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Above: Don’t bet on luck. Kiss a lot of frogs and make your own.

Last week I wrote about changing the way we talk about births. I suggested we call a birth that worked well “healthy,” instead of “good,” and that we acknowledge that, for better or worse, luck plays a role.

Though luck – an event brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions – is a factor, it is not in charge. We can be humble without throwing up our hands and giving it all up to chance.

You can make your own luck during birth, but here’s the thing: you do it well before you go into labor, through planning and preparation.

In the next two posts I’ll show you how to control the factors that are actually controllable and which have a powerful influence on the course of your birth. Today you’ll learn what elements to plan in advance to set yourself up for a healthy birth.

  1. Pick the right provider. As I’ve said in this space many times the provider’s influence on your birth cannot be overestimated. Here are two important strategies for finding a good fit.

Work the birth plan backwards. Write your birth plan before you start meeting with maternity care providers and use it as an interview tool. How do they respond to it?

Tolerance of your birth plan is not enough. Providers have a practice style and philosophy that they are unlikely to change just because you asked them to. Birth may be routine for them, but the stakes are still high, which makes doing things outside their norm very uncomfortable.

Enthusiastic support is what you’re looking for. You’ll get it if your birth plan is in alignment with their practice style and philosophy; i.e., they already practice that way. Accept nothing less.

Vet a provider like a blind date. How do you feel when you’re with them and after?

Look for a provider in whose company you feel fascinating. That shows they listen to and respect you. Look also for a provider with whom you feel capable and confident – proof they trust mothers and trust birth.

Run away from a provider who is inattentive and impatient, or who gives you the impression they’re doing you a favor by seeing you. Say thanks-but-no-thanks to the provider who talks down to you, dismisses your concerns, or uses the words “compliant” or “good patient.”

  1. Pick the right place. Ask yourself, “Could I make love here?”

Not joking. Oxytocin, the hormone that is the prime mover of sexual reproduction, from intercourse through birth and breastfeeding, is very shy and needs the right mood. You know what I’m talking about: dim, warm, quiet, private, no time pressure.

Assess the room, the building, and the staff. Look for a physical space that is somewhat homey and can be made to feel private – when the door is shut, it’s quiet; the lights can be adjusted. Look for staff that will disturb you as little as possible and knows how to melt into the surroundings so that they can observe you without you feeling observed.

  1. Hire a doula. A doula is a labor companion who is unafraid of birth and loves birthing mothers. She provides continuous emotional and physical support to you and also helps your partner. Doulas are associated with fewer interventions and greater satisfaction with birth. It’s said that if they came in pill form, it would be unconscionable not to give them to all laboring mothers.

Vet potential doulas as you do your maternity care providers. Look for a doula who feels like a mother without the baggage: warm, strong, knowledgeable, and absolutely believes in you.

Plan in these ways and you will be making your own luck by controlling the most influential, controllable factors of your birth. In an environment that your body will register as safe, and surrounded by people who love you unconditionally and support your wishes actively, you can surrender completely to what you cannot control: your labor. With luck, you’ll find that it actually works better when you do.

P.S. You know I cannot let you go before reminding you about one more, crucial plan to make before you go into labor: plan your postpartum! Check out “The Physiology of Postpartum Thriving,” “Ten Steps to Postpartum Thriving,” and “The Last Piece of the Postpartum Puzzle,” for your complete guide to a healthy postpartum.

And you, dear reader? Did you choose your provider and place this way? Or did you — like so many of us — just take whoever was on offer and came to regret it? Please share your story, or tell me what got in the way of you being able to make your own luck in birth, and I can write about that, too.


Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • First, may I tell you I ALWAYS come away from your posts feeling like I’ve learned something so valuable. Recently I’ve been trying to get to the root of a health issue and EVERY one of your tips holds true, even the doula, though not in the literal sense. Sometimes we need to assemble a team and then stand in the power of our voice. Thank you, Allison.

    • Allison Evans says:

      Thank you, Sue Ann! I reread my post with your comment in mind, and you’re right. This advice is applicable in any health setting! I love how seeing the details of a particular can help us in the whole.

  • Cami Flake says:

    Hi Allison, these are great tips! I wish I saw this before I had my son. I felt very happy with my provider but wish I would’ve planned the details more thoughtfully. It was such a whirl wind time, I didn’t even know what details to think about. And wow, would I have loved to have planned my postpartum. That was a doozy. Loved this post! Thanks.

  • Laura says:

    I agree with Sue Ann — while the post is specific to birth, the advice is sound for any medical matter. Being comfortable and trusting your provider is so key; so often we settle instead of fighting to be seen as an individual. Thanks for this post!

  • Laura Wall says:

    Although I am happily a “non-breeder”, I appreciate the tone of this post to remind women that we have a voice in the care of our bodies – that we should feel confident in those providing us care, and we should feel at ease in the care environment. This is good advice for anyone who is assisting you with your body – massage therapy, doctor, trainer, coach.

  • Penny says:

    So thought provoking, and makes me think back somewhat sadly to my sons’ births. One emergency c section after many hours in (induced) labour, and one elective c-section with no birth plan at all and a baby that went straight to special care before I even held him. I did trust those caring for us though, but the first birth in particular was quite traumatic and had reverberations and repecussions which I still am dealing with 17 years later and which will probably never be fully resolved X

    • Allison Evans says:

      Penny, thank you for your reply! I’m sorry you still feel traumatized by your son’s birth. If you ever want to talk it, it’s the kind of thing I talk about all the time — rather, I make a living helping people process those kinds of experiences. xo

  • Mary says:

    Hi Allison, your words took me back 29 years when I was planning my first birth and making choices – I visited a high tech new hospital, and a smaller more personal cottage hospital – I easily chose the second and was always glad I did. My personal choice would have been a home birth, my mother supported me in this, but my husband did not. By my third birth I had found my voice and enjoyed a wonderful water birth. Thanks for the memories your post evoked.

    • Allison Evans says:

      Sometimes it takes a while to stand on our own two feet, doesn’t it, when it comes to birthing our way. I’m glad for your cottage-y hospital and for your water birth, Mary!

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