn’t think too much about labor. She knew that it would be painful, but it was hard for her to think about. So she thought about holding her baby and focused on that. The other things, they would all work out.
And then the baby came. Early. Four weeks early and she didn’t know what to do. A breech baby that that was coming out feet first. A c-section became the best choice. She became afraid but consented because she was afraid to ask for other options and frankly she was afraid to push out her baby anyways. So, she had her baby. Not in the way she imagined. But she had her baby. In the end to her, that’s all that really mattered. She was holding the baby she dreamed about.
And then many years later, she had more babies. Not seeing completely that her births and choices that were made had a domino effect. She didn’t realize then she should have asked more questions. She didn’t realize that her choices made a decade ago, were affecting her choices today.
This person in the story, I admit is me. And maybe I have exaggerated my wedding planning preparations a little bit. But we did have a portable filing system that we carried with us everywhere. We kept things organized and spent more time planning for our wedding day than we did the births of our children. I will admit we planned for our marriage and put in the time. But I don’t think we are unlike most couples.
There’s so much emphasis put on weddings, baby showers, even the nursery where our baby will be nursed and rocked and loved on. So much thought to the color of the room, decorations, and nowadays even the kinds of diapers.
But I stand back after having four children and wonder.
If I would have prepared for the birth of my first child, like I did for the day of my wedding, would things be different?
I know I can only think on that for so long as it doesn’t do much for me and my emotions.
I know of many mothers who have made their choices on purpose. They have been very involved in the care of their pregnancy and plans for their labor.
But what about those who were like me? I really didn’t know much at all. And if someone would have reached out to me more maybe I would have?
I do realize that we can plan. We can prepare. And just as there are mishaps at the wedding, birth can take a turn of events we weren’t planning on as well. But it never hurts to have a plan and think things through.
We forget, just like there are different places to have a reception, there are different places to have a baby. Some country clubs and restaurants serve mashed potatoes and some serve baked. Some hospitals have a higher c-section rate and others have lower. There are birth centers and some choose to birth at home. Some doctors work one way, while other doctors handle things differently. But how we will know, unless we ask? Ask our friends, ask family who have been there. Do some of our own research. Ask our providers. Shop around. What kind of pain relief does this hospital offer? What does that hospital offer? Sure today we might not want any pain relief. But what if we get there and decide that IS what we want. Wouldn’t it be better to have that information before we are in the heat of the moment? It never hurts to know what will be offered, what they serve, what procedures they follow.
Five Quick Tips To Help You Prepare for Labor:
- Think about your birth. What do you want your birth to look like? When will you go to the hospital or birth center or have your midwife come to your home? Do you want anyone with you besides your husband? What about pain relief? Do you mind having numerous cervical checks or prefer not to be checked at all? What about an episiotomy? And cord clamping, would that be something you want right away or would you like to wait? There’s a lot you could think about. But it’s worth it because on the day you have your baby, you will make many decisions or they could be made for you. Think about what you want and if you aren’t sure what happens during labor, ask someone you trust or read up on it!
- Find a provider. If the one you have doesn’t match up with the ideas you have for labor and delivery, find someone who will. You may have to compromise on some things, but decide what those things are. Interview doctors. Talk to them. Find out what their c-section rate is. Ask them the percentage of births they attend that end in surgery. Share with your provider your wishes and see how they handle patients in their practice. Sometimes it’s hard when they don’t line up with your beliefs, but it’s much better to know before labor who you will be working with. And if they don’t line up, again you can make a switch!
- Read. Yes spend time reading. If you can read only one book, I highly recommend The Birth Partner. You will find everything you will want to know here from what labor looks like, to positions for pain relief, medications for pain relief, complications and postpartum. This lays it all out and if you can read it, you will have a really good idea of the process of labor and what ideas you may want to research further.
- When you decide on a doctor, call the hospital you will be delivering at and ask for their policies and procedures to be sent to you. This way you will know what will be expected of you when you are admitted and what you can expect of the hospital. Know the forms that will be handed to you. Know the papers you will be signing and by signing them what that will mean. Do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Consider a doula. A doula is a support person for pregnancy, labor and for the immediate postpartum. She doesn’t speak for you during labor, make your choices or give you support based upon the choices you make. She supports you. Studies show that “women who received continuous support were more likely to have spontaneous vaginal births and less likely to have any pain medications, epidurals, negative feelings about childbirth, vacuum or forceps-assisted births, and C-sections. In addition, their labors were shorter by about 40 minutes and their babies were less likely to have low Apgar scores at birth.” Checkout Doulamatch.net for doulas in your area or ask friends, childbirth educators or births support groups near you. And interview your doula too! Make sure your wishes are known and you feel comfortable with her supporting you during a most intense and precious time.
A very wise person told me if you are planning on not having an epidural when you are in labor, you better go in with a plan. I think her words ring true for everything in labor. Go with a plan. Yes, plans can change. We can only control what we can control. There are a lot of things that can affect childbirth that aren’t in our control. But it has been said that “if a woman feels like she was an active participant in the birth of her baby and she made her own choices, in the end she will be more fulfilled even if things didn’t go as planned.”