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It is common for mothers to hear the word "doula" and a birth story that goes along with it and believe the doula was the most important part of the positive birth experience.  While a doula does provide a level of trust and comfort to a mother, this would be typical of most anyone that is comfortable and confident in the physiology of birth providing continuous support to the mother.  The key to a positive birth experience, however, is knowledge and utilizing your human rights to make your own birth decisions.

Maybe you've heard, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," and that statement very much applies to birth decisions.  A doula can show you paths to take, and caution you of possible road bumps along the way, but they cannot create your healthy birth.  A doula should no make your birth decisions.  Making your own birth decisions is a significant part of feeling empowered from the birth and bringing confidence in your abilities into parenting, specifically early parenting.

Birth Choices and your Birth Journey

This birth, this pregnancy, is a part of your journey.  Your experience now and in the future will shape who you are as a human.  What you experience is meant for you, and the the way people experience the journey with you is meant for them.  There really isn't a right or wrong answer when it comes to birth choices.  However, we don't simply get the birth journey we're meant to have because we have influence over much of our experience.

You grow from your birth journey through the way you interact with your pregnancy, birth and postpartum.  The way you feel now will be similar to the way you feel during birth.  Build your confidence now, and your confidence will grow in birth.  Improve your physical health, and you will experience improved health during birth.  Allow everyone else to make your decisions, and you likely may feel out of control during birth.

5 Ways to Create a Healthy Birth

You've heard it so many times that your health, your birth location, and your care provider will be the biggest influences on your birth experience.  You've heard doulas improve birth experiences as well.  But simply knowing these three influences and then hiring a doula to make it all happen is a bit unrealistic.

Resolve to make decisions.

Right now.  Make this choice for yourself.  Choose to make your own birth decisions.  Choose a care provider and birth location that you know practices in a way that blends with your ideas for birth care.  If your care provider does not, know that it is up to you to make a change.  Your doula will not change the way your provider or location practices in the middle of birth.  Your birth plan and a signature doesn't change the default routines or they can kind of get a little murky in the process.

Think of it this way.  You don't tell a pastry chef how to bake his cakes.  If you're hiring a pastry chef, it is likely because you want a skill of his that you don't have.  You don't find a pastry chef and simply because he has this title expect that his cake tastes the same as anyone else's.  You don't have him sign a contract that says he will bake a cake the way you want it with ingredients he's not used to using and expect it to turn out exactly like you imagined.  You don't bring in a friend and have that friend encourage you through eating this cake that isn't turning out exactly like you imagined, either, and expecting them to tell the chef how to do their job at the same time.

Making your own decisions means you get to be comfortable with the outcomes.  Knowing the possibilities you have with your choices lets you to be informed and understanding of your birth experience.

Eat well.

Eat well for a healthy happy birth.  While you may not be able to afford everything organic or have the space to grow everything you eat, you can eat well.  You buy your food.  Your doula doesn't buy your food.  Your doula cannot change eating fast food every day during labor.  Your doula cannot force water in you and hide the soda.  Even if your spouse and other children don't want to eat the same way you do, you are still the one putting food in your mouth and eventually the family tends to follow along with what mom is eating, even if it takes a while (sometimes years).  If you are in a situation where someone is holding you down and force feeding you, or emotionally manipulating you to not eat healthy food choices, then I urge you to seek counseling or find a shelter that will help protect you from abuse.  Otherwise, search for recipes of snacks and meals that have little to no sugar and make bulk items ahead of time.  Eat a rainbow of colors of whole foods and little to no processed foods.  Eat only real ingredients.  Properly assimilated adequate nutrients means your hormones and your body systems function at their peak, and your birth risks are at a more even level.

Move regularly.

Make movement a routine part of your day.  Maybe going to a physical therapist or chiropractor or bodyworker isn't an option for you, but movement is always an option. You can stand at your desk.  You can stretch and move positions (off the sofa) while watching TV.  You can go barefoot.  You can squat to use the bathroom and for any movement that requires up and down.  You can belly dance.  You can sway.  You can do side-lying stretches.  You can walk.  You can move a little bit at a time regularly throughout the day and not have to block out time for "exercise" and in fact, this is the way you should be living.  Take opportunities for longer times of movement and walking, but not making that time doesn't mean you should live a mono-movement and low movement lifestyle.  Better movement now means the baby has a clearer path through the pelvis and you're less likely to feel crampy during birth.

