Friday, April 3, 2009

Preparing for Birth: "What If?" Can Be Motivating

The most recent Midwifery Today e-newsletter has a quote that ties in well to yesterday's post re: what do childbirth educators teach anyway? and re: how some of the most important work a woman does to birth her baby happens before the birth.
"When we are aware of potential risk factors or when mothers express extreme anxiety we can take steps to remedy the situation and facilitate a smooth birth. Our actions will depend on the particular situation, but often just identifying the source of worry and getting it out into the open may be all that is needed to prevent related problems from arising in labor. Ultimately we want to empower moms to use the resources and address the problems before labor begins."

— Heidi Nielson Sylvester
Excerpted from "Psychological and Emotional Dystocia," Midwifery Today, Issue 81
The above quote resonates so well with me because I've seen so many a-ha moments come from the activities we do in class around worrying. After we talk about the purpose of worrying, I encourage families to come up with a "worry list". I suggest they use the "what if" questions that linger in the back (and front!) of their minds as motivation to prepare during birth. One of my favorite activities we do together is the Birthing From Within "taming your birth tiger" visualization. I sometimes see a dramatic shift following this activity: moms and dads relax their shoulders and jaws and leave the class looking like a weight has literally been lifted away. I would love to be a fly on the dashboard of the car sometimes, to hear what conversations are sparked from this exercise.

These discussions in class pave the way for couples to communicate concerns and preferences together, as well as with their care providers and other birth support people. Framing worry as a motivator instead of something to be suppressed and avoided totally changes a lot of people's perceptions and helps them feel more directed and in-control.

For example, one of the my first clients turned out to be very, very afraid of and worried about needles, especially having an IV. I think she felt a little silly about this, but getting it out in the open seemed to be a relief. So we talked about ways needles and IVs in labor - why they are used and how they might be avoided. I strongly encouraged her to talk to her care provider about the routine care she provided during labor so she could be prepared ahead of time. Turns out this OB was very uncomfortable with anything less than a routine IV, and told the mom I was working with that she might die or her baby might die without one. Instead of frightening this mom, the OB's comment made her very angry, and motivated her to change care providers entirely, to a midwife who practiced at a different hospital. She went on to have a very satisfying (and safe) birth experience - without an IV!

While we spend a lot of time on the birth process, and coping strategies, as well as discussing common procedures and medications, one thing that makes my classes different from the standard prenatal class is the focus on preparation that can be done now, while pregnant - whether it's nutrition, or exercise, or communicating, or reflection.

Preparing for birth and parenting starts, in my opinion, during pregnancy - and it goes far beyond getting the baby's room ready and installing a car seat! To read more, click on the What If post I wrote a few months ago.

I'm curious - what did you do (or are doing now) to prepare for your baby's birth? Was there anything you wished you had done?

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
New Mothers Support Circle

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