This post is written from the heart. It is one about a mindset I encounter more times than I can count and one that I in fact held myself when I was pregnant with my first child: I planned to 'just go with the flow' during labour and see how things unfolded. Trusting my body and that it would just know what to do because, let's face it, billions of women have done it before me so surely I can do it too. Sounds familiar? I even saw it as a particularly 'pro natural' mindset and that my approach was going to just 'tell me' what I needed during birth. Birth can't be planned, right? So let's just go with the flow and not stress about anything beforehand.
So far so good. Only that my flow was stopped in its tracks even before my labour started with the recommendation of an induction for going post dates. That hadn't been part of my idea of flow as surely my body and baby just knew what they were doing? But because I hadn't researched and educated myself about what an induction involves, it's pro's and con's, risks and benefits I had only one option: Agree to the induction and hope for the best. What followed had nothing to do with 'flow' and you can read about it in more detail here where I wrote down my birth story. I had played all my cards before experiencing my first contraction and the only thing I had left was to hand over control to the medical professionals and hope they had my and my baby's best interest at heart. I became a doula after that experience, let's just leave it at that.
Planning to not resist the unpredictable twists and turns of labour or trying to 'control' it is a good thing in principle and part of my work with my clients is to prepare them for the unknown. That's one of the greatest challenges when it comes to birth, becoming comfortable with whatever lies ahead for us. The problem with the 'going with the flow' approach which many women (often first time mothers) hold is that it incorporates a lack of preparation, education about the birth process, typical interventions, learning about your options and identifying your preferences. There lies power in this process. Practicing skills that will help you to cope with labour and work with your body. Because if you don't there is every chance that at the first hurdle, first unexpected scenario or decision you are likely needing to hand over your decision making power - because how will you know what's right? You'll have to trust your doctor and let them take over which, and I speak from experience here, leaves women and partners feeling powerless and at great risk of emotional trauma.
If you are hoping that your flow will guide you on how to work through the intensity of labour then I would respond that birth needs to be respected. It is more than likely going to exceed the intensity that you are currently imagining and if you are hoping for a non-medicated birth or want to avoid an epidural with it's proven associated risk factors you need to have as many eggs in your 'birth coping skills basket' as you can. Working through the sensations of labour is all about build up and using more or different birth skills as the intensity increases. It helps greatly if you have practiced beforehand or have found something that really works for you.
So if you are pregnant and currently thinking you will be 'going with the flow' on your baby's birthday take a moment to think it through. What exactly will you do to work through labour? How will you respond or deal with needing to make decisions you didn't see coming? How is your partner going to feel? How do YOU want to feel during the process of giving birth? If this all seems a bit much to consider then get in touch with me. This is what I do with couples, I help them to fully prepare for birth and am there on the big day to coach and encourage you through each and every moment or challenge you may encounter. It takes great pressure from you AND your partner as he doesn't need to have all the answers. Some of the women I support still choose to maintain 'a going with the flow' approach, either because of individual circumstances or because that is the only way they can emotionally commit prior to birth. I am glad I can be there for them on the day, offering guidance, coping skills and support through challenging moments when I know that on their own they would likely end up very quickly in a place they didn't want to be in. Whilst I can't 'fix' things for women during birth (you still need to do it yourself!), I am there as a safeguard.
Have I triggered you to reconsider or at least think about the 'going with the flow' approach? Good. That makes me happy and I hope to hear from you to chat through how we can give your approach to giving birth a greater chance of being an emotionally more positive and powerful experience.