Make a birth plan
It is a good idea to make a birth plan with your preferences in terms of labour positions, any pain relief you are happy to have and what you would like to happen after the baby is born. You can find examples on the NHS website to give you an idea of what information is needed.
Typically the topics you will need to cover in your birth plan are:
- Where you would like your baby to be born-at home or in hospital.
- Pain relief you are happy to use during labour.
- Special requests-use of birth pool for example.
- Who will be present with you during the birth.
- Your feelings about assisted delivery-forceps, ventouse, episiotomy, etc.
- Your wishes after birth regarding placenta delivery, who baby is given to after birth, etc.
Pack it into your hospital bag and make sure your midwife is aware of it when you arrive. It can be kept with your maternity notes that you hand to her on arrival.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you about labour and giving birth, after having three children of my own is to expect the unexpected and be prepared for your birth plan to change at short notice.
None of us know how we are going to react to the circumstances and pain that is involved with labour and giving birth. We all know what we would like to happen, that we will go through labour quickly and easily without any pain relief at all, and give birth to a healthy baby without batting an eyelid! However, we all have different pain thresholds, and none of us know how our bodies will cope with labour, particularly first time round. In terms of pain relief it is best to just see what happens and go with the flow a bit. You will know if and when you get to the point of needing some form of pain relief either to just take the edge off the pain, or remove it all together.
I made a birth plan with my first baby stating that I would be happy to use the TENS machine at the start and then gas and air if the pain became too much. I also specified that I would prefer not to have pethidine or an epidural at all. I ended up having two doses of pethidine, an epidural and an emergency C-section after 14 hours in active labour, six of those stuck at 9.5 cm dilated with contractions every two minutes! Needless to say, I didn’t even bother making a birth plan for my next two children! Your instincts over what you want and need at the time will take over and get you through it all.
You haven’t failed if you don’t stick to your original birth plan, you have simply adapted to the circumstances surrounding you at the time. There are no prizes for going through all that pain with no help. The important thing is that you and the baby come out of it healthy and relatively unscathed at the end.
the mind forgets the pain
Obviously, labour can be very intense and painful. I was so shocked as I looked down at my firstborn a couple of hours after he was born and thought, ‘That was so awful that I am never doing that again.” At the time I was sure that I meant it without any doubt! I felt so sad looking at my baby boy thinking that he would have to now be an only child as I wasn’t prepared to go through that type of experience again, when previous to my labour I had always said I wanted at least two children. It is amazing how quickly the mind forgets though, as just 1 month later I was saying, ‘Well, when we have the next one…” much to my husband’s surprise, who thought we were stopping at one!
I have found the scenario I just described is normal for every new mum I have talked to. We all go through a few days or weeks after the birth resolutely stating that we will not have any more children, but most mums tend to change their minds. Nobody warned me of these feelings and they terrified me as I felt so strongly about it at that moment in time, and determined that I would never have another child. I also felt very sad at the same time. Because of this, I always try to warn friends and clients that this will be a perfectly normal feeling to have straight after your baby is born, and that for most of us, it won’t last! As painful as labour and birth is, our babies and children bring such love and joy to our lives from the day they are born, that any amount of pain is worthwhile!
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