When it comes to birth, hope is not a strategy

15.05.10 | Posted in Parenting

I was waiting for my coffee this morning at a local cafe. A young woman walked up with a little baby in her arms. I started talking with her and the conversation turned to the birth.

I asked her how it had been and her response was “Not great. You can’t ever prepare for it though.”

Um, what? You can’t prepare for giving birth?

Gobsmacked, I was kind of relieved that my latte arrived at the very same time as I would’ve been expected to respond encouragingly. I wished her all the best, walked away, but haven’t been able to shake the sick feeling all morning.

It’s the same feeling I got when I went to a friend’s birthday about a year ago. My husband and I were sat next to a lovely couple who were due with their first baby any day. I asked them what sort of birth experience they were hoping to achieve. The man looked to his wife as if he’d never heard that question before, and it was all up to her. The woman in turn looked at me blankly and then replied, “Oh, haven’t thought about that yet. I don’t want to know. I’m just kind of hoping that it’ll be ok.”

When it comes to birth, hope is not a strategy.

I was sad (but not overly surprised) when we ran into that same couple a few months ago with their baby. I asked how the birth was and she replied “Oh, don’t go there. It was horrendous and we had to have a caesarean in the end.”

I didn’t go into the detail with them (it’s none of my business) but I just wonder if they could have achieved a more positive outcome if they had educated themselves, done a bit of research, and attempted to understand the birthing process.

It frustrates me that women and men spend more time researching what sort of car to buy than they do in researching their birth options! I am by no means an expert in childbirth, but my husband and I were able to achieve the most beautiful birth because we put our hearts and souls into preparing.

We read books (well, I read them and occasionally would read a chapter or two to Rowan); we went to courses; we watched DVDs; we spoke to people; we asked questions; we talked about it; we practiced birth postures and breathing; we got a support team; we meditated; we did visualisations – long story short, we prepared for it.

I’m not for a second saying that preparation is going to guarantee you an amazing birth each time, but surely it could play a big part in preventing an experience that you’re disappointed with?

What do you think? If you’ve had a baby, what sorts of things did you do to prepare?


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  1. Emma

    Hi, I hadn’t! It’s beautiful, thanks so much for sharing. Just beautiful xxx

  2. Heather Ross

    I 100% agree. I was prepared for both my labours and my focus was for a natural birth. My first birth went to plan & was an amazing experience. My second birth was very different to my first as I was unfortunately induced. However I was prepared for anything & my focus & courage got me through the 2nd birth. I know that if I hadn’t been so prepared I would have had more medical intervention (which, can I say is an absolute wonderful thing when necessary). Yes birth is determined by something greater than us but we can be prepared, and this will have a significant influence on the way we get there.

  3. Suzy Byrne

    I read too much I think! Just like you I had a complete library with all the latest research. Which apart from being alarming caused me to get myself too invested in a normal (non-caesarean) delivery. Even the nurse who registered me with the Hospital said “don’t let them talk you into a caesarean!”.
    Then when I was faced with having to have one with my first child, it was a huge emotional struggle involving tears, disappointment and a big sense of failure. I had never more determined not to do something but then my baby was distressed and at risk, all that drained away. Now having had 2 c-sections and talked to lots of doctors, medical professionals and mothers I am utterly convinced that a casearean is a far better option that a difficult normal delivery which can lead to lifelong health issues.
    So I am not sure I agree with you Em that planning to give yourself over to the experts is such a bad idea. Giving birth is a wild card. You simply can’t control it and planning for a birth really is just “hoping” that things run a certain way. So much depends on the baby’s position and other variables. In many ways I think you really are best to hang onto your hat and hope for the best.
    When its man (or in this case woman) vs. nature. Nature always wins.

  4. Melinda Webb

    Emma, Thankyou. I spend my days researching and exploring birth, one of the many transitions we go through in life. I belief the transition into motherhood is by far the greatest, that it is a collective of all things physical, emotional and spiritual. Bringing new life into the world requires letting go and embracing your fears, allowing your body to open. Having the right of choice through education, and trusting in your support team are just a few ways to having the birth you would like.
    The power of visualisation, meditation and constant affirmations during pregnancy are all welcoming your new baby into the world. A great gift of love, creating a bond between you and your partner and your unborn child.

  5. Davina Park

    One of the things that I found so wonderful about the learning that preceeded my first child’s birth was the opportunity it provided for my partner to get involved. Much of pregnancy is about the woman – men, don’t get to experience the wonderful (and not so wonderful) physical and mental changes we go through in those 40 or so weeks – however by attending the classes together, taking an interest in other couples ‘stories’, reading books, searching online, George felt like he was an integral part of the process, not peripheral to it. When our son was born in the wee hours of the morning (and not exactly to plan) it was OUR birth, not just mine.

  6. Lucy

    Hi Emma,

    I have read over your blog a few times and am touched each time. I didn’t have a wonderful experience with my son, Sebastian Soul. But the experience has taught me more than i ever would of dreamed of. I was close to dying twice, once in my labor/surgery and 4 months later from complications from the birth.
    Though now i know that if i didn’t live that i can’t imagine where i would be now. Listening to yourself, your intuition is probably the biggest lesson. Be true to yourself and you will be ok.
    I can’t wait to have my second baby now (3 years on), i am really looking forward to emabracing and living it, accepting it – rather than doing what everyone else thinks, or speed up any process for everyone else.
    I admire your strength and confidence in yourself to live such an amazing pregnancy and birth.
    Thankyou for sharing
    Lucy :)

  7. Emma

    Hi Lucy,
    I’m sad to hear your first experience wasn’t what you wanted, but really inspired that you’re working toward healing yourself with the next. I agree that you need to be in your own power and not hand it over to anyone else and I believe if you do that, you’ll never go wrong. All the best with your future experiences and wish me luck for mine – I have under two weeks before the birth of my second bub and I just can’t wait!