Find time for self care.

In some way, soothe your mind without a screen for even 5 minutes a day.  Better if it can be 1 hour a day.  Pray.  Stretch.  Deep breathe.  Walk.  Use herbal teas or essential oils to soothe the thoughts of the day.  Take a bath and close your eyes to relaxing music.  Make a routine part of your day uninterrupted.  Find a person or a thing that can help you with kids - even if this is a blanket in your bathroom with a quiet toy they can play with or wear your earbuds with relaxing music to mellow out the sounds.  Every day work to explain to your children their need for respect during this time and set a routine with them that allows them to feel nurtured also when you're done so you both can enjoy some relaxation time.

Learn about birth.

Birth doesn't have to be scary.  Review your previous births and discover new choices for a different (or similar) experience.  Listen to positive birth stories, and learn about the choices that supported those births.  Discover the parts of birth that cause fear and BELIEVE that you have the ability to learn about those aspects of birth and how to prevent and deal with those complications.  Don't allow someone else in your birth space to project their fear upon you.  If they do not learn or cannot reduce their fear with the choices you've made, it may be necessary to request them to not be a part of your experience.  If you are unable to move past a fear, seek counseling - there is likely a deeper struggle causing this fear response.

The information is here.  For selecting a birth environment that supports you, to steps to take if you find yourself in less than ideal birth situation.

You don't plan your birth.  You don't "plan a home birth" or "plan a birth center birth" or "plan a hospital birth."  You prepare for birthIf you take a prenatal prep approach of learning about your body, birth choices, and even a basic knowledge of birthing and supporting a birth, then USE the information you've been given to support your body and your mind and then birth happens.  You simply birth your baby and make decisions during that process to support your body (physically and emotionally) and your baby.  Don't get stuck in the idea that you have to birth in a certain location once you've chosen where you want to begin labor and experience labor.  Prepare for the ways to prevent complications and feel holistically supported now and during postpartum.  If your birth location and care provider changes in the middle, you'll be more empowered and confident to speak up and utilize your birth rights.

 

 

just breathe Reflection Journal Prompt - Week 4

Reflect: What questions have you had answered and how are you using those answers to seek the birth you desire? Write some new questions or topics you feel you need to learn about. Research those this week and jot down some notes and feelings.

#TheOxytocinMethod is an approach to the role we play during our childbearing years of the responsible consumer. I can provide you with information, but only you can choose what you do (or don't do) with information. You birth how you live.  You birth how you feel.

 

 

Be empowered - take responsibility and experience the joy from making your own birth decisions and allowing those choices to build your confidence for parenting.  If you're looking for more in depth information on your options for birth and building your confidence for making decisions, schedule mentoring or join an Esali Birth class.

visual birth guide Esali Birth

A birth guide can be a valuable tool in the birth space.  Often referred to as a birth plan, the birth guide terminology is often better received by providers as it implies the acknowledgment that births cannot be planned.  The birth plan term has a bad reputation due to the way they are all too often presented and used.  Often in a militant perspective, families present a birth plan with the believe that a signature on that plan will guarantee a certain style of birth.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  You are in all ways encouraged to utilize all of your legal rights for choosing the birth that you desire.  You have every protected right to speak up, request, refuse, or delay any procedure.  You have the legal right to get up, sign yourself out of a facility, and birth at home or another location as well.  Providing your birth team with a holistic visual birth guide helps start the conversation to reduce unnecessary additions to the birth guide and keeps a flexible approach to the changes of normal labor.

The key with using a birth guide is to choose a birth environment (birth team and location) that supports your birth philosophy.  A birth guide should never be used as a means of changing the way someone practices.  If you need a contract to tell someone how to attend a birth... that's a huge red flag for you not being in a space that is knowledgeable or respectful of your birth philosophy. A birth guide is a reminder for your birth team to support you in the way you desire.  At times, your birth location and care provider may be more than happy to accommodate your wishes but routinely practice in a different way, in which case, a birth guide acts as a reminder to those supporting mom to speak up during these times and remind the care team of any changes.  A doula supporting a wide range of births in a wide range settings will enjoy having a copy of your birth guide to ensure your individual wishes are met.

