I think one of the most difficult parts of educating and advocacy is getting mothers to OWN their birth. I can say it a thousand different ways and every personality needs a different sentence to create the "ah-ha" moment of bringing them to a place of peace. We're just as quick to say that someone else was the reason we were able to birth as we are to say that someone else was the reason we couldn't. Responsibility is a powerful thing, and our culture continues to hand this away on a whim. Changing culture is difficult. Sometimes I get to a place of feeling like it is pointless to even try, especially with so many working against the truth and power of birth (many who should be on our side, sadly). But, then I have to remind myself that birth work is hard and I'm truly passionate about it, and I don’t care so much about reaching a lot of moms as I care about reaching those who know there is something better than what the majority of families are experiencing, and what the majority of groups are advocating for. I don’t want you to settle for anything less than what you and your baby deserve.
YOU create your birth.
You get interested in a certain birth experience. You will create the experience you're truly interested in, and no one else. Reflect on this a little, because it might be hard to grasp at first. If you initially wanted a home birth but was considered high risk and chose a hospital birth, that is what you chose. It doesn’t make you wrong, it makes you in control – and it doesn’t mean you couldn’t have a home birth. You chose that, be OK with it, don’t apologize. There are thousands of low risk moms that choose hospital birth. There are some high risk mothers that choose to have home births, and some home birth providers that are comfortable with attending high risk mothers, and some high risk mothers that free birth. Mothers have this control.
Neither I nor anyone else has any right to tell them they shouldn’t make that choice for their birth – it is what they believe is the best for their family. You accept the risks for your birth. The perceived risks in either setting are often misconstrued, but it is still your baby and your birth. Show them the same respect you want for yourself.
You may have wanted a midwife or doula at your birth but couldn't afford it. Some parents believe it is important enough to get a loan to do this just as they would get a loan to buy a house, buy a car, get married, send their kids to college, or use a credit card to pay for food...etc. Of course, preparing for pregnancy for a time when you don't need outside assistance is ideal, but life happens and it doesn’t always work that way… nevertheless, you always have options. Save $25/wk - use it for your next birth, or go on vacation if you don’t need it. Sometimes, knowing you have options and choosing something less ideal is better than thinking you are stuck in a situation. Embrace your experience.
Your past creates your personality and the relationship that plays out in birth. This is why normalizing birth, breastfeeding, and raising children is a crucial part of changing birth experiences. Culture has created the modern birth environment. Culture has devalued children as a normal part of everyday life. It is a combination of government politics, medical advancements, mother’s wishes, feminism, industrialization, manipulation, naivety, trust, hope, contentment… everything.
You get healthy (or not). Sure, there is a little leeway in someone that is told to take a prenatal vitamin to fix everything vs. closely monitoring your diet to ensure you stay healthy, but once someone presents the information to you, it is only you that can pick the food up and put it in your mouth. I argue that it is common sense that fast food, soda, and cake isn't healthy for you and baby, so on that we should all know to moderate. You decide what you digest and you decide what you’re willing to give to your baby.
You select your birth team. You make the effort to get the information about their experience and skills. If you choose them based on titles rather than learning about how they practice, that is your choice. If you decide it is best to have more than just your immediately family present, that is your choice to bring in their energy and perspective into the birth. They aren't a magical set of people that can give you a certain birth because of their title. If they influenced your birth, they did so because of your relationship with them. If you trust your birth team, they will be valuable. If you don't trust your birth team, they aren't going to be a positive influence. If you don't know your birth team, then it is a total gamble - and I'm not so sure that's a gamble you'll want to take. Trust creates the situation where a part of your birth team can enhance your experience. It isn't because they're your husband, your friend, your doula, your midwife, your OB... they will not be a positive part of your birth if you don't trust them. Beyond the fact that most home birth midwives risk out mothers, they have more empowering experiences, and often significantly less intervention because they create trusting relationships with their clients.
You select your birth location. You can’t be mad that technology wasn’t available any more than you can be mad about routine interventions. You have to decide what you’re willing to have around you in birth and what you’re willing to sacrifice. A transferred home birth is not a failed home birth. It is simply a birth that happened to need medical assistance. Sometimes we get caught up in the idea of “home” birth, and forget that we’re simply just birthing and the plan to birth in a certain location isn’t the goal – but an emotionally, spiritually, and physically healthy motherbaby is the goal… that plays out in a lot of different ways.
