Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Slow Birth Preparation

There's so much expectation surrounding the preparation for birth in our culture. Strangers will ask, "Have you signed up for your prenatal classes? Have you prepared your baby's room?" Friends and family can press all the wrong buttons, too. "You shouldn't even think of labouring without taking the Inner Barracuda Course"...or whatever the prenatal class of the day is called.

I've had three phone calls in the past 36 hours from women whose hearts tell them that they shouldn't take any classes for this pregnancy. "I didn't need to read books before I made love for the first time, did I?" These clients are well-informed women who have chosen great teams for their birth. They are insightful, intuitive, and deeply trust their own bodies. They understand that birth is a triumph of the reptile brain over the analytical brain. And because of that, they are concerned that prenatal classes might hinder their reptile brain from being in charge on birth day. They've thought long and hard, and, for them, prenatal classes aren't the best option.

And I completely support them in their decisions.

A recent client laboured without any preparation for vaginal birth. She had chosen a cesarean for her first baby - a glorious breech baby girl. She had been anticipating a repeat cesarean for her second baby...until she decided that she would cancel her surgery, and just see what happened. After a slight panic over her lack of "vaginal birth training" ("Shouldn't I read some books?!" "Shouldn't I study up on birth?") she went into labour all on her own the next day. It was beautiful watching her labour without expectations, without the clutter of book knowledge. I talked her through each contraction, reminding her that this was something that she already knew on a deep level. She drew on her inner wisdom and breathed through each contraction. It was like watching a preschooler dive into a challenge without fear. She was strong, intuitive, capable.

When her baby was born into her arms (yes, it was a vaginal birth!) she looked awestruck by what she'd achieved. I don't think she'll ever question her own abilities ever again. And she'd done it all without studying.

We're given 9 months to prepare for our baby's birth. In that time, we have to process so much. We have to consider our changing selves, our changing relationships with our partners and families and friends. We have to draw on our past life experiences, both physically and emotionally, to gain the strength and will-power required for the transition to motherhood. We have to examine our family boundaries, understanding that the birth of a child will turn us from being a daughter...into a mother. We will weather the changing emotions of pregnancy, and watch our single girlfriends draw away from us. We will worry about our ability to maintain our core self, to maintain a loving intimate relationship with our partner... We may become overwhelmed by how we are now connected to all living the entire world.

Too much.

And add to that working a five-day week, organizing finances, perhaps moving, perhaps buying a new car, attending exercise classes, yoga classes, buying baby supplies, strollers, carseats, painting, and weekly prenatal classes...

Too much!

I call on you, each of my clients, to slow down, take time to do nothing, take time to empty your brain. Walk on the beach. Sit on a log and meditate. Breathe in the wind. Connect with your baby. Connect with your partner.

If you need to do yoga, go when it pleases you. Or do it at home. Turn on music, sit still, and let it enter you and calm you.

Consider delegating jobs to your family and friends. Give them lists of things to do for you. Ask for help. Many families buy nothing until the baby is born, then have family members make all the purchases and organize the house. Think about how that could give you the joy of release - could you do that?

Read books that speak to you. Poetry, novels, essays. And, yes, it's wonderful if you read inspiring writing by Ina May (and those on my recommended list). Call me for talks on subjects close to your heart. But, don't forget to look at the big picture... watch a TED talk each day (best start with Sir Ken Robinson...then Jamie Oliver) and enjoy discussing it with your partner as you walk on the beach after dinner.

Throw away all lists. Follow your heart. Leave work as early in your pregnancy as you can. Allow your pregnancy to draw you into the reptile world, as it must do.

Rather than following the crowd and doing what everyone else tells you what you should do, think about what really matters to you, to you and your partner, then decide what you need and what you want. What is essential for your new family? Remember, "do nothing" is an option.

Be slow,
Be conscious and conscientious,
Meditatively knit a baby blanket,
Then see if you still need prenatal classes.

Jacquie Munro - Vancouver Doula, Slow Birth


Tamsyn said...

