What Do You Want From Your Birth Experience? [An Alternative to Being Fixated on Outcomes]
As a personal project, diving into what I did and didn't want from my birth experience helped me to strengthen my ability to listen to my instincts.
Listen to my instincts, and then act on what I was hearing.
And My Goodness! What a sensationally useful thing for new mothers to be well practiced at connecting into...
What do you want from your experience of childbirth?
It seems like an obvious question, and yet, one that we rarely ask ourselves.
Maybe because we don't think of birth through the lens that their could be something really tangible for us as individuals to gain? Maybe because society has convinced us that birth shouldn't be about us? I'm not sure.
Either way, what do you want from your experience?
I ask because an empowered birth experience can be found not necessarily by ticking off a list of outcomes achieved, but rather in the personal touch points along the way.
When women come in for acupuncture leading up to their birth we often talk about their goals for labour.
They largely include things like: wanting to avoid an induction, to birth with minimal intervention, to manage or work with the pain, possibly to avoid pain relief, to delay the clamping of the umbilical cord, and perform skin-to-skin with their new fresh babe as early and for as long as possible.
And all these things are fabulous. They really are. And preparing for birth by educating ourselves about these things is important.
But putting those kinds of specific outcomes aside, what I want to know is:
What do you want to own in your heart from your birthing experience?
It's a question I learned to ask myself based on the incredible book Birth With Confidence by the formidable Rhea Dempsey.
We are all so beautifully different. What I hoped to gain and open up to in labour is going to be different from what feels right for you. I am sharing my thoughts from the time when I was preparing for my first birth purely as a guide, a template, for you to get into the dance of finding your own desires.
This was my way of pin-pointing and folding out what specifically it was that I wanted from my experience.
What did I really want out of this?
I wanted to put myself in a setting where I felt most confident that a normal physiological birth could take place.
I wanted the opportunity to work with my body. To actively participate. To let my body take the lead.
I wanted to push through barriers. To do the work. I wanted to be open to exerting myself just like an althete would: to breathe, to sweat, to move. I wanted to come out of my own skin and birth my baby right into my own arms.
I wanted to get to know the woman that I am more intimately.
I wanted to get to know life more intimately too. To broaden and deepen my experience of being alive. And to explore a new level of being connected to others.
I wanted to trust my instinct when I heard it whisper that the life shaking and immense experience of labour must be for something.
I found it equally useful to dig around inside the things I really didn’t want.
I didn’t want to be sending emails in labour.
This is something that intuitively really grated on me. There is no one way better than any other, I just knew that it irked me. Didn't feel right for me. This helped me to understand that I wanted to be present to birth.
I didn't want to be lying on my back.
This helped me understand that I didn't just want to be compliant for compliance sake. To fall into line and do what I was told. To play the submissive role that women have always played. I wanted to listen to my own instinct about where my body needed to be. This also gave me the hint that movement might be important for me.
And I didn’t want to be doing loads of washing one day later.
I wanted to honor it. Sit in it. Go to that other place, and stay there for a while.To honour that some sacred passages of time are more important then everyday life.
It felt important to me to give this transition the respect it deserved. Far beyond what I had learned and what people had told me, instinct helped me understand that not returning to 'normal life' too soon would be important for me.
Gathering yearnings together
This exercise offered up a broader framework of my desires for childbirth. A framework well aside from specific birth outcomes.
I knew I wanted to stack the cards in my favour for a normal physiological birth. To work with my body. To be present. To feel into my instincts. To melt internal barriers. To know myself more deeply. And to honour the transition fully.
And the process of nutting this out gifted me Clarity.
It felt expansive.
Felt less I Don't Know What To Do and more internally guided.
Because the beautiful thing about framing our birthing desires in this way is that all these things are within our influence.
We can still visualise and work towards any outcome based desires we may have: a spontaneous / drug free / intervention free birth etc etc.
But they are no longer the only thing.
And it's such a relief to take the load off our expectations of outcomes. To focus our huge power and attention on things that stand so firmly within our influence.
Because outcomes may need to adapt and change and evolve and flex in birth.
And we are more than the events that unfold in labour.
Two births that look identical to the observer can have the birthing woman feeling very different ways.
There is so much happening within the birthing woman that people outside her body simply cannot see.
So it's vital we start looking at what really matters to us in those moments. Vital that we give ourselves the permission and space and education to really explore these things.
There are so many beautiful ways to feel empowered as we approach birth. And it starts by identifying what we want to take with us from our experience.
How can you use this information to positively impact your upcoming birth experience?
Make your own list.
What do you want from your birth experience?
What kinds of things really irk you that you want to avoid? What skills or practices do you need to develop / put in place / communicate before labour starts to ensure you have the opportunity to lean into your desired feelings? How can you make space for your intuition and step you towards an empowering birth experience?
Lots of things things to tap into and explore! And above all, enjoy the process!