Today, one can find information on just about any topic you want. Every possible facet of pregnancy and childbirth has been researched and documented – and yet there is still much about the process that the logical sciences do not understand! So as you approach childbirth, the trick is to figure out just how much of this information is truly relevant and helpful – to you, and for your situation. General practitioner consultations, hospital-run childbirth education classes, Health Department information brochures, independent pre-natal courses, private reading, women’s discussion groups, birthing support groups, are all good things in their own right and some may be of value to you. Your mother, your doctor, the community nurse, your friends, the lady in the babywares shop, the midwife on duty during your labour, and this book included, will all have their different perspectives and messages. With so many differing sources, it is very easy to become overloaded and confused. At some point you will feel like tuning out. I believe the best approach is like food – to take in only what you need according to your nature and your needs. In that way you will be able to properly digest it all, and will not over-burden your system.
But it is one thing having information about a subject and another translating that information into real-life experience. As any mother can tell you, no-one can truly explain what it is going to be like when your turn comes for giving birth. That is not meant to frighten you, but to highlight the reality that all the best information will still be incomplete – something is bound to happen which you did not know about or expect. But having information of the right kind, and knowing how to use it, can be invaluable in helping you to manage something presently beyond your experience.
Every mother-to-be needs a pre-natal educa-tion which caters for her collective strengths, weakness, abilities and deficiencies and one which will actually assist her in moments of need. No hospital-designed curriculum can realistically hope to do this. For example a well-read woman who knows all the medical terminology might be thinking – “Damn. I am entering what’s called transition phase now. I’ve read my blood pressure could rise about this time. Oh-oh, the foetal heart rate monitor is going bleep-bleep-bleep faster than it was before. I expect it will get harder for a while as the head descends through the cervix. And I still have to go through stage 2 yet, with a lot of hard pushing
and the chance of tearing and needing stitches. God, I hope my obstetrician arrives soon”. Another woman in the same situation, but of lesser education and a more existential nature might be thinking – “It’s getting stronger now, so I had better relax as much as possible and conserve my strength for whatever is about to come”. All the information in the world is only useful if it helps one have an attitude in harmony with the process. So be careful you don’t overdo the information stuff in place of the acceptance stuff.
If you are not at all inclined to go to the hospital pre-natal classes, then don’t. No doubt you will find the information you need from some other source or maybe you are happy to just accept what comes. That’s OK too. The main thing is to find in yourself a point of readiness and happiness to go forward and just do it.
In your pre-natal reading, getting a good picture of what is inside your body can be of great advantage for visualising ways to help your body give birth. Concepts such as drawing up, expanding, opening, letting go, bearing down, bending around, sliding through, are invaluable to focus the mind away from any over emphasis on the pain of it all, as well as assisting the progress of labour.
If you are planning a hospital birth it is impor-tant to be fully informed and aware of any drugs and interventions staff are entitled to use, and what would be the ramifications if they ask you for permission to use them during or after the birth. But rather than memorise all such things and have to make on the spot decisions during the birth, it is helpful to write down with your partner, what your preferences would be in such situations. This is called “making a Birth Plan” and is discussed in detail later on. But be warned that sometimes even these decisions have to be thrown aside in the case of a genuine emergency.
So far, I have been talking mainly about the informational, intellectual aspects of pregnancy and birthing knowledge. What about the experiential stuff? Who can help you get a “feel” for what you are going through and approaching? Reading lots of birth stories, speaking frankly with your own mother and any others in your neighbourhood are a good start. Getting out of your head and into your heart, exploring your body and discovering the spiritual nature of pregnancy are all equally important elements of childbirth education. These aspects are dealt with in the following sections as well as in Chapters 5 – Birthing.