Write Your Birth Story – Before the Baby Comes

Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash

A couple years back, I was reading the excellent book by Cynthia Gabriel, “Natural Hospital Birth” and came across her suggestion for readers (pregnant people) to write their birth story in advance of their birth. It was brilliant. I thought, ” . . . but OF COURSE! This can help us manifest the birth we are hoping for because it’s like a long, detailed affirmation”. The more I pondered this idea the more I realized that our pre-written birth story can serve as a tool to help us examine if our birth team (doctors, midwives, partners, doula, friends, family, etc.) is going to help or hinder our birth plan. Who wouldn’t want to iron out all of the potential wrinkles in the birth plan? I know, I know, you’re thinking, “no birth ever goes according to plan.” Humor me for a minute.

Do you plan a wedding? Do you plan a birthday party? Do those things ever go exactly according to plan? No, they do not, but plan them, you do. Birth plans are useful tools, even if you don’t actually give them to your provider. They provide us an opportunity to consider the information about many interventions we may encounter during birth. If you have the right provider, they will be welcoming of your birth plan and will recognize that your values and preferences are an important part of evidence based care.

Now that you know birth plans are useful, and you love the idea of writing your birth story to test the viability of your birth plan . . . Are you like, “WHERRRRRE do I even start?” I can help you!

Part One

Set aside a morning or afternoon in your schedule and devote a good chunk of quiet time to really dig into your heart and intuition about how your birth story unfolds. Listen intently as your deeply knowing self relays the story to your conscious self about your birthing day. Ask questions if you get stuck, or use the prompts below for a jumping off point. Once your birth story starts coming to you, you may feel it flowing faster than you can write.

Here are some writing prompts to help you get started on your dream Birth Story:

The first time I knew I was in labor was when . . .
My support person was able to help me by . . .
When my labor began, I was . . .
When my labor began, I felt . . .

. . . and some more prompts for when you are writing about being in your birth place. Think about active labor and transition, as well as the pushing stage and delivery of the placenta while you consider these prompts:

When we arrived at the . . .
When I settled into my chosen birthing space, I felt . . .
When I felt the next one come, I . . .
The people who were around me were . . .
The staff at the birth center was . . .
My care provider helped me when . . .
My baby was . . .

Don’t forget the Golden Hour: the magical first hour after baby is born. How do you see your first hour after birth being spent?

After my baby was born, I . . .
When I held my baby, I felt . . .
My baby’s eyes were . . .
My baby’s body was . . .

Feeling my baby skin to skin, I noticed . . .

And finally, think about your postpartum care. We are still being cared for up to 4 days after we give birth in a medical setting. The baby is out, and you are now two (or more!) people instead of one. Consider how your baby is being cared for, as well as yourself.

After the golden hour, I decided to . . .
I asked for something to eat, it was . . .
My partner was . . .
The staff was . . .
My baby was . . .
When we were discharged, I felt . . .

Part Deux

Now that you have written your dream birth story, reflect on whether the actors who compose your dream ‘birth team’ represent your current reality.

About your birth partner: Is your partner capable of supporting you the way you envision? If not, what might help them provide the comfort and advocacy skills you will need from them? Childbirth classes? A virtual consultation with a birth professional? Would it be best to have a doula join your team to support both you and your partner with these things? Be honest with yourself and your partner about their abilities and your needs and work towards a solution that you feel good about – one in which you are making a conscious agreement. As you consider your options, keep in mind that sacrificing your birth experience for your partner’s comfort is not an option. You don’t get to have a do-over, so remember that even though your partner’s feelings matter, yours are more important in this situation. They won’t be the ones carrying around this life-changing physical/mental/emotional/spiritual stuff around with them their whole life. If they need help understanding this, please consult a couples counselor or marriage therapist. It is that important.

About your care provider: If your birth story is representative of the social/midwifery model [see table below] but your provider is giving you something that looks more like the medical model . . . how can you change your reality to more closely match your birth story? Bring these into alignment and your birth experience will be more likely to resemble your birth intentions. You may need to change care providers to get the care you are seeing in your birth story. Your doula or childbirth educator can help you find a provider who aligns with the model of care you want.