I did a lot of reading before my second birth, but you know, one of the things I found in my wide reading was your blog post 'Next time...' about approaching a second birth when your first did not go well ('Just bad luck on a big day'). There's just so little out there aimed at the woman whose only experience tells her that birth is physically damaging and emotionally traumatic, and is trying to find a tranquil place from which to approach the next one... I printed your post out, and read it over and over as I tried to get over the nightmares from the first time, and tried to believe that it was possible for things to go differently a second time. I also read Ina May, and as many good, positive birth stories that I could find - I collected them as talismans.

Of course, the birth did go differently - instead of a violent instrumental delivery of a stubbornly OP baby, I had an emergency caesarean for an oblique footling breech. (Apparently neither of my babies got the memo about optimal positioning for birth.) I am still so glad I read so much, and was able to approach the birth without that deep-to-the-bone anxiety which had me in grip for the first half of my pregnancy.

I never took prenatal classes, so can't comment on the usefulness of them - but oh, the book knowledge can help, sometimes, if only by letting you sleep at night.

Jacquie Munro said...

Thanks for your wonderful comment, Tamsyn.

I forget that there are non-clients reading my posts. I am mainly talking to my own clients when I write. They are able to call me whenever they need...even daily.

Each woman's prenatal preparation is different. I recommend Sarah Buckley's books to some, but other women might not find that Sarah's books mesh with their personal learning Ina May's books might be better. Most of my clients read through all my blog posts - they are an extension of our talks throughout pregnancy.

Each of us has a unique path to birthing. So, to those clients who just happen to be birth researchers, physicians, midwives, dentists (you know who you are!)...I wanted to remind them that they can put aside their analytical brain, and spend some time with their reptile brain during pregnancy. They already know too much about forceps and breech births and statistics, and need to spend some time just doing nothing. So, this particular post was for them.

I'm so glad that you were able to approach your second birth without the "deep-to-the-bone" anxiety, by finding just the right things to read.

So, I've changed my post to reflect your need...and I hope it makes more sense (since I, too, am a voracious reader).

xo Jacquie
Vancouver Doula
Slow Birth

Anonymous said...

Hi Jacquie,

Thanks so much. I should know to listen to my intuition!

I already do yoga twice a week (I love it!) and Sam actually teaches meditation classes that I attend regularly too. We are also going to Maui at the end of the month for a relaxation holiday. So...... I think we've got all the bases covered!

Thanks again.


Anonymous said...

Oh thank you thank you thank you!!! I have been feeling like those classes aren't for me (Inner Barracuda, you made laugh out loud in public!!), since I've done so much preparation on my own through meditation, yoga, visualization, reading (Ina May, etc.). Your post is the support I needed to feel confident in my decision and to weather the storm of "What do you mean you're not taking prenatal classes?". Again, thank you! My appreciation has no words. :)

Unknown said...

I was very relieved after finding this blog post! I am going to be a first time mom and so there is a lot to learn when it comes to having a baby of course. However, I feel that there is a lot of pressure to do the expected things when it comes to baby stuff. My pregnant friends are signing up for all sorts of educational things and are amalgamating piles of ‘stuff’ from the most expensive and technologically advanced strollers to most fashionable merino wool baby clothes… All that is fine but I have found myself somewhat lost in this madness and pressure to learn and acquire the right things.

I am sure that prenatal classes are very useful but I am going to go against the grain. As far as birth, I have started with a firm idea that it must be done in a hospital, I have to read as many book as possible, attend prenatal education classes, and approach birthing as a scary medical procedure. I am a researcher and an analyst in the field of health care after all so this was another project that I had to get serious about.

Luckily, I have remembered that the women in my family neither did any classes nor ever even heard of epidurals. They just had babies…

Having Jacquie as our dula and reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and any other inspiring stories is as much education about birth as I want to get at this point. So I am taking a few steps back and taking a very deep breath. No expensive strollers. No prenatal classes. Instead my husband and are spending more time hiking in the woods with our dog and going on picnics at the beach instead.

I am going to have faith in the knowledge that my body already knows exactly what it needs to know. For everything else, I have Jacquie as our dula and the midwifes in the comfort of our home. I am going to fully put my trust into Nature and my wonderful team of kind, intelligent and experienced women. The hospital with its latest painkillers, medical knowledge and surgical tools are always there if I need them should an emergency arise.

For now, I am just going to relax and have a good time.