How can a woman prepare for birth?
The list that most pregnancy websites, doctors, and even midwives and doulas will provide you involves things like:
- Buy the right stuff. Diapers, baby carriers, furniture for the baby’s room, strollers, all manner of baby and maternal hygiene products. If you’re a little crunchy, this list might include essential oils, teas and herbs to help you during labour, birth and postpartum. Most women I know get pretty flustered about this process – like they don’t know what they don’t know. In addition, most women I know believe that preparation in the form of the acquisition of material goods is “all they can really do” to prepare for the unpredictable event of birth. But if they do dive deeper into their preparation, they…
- Read All The Books. From What to Expect When You’re Expecting to Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery, you’ve probably been encouraged to read, read, read. The assumption being, of course, that information is what you need.
- The next thing to be done is to summarize all the information you’ve read and create a Birth Plan. Or, if you’re like many women, decide not to create a birth plan, because from everything you’ve heard, the whole thing is going to go out the window anyways.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Women spend a tremendous amount of their energy on these and similar activities that they believe will prepare them for labour, birth and motherhood. It’s what our society – our mothers, the mothers who have come before us, our care providers – tends to reinforce.
And yet, I would venture that most women in our culture currently remain deeply unprepared for what birth and motherhood will bring. One needs to look no further than the rate of interventive birth practices, birth trauma, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety to see the evidence of this.
The acquisition of material goods, the consumption (rabid over-consumption?) of information, and grasping at control and knowing in one of the few occurrences of our lifetimes that is truly, deeply uncontrollable and unknowable, is not helping anyone. In fact, it is causing harm and suffering to many women.
In my eight years of doula practice and two of my own births, I have come to believe, in my bones, that we need to shift our preparation for birth and motherhood.
Because the challenges that women have as they bring their children into the world are not about
which medical interventions to choose or avoid,
but about their relationship with their bodies, what they trust, what they believe in, and how they want to feel as they birth.
Not about onesie-washing and nursery-painting,
but about a massive identity shift from maiden to mother, and the choices, sacrifices, and new beginnings that come with that.
It’s not about the prenatal photo shoots with your partner’s arms encircling your belly,
but about how your relationship will also shift as you transition, and how to change the way you communicate and care for each other.
Becoming a mother has nothing to do with baby showers, I can assure you,
but rather how your community of women, mothers, aunties, and girlfriends will support you, hold you, feed you and nurture you in your time of greatest vulnerability.
The greatest preparation for motherhood a woman can do may leave her with merely a stack of hand-me-down sleepers and an unfinished spare bedroom, a pile of unread books and nary a diaper cake in sight
a soul-deep knowing
that she can do it.
That her body is designed to birth and she trusts its process. That the intuition that calls her ever-more audibly will be her greatest parenting tool. That she is supported. That she will transform, that her life is about to change, and that she is in an exquisite dance with surrender, learning how it can make space for magic to happen.