Ten Ways I Prepared for Childbirth

by Lara on May 8, 2013

The following is a reflection of my personal experience and is not intended to be medical advice.

Ten Ways I Prepared for Childbirth

Even though our birth didn’t go exactly as planned, it was still a wonderful experience.  While I like to think that our preparation got us off on the right foot, I would never dream of taking full credit for something that could have very easily gone in another direction.  I believe it is a combination of preparation, circumstance, and luck that define your birth experience, and I am grateful that these things worked in our favor for G’s entrance to the world.

How I Prepared

How I Prepared for Childbirth

What Helped

Hired a doula
“A what-a?” you say?  A doula is a trained birth coach whose job is to provide physical, mental, and informed support to a laboring mother.  A doula is not medically certified, but they are experienced in the physiology of the birthing process.  According to DONA International, studies show that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily.  My sister is who first encouraged me to hire a doula, and I now believe that EVERY laboring mother deserves to have one.  
Finding the right doula was one of the first things I did to prepare for birth once I learned that my chances for the birth I wanted would be greatly increased with a doula present.  It was important to me to find the right person early in my pregnancy, so we could form a relationship and get to know each other.  I was lucky and found the perfect doula just 12 weeks into my pregnancy.  We met several times throughout the pregnancy and still remain friends.  If you have the resources to hire a doula, I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is to have a knowledgable, supportive, and objective woman with you when you labor.  Our birth experience would not have been the same without her.
Important note:  People have asked me if they should consider a doula even if their husband or partner plans to play an active supporting role in their labor.  YES.  Your partner will be tired, emotional, and likely a total mess by the time you are in the throes of labor.  A doula does not circumvent your partner’s role; she complements it. The extra support is invaluable. 
Picked the right healthcare providers
We switched providers entirely when I was 17 weeks pregnant.  After researching hospitals in the area, we chose a midwifery group that operated in a hospital that was known to be very baby-friendly (e.g. a low c-section rate and an immediate skin-to-skin contact policy).  Being 100% comfortable with your provider is so important!  It’s never too late to switch.
Childbirth classes
We took 12 weeks of classes in The Bradley Method.  Each class was two and a half hours long.  We learned extensively about the stages of labor and birth and the things we could do to keep the pregnancy low-risk.  We watched videos, completed homework, kept diet and exercise logs, practiced relaxation techniques, and even did “practice” contractions (more below) and mock-labor scenarios.  By the end of it, we really should have been awarded some kind of degree.  
The classes were a big investment of time and money, but as first time parents, we wanted to feel confident and informed going into the birth experience.  While you can certainly educate yourself about birth without taking formal classes, I do believe you need to educate yourself.  Knowing what your body is going through takes away a lot of the fear.
Bradley students are encouraged to follow The Brewer Diet.  Among other things, this way of eating is supposed to prevent toxemia.  I wasn’t 100% convinced, but I did eat a high-protein diet (the crux of the plan) which included a lot of eggs.  Bradley has a set of recommended exercises to do daily (pelvic tilts, squats, etc.) to help baby’s position and prepare mom for labor.  I was pretty good about doing these, as well as getting in a lot of walking (usually 2-3 miles a day) right until my first contraction.  I’m Type AAAAA, so I went a little over the top and kept logs of my protein intake and exercises…I do not believe this is necessary 😉
We read a bunch, but the ones that stand out as the most helpful are:  Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth (for me), and The Birth Partner and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition (for the husband).  
How I Prepared for Childbirth