A Critical Analysis of the Medical Model as used in the Study of Pregnancy and Childbirth
by Edwin van Teijlingen
Sociological Research Online, Volume 10, Issue 2

About your birth place: where are you in your birth story? The hospital? A birth center? Home? If your birth place aligns with the type of care you are seeking, awesome. But if you find yourself dreaming of birthing in the woods and this is not your plan because you feel safer in the hospital, then the birth setting you have planned is leaving something to be desired. Your deeply knowing self wants to be left alone during birth, as much as possible. How can you arrange your birth place so that you can feel undisturbed, as in your dream birth? What can be done to protect your birth space? Your childbirth educator and/or doula can offer many suggestions to help you piece together a birth plan that more closely resembles your birth intentions revealed by your birth story. If you need help finding a certified childbirth educator or doula, you can search here and here.

Jenn D’Jamoos is a CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator, Certified Health Coach and Evidence Based Birth ® Instructor. She offers childbirth classes and workshops in Southeast/Central Michigan, as well as virtual birth planning consultations online. You can learn more about her here.

Book your virtual consultation with Jenn to plan your Dream Birth now.

Birth Preparation Methods and Why I don’t have a “method”.

Now that I am a Certified Childbirth Educator, I can look back on my childbirth preparation experiences with a more critical eye.  Let me first say, I don’t believe that there is one method that serves everyone, but rather, certain methods resonate with certain people.  You like vanilla, I like chocolate . . . you get the idea.  But how do you know what is a good fit for you?  Let me explain.

For my first baby, I took classes through the hospital, and I didn’t remember much of anything helpful by the time I was in labor.  Those hospital classes did not teach me any coping skills.  I was going to “try” to go natural (lol).  I ended up getting pitocin and thought I had to stay confined to bed.  None of the nurses there told me it would be easier for me to get up and move around.  (Maybe they didn’t know because they only ever saw medicated births?)  So, I didn’t.  Culture had me believing that I was supposed to stay in the hospital bed, even though no one ever actually said that to me.  Given that I was in tremendous pain, had no coping skills and my husband was equally at a loss to help me, I requested the epidural.   While the epidural was very effective in relieving my pain, I felt disconnected from my body and the birth experience.  I was an observer;  just another person in the room waiting for a baby to emerge.  I knew if I was going to do this again, I’d need to seek out a different kind of class to have a better birth experience.

Fast forward to my second birth:  we took a birth preparation class that was 12 weeks long.  It was a popular method that celebrates husbands.  We got a lot out of the class and I think it did a great job preparing us.  But there were weeks we *really* didn’t want to go.  I think if we were not already parents, we probably wouldn’t have taken that class.  The things that drove me to do it were a.) a “night out” without our oldest, b.) I really needed support from my instructor in navigating things with my care provider (another story for another time) and c.)  I was determined to have  a natural birth.  Long story short, I coped with all of my labor at home and in the car.  I don’t think my husband actually did any of the physical support he learned in that class.  Most of what I did to get through labor in those three very intense hours was primal and instinctive.  The main thing I got out of that class was that my body was made to do this.  The class convinced me that I could give birth without interventions.  (and I did!)  I appreciated that my husband learned how to identify the different stages of labor by observing my behavior.  He knew I was further along than I thought I was and thus, contacted our support people to come before I probably would have.  I believe the classes were a good investment of our time and money.

Third birth:  To prepare for our first homebirth, I read a book on self-hypnosis for labor which was accompanied by a CD.  (The book is also available in class format with instructor, which we did not take.)  I was confident in my laboring skills after my second birth but I felt like maybe I just got lucky to have a 3 hour labor last time, so thought it wise to add some more tools to my toolbox.  It was a little weird for me, to be honest.  I didn’t get into it, even though I love “new-age hippie” stuff.  Maybe self-hypnosis just didn’t resonate with me at the time, or maybe it was the scripts, or the voice on the CD.  I could not “connect” with them.  I also don’t believe calling contractions “surges” made them any less painful for me.  So, did it help me during labor?  What that book helped me do was understand that I had to be in a different part of my brain.  I suppose I inherently knew this already because I made the effort to plan a homebirth;  I couldn’t see myself laboring like I wanted in a hospital having had the previous experiences I had.  I think the birth hypnosis book most helped me engage in the idea of seeing contractions in different ways; waves, colors, etc. to help cope with them and brought me to understand the value of birth affirmations.

