Optimism vs Delusion(36 Posts)
Hi, I'm currently 23 weeks pregnant with my first child and my thoughts are naturally turning to the birth.
I seem to read a lot of stories about bad experiences, birth plans being a waste of time and generally about how things never go how you think they will.
I really want to prepare for childbirth without feeling scared or worried that I'm going to end up having a very negative experience. Is it possible to feel optimistic about giving birth to your first child being an ok experience without just ending up having your illusions shattered when the time comes?
Not got time for a long message, but have you considered a Doula to support you?
Obviously I'm biased (being a Doula), but I work in Public health, and I beleive if there is one thing all first time mothers could do to have to have a positive birth experience is to find a Doula! (and also to consider home birth www.homebirth.org.uk/)
Well, the best advice I can give is: try not to build the illusion that it will be truly 'magical' (although parts of the whole event will be ). And try your best to think through as much detail as you can (i.e. figure out what you'd do if...).
So, basically, to eliminate the surprises (particularly, negative), get as much info as you can. To eliminate the possibility of making rash decisions and regretting them later(it's unlikely you'll be in a rational-thinking position at the time), make them now.
For example, if the baby is breech, what action (if any) will you take? If your labour stalls what do you want to do (i.e. methods of stimulation)?
Oh, and if you're planning a natural delivery (i.e. not a CS), there's one more thing I can recommend whole-heartedly: Epi-No
I think it's not optimism vs delusion, better to think optimism and realism and being informed about what will happen, what might happen and what your pain relief options are.
If you search thread titles with the title "positive birth stories" you'll find loads and loads of positive stories on here.
And most births are relatively positive, good experiences, ending up with healthy babies. So statistically you and the baby are likely to be fine!
For what it's worth, I was hoping for a natural birth and had a fairly straightforward birth plan, and fortunately had a natural birth and was able to follow my birth plan! Overall I had a positive experience in a midwife-led centre attached to a hospital, and SelinaDoula will be pleased to hear I am seriously considering a homebirth for my second (due May) .
A couple of things to bear in mind:
- Personal experience is not the same thing as evidence. You may find 10 threads on here about certain birth complications but they could still be very rare. We come to these pages because we're interested in or looking for advice on these issues.
- People who have had a traumatic birth may be more likely to need to talk about it both here and IRL than those whose birthing experience was straightforward. My DD's birth was a positive experience (bloody hard work and boring for long periods, rather than magical though) but the lack of physical or mental trauma and quick recovery mean that IRL, I rarely mention it in conversation, esp. with other women who may have had very difficult births.
My advice is to be as informed as possible and remember that you can influence birth outcomes but not control them.
So, be very thorough and methodical in establishing the factors which are associated with positive birth outcomes for someone in your situation. Try to ensure that as many of these as possible are in place for you. Also, consider what you would want to do if certain problems arise and what you definitely would not want to happen. Don't hope to just wing it on the day and then regret your decisions later or have someone else take them for you without consultation.
I went into my first birth believing that it was a natural process that my body could cope with and decided not to read many of other peoples birth experiences as I didn't want it to influence my feelings towards the birth. I did end up having an episiotomy and forceps but in my view my birth was still fairly easy. The pain was managable and i felt incontrol (I know that sounds weird as I had intervention) at all time and I am sure that it is because i had such a strong belief in my bodys ability to go through this process. I was also clued up medically about my options through antenatal lesson, and I bought the pregnancy bible. I know it is different for everyone but I am sure a positive attitude really helped my over all feeling about birth.
I spent lots of time preparing for birth, classes etc. Had awful experience and probably unrealistic expectations. I think that the most important thing is to think what after the birth - read up on caring for a baby, what to expect, feeding issues, all these type of things which you may not know if it is your first child and you are really stuck when they happen and things will happen. I wish I had focused on that rather than birth (would have saved myself a lot of money and energy, I think our fears about giving birth are really being exploited TBH). Good luck.
I just had my DD on 4 December but I remember feeling like you thefurryone. I am one of the lucky ones whose birth went as I had hoped it would though it was 18 days early. That being said, I did have to face the possibility of something other than what I had planned.
As others have said, arm yourself with information. It helped me to feel that I knew all the different possibilities and could alter my plans myself if I needed to. I think the main thing is whether or not you feel in control.
