Very few things can adequately prepare you for labor and delivery. I mean, yes there are countless books and classes and online videos that you can consume and study and research. You can ask other mothers (if you know any) or your own mother (if she's around and supportive) questions, but every woman's experience is so different that it's difficult to say if their story or suggestions will help. However, there are ways being a feminist prepares you for labor and delivery that can leave you feeling confident and ready for the arrival of your little one. Ways that, honestly, I didn't expect to rely on when my water broke and my contractions started and I was ready to push and see my son for the very first time.
I had a pretty difficult pregnancy, which was followed by a pretty difficult labor and delivery. I had plans for an unmedicated birth that fell through after 10 hours of walking and sitting in a tub and rolling on a birthing ball and swaying back and forth. I had to birth a baby that would breath and cry, and a baby that wouldn't, as I was initially pregnant with twins and lost one at 19 weeks. I knew that my labor and delivery experience would be somewhat different than most, however, I didn't realize that identifying as a feminist would help me get through that taxing labor and delivery. I wasn't afraid to ask questions and I wasn't afraid to demand answers and I wasn't afraid to kick people out of the room when and if I needed to. I was going to speak up and believe in my body and that willingness, learned over time because I identify as a feminist, all made my labor and delivery experience, while painful and difficult, something that I can now look back and be in awe of.
So yes, read the books and take the classes and watch the videos and ask questions. However, if you identify as a feminist, know that you already have a leg-up on the labor and delivery game.
You're Used To Exercising Your Voice...
As a feminist woman who has probably had to combat the fictitious and out-dated social perception of what it even means to be a feminist, chances are you're probably used to using your voice. Whether it's just stating your opinion or teaching someone that being a feminist doesn't mean you hate men, but rather that you believe in gender equality, you probably aren't afraid to tell others what you think or feel or want or believe or need and, well, that's going to come in handy when you're in labor.
So You Won't Be Afraid To Speak Up When You Need To
I was honestly a little surprised at how hesitant I was, at first, to tell people what I wanted or needed when I was in labor. I was so worried about upsetting someone or doing something "wrong" or just being an inconvenience, that it took me a little while (i.e. until I was in a great amount of pain) for me to realize that, yeah, I get to speak up and ask for what I want and be "demanding." I was pushing another human being out of my body. I get to make demands, and once that realization smacked me in my feminist face, I had no problem telling people what I wanted or needed.
You Won't Be Afraid Of Asking Questions
Easily what has made me what I consider to be an informed and intersectional feminist, is the willingness to ask questions. I can't speak on behalf of all women, because I'm only one woman, and so many women (especially women of color and transgender women) have vastly different experiences than I do. I am constantly asking questions so that I can better learn about the people around me, and how I can be a better feminist and ally. That willingness made me more than comfortable to ask multiple questions throughout my pregnancy and especially during my labor and delivery. When a doctor wanted to do something or a nurse started something or people were talking and not including me in the conversation (that was clearly about me and what was about to come out of my vagina), I asked questions.
You'll Want To Be As Informed As Possible
I can't lie and say that I wasn't afraid to go into labor, because I was. When my water broke and the excitement that was knowing I was going to see my son soon(is) subsided, I was scared. However, because I was comfortable asking questions, that fear was combated by my ability to constantly be informed. The more questions I asked the more information I had at my disposal and the more I felt like I was always part of the decision making process. That was empowering, and definitely left me feeling less scared than I know I could have been.
You Won't Be Afraid To Make Decisions
Even though I had a birth plan written out and had a great idea of how I wanted my labor and delivery to go, there were moments when I needed to deviate from that plan which, in turn, meant that I had to make quick decisions. I wasn't afraid to confidently say what I wanted or why (or, sometimes, not even provide a why) and I know that identifying as a feminist helped me feel empowered to do so. It was my body; It was my experience; Yes, I was going to listen to the professionals and, of course, I was going to follow their lead when necessary, but I was also going to make sure that I was in control when possible.
