We all like to feel like we’re in control. But what about the unpredictability of birth? It’s notorious for being an uncertain, wild ride! How can you possibly feel in control then?
Many people try. That’s why about a third of births in the US are induced. (Don’t get me started. A third of people need to get baby out before their baby and body have started the labor process on their own? Please. There are definitely medical reasons to do it, but numbers that high indicate it’s mostly for control and convenience.)
The unpredictability of birth can feel overwhelming and anxiety-inducing to some. How can we go through this huge experience without knowing what will happen? When it will happen? How long it will take? What it will feel like? Or…? There’s so much it feels like we just don’t know.
So how do we handle that?
It doesn’t have to be by trying to create control or force it to go a certain way.
1. Lean into it.
Literally billions of women have had to experience this unpredictability. It’s part of the process. It’s part of living and trusting. Trust that your body is capable. Trust that your body is built to do this in its own beautiful way.
To go through birth is to be vulnerable. It is to allow. Release. Give. Surrender. Try sitting with those feelings. Embrace them. Birth is not about giving up. You will find strength in this surrender.
3. Take a childbirth class.
In a good birth class, you learn the typical patterns of labor and what to expect. Birth being unpredictable doesn’t mean you are going in blind. You can learn what to expect, what’s normal, even what kind of surprises can come up. And you’ll also learn how to make informed decisions along the way so it doesn’t feel like things are just happening to you. You’ll be an engaged and empowered participant.
4. Write a birth plan.
A birth plan is not a list of demands nor is it a guarantee of what will happen. But the process of writing it helps you to clarify your desires and create a conversation around it with your care provider so you are on the same page. And then during your birth, your team can see your clear desires. They can work with you to help you achieve them as much as possible in each situation that arises. To do this well, you need to be well informed about your options. (So refer back to point 3 and take a birth class!)
5. Good Support
Knowing you are going to have solid, steady support through every part of your birth can make all the difference. You may not know how everything will play out, but you will know that people who love you are in it for the duration. You’ll be encouraged, cared for, and lifted up at every step. This can be from your partner, doula, family and friends, and even birth photographer!
Well, let me answer as a birth photographer. People often ask what I do to make sure I’m there for the birth and here’s my answer!
1. I make sure both you and your partner have my personal number and I keep my phone with me at all times from 37 weeks on (yes, even in the middle of the night!).
2. We will talk in advance about the best time in labor to call me to make sure it won’t be too late for me to make it (if you are in one of my childbirth classes, you probably already know when that is!).
3. I have several babysitters ready to come watch my kids at a moment’s notice.
4. In the rare instance that I am completely unable to get there in a reasonable time (due to sickness or a car accident, for example), I have a back-up photographer available who is also skilled in birth photography. She will take pictures for the whole birth or until I am able to get there. I will still edit your photos and provide your artwork.
5. As a childbirth educator and as someone who has attended many births, I’m experienced with the pattern and flow of birth. I’m ready for all kinds of things that may come up. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, when your partner takes a good birth class with you, they can also feel ready for the variety of things that may come along!
You can handle whatever comes in your birth. It may be full of surprises, but you are a capable person.
This post was inspired by a question in my FAQ. If you’ve got more questions about birth photography, take a look there!