My favorite of these was The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth.  It is objective and scientific but very readable.  It also provides insight into the best choices that can be made in the event that things don’t go according to plan.  For example, if you absolutely have to be induced, it discusses options for the best outcome possible.
Birth plan
Things that a birth plan can address include: preferences for induction, fetal monitoring, pain relief, and newborn care.
We collaborated with our Bradley instructor as well as our doula to create a birth plan and edit it down to one single, readable sheet.  We also made a special appointment to review it with our midwife to make sure we were all on the same page.
Everyone told us a birth plan was useless.  If nothing else, we did it to make ourselves feel better.  In the end, we were pleasantly surprised that every single midwife and nurse that entered the room read our birth plan and respected it in every instance when it was possible.
Don’t let anyone tell you that a birth plan is useless!  I’ve heard of some people calling it a list of their “birth preferences,” or “birth hopes.”  Whatever you want to call it, it is entirely reasonable (and smart!) to articulate what is important to you and share it with your birth team.
C-section plan
When we found out our baby was breech at 35 weeks, we created a separate birth plan for a c-section.  We made a special appointment with the OB to go over what we could and couldn’t get away with in terms of special requests.  Even after our little guy flipped, we kept an abbreviated c-section area in our birth plan.  I was going to do everything in my power to avoid it, but if it became absolutely necessary, there were certain things we wanted to be prepared for.  (Note: part of this was being prepared to have none of our requests followed.  In a truly emergency situation, we knew they wouldn’t be.)
“Spontaneous labor” (letting myself go into labor naturally)
I believe in this.  Big time.  No castor oil, no membrane sweeps, and certainly no drugs.  Unless someone could prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the baby was in danger, I was not going to do anything to induce labor except a lot of walking and maybe a little hanky panky (sorry Dad).

What Didn’t

Practice contractions
Of all the things we did, this helped the least and in hindsight was pretty ridiculous.  In the last weeks of pregnancy, Matthew and I would simulate contractions with ice packs on various areas of my body.  The idea was not to actually match the pain level of contractions (HA!), but to learn what coping techniques worked best for me during times of discomfort.  
Unfortunately, what made me comfortable during practice contractions is not what I ended up wanting during actual labor.  It’s hard to physically prepare for that level of pain.
The Birth Binder
How I Prepared for Childbirth
This is where we really geeked out.  We assembled a birth binder to take with us to the hospital.  In addition to copies of our birth plan, it contained things such as: a list of affirmations and mantra for labor, photocopies from various books illustrating different labor positions and coping techniques, a summary of each stage of labor, etc.  
For all the work we put into this, I don’t think we opened it once in the whole saga.  But like so much of our preparation, it eased my mind.
We learned so much from going through the birth process.  I don’t regret focusing on it so much in pregnancy–feeling confident, prepared, and educated going into it brought me so much comfort when I was in labor.  We will never know if the things we did affected the outcome of our birth, but given how things worked out, I can’t help but feel I wouldn’t change a thing.
ETA:  It was timely that the same morning this post was set to publish, I came across this piece from ImprovingBirth.org:  Selfish Women and Their Silly Birth Experiences.  “Birth is valuable because women matter.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessie May 8, 2013 at 8:09 am

Type AAAAA??!? Omg I can’t stop laughing. I love that! And hey, at least you freely admit it. 🙂

I think my biggest issue was doctor vs midwife related. We had gone to a specific Dr the whole pregnancy & of course, when my water broke, the Dr on call was one I had never met. Then, as his shift ended and the next Dr came on duty – yet another stranger. In the end all went well. He flipped Lyric into position (posterior) while I was pushing which isn’t easy to do. But this time? I’m going with the midwives! That way I get to meet each one throughout my pregnancy, with no surprises at the end.

I’m curious to see your thoughts on number 2 (if there is one) & if you will prepare as much as you did with G.


Lara May 8, 2013 at 8:19 am

That sucks that your doctor wasn’t on call! We got SO lucky and my favorite midwife was on call. But really, all the midwives were amazing and I would have been fine with any of them. I think going with the midwives is a GREAT decision for you!

IF there is #2, I don’t think we would take classes again. We have all the textbook stuff down by now, and experience is the greatest teacher, anyway. I would absolutely have a doula and a birth plan!


Stacy K. May 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

It’s definitely better to over prepare than to be under prepared. In the process of creating your folder you were continuing to educate yourself, discuss different options and items and having them as a “security” on the day of delivery was a good way to put your mind at ease. For something like child birth when every time and situation is different the best you can do is educate yourself in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable.


Lara May 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Thanks Stacy! I completely agree.
On that note, I wish I had prepared equally as much on infant sleep 😉


Carey May 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm

10? Only 10?! Ha ha ha!!! Knowledge is power. You can’t know enough about the process and the potential surprises your body and/or baby can spring on you!!!


Lara May 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm



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