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Q: I just found out I’m pregnant. I’m so excited! But the doctor’s office doesn’t want to see me until I’m 10 weeks. Isn’t there something I should know about pregnancy and birth now? Where do I start?

A: Congratulations on your pregnancy! When I was newly pregnant, I remember feeling confused that my doctor could wait so long to see me. I thought she’d want to share my joy and give me an orientation to the whole ride – tell me how to be pregnant correctly, what my birth options were, and how I could Guarantee the Best Possible Outcome.

But no. It was weirdly business as usual: the doctor was kind but clinically detached. The techs took my blood and urine efficiently. My next appointment was made without any fanfare for eight weeks later.

So, I’m glad you asked me. Yes, there are some things to know. Here is the prenatal orientation your doctor was too busy to give you.

  1.  Read only books & blogs that inspire you and make you feel strong.

This is the first step because I know that as soon as your pregnancy is confirmed you’re going to start googling. You are excited and hungry for information, and I love that about you!  But, seriously, be careful what you choose to read. It will frame your whole experience of pregnancy and your feelings about birth.

Pregnancy media — like most things that people have opinions about — is a spectrum with pro-medicine at one end and pro-nature on the other. The pro-medicine media treat pregnancy and labor like an illness that is cured by birth. You’ll recognize this mindset because it talks about, well, medicine:  tests, procedures, symptoms, medical options, illnesses to watch for.

You may like this approach if you are already technology- and medically-minded. Even if you like it, though, the danger with this approach is that it can make you feel like a ticking time bomb. When you focus on what could go wrong, that’s what you tend to find.

The pro-nature media, on the other hand, reassures you by focusing on the fact that pregnancy and birth are natural and usually healthy processes. Nature has been honing the design for millennia, and mothers and babies have thrived on the planet all along. In fact, Pro-Nature leans in close to whisper, birth is actually awesome!  You’ll read stories of births as trials overcome and as peak experiences that mothers are so proud of.

Even if you like this approach, it can sometimes feel a leetle too crunchy, and, in some cases, lead to feelings of failure if your experience was not all you hoped it would be.

Only you know where you fall on the spectrum. So, rather than tell you what books to read, I suggest that you read the first page or ten of any book. If what you read makes you feel strong and healthy and like you’re up for this thing, then keep on reading. But if it does not put it down.

If you’re in doubt, I do recommend you begin with a pro-nature reading list.  You can’t unread some of the scary stuff the pro-medicine people write about. I have a great bibliography here, if you want some ideas.

Your reading will help you get to number two on the list: 

  1.  Decide how you want to give birth.

Once you know how you want to give birth, you can start making plans for it. Those plans may very well involve finding a new birth attendant; i.e., you may have to fire your doctor.

The influence of your provider cannot be overstated. One of the most unequivocal statements in her classic, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Better BirthHenci Goer states, “What happens to you during your birth has little to do with your or your baby’s condition. What happens to you depends almost entirely on your caregiver’s practice style and philosophy.”

You can write a birth plan and discuss it with your doctor and think everything is fine.  But your doctor and the staff who support him or her are human. Humans like routine and when the pressure is on them – as it will be during your birth – they will safest if they are doing what they always do.

You do not want to set yourself or your birth companion up for a fight on the day you meet your baby. Instead, set yourself up for success by partnering with a provider who already practices the way you want to be treated.

The only way to know a provider’s practice style and philosophy is to interview him or her and to speak to mothers whose births they attended. Ask the provider how often mothers like you give birth the way you want to give birth. What are their rates of interventions such as induction, augmentation, and C-section?

Ask mothers how they were treated by the provider. How did their providers make them feel?  Were their preferences were respected?  If there were differences, how were they resolved?

3.  Take a HypnoBirthing Course.

With me.

But only if you want to feel calm and powerful and comfortable and for your birth companion to know how to help you.

The truth is, HypnoBirthing is what I know, and my experience is that it works. I prepared for my births with HypnoBirthing, and it delivered on its promise of calmer, easier, more comfortable childbirth. My two births were peak experiences of my life, and I look back on them all the time with pride and joy. That’s why I teach it.

HypnoBirthing’s emphasis is on teaching you to manage your fear, so that it does not manage you when you give birth. About 80% of mothers who prepare with HypnoBirthing do achieve the natural birth they desire.

But there are many excellent childbirth preparation courses out there. The important thing is that you find one that resonates with you, and then you take it and apply what you learned there.

There you have it, mama: three fundamentals to orient you as you begin your pregnancy. And yes, being pregnant really is as amazing and wonderful as you feel it is.

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