How to Create the Ideal Birth Experience
By Kimberly Johnson
Home Birth. Hospital Birth. Drugs. No Drugs. Doctor. Midwife. Doula.
Our ideals. Practicalities. Money. Opinions.
Having walked the path of pregnancy and birth with dozens of women, I experience first hand the confusion around what to prioritize when constructing a birth experience. These can be agonizing decisions- weighing financial pros and cons of each potential birth scenario, as well as hearing opinions of everyone far and wide about what the best situation is for you or for your baby.
What is important is that a woman feels satisfied with her birth experience, and it may surprise you that it is usually not the actual situational outcome that determines whether or not she was satisfied. I have met women who wanted homebirths and ended up with Cesareans after days of labor who were happier and more resolved about their birth experience than women who had non-medicated hospital labor that from the outside looked exactly as they had imagined it.
In Birth in Four Cultures, Brigitte Jordon shows that there are 3 primary factors that determine a woman’s sense of satisfaction around her birth experience. They are:
1) Her perception of control,
2) How supportive she found the birth environment, and
3) Her prior vulnerabilities (which may include her own birth and childhood, prior abortions or birth experiences, and history of depression)
So to create you ideal birth experience, first you have to have a team in a setting that mirrors your values. This team will have a woman-centered approach where you will feel like you are a part of the decision-making process. A doula has been found to drastically improve birth outcomes, in terms of overall length and less intervention, and will often contribute both to your sense of protagonism and your experience of support.
Your prior vulnerabilities are a little more difficult to assess! We bring all of us to the birth altar. We bring every stage of our growth and our unresolved questions.
Pam England, in her masterpiece, Birthing from Within, recommends looking directly into the face of our fears. If you feel like you may have some prior experiences or traumas that could affect your birthing experience, it is worth it to talk about them, write about them, and seek therapeutic help. Bringing light to the darker areas will enhance your ability to be present both in birth and in the post-partum period.