You'll Surround Yourself With Supportive People...
I think, at any point in your life and definitely throughout your life, it's important to surround yourself with like-minded people. However, I would argue that it's the most important when you're birthing a human being. You want people who are going to value your voice and support your space and give you what you need, and as a feminist you won't have a problem creating that supportive team so that you get what you need, when you need it.
...And Kick People Out Of The Delivery Room If Necessary
I was lucky enough to have an absolutely amazing labor and delivery team. My birth plan was respected and I was never talked down to or talked at, but rather given the reigns and the room to make my own decisions. However, there was one nurse I didn't get along with, and who made me feel uncomfortable, and when I knew I didn't want her around me when it was time to push, I asked that she be removed from my labor and delivery team. I can tell you that while I did feel a tad uncomfortable, I also felt empowered. You won't get along with absolutely everyone, and absolutely everyone doesn't need to be part of your labor and delivery experience.
You'll Know That How You Birth Isn't An Indication Of Who You Are As A Woman...
There's no set list that you need to check off in order to be a "woman." You don't have to birth a certain way to be a "woman" and you don't have to make certain labor and delivery decisions in order to be a "woman." Hell, you don't have to procreate in order to be a "woman." Every feminist knows that womanhood is whatever you make it to be, and that freedom is going to give you the room to make whatever decision is best for you when it comes to labor and delivery.
...So If Plans Change Or Something Goes Wrong, That's OK
I had planned for an unmedicated birth, and spent upwards of 10 hours walking the halls of the hospital, trying my hand at a birthing tub, rolling on a birthing ball and swaying back and forth while standing. I did everything to try and work through the pain of my contractions, but after 10 hours I was exhausted and asked for an epidural. While I was somewhat disappointed, I knew that how I birthed my son wasn't going to make me any more or less of a woman. I didn't suffer in order to prove a point and I didn't have to be hard on myself because my birth plan changed. Feminism is all about empowering women to make their own decisions, and when I was bringing my son into the world, that's exactly what I did. I made my own decisions.
You'll Trust Your Body...
While I was scared and in pain and unsure of exactly how my labor and delivery was going to go, I also trusted that my body would see me through. I was going to be OK because my body was going to do what it needed to, or it was going to be assisted by those who could help my body do what it needed to do. Being hyper-aware that my body knew what it was doing, allowed me to "let go," so-to-speak, and just let my body do it's thing.
...Because You Know Your Body Is Amazing
I mean, a feminist knows that her body's worth isn't tied to the fictitious beauty standards of a patriarchy society, but rather the worth she has assigned it herself. She will know that what her body can do is far more amazing than how her body is perceived by others, and knowing that your body is just freakin' amazing and can do some freakin' amazing things, can be enough to get you through labor and delivery.
You'll Be Honest About How You're Feeling...
Being a feminist doesn't mean projecting a certain image or saying specific things. Instead, it simply means making your own choices free from gender stereotypes, and fighting for the ability of others to do the same. So, as a feminist I knew it didn't make me "weak" or "less of a woman" to be honest and say that, yes, I was scared. Labor and delivery was scary and I was worried and I wasn't sure if I could handle it at every single second of the process. There was some self-doubt, because I was experiencing something so incredible for the very first time.
...And You'll Express Those Feelings, Because That's Not Weakness, That's Strength
Being honest about how I felt when I was in labor (and even before I went into labor) helped me make it through labor. I knew I didn't have to "pretend" that I was completely empowered every step of the way. Instead, I could be honest and I could be sincere and I could work through fear or self-doubt because I acknowledged that they did, in fact, exist. That is, honestly, the most empowering part of labor and delivery (or at least it was for me). I was so raw and vulnerable and exposed (physically, mentally and emotionally) and it was in that state that I did something truly miraculous. I mean, that's just so damn bad ass.