As one of the first women in my circle of friends to choose to have a baby, I didn't initially have a whole lot of people around me to compare pregnancy and childbirth notes with. Fortunately, my midwives intentionally connect the families in their practice with the other families by hosting monthly “community care” visits in their homes. That's where I made some of my first local mom friends, who told me many things about childbirth that made me feel empowered.
Throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I often found ourselves practically running from people who wanted to tell me their (or their cousin’s baby’s mama’s best friend’s, or somebody they saw on TV’s) horror stories about childbirth. That only added to the anxiety and misinformation I was trying to unlearn after a lifetime of seeing awful depictions of birth in the movies and on television. There were also plenty of people who thought I was foolish or misguided for even trying to have an unmedicated birth. So having mom friends like my sister, my midwives, and the ladies in my community care group who spoke about their varied birth experiences in clear, approachable, and often empowering terms was hugely important for my confidence and my mental health. They didn't all have the exact experience I was looking for, but they all spoke about their experiences in ways that were non-judgmental and empowering, and that was incredibly helpful.
In the end, while every moment of my birth didn't unfold exactly how I'd imagined, I did end up following my birth plan and having the beautiful, badass home birth I’d long wanted. Though I and my birth team definitely deserve most of the credit for that, I also give some of it to the moms who'd already been there and done that, and who let me know that I’d probably make it through childbirth just fine, by saying things like the following:
“Oh, You've Got This”
As the only first time birthing mom in my community group, it was really reassuring when moms who had already given birth before would just tell me, “You've got this,” like it couldn't possibly occur to them that I wouldn't. They said it like, “Oh, what are you even worrying about?” like I was talking to them about being worried about riding the train or going grocery shopping. Their certainty, and the fact that they'd already been through this often-hyped experience, made me feel like they must know what they're talking about. Fortunately, they did.
“People Have Been Doing This For Ages”
Obviously things can and do go wrong during pregnancy and childbirth. But the large majority of the time, they don't. My mom friends reassured me that they managed to do this, as had billions of other moms before me. With the many physical and other advantages I've had in life, there was no reason to assume that the odds were less in my favor than theirs.
“Seems Like You've Definitely Done Your Homework!”
It felt great to have my birth-nerd knowledge binges validated by actual biological moms. Hearing that the research I’d done and the things I had been learning had been useful to moms who'd already successfully birthed babies, helped reassure me that I was prepared to give birth.
“Are You Excited?”
So many people speak of birth as a thing to dread. So having mom friends ask me about my excitement for birth helped me claim and nurture my excitement — as I was very excited — and reinforced their (and my) belief in myself and the possibility of having a positive birth experience.
“Birth Is Beautiful”
During my pregnancy, I heard from many women who'd given birth in many ways, both how they'd envisioned birth going, and women whose plans had changed quite a lot. Yet hearing moms in both situations describe birth as beautiful helped me feel empowered to embrace my coming birth experience, even if it didn't match my mental image of how my birth would unfold. Recognizing that things could go differently and still be OK, took the pressure off of me to try to force things to go a specific way, or to have to feel bad or less than if things changed.
“Even Though I Really Wanted [X], I Know That [Y] Was The Right Choice In The End”
Several moms I know and love ended up having births that went very differently from their original birth plans. Thankfully, they were informed and well-supported by their birth teams, so they felt they could trust the new information in front of them, and could confidently make new choices or accept the recommended changes that needed to happen for them to birth safely. That reassured me once again that my actual birth experience didn't need to match my vision of birth in order to be a positive experience, and that changes in my birth plan didn't automatically mean I'd be traumatized afterward.
“Remember How Strong You Are”
It's such a simple statement, yet as a mom with a prior pregnancy loss it was really profound for me. My mom friends (and friendly midwives who all had kids of their own) reassuring me of my physical and emotional strength was also a huge and needed contrast to my former OB-GYN, whose actions and recommendations constantly sent the message that she didn't believe I was capable of birthing successfully.
“It's Great That Your Partner Is So Involved!”
My husband attended virtually all of my one-on-one and community care appointments, as well as going to childbirth classes with me and being helpful in general. Hearing other moms affirm how a supportive, informed partner can help during birth helped sustain my faith that he would be an asset to my birth experience, not a liability.
“Yes, It Will Hurt/Be Really Intense…”
My mom friends never shied away from how seriously intense birth is. They didn't make it out to be all sunshine and rainbows, or sugarcoat the reality of pushing or otherwise getting a whole human out of your body.
“...But It's Entirely Doable”
Rather than treating that intensity and seriousness as a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad thing, they reminded me that while birth is tough, it was also most likely within my power to accomplish. Birth is one of the toughest things humans do, but it's also something most humans who attempt it successfully do, every day.