You prepare for your birth. If you’re reading this, then you have just opened yourself up to a whole slew of information from birth classes available anytime, anywhere, to a lot of references for outstanding information across the world. It is one thing to be manipulated to not realize what is available to you, but it is a whole other ball game when you’ve been given access to the research. Only you can open the book, make the phone call, and allow your mind to process the information. If you stop here, that is a choice you’re making.
Your choices affect your entire experience. It isn't the birth method that made your partner connect with you in birth. You were already connected to have a partner interested in helping you in every way possible and listening to the tips to make it easier.
It isn't the birth method that taught you how to birth. No one teaches you how to pee, how to breathe, how to have sex. These are engrained in your biology. You learned the choices that can make birth easier, but you made them (or didn't).
It isn't the birth method that made you strong. You are strong.
A birth method might allow you to cope with hospital routines better. A birth method might encourage you to be a fighter for your birth wishes. A birth educator might provide you with knowledge about the birth industry that you weren’t aware. A birth class might be an awesome way of bonding with your baby and partner, and other families. A birth educator might give you emotional support and a safe place to ask questions. But, you got here because you were searching for that certain birth experience. You found a birth “method” that resonated with your ideals, and then you found a birth educator that shared their perspective with you. The method didn’t allow you to succeed, nor did it fail you. The people surrounding you that built your trust, or took away your trust, had the impact on you. Not the birth method. You can be made to believe that hospital birth is normal, and be comfortable with that, and have a wonderful experience. You can be made to believe that free birth is normal, and be comfortable with that, and have a wonderful experience. If you’re made to believe an epidural makes the birth awesome, and your epidural doesn’t work… or if you’re made to believe that biological birth is normal, and your choices don’t reflect that setting, you won’t have a wonderful experience either. Even if the way the baby comes into this world isn’t quite what you expected, when you are in control, you will be empowered. The only true “method” that significantly creates an empowering experience is trust in birth. Create the environment that allows you to trust and follow your instincts, and you will be empowered. It. Is. That. Simple. However, just because I said it won't make your birth any better or worse. It is your choices that create that setting. You can lead a horse to water...
Above all, birth is emotional. Your emotions allow you to start labor. Your emotions allow you to progress through labor. Your emotions allow you to birth your baby. Getting to a place of peace (or not) will affect so many things about your labor. Birth is emotional. Once baby is ready, you will birth when you feel safe. If you have hang-ups about pain, support, transferring, hospital routines, staff personalities, being a parent, previous birth experiences, birth outcome…etc., your labor will not progress. Birth is safer than it is risky. I’d call it “safe,” but then you’d assume that I mean nothing negative ever happens, and that isn’t true because birth is a part of life and life isn’t perfect. There is not one place or one person that can guarantee you or your baby a certain outcome. Many providers and birth locations create this false sense of security. Really think about what you’re bringing into your birth with outside influences.
When you come to the level of understanding that you have power over your birth choices, then you feel comfortable with your birth choices. Someone may encourage you along the way with their beliefs, which then become your beliefs, but it is YOUR decision. Hospital birthers accept risks just like home birthers accept risks. We can argue until the cows come home about what we believe is right or wrong – but if mothers OWN their births, then we don’t have to. When we’re comfortable talking about the choices we made – all the choices we made – and why we made them – then we can just say “Oh, OK, I want that for myself” or “Oh, OK, I wouldn’t do that for my family.” And if we OWN our births, we don’t feel guilty. I certainly don’t believe mothers have to share their birth choices; this is a private event and no one’s business. But, I would encourage mothers, if they do choose to share their experience, to be honest about the whole experience and explain the reason you made the choices you did. Birth stories are incredibly powerful. They will influence many mothers on their road to birth.
There was a time when birth was just birth. It was a life changing event designed to make you bond with your baby, your family, and take care of this little one for many years to come. It was designed to start the process of milk flowing. It was designed to make you rest during postpartum when your baby needs to have unlimited access to the breast. It was designed to make you feel strong and womanly. It was designed to ingrain into Dad’s head why he should stick with you forever. It was designed to bond siblings to their new family member. It was designed to be a normal part of biology. It isn’t as simple as it used to be. Ask why. I’m not going to give you this answer here because you need to take the time to discover for yourself. When you find this answer, you’ll know what you need to know to own your birth.