Reviewing Birthing Choices

pregnant woman speaking with doctorYou’ve already spent a great deal of time making decisions about your pregnancy and upcoming delivery. You have chosen a health care provider and a childbirth education class, and decided whether or not you’re opting for a doula. You have made decisions about what foods to eat and where to give birth.

The fabric of our lives changes constantly, however, and many women find themselves questioning some of these decisions later in their pregnancies. Whether or not you have doubts about any of the choices you’ve made up until this point, it’s a great idea to think it all through again and be sure you are really comfortable with all the different decisions you’ve made.

In week 20 we talked about the idea of creating a birth plan. If you haven’t done one of these, it isn’t too late. Take a look at our Sample Birth Plan for some ideas. If you’ve already done one, look it over and see if there is anything you would like to change.

Visualizing the Birth: Another good way to plan for birth is to learn how to have a relationship with the unpredictable. Birth, as the ultimate creative process, cannot be controlled. The birth may challenge you in ways you do not expect, or perhaps parts of it will be much smoother than you had anticipated. You need to remind yourself that while you do not know exactly how it will go, you will be able to meet the challenge of a new experience.

Imagine a successful, satisfying birth. Keep the image of success in your mind. Spend a few minutes daydreaming about it every day. It may work better for you to write down the images, including lots of details such as the atmosphere of the room, the smells around you, and who is with you to provide support.

As you imagine the birth, try to match your visions with the birth environment you have chosen and the people you have picked out as your support team. Do they go together? Is there anything or anyone you want to change or reconsider?

Include, in your visualizations, a few alternate scenarios. Ask yourself how you might meet the challenge of something that doesn’t go just as you’d imagined. This is not to suggest that you visualize awful birth and labor scenarios, but simply that you prepare yourself for the unknown. Try to imagine actions you can take if some aspect of your ideal birth does not happen just as you’d like it to. For example, if your water breaks and your labor doesn’t progress, what would you want to do?

You are allowed to change your mind: Here you are, well into your third trimester, and you find yourself having doubts about some things. Perhaps you are not clicking with your midwife in the way you’d hoped. Maybe you are finding out that your doctor is not as open-minded as you’d hoped he would be, and now you wish you had chosen a midwife instead. Maybe you’ve heard stories about the hospital you planned to use, and now you have doubts about it.

It can be very hard to allow yourself to explore the feelings of dissatisfaction you may be having. For one thing, many of us are socialized to view health care practitioners as authority figures, and to believe that it is not appropriate to challenge them.

Because you are different, emotionally, in pregnancy, it may not be easy to trust yourself. You may be afraid that changing to a different hospital, for example, is capricious at this stage of your pregnancy.

You are allowed to change your mind. You don’t need to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself and your partner. This is a time to let intuition guide you, even if your head tells you to go with the flow.

Changing your health care provider: If you are unhappy, for any reason, with your midwife or doctor, try to understand as clearly as you can what is bothering you. It could be a personality clash. Maybe you’ve been kept sitting for hours in the waiting room every time you have an appointment, and this has left you with residual feelings of anger. Maybe you are finding that you and your health care provider do not agree on the amount of medical intervention appropriate to pregnancy.

Any reason is good enough, even the seemingly small ones. You might want to write your thoughts down or discuss them with an objective party, such as a childbirth educator, a doula, or a trusted friend.

Next, consider talking it out with the care provider. You may not be comfortable doing this, and you don’t absolutely have to. Even if you are already sure you want to leave, though, it can help to discuss your feelings. You may then leave the situation with less anger and stress.

It may also help to interview other midwives and doctors before actually leaving the first one. This can help you to learn a bit more about what you want. Also, you will feel much safer if you know there is someone out there to take care of you that you really like.

Starting up with a new midwife or doctor late in pregnancy may not seem perfectly ideal. It is not uncommon, however, for women to change their minds about what is best for them, and it certainly is better than going through the process of labor and delivery with someone who no longer fits your needs.

Changing the birth environment: Deciding you aren’t so sure about the choice of birth environment you made earlier can also be difficult. Again, you need to be very clear about what precisely is giving you doubts. Are you worried about the safety of your planned homebirth? Perhaps a friend gave birth at the hospital you were planning to use and was unhappy with her experience there.

Are you having fears about the birth process in general that you may be ascribing to the place?

Again, no feeling is wrong, and you don’t need to justify your choice to anyone. Start by trying to understand what your concerns are, without judgment. Take your time with this. After becoming clear about what is worrying you, think things over for a few days before you take any action.

If you are planning a homebirth and feel doubtful or scared about your decision, it can help to talk about those concerns with your midwife or a childbirth educator. They may be able to help you connect with other women who have had homebirths.

If you have heard negative stories about your planned birth facility, it is certainly important to find out more. Maybe this particular institution has policies against allowing laboring women to walk around, and you just learned about it. This might cause you to reconsider your choice. Remember, though, every person’s experience is different—while one woman may have a negative experience at a particular birthing center, another may have a positive experience.

If it will help you to allay your fear, ask for another tour of the facility to see how you feel there now that you are further along in your pregnancy. Perhaps you can ask for specific information about any negative stories that you have heard.

You may wish to reconsider other parts of the birth environment as well. Maybe you’d thought about having a water birth, for example, but now think you may only use the tub for labor and not the actual delivery. Perhaps you’ve had doubts about having certain people in the room with you during the birth.

Change or growth? Somehow, in our culture, the idea of changing one’s mind has gotten a bad rap. Perhaps it is better to think of it as growth. As you make the journey to motherhood, you grow in many ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You need to feel comfortable in the real world, and sometimes this requires you to alter your plans. This is a wonderful way for you to nurture and respect yourself.