7 Essential Tips To Feel in Control During Childbirth
There is one moment during the pregnancy of my second child that I attribute to having saved my life. It wasn’t a life-saving cesarean. It wasn’t an amazing doctor who saved me. It wasn’t a drug or a modern life-saving piece of equipment.
I am sitting in a circle of supportive women when I have this realization. Candles twinkle around us protecting the energy of the group. I am nine months pregnant but not in labor yet. We are partnered up making plaster face masks with each other.
One of the women, Sophia, is cutting the plaster strips and dipping them in water. Another, Lydia, places the first cold, wet plaster strip on my forehead. It hardens on my face as it dries.
As they work on the second layer of plaster, I fight the claustrophobic feeling. It reminds me of the operating room during my cesarean, when my arms were strapped to the bed and my face was covered with an oxygen mask. I really want to rip off the strips of soft plaster and sit up, but mask making is a practice of surrender, and so I move away from the memories as they come to me, and I breathe.
I was, of course, ready for my second child to come with all the logistics, life-saving modern equipment, and drugs, but all of that can’t prepare you for surrendering. Only you can do that. And opening isn’t easy when an experience with birth was previously traumatic, but surrendering must happen for baby to come out the way that you want.
For me, giving birth naturally allowed me to be in control of the circumstances of my birth. This internal feeling of being in control of my body saved my life. Here are my top seven tips for feeling in control of your body during childbirth:
- Don’t be afraid.Be smart. Make well-researched decisions that you are willing to stand up for with facts. Make a list and keep it with you.
- Listen to people who agree with you and those who disagree with you. Make sure you feel confident in your decision after you hear why someone thinks you’re being unrealistic.
- Ask your healthcare provider not to use the word “try” for a natural birth. Birth is a lot easier when people truly support you and want you to succeed. “Try” sounds like no one expects you to do it, but you can try if you want.
- Ask for a second opinion of any doctor who wants continuous fetal monitoring, or who wants you to come in early to the hospital, or who says that you will most likely have a cesarean, or who restricts the amount of time that you can push, or who tells you from the start that natural birth isn’t necessary, or who says that you’re putting your child at risk, or who schedules you a repeat C-section solely because you’ve had one before.
- Get yourself ready to be the boss of your birth. Find what you need to feel empowered. Go to therapy, go to yoga, meditate. Use massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, hypno-birth, writing, women’s circles, visualizations, and hot baths. Birth is serious so train for it!
- Remember these lines: “I would like more time to make a decision.” “I am the final authority over decisions about my body.” “No means no.” “I do not consent.” “What other choices do I have.” “What else can we do?”
- Bring a doula or midwife with you to your birth to help you advocate for yourself. They should be aware of patient rights and the current birth climate in hospitals.
Surrender, trust your support crew, and remember that you are the final decider in decisions being made about your birth.
Today, with two healthy children, I am a stronger and more confident person because I gave birth under my terms.
Thais Nye Derich's new memoir—Second Chance: A Mother's Quest for a Natural Birth after a Cesarean (She Writes Press, May 9, 2017)—tells a powerful story about her traumatic hospital delivery, and her decision post-cesarean to give birth naturally. Derich’s past work has been published in Salon, Literary Mama, Wild Violet Literary Magazine, Forge Journal, SFGate, and The San Francisco Examiner. A chapter of Second Chance was a finalist for the Creative Non-Fiction Magazine’s Baby Anthology.
Thais lives just north of San Francisco in Marin County with her husband and two sons. She’s currently writing her second book – a postapocalyptic novel about the last baby girl on earth.