My first childbirth didn't go as planned, but not for lack of trying on my part. I created a ridiculously detailed birth plan, outlining exactly how I wanted things to go. I mistakenly thought that that my body and baby would somehow get the memo, too, but after 18 hours of excruciating back labor, my desire for an un-medicated childbirth went straight out the window... along with my birth plan. Now, after having three babies, I've learned a lot about how to set yourself up for success during labor and delivery.
In my experience, the key to childbirth success is to set realistic goals and manage your expectations. Why? Well, because your baby doesn't care about your desire to give birth in a pool surrounded by candlelight or while squatting on a birthing stool. So while it's not wrong to plan and prepare for a specific type of birth you'd like to experience, keeping your mind open to alternatives and learning to be flexible is just as valuable. After all, birth is beautiful whether you labor in the woods or have a scheduled C-section.
I experienced disappointment the first time I gave birth, sure, but I learned from my hard-earned lessons. For example, the last time I gave birth I didn’t write a birth plan, except to say that I only wanted my husband in the delivery room. I knew birth could be random, beautiful, messy, and terrifying — often simultaneously —so I hired the right OB-GYN, got my husband on board with my take-it-as-we-go birth plan, and communicated my needs. I also asked for an epidural right away.
All of my births were successful in that they ended with beautiful, healthy babies, but I think this last birth was my most successful in terms of how I felt, physically and emotionally, once it was all over. And I have no doubt that it was because I set myself up for success in the following ways:
I Didn't Write A Birth Plan
For some moms-to-be, writing a birth plan helps them feel prepared for childbirth. I am not one of those people. Don’t get me wrong, I would never disparage someone who wants to prepare a birth plan that'll hopefully guide them through labor and delivery. I do hope, however, that they know if and/or when things don’t go exactly according to that plan that it’s not their fault. It in no way reflects on their ability as a mom or worth as person.
I Wrote A Feeding Plan
I did make a feeding plan for my baby, though. I wanted to let my providers know that I planned to breastfeed and to supplement with formula from birth. I didn’t want any shame or shade thrown my way about it, either. Luckily, everyone except the lactation consultant supported my personal choice.
I Determined What My Priorities Really Were
After my two “failed” attempts at a medication-free childbirth, and two beautiful experienced with epidurals, I finally learned to get my priorities straight. I don’t mean to make it sound like I judge moms who make different choices, because I don’t. But for me, an epidural played a big part in having a successful birth that ended with a healthy and happy mom and baby.
I Managed My Expectations
A huge part of setting myself up for childbirth success was, I realized, managing my expectations. If you give up the idea that you have to birth in a certain way, beyond a way that is safe for you and your baby, meeting your goal is substantially easier.
I Found A New Hospital
There are only two hospitals in my area that have labor and delivery wards. Last time I gave birth, I found out the hard way that giving birth at a Catholic hospital would mean that my provider would be unwilling to talk to me about birth control or even refer me to a provider who would. They treated me like I was not really their patient, but a vessel carrying their "real" patient. This time, I chose the other hospital and it made a huge difference. I am a human, not a handmaid, thank you very much.
I Found A Great Provider
I can't stress how important it was to find an obstetrics provider who respected me and my choices about pregnancy, prenatal testing, abortion, childbirth, and birth control. She made me feel heard, so in the end I knew that she was in my corner when it came to a successful birth.
I Communicated With The Nursing Staff
When I was checked in to be induced, I was sure to let my health care providers know that I wanted an epidural as soon as humanly possible, so they could communicate with anesthesiology. I also let them know other important info, like who I did and did not want in the delivery room, before the contractions became so intense it would be difficult to advocate for myself.
I Got My Partner On Board
I made sure that my partner knew the basics about what I did and didn’t want to happen during childbirth. If for some reason I was unable to communicate my needs, or needed back-up, I wanted him to be able to advocate for me. He was amazing.
I Got Medication
I actually got an epidural before being induced and would 10/10 recommend it. Being able to relax, and rest, made all the difference in the world when it came time to push.
I Set Boundaries
It's hard to set boundaries, especially when babies are involved. Everyone seems to think that they have a right to see, hold, and bond with your baby right away. But I let everyone know that they needed to get vaccinated, and wait until we were home from the hospital, before coming for a visit. It was magical to not have visitors when my ass was hanging out of some uncomfortable hospital gown and vulva was healing, let me tell you.