I am not a medical professional. All information in this post is simply what I have been doing personally to prepare for my own experience. Always consult with a medical professional before making decisions about pregnancy and labor!
Last week, I had my 38 week midwife appointment – and despite the facts that are slapping me in the face every single day, it was a wake up call to me that this baby could come at any time. Like – any time! At the end of my appointment, my midwife said “We’ll see you next week, unless the baby comes before then,” and my husband and I just looked at her wide-eyed! This. Is. Happening.
Since I was a child, I’ve been fascinated by pregnancy and childbirth (remember The Baby Story on TLC? That was my all-time favorite show). Before I was even sure if we’d have children, I knew that I would prefer to have a birthing experience with limited medical intervention. Now that my own labor and delivery is approaching I am even more sure of that. I would prefer to go through labor without an epidural so that I can be upright and moving around as much as possible. I would also love to labor in water, which is an option to me at my hospital.
Obviously, your preferred labor and delivery methods are extremely personal choices, and sometimes, these things are out of our control. But for a high percentage of pregnancies and births, the mother has plenty of options. I have chosen to deliver with a midwife group that is part of a larger OBGYN group, in a hospital. The hospital I have chosen has a cesarean rate well below the national average and is well-known for their fabulous lactation consultants. I will have access to any and all medical intervention that may be needed in an emergency, but also have the proper people around me to advocate for the experience I would like to have. “You can do any hippie-dippie stuff you want, but your butt is going to be in a hospital.” – my husband.
I’m doing my best to have a nonjudgmental, attachment-free approach to my “birth plan” – because like just about everyone has reminded me, it doesn’t ever go to plan. However, I’ve been assured by my midwives that there is little reason why it shouldn’t go to plan, so that’s the attitude I’m going into this experience with!
Childbirth, no matter how you approach it, should not be taken lightly. It’s a huge deal. But at the same time, it happens every single day in just about every corner of the world. No matter what kind of medical or technological intervention is used, it’s about as natural of a process as there is! Despite all this, I have been doing my best to prepare myself for an epidural-free delivery. I’m trying to go into the process open to whatever happens, but obviously I want to do all I can to ensure that things go smoothly. Here are the main things that I have done over the course of my pregnancy to help me prepare.
Midwives & Hospital. The most important thing I have done during this pregnancy to ensure that my labor and delivery go well is chose medical professionals that I trust. I wish I could say that I did tireless amounts of research before making a decision, but the OBGYN group that my mom has gone to since before I was born has a midwife group, so I just automatically chose them. And they only deliver at one of the area hospitals, so that decision was made for me. The truth is, you don’t always have a ton of choices depending on where you live, but you should definitely do your research and make a decision you feel 100% comfortable with.
Turns out this was one of those situations where the stars aligned perfectly because I feel so confident in my midwives and I am extremely pleasantly surprised by the labor and delivery floor at the hospital I will be going to. If my midwives or the nurses make a recommendation to me during labor, I am going to listen to them, because I trust them. I don’t necessarily feel like I’ll need to be actively advocating for myself and my experience, because they will already be doing that for me. That is the most comforting thing I have on my side going into this brand new experience.
Medication & Therapy. If you’ve read Casual Contrast for a while, then you know that my mental health is something I deal with on the regular. I was in a fabulous headspace when I got pregnant, but had to quickly get off my antidepressant medication because it was not safe for pregnancy. I had terrible withdrawals and got really sick again with my depression. It took a while, but by the 20 week mark, I was on a pregnancy-safe medication at the proper dosage and seeing a psychologist – finally feeling better and experiencing the joy I wanted to feel with my pregnancy. For me, my mental health was what I needed to tend to, and I know if I hadn’t done so, I would not have been able to carry this baby term or go into a labor and delivery experience with a clear head.
Mindfullness. Once my depression was controlled, I was able to really dive back into the mindfulness study I had focused on before I got pregnant. I did this primarily by reading Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke, CNM. This book has been game changing! I am still very early on in my formal mindfulness training (remember my failed month of meditation in the spring?!), but Nancy puts things in terms that make me feel more confident in my ability to explore this, as well as more informal mindfulness practices. I’ll be honest: I have not sat and studied and practiced every meditation and mindfulness technique that Nancy describes, but I still feel like I have taken so much away from this book. So so much.
Even if you are nearing the end of your pregnancy and don’t have time to read and practice the entire Mindful Birthing course, I still suggest you pick up this book. Even if this isn’t your first baby. Even if you know for sure you want an epidural or a scheduled C-section. I think everyone can benefit! Chapter 4 The Breath: A Friend for Life, Chapter 6 The Dynamic Duo: Pain and Fear, Chapter 7 Mindfulness Practices for Being with Pain, and Chapter 16 Causes and Conditions: Navigating What Is should be required reading.
If you are not pregnant and are looking for a place to start with mindfulness and just generally more kind living, I suggest We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel. You can read my original review of We [here].
Childbirth Classes. Due to financial and time constraints, Benn and I were limited in the childbirth classes we could take. We did an express class at our hospital that included childbirth basics, information on the hospital, and a tour of the labor and delivery floor. While we were both surprised at how basic the discussion was on the physiology of labor, we were super impressed with the offerings of the hospital – it was so beneficial to know those things going in! Just like I said I trust my midwives to make decisions during this process, I now also feel super confident in the protocols in place at my hospital.
Communication. Benn and I have spent a lot of time discussing our expectations (mine, primarily) of childbirth. He knows what I want from him and he is 100% on board. I’ve also discussed the hour drive to the hospital with my midwives, and have a tentative Bob plan in place with my mom. No matter who your support person(s) is, in and out of the delivery room – a partner, parent, friend, or doula – make sure you’re all on the same page.
Rest. As early as 30 weeks, my psychologist started stressing to me how important it was that I listen to my body and rest in preparation for delivery and life with a newborn. I looked at her like she was crazy – I still had months of pregnancy left! However, I now realize that that is why my body was so exhausted during that time. It was desperately begging me to slow down and save my strength and energy for the adventure ahead. Especially being super pregnant during the holidays, I had to remind myself (and lots of those around me) that this is not the time to push through exhaustion. It is the time to listen to my body and my intuition.
Evening Primrose Oil. At my 37 week appointment, my midwife suggested that I start using evening primrose oil to prepare my cervix for delivery. Evening primrose oil is thought to help soften and thin out the cervix, potentially shortening labor. I have been inserting two 1000mg capsules vaginally each night before bed (wear a pad, because some of the oil will leak out). This is one of those things that some people will scoff at and some swear by. As always, talk to your medical professional before using an herbal supplement.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. Along with evening primrose oil, I have started drinking one or two cups of red raspberry leaf tea daily. Red raspberry leaf tea helps support the female reproductive system in general, and may help the uterus contract more efficiently during labor and recovery. Many women swear by this and begin drinking it as early as the second trimester. I have been enjoying it and plan on continuing after delivery – but be warned, it doesn’t taste fruity like raspberries. It has more of a black tea taste, which is enjoyable if you like strong tea! Again, talk to your OB or midwife before starting red raspberry leaf tea.
At the time of this post publishing, I will be 39 weeks + 2 days. I’m trying to be super mindful and focus on just being instead of stressing on when or how things are going to go down. I am resting, sipping my tea, and focusing on the excitement we feel about bringing this baby into the world, on this side of the cervix (and my excitement for Season 11 of The X Files…not gonna lie!!). The hospital bag is packed, the bassinet is set up, the baby clothes are washed, but most importantly, we feel emotionally prepared – or as prepared as you can ever be before something this massively life changing occurs!❤️