I will give you my birth story to give you some positive thoughts. I was 12 days overdue and started having some contractions at around 8.30pm. DH got home from work at 9 and was planning to watch Silent Witness. I remember saying "I think we're going to have a change of plan !".
I was booked at a birth centre, went up there about midnight but was sent home "not in labour" and with apparently at least 24 hours left. we came home and I spent the next 5 hours getting in and out of baths and climbing the stairs. By about 5am I couldn't bear it any more and was shouting at DH "I want an epidural !". The birth centre was a 45 minute drive, there was no way I was doing it again. DH phoned them and they were reluctant to admit me again but said they would but it would slow things down. In the end we went to the local hospital and I practically crawled along the corridor in tears. Both DH and I both thought I was goign to be about 2 cm dilated. Well when the MW examined me she said "You can push now, the baby's head is right there". 4 pushes later DD was born - 14 minutes after we parked the car. I had a small tear and I have to say that having the local anaesthetic injected was the worst thing about the whole labour. The bits I found painful, in retrospect were manageable considering the advanced stage of labour I was at. I was in established labour for around 5 hours.
I had no pain relief at all apart from 2 paracetamol at about 1am. I did have a tens but kept taking it off to get in the bath.
DD latched on easily and has been a delightful baby, smiley, happy and easy. So to answer your question - yes it IS possible to have an easy first birth
Oh and I had no birth plan apart from natural 3rd stage - going to the MLU had been my birth plan !!
Thanks for responding everyone there are some very useful things to think about, and I will check out the positive stories. I think optimistic realism is probably a good description for the mindset I'm after!
Also a good reminder that I need to prepare for actually looking after the baby, although that will also require reaising that there is actually a baby in there
Yes, definitely aim for optimistic realism!
I found it best to bear the following in mind:
Most pregnancies and births have the potential to be medically straightforward - ie when you start labour, there is a total possibility that the baby can be born without the need for instruments, epidurals or Csection. Not every birth will turn out like that, but hold in your head that it's a fact that most could do.
It will hurt. It may very well hurt a lot. But its a natural process, you will get through it and will amaze yourself!
Good luck thefurryone - good advice from violethill too.
In retrospect I think having a baby was a bit like getting married (ok, only a little bit) - you spend months and months thinking about and planning for the very few hours of the birth / wedding day, and then you go home with a baby / husband and think: oh my goodness, why didn't it occur to me that I was also becoming a wife / mother for the rest of my life!
But I have to say, I'm not sure how much preparation you can do for the actual "looking after the baby" - specific skills things you think are important, like "can I bath a baby" and "can I change a nappy" pale into insignificance when you are trying to figure out how to get the baby to sleep, or stop crying for hours etc. But there's always Mumsnet for situations like those!
Happy Christmas everyone!
I dare say you need equal measures of both attributes to get thru childbirth .
I'd say going into the whole thing with a positive attitude is definitely a good thing. However, I'd also suggest to remember that no matter what you do, and how much you adhere to all the textbook techniques about natural births, there is simply no guarantee things will work out the way you want them to.
And definitely read up on what to expect after the birth - that bit lasts much longer than your labour!
I'd add - if you read up about natural birth you need to keep in mind that most women in this country have their babies under conditions which militate against having a normal delivery.
If having a straightforward birth is something which is important to you the best thing you can do for yourself is have your baby at home. Failing that, book into an MLU with a high rate of normal birth, maybe see if you can have your baby in water? And if you have to go to a CLU then try to stay at home as long as you can in labour. Consider taking a doula in with you.
Childbirth is a lottery. You can improve the odds of having a good birth experience, but there is nothing to guarentee a good birth experience.
Birth plans are useful, but they need to be flexible. Its well worth attending good ante natal classes like nct as it gives you an understanding of the birth process. If you are unlucky enough to need forceps or a crash section then you will understand what is going on.
I found it helped me to understand pain relief options. I did an epidural with my first chid and it was the right decision. The nct classes help me understand why the midwife did not top up the epidural when I approached the second stage.
Its worth finding out as much as you can about breastfeeding. La Leche League is good for learning about breastfeeding.
If your husband/ partner prepares for the birth with you then you will not need an doula. Although each to their own.
Good advice there from Cleofartra.