Fourth Birth:  By the time I was pregnant with my youngest child, I had already been a Childbirth Educator for several years.  I knew that all of my laboring instincts would kick in and that I could trust the process.  I had another homebirth and added a doula this time for good measure.  My doula was able step in and provide physical comfort/support while my husband took care of setting up the birth space and preparing supplies.  It was SO NICE to have someone 100% dedicated to my physical and emotional needs while Chris managed other equally important aspects of the birth setting.  The thing that stands out most to me, though, about coping with my fourth labor is that I had been able to turn inward and completely surrender to the will of my baby and my body.  I didn’t have to use my thinking brain to remember things to do . . . it was instinctive.  After reflecting on that birth, I came to the conclusion that the practice most closely associated with how I “turned inward” is known as meditation.

A pregnant mother practices meditation to prepare for birth.

 

I had never taken any classes in meditation until long after my fourth birth.  But when I started meditating, I knew instantly that this place in my brain seemed familiar.  It was just where I had been during the deepest, most divine part of my birth experiences.  After researching, I understand now why practicing meditation is so profoundly useful for pain relief during labor.

I believe that the efforts I made in preparing for birth during my pregnancies helped to get me where I needed to be for labor.  These classes and books gave me tools I may not have had otherwise.  Because I had experience with several approaches to childbirth preparation, I was able to make the informed decision to become certified by an organization (CAPPA) that doesn’t teach/promote/utilize a specific method, but rather draws from evidence based practices as well as the varied experiences and expertise of many mothers and birth professionals.  Coupled with my training, I am able to draw upon my own experiences and knowledge to teach expectant couples a wide variety of tools to help them through their birth journeys.  I firmly believe that a well prepared birth team has the best chances of having a beautiful and positive birth experience.   Now that I am also an Evidence Based Birth® instructor, I am able to offer even more support in the way of preparing families for navigating birth in a medical setting.

If you are deciding on a class that best suits you and your partner, there are many factors to consider including your schedules, your birth intentions and your birth philosophy.  The vast majority of out-of-hospital group classes are going to be great for most couples, but there are sometimes limitations with scheduling and availability, so be sure to explore your options around your community and even a little further out from home.  You might find a perfect fit just a little bit out of the way and it could make all the difference for you, your baby and your birth.

 

DIY Birth Affirmations, Mantras, Meditations

Meditation helps you get into the right “head space” for labor, but it takes practice.

If you are more of a do-it-yourselfer, you will LOVE writing your own birth mantras for meditation.  What could be more tailor-made for your birth than mantras that resonate with the very soul who composed them?

When we are in labor, the goal is to get through each contraction and rest in between them.  But, if we let our fear get the best of us, we end up suffering during the contraction as well as in between contractions, because we get caught up in anticipating the pain.  “Mantras are sacred words that have spiritual qualities when uttered. They are used to connect with the Divine and protect the mind from sources of suffering,” writes Jillian Babcock in an article for Yogapedia titled, “The Sacred Meaning of Mantras”.

The goal of repeating mantras (or affirmations) and centering your meditation on a mantra is to get into a part of your brain that is very primal.  This part of the brain called the “mammalian brain”, when accessed during birth, can most easily be done when the birthing person feels safe, supported and loved.  When you are in your mammalian brain, your birth experience is more likely to unfold just the way nature has designed.  The cascade of hormones that helps your body relax and open is unleashed from that place inside of us that is pure animal instinct.  To let go of rational thinking and submit to the will of your body and baby; that is the goal.

But how do you get there?  Seems like a strange place to be for someone who tends to overthink things, who overprepares for everything . . . who is a perfectionist.  You can start by journaling your thoughts and fears.  This is followed by looking over your journaling after a week with ‘girlfriend eyes’ and determine what negative beliefs need to be replaced with positive ones.  Those positive thoughts become your mantras and the script for your guided meditation.  Give yourself time, though.  The process of writing your mantras and changing your negative beliefs into positive ones takes around 6 weeks.

According to Nikki Novo, writing for Miami Racked, “The idea is that if we continue to repeat a positive mantra over and over again, eventually it will override a negative belief our mind has grown accustomed to.”  She goes on to give a step-by-step guide to write your own mantra.  You can tweak this to use in your labor.  Click here to access the guide.