You are pregnant with your first baby, hooray! So many emotions, dreams, hopes, fears, changes all rolled into one bit of news. It likely means ones of the greatest 'before & after' moments of your life is coming and it carries oh so many unknowns. My father once described parenthood to me (before I became a parent myself) as 'one of the greatest adventures an adult can embark on' and today, after having been a mother for just over six years I would wholeheartedly agree. Being a parent is an adventure, a never ending one and certainly great!
But before you can get all excited about actually meeting, holding, loving, cuddling and kissing your baby you need to give birth. What a big event, what great unknown...and what big adventure! Yes, that's what giving birth is, an adventure in itself, filled with opportunity for self growth, learning and an emotional experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life...that much is already clear. Know this: your first birth holds a lot of power. It is the starting point for your birthing 'career', your experience of it will colour your entry into motherhood, breastfeeding and likely how you approach any future birth. It's big stuff and whilst it's good to be aware of the significance of it, it's also wise to not get completely freaked out about it. You've got this mama, there is no 'right or wrong', only what feels right to you and a lot of trust in the process. But...how do you get there?
1. Don't freak out
Remember, we're talking about a natural process here like you going to the toilet every day. Your body is doing an amazing job at growing a baby and won't stop 'working' as it needs to give birth. Yes there are risks, yes, some births require medical intervention but the very large majority does not. And a lot of the intervention that happens could be avoided but that's a different topic in itself. Nothing in life is risk free and that's one idea you'll have to wave goodbye to right now: Whatever birth you choose, whatever care provider setting you choose, there are ALWAYS risks and no guarantees. So what can you do? Understand the risk so you can influence and shape the birth that feels right for you. That is what is going to allow you to build trust, feel calm and prepared...become an expert or at the minimum an expert in asking questions.
2. Choose your care provider wisely
The choice of your care provider will influence your birth experience. So before you default to the option 'which you always had in mind', take the time to consider what comes with the care provider. Take a look at both options, private versus public, visit both hospitals, ask questions, take your time. One thing is clear: having a low or intervention free birth is much harder to achieve in the private system, that's a well known fact and you can check it by researching statistics. This is mostly due to you asking a trained surgeon (obstetrician) to look after you and your baby who will naturally feel most comfortable with medically managing aspects of your birth - they are doing their job by managing your birth but check if this matches your birth philosophy or actual needs. I meet a lot of first time mothers who tell me they opted for private 'because we had the insurance and like the idea of a single room post birth' but how does this relate to your birth? How do you picture your first birth? How would you like to welcome your first baby? Write a list of what truly matters to you and then see how this is aligned with the care provider you go with.
3. Come on, go there, connect with the emotional stuff
Yep, the emotional side of things can be a bit daunting as you're preparing for your first birth. So many unknowns, so much happening, so many hormonal changes and so many emotions to work through. You do have the option of avoiding all that stuff, pushing your fears aside, refusing to go deep into what pregnancy and giving birth is bringing up for you. But how is that going to serve you? One thing that I have learnt over the years is that any emotion that isn't given any space before giving birth usually has the potential to come up with much more power during the birth. Or if a woman has not dealt with the emotional layers as part of her birth preparation, she is often unable to do it during the birth which means she will reach the end of her 'rope' very quickly and need help in the form of medical intervention. So have the courage to face what is coming up for you and it may turn into a very interesting, exciting and revealing emotional self discovery for you. Not always easy, I know, but this isn't meant to be easy...parenthood isn't either!
4. Support, support, support
Giving birth to your first baby is one of the biggest, most significant times in your life. It'll stay with you forever. It shapes you as a woman and you and your partner as parents. Can you compare it to other situations in your life where you hadn't done something before but it really mattered? What would make a difference in such a situation? Support. A coach, so to speak, who is experienced in supporting birth, in understanding what is involved who can prepare you, explain things as it happens AND provide the emotional and physical support that is known to be a deciding factor in how you remember your birth. Don't feel alone in the birthing room to make decisions or in knowing what will help labour to progress but have a doula to guide you through. Yes. I work with too many second time parents who say they wish they'd had a doula during their first birth and I always high five first time parents for already knowing that support is a choice that makes sense.
You have a beautiful opportunity in your hands, one to experience your body in a way you have never done before, to feel the POWER of your body like you never dreamt possible and welcome your long awaited first baby with a birth you'll feel connected with forever. Go and grab it with both hands!