Just hours before attending my first birth as a birth doula this fall, we found out that we were expecting our third. Completely unexpected, yes. A complete joy, of course! It's amazing how I've just begun my journey into the birth world, and now I'm pregnant and going through all the emotions, ups and downs, and of course all the physical aches, pains, and changes that come with pregnancy. This time around, I'm doing things a bit differently, and with becoming a birth professional now, I'm excited to share my own journey with you all.
I Didn't Plan Or Even Prepare... And It Showed
My first birth wasn't traumatic but wasn't really planned out ahead of time either (You can read about my first birth in my birth story here). I really just went with the flow and didn't bother to educate myself on birth. I didn't know all the different options that I could have. I just thought that you went to the hospital, got an epidural, and pushed on your back and that was it. After, I came to realize that there was much more to birth. Instead of pregnancy and birth being something that I am treated with, it is something that my body is in fact made to do. Changing my mindset really got me excited when we found out we were expecting our second. While I just took the time to expand my knowledge about birth, I came to know how I can have different pain management options, push in different positions, and most importantly, how to properly take care of myself in postpartum recovery.
Unfortunately, another factor with my past two pregnancies is that they are very traumatic. I suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidium (HG), which means losing lots of weight, hospitalized multiple times, and on some heavy medication for the majority of the 9 months that I'm growing my little bundle of joy. Praise God I am doing much better this time around and am able to be in control of not only my pregnancy but also how I can better prepare and make active choices for my birth and the postpartum period.
So here is what I am doing differently this time around.
Choosing My Provider
We have moved so often that I have never had the privilege of having the same doctor for longer than one year. While it does have its frustrations, especially with all the paperwork transfers, it has given me a huge perspective of how doctors all work differently. This time I knew that I wanted to go with midwifery care because I wanted a more holistic approach toward pregnancy and birth. Living in a small town, there aren't very many options. I still took the time to research and ask around to see what the general pulse was on the different providers. I landed on the one midwife group that I'm seeing in Johnstown, PA and so far have loved them! While I don't care for the front desk people, my own midwife has listened to me, knows my past history with HG, and has already asked my preferences for what I would like for my birth. I feel heard and respected at each appointment, plus I enjoy the great conversation each time!
Natural vs Medicated + Location
Currently, where we live, a hospital is the main option, but we may be moving this spring a couple of months before we give birth. My ultimate dream would be to give birth at a free-standing birth center in order to have access to a birth tub for pain management, but it all depends on our move this spring...
So in the meantime, I'm mentally preparing for birth at a hospital, with the goal of avoiding the epidural. I've had two epidurals, and the last one lowered my blood pressure significantly making me sick, which I would like to avoid this time. I'm looking at different pain management this time including:
Water therapy (ultimately a tub would be great, but a shower would have to do in the hospital)
Laughing Gas: I had read into this and thought about it with my last birth, but didn't mentally prepare myself for it beforehand, so I wasn't comfortable with how to utilize it.
Exercise + Nutrition
I never really had much of the option to do this with my last two pregnancies due to my extreme sickness, but this time I have the luxury and can't wait! I am naturally an athletic person who loves to run, so I'm running shorter and slower distances as much as my body allows. I've already gotten the go-ahead from my midwife since I'm not at high risk. With the middle of winter set in and outside workouts are harder to do with ice and snow, I've looked up several online programs I can do from my home.
For nutrition, finding a great prenatal vitamin is a great place to start. Also reading some great books and finding some very knowledgable people to get great resources from about healthy eating.
The Food Doula on Instagram is great to follow
Lily Nichols (author of Real Food for Pregnancy) has a website and a book for Gestational Diabetes
PregActive online workouts
Mamastefit online workouts for pregnancy and postpartum, they have specific workouts for pelvic floor preparation as well.
Expectful meditation app for daily and weekly meditations.
Research and Make a Birth Plan
This one comes easier this time due to my job, but I'm all about knowing my options for labor and for postpartum care. Great resources to learn all the various options out there are:
A great childbirth class, or even a refresher course if it's not your first pregnancy.
Hiring a doula who can answer specific questions with up to date information for you.
While there are some good websites you can go to for accurate and up to date information about knowing your childbirth options, such as Evidence-Based Birth, American College of Obestricans and Gynecologists (ACOG), I would highly recommend staying away from googling everything. Many items out there are either high opinion-based or not accurate with statistics. Many doulas or midwives, like myself, may have blogs, but go to one who you trust to have the most current information posted.
Listening to other birth stories has been great as well to get different perspectives and ideas for what to do or not to do. I love The Birth Hour podcast and also reading other birth stories, such as the ones I love to have on my own blog.
DONA (Doulas of North America)
In addition to making a birth plan, I want to make sure I'm surrounded by an amazing support team who will honor my decisions and honor myself and my husband in the delivery room, whether that is in the hospital or in a birth center. Ideally, I myself would love to hire a doula as well but will have to wait until I am closer to my due date due to the fact that we may be moving this spring closer to my due date. Having seen and experienced support first hand, along with great preparation and mindset going into birth can make all the difference.
I have actually never done this for my past births, but I always do so with my mamas whom I'm working with is make a c-section plan in the case of an emergency. No one goes into birth planning for a c-section, but sometimes due to circumstances out of our control, it needs to happen. Knowing what to expect, as well as what I can still control will help make the transition that much better and allow me to still be in control of my own birth.
This is the one part of planning and pregnancy that is most overlooked, the postpartum period. The initial transition from giving birth to going home with a newborn, whether it's your first or fifth baby is still overwhelming and a big transition for all moms. Having a plan in place helps. This means knowing what food we will have prepared ahead of time, or even delivered to us. Making sure that I have help for my older two kiddos while I focus on taking care of myself and the newborn in the first couple of weeks, which are the hardest. Also, having a postpartum workout plan for when I'm able to be active again is important to me.
Use a postpartum plan template to create your ideal plan. Get one for free when you sign up for my email list!
Everyone's pregnancies are different, and everyone has different priorities. No matter where you are, make sure you know all your options, feel respected and heard, and feel supported in the decisions you make!