Where you plan to deliver your baby will definitely influence the outcome of whether you have a natural birth with fewer interventions.
Six out of the eight women in my NCT class had straightforward pregnancies, and had the option of delivering at home/MLU/CLU. Only two of us chose MLU, the other 4 went to the CLU, and guess what? They all ended up with epidurals, one had forceps and one ventouse, while the two of us at the MLU had natural births. You can't tell me that's co oincidence!
There aren't any cast iron guarantees, but there's definitely a lot you can do to improve your chances of non-medicalised birth - both the mental preparation aspect, and the practical aspect, such as where you book to deliver.
I would say be optimistic and plan for the birth you want but also make sure you are informed about what your options are should things not pan out as you would have hoped.
If you keep an open mind about the birth and are prepared to change your plans if medically necessary I think you will cope a lot better.
Don't dwell too much on what could go wrong though there is nothing to be gained by worrying.
I planned for a natural birth with just gas and air but ended up with an EMCS. Despite this I do not feel at all negatively about my birth experience. I think this is because I never idealised the birth or thought of the birth as a "spiritual experience".
I think that having generally positive expectations improves the chances of having a positive experience, but be prepared for something, if not several things, to go differently than expected. And, for most women, parts of it are very painful.
The thing that surprised me most about childbirth is how differently I and others seemed to feel about it at different times or when talking about different aspects of it. I was talking to a lady who described her son's birth as lovely. She was in a birth pool, with her music playing, etc. Then when I said I'd found it quite traumatic she quickly agreed that she had too! By the time my son was a few months old I began considering my birth experience as mostly positive with a few very difficult parts - the pain of transition and the 'ring of fire', and the worry that I wouldn't be able to push him out after a long early labour. I feel quite pleased with how I got through the whole experience, and now I'm actually excited to do it again!
How you labour will depend on lots of things - your physical build, position of the baby, environment etc. People can tell you their birth stories but they can't tell you how it will be for you.
I've had 2 straightforward births (at home) and I'm sure the preparation that I did helped me get through labour, but I'm also sure that the prep didn't make it happen that way. I kept an open mind about going in to hospital, and for first birth did end up going in to get checked over (and things were fine so went home again). I used yoga, TENS, a bit of hypnobirthing - whatever you need to get you through.
Thanks again everyone, I really do appreciate you all taking the time to respond.
I'm hoping to go to the MLU at the hospital, there was a tv series set there not long ago and it looked very comfortable, the midwives were very "hands off" (if that's the right phrase) and all the women giving birth in the pools made it look easy, which is probably why I'm worried that I'm in danger of being deluded . Also everyone I've met who has given birth in this unit is very positive about the experience.
I've been going to pregnancy yoga from 16 weeks, have my natal hypnotherapy CDs and am trying to keep as fit as I can, hopefully all of this will help. Although currently the baby does seem to love to be feet down and I know it's a bit early to worry about this but it is helping me prepare myself for the fact that things may not turn out to be that straightforward.
I wouldn't say giving birth is easy - but I think what you saw on TV at a MLU does show how to a large extent, environment plays a part. If you are as relaxed as its possible to be in the circumstances, and feeling in control rather than on a conveyer belt, there's a lot of evidence to show it increases your ability to cope.
So, its not about it being less painful, more about your body being able to cope better with the pain IYSWIM. That definitely seemed to be true of the experience I descibed above - I don't believe my first birth was intrinsically less painful than my friends who delivered at a CLU - it was that I felt I was in a far more natural, homestyle environment, without doctors hovering and being too quick to intervene.
I wouldn't worry about the position of the baby btw - it is likely to move into loads of new positions before birth
Perhaps easy is the wrong word, but it certainly appeared to be a much nicer experience than those on the more tradditional ward, and your story definitely back up why I think that this would be the preferable scenario for me.
I do seem to be going against the grain of some of my peers though. There is a hospital in this area that this changing completely to a MLU and a couple of my friends who would have been due to give birth here are viewing this very negatively and are going elsewhere now despite both having very low risk pregnancies. Both looked at me like I was mad when I suggested that a MLU may be a good thing, each to their own though and they are both first timers so their worries about being away from doctors and a set up for every scenario are valid.
Not too worried about babies position, I know it probably changes a few times a day just trying to use the low down kicks as a reality check that somethings are very much out of my control.
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