This is my 7th pregnancy. If, God willing, everything goes well, it will be my 6th birth and baby. It is incredible how much more information is available now compared to my first pregnancy. 12 years ago, I had a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. That’s the book everyone said I needed. Because life was busy (I was teaching middle school full-time), I didn’t spend much time looking beyond that book. No one suggested others, such as the Dr. Sear’s Pregnancy Book. I didn’t even know other books were out there.
I didn’t discover the enormous amount of information about pregnancy and childbirth until after my 3rd baby. Miss Bug’s birth was panicked and hectic. My two previous labors had been 5 and 6 hours. I had no reason to think my labor with her would be any different. I labored at home for 2 hours, and by the time my parents showed up to watch the other children, we went to the hospital, were checked in, put into a hospital gown, my water broke and I had to push NOW! It was an overwhelming, frantic experience, although it was overall an easy birth and recovery. Afterward, I was quite embarrassed that I didn’t know later births would be faster than earlier ones. When I became pregnant with #4, Curlytop, I started doing my research.
I bought books about eating during pregnancy. I bought books about pregnancy. I bought books about childbirth. I hit Pinterest–and oh my paws and whiskers, are there a lot of blogs and articles out there about pregnancy and childbirth! I could have spent every waking minute of the entire pregnancy reading the various opinions, experiences, and theories about childbirth. For the first time in my life, I met people who *gasp* had their babies at home! I explored homebirth, midwives, even interviewed a midwife but decided not to go that route. It was a good call, because she was over an hour away, and Curlytop showed up in about 50 minutes flat! It’s a good thing we live close to the hospital, because otherwise it would have been a birth-in-the-backseat story!
I continued reading everything I could about pregnancy and birth during my 5th pregnancy with Little Bird. I always liked to think it was about being educated, but in many ways, it was based on anxiety and pride. Anxiety, because I wanted everything to go well again, and because I was worried Little Bird would come even faster than Curlytop. Pride, because I (foolishly) thought I had hit the right combination to have an easy pregnancy and labor. After all, it had been an easy pregnancy, and the labor was shorter and easier than a root canal.
Reality has a way of humbling us. Little Bird was tangled in her very short umbilical cord (it was less than 18″ long). She couldn’t descend. Nor could she turn to fully face my spine. She was stuck facing my right side. After 6 hours of hard (painful) back labor, the doctor asked permission to break my water to see if that would bring her down. She was also in distress unless I held a very specific position on my right side. Breaking the water brought her down, pushed me from about a 4 to a 10 within minutes, and she was born, healthy and as happy as any newborn.
Nothing I did or didn’t do during my pregnancy could affect her being tangled up. It couldn’t affect how that held her in place instead of allowing her to descend and turn to the right position. For a long time after she was born, I felt a subtle level of guilt. I knew it wasn’t sensible or logical, but I felt like the difficulties she had were because I had failed to learn something or prepare properly. It wasn’t a standard I applied to anyone else, but I inflicted it quite mercilessly on myself. I set myself up with an unrealistic expectation, an image of the perfect birth, and when the birth didn’t meet expectations, I felt like a failure.
This time around, I’ve made a promise to myself. Except for brushing up on methods for relaxing during labor, I’m avoiding all the blogs, books, and articles. At this point, I know what I need to know about how my body labors. I know that music in the labor room doesn’t help me at all. Neither does any sort of aromatherapy. My whole focus has to be on riding out the contractions like a surfer rides a wave. Sounds and smells just distract from that. I know what I need to pack. I know what I want my birth plan to look like. I know what to expect from my doctor and my hospital. Most importantly, I know, on a personal, visceral level, that this birth will not be exactly like any other birth. It’s not my first, or second, or third, rodeo. Poring over page after page of opinions and experiences serves to increase my stress, instead of easing it. It becomes mental clutter.
I love that there is so much out there, from analytical blogs like Evidence-Based Birth to birth story blogs like Birth without Fear. There are places for those who want information about VBACs, home birth, doulas, midwives, birth centers, water birth, using birth balls, and anything else birth-related that moms can think of. There are blogs by doctors, nurses, midwives, and other moms. It’s incredible! It can also be overwhelming, because there are so many options, so many choices, so many ideas to think about. It becomes birth burn-out, and the birth is months away!
It is a wonderful time to go forth and research. We have a world of information at our fingertips. It is healthy, though, to mentally edit our own reading list. Focus on the useful, the helpful, and don’t let the rabbit holes suck you down. Try things to see if they work for you: music, affirmations, aromatherapy, or massage. If they don’t work for you, don’t use them! Don’t get caught up in a single idea of the perfect birth, because the real goal of every birth is to have mom and baby come through as physically and mentally healthy as possible.