- What is my fantasy of the perfect birth experience? Do you want to squat to push out your baby in your bedroom? Labor in water? Get an epidural in the hospital parking lot? While no one can predict how your labor will go, thinking about your ideal will help you make decisions now and in labor. It’s important to choose a provider with a similar philosophy to yours. Find out what his or her intervention rates are. Creating a birth plan and discussing it with your doctor or midwife prenatally will help you learn if you’re on the same page. If the gap seems too wide, meet with other providers in your area to try to find a better match. Take an independent childbirth class to find out what your options are.
- If I went into labor tonight (at term) what would I want to know? This bottom-line question will help you find out what you most need to learn. Do you have questions about comfort measures and contraction rituals? What supplies to have on hand during labor? The best route to the hospital or birth center and where to park? How to know if you’re in labor and how to time contractions? Taking a quality childbirth class, touring your place of birth, and talking with your provider should help you clarify your questions.
- How do I relax after a stressful day? Most techniques women use to relax are great tools for them to use in labor. The more relaxed you are, the shorter and easier your labor will be. Adrenalin blocks oxytocin, the hormone that drives labor, some keeping stress levels low makes it easier for your labor to progress. If you take a bath after a hard day, you may enjoy laboring in the shower or tub. If you relax by exercising, you might want to walk in your neighborhood in early labor, and up and down the hall once you are active. How we relax is personal, but if you are soothed by listening to music, smelling lavender, using affirmations, slow dancing, or getting a massage, then try those techniques in labor.
- What is my definition of the difference between pain and suffering? Answers to this question vary, but generally people see pain as being a shorter duration and more physical, while suffering is pain that goes on too long, has no purpose, and has a mental or emotional quality to it, as well as physical. Being around people you love and trust, eating and drinking in labor, and using the comfort measures discussed in question 3 can help you keep your labor pain from transcending into suffering.
Julie Brill is the author of doula anthology Round the Circle: Doulas Share Their Experiences. She mentors childbirth educators and doulas for CAPPA, teaches private childbirth classes in Bedford, MA, and provides breastfeeding support as a La Leche Leader. She offers Prepare for Cesarean Birth, Heal Faster workshops over the phone. She is a homeschooling mom to two teen daughters.
To register for a childbirth class or train to be a childbirth educator or labor doula with Julie visit WellPregnancy.