Esali Birth has free holistic visual birth guides for download that include all of the most common requests for family-centered birth with spaces for you to fill in your individual care suggestions and emergency birth location requests.  Selecting a support environment first reduces all unnecessary interventions.  Requesting minimal interventions of any kind allows you to have more control over the procedures - even if later you decide to have a few, or all of the, interventions available.  Requesting your care team ask your permission for any procedures (which is what they should legally be doing anyway) vs. asking them to just limit procedures, provides you with the opportunity to decline as well as request a procedure and be the leading person in your birth (as it should be). Ultimately, if your birth choices have placed you in a concerning situation and you feel like you need to tell the providers and birth location how to perform every aspect of their job - it is time to explore other options.  Change practices with your choices - this is the most effective way.  If we bow to an environment's routines when we don't agree with them, they're getting paid and they'll still perform those routine procedures.  If we set ourselves up for demanding and arguing in labor, we reduce not only the positive view on our birth but the safety of our birth due to heightened adrenaline.  If we intentionally select our birth location based on compatibility, a happy healthy birth is created and the more women approach birth choices in this way, the more policy changes we see.  These options may include changing obstetricians, switching to midwifery care and should always include exploring home birth options.  The more aware you are of all the ranges of options, the more choices you have.  In most locations there are providers who offer fully respectful and individual-oriented care without you needing a birth guide for biological birth choices.

Download the birth guide from the My Journey page.

Looking for guidance developing your personal birth guide or learning about your birth philosophy?  Contact mdbergum@esalibirth.com to schedule mentoring sessions via Skype or locally in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

photo from freedigitalphotos.net

Birth guides, or birth plans, are lists that lay out your priorities for labor and the immediate postpartum. Whether at home or in the hospital, these can become great communication tools for your birth team (which includes your birth partner, doula(s), assistants/nurses, and your provider). What is important to keep in mind, however, is that a birth guide should only be used as a reminder and only *after* you’ve carefully selected your birthing environment and birth team.

A birth guide cannot fix choices that don’t support your idea of a healthy and happy birth.

What does a birth guide include?

  • Introduction – Brief information about you and often accompanied with a box of cookies for the nursing staff. Baking homemade cookies are a great early labor activity.
  • Labor Wishes – Include priorities such as your wishes for natural or medicated birth, ability to move and eat as you wish, and suggestion preferences from the birth team (including staff/provider) on how to birth your baby.
  • Birth & Newborn Care Wishes – Will you allow the cord to stop pulsing on its own? Will you avoid vaccines or eye treatments? Have someone remind the staff that they are required to ask your permission before performing any procedures on you or the baby. Sometimes, this is overlooked. Will you allow the placenta birth to come naturally?
  • Emergency & Cesarean Birth – Do you want to watch your baby being born? Which hospital would you prefer to be transferred to in case of an emergency? Which hospital would you prefer your newborn transfer to in case of an emergency?

There is a lot to think about, so start taking notes now. Find a provider (if you wish) and birth location that matches your belief of safety, health, and happiness for your baby and your family. Then, narrow down your priorities and consider alternative options for when birth takes a different course. This is why Esali Birth likes to refer to this as a birth “guide” and not a “plan.” You can’t plan biological birth – but you can prepare for it!

Keep your birth guide to no longer than a page, and only list simple bullet points that are easy to read and understand.  Remember that if you're birthing in a hospital, the team probably has multiple other mothers they're working for and a lot of paperwork to complete.  Take a hospital tour to get to know some of the staff before hand and know more of what to expect from the facility so you can better judge your choices.  If you're at home, your birth team likely has taken a lot of time already to understand your vision for birth. If you exceed a page, you might want to consider changing your location and/or care provider to better match your wishes.

To learn more about all the options you have for birth, and in depth details on how your choices influence your baby and your birth, take an Esali Birth perinatal education class locally or online!

 

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