Have you ever felt this way? Maybe this all sounds familiar? During pregnancy, we often times feel like we're preparing for something blindly. We're reading books, visiting countless pregnancy support websites and online groups, watching birth videos and vlogs. Maybe we're attending yoga classes, meeting with a birth doula, chatting with friends and family about "the big day".
It may feel like we're doing all this work and preparation for an experience that may or may not unfold as we're expecting. And in many ways, yes, you are doing all this work and preparation for an experience that may or many not unfold as you expect. But in the process, you're doing so much more than simply "making your plan".
As you prepare for labor and birth, you're thinking about the details and in turn, forming opinions on what may or may not be suggested. You're thinking about how you may feel if labor feels too challenging. You're thinking about how you may react if your doctor recommends a cesarean birth instead of the vaginal birth you've been planning for. You're thinking about what items you want to have with you, who you will turn to for support, even whether you'll listen to music or what you may want to wear.
As a birth doula, childbirth educator and mom, I feel familiar with those thoughts, emotions and questions. In my professional roles, I'm looking at it from the perspective of someone who cares for and supports the laboring mother's needs, in addition to the needs of her birth partner. Approaching her labor and birth from a professional role means that I fully understand that her birth is HER BIRTH. I can remove myself from the intimate emotional experience, mostly, because she is the woman doing the work. This is not to say I don't feel emotionally connected to her or her birth, but supporting the work is very different from actually doing the work of labor and birth. As a mom, I remember those feelings during the months leading up to my children's due dates- the unknowns, the questions, the curiosities.
The first paragraph, even though it could be used to describe how I felt leading up to my children's births, refers to my months leading up to my planned bicycle ride from Virginia to Oregon. I shared with everyone I knew (and those I didn't, via my blog) that I was going to ride my bicycle more than 4,000 miles over the course of a summer. I shared my curiosities, but I mostly stayed on the side of feeling confident that I would meet this incredible goal.
As I communicated with others about my ride, it reminded me of how I spoke of my children's anticipated births. In the months leading up to their births, I had developed my preferences and expressed my hopes for my birth experiences. Before my oldest child's birth, I was well aware that I HAD NEVER GIVEN BIRTH BEFORE! THIS WAS ALL NEW!! I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT WILL FEEL LIKE!! And others reminded me of these facts, as well, especially when topics like pain medication or breastfeeding came up. On days where I felt good, I could brush off others' negative experiences, reminding myself that THEIR experience would not necessarily be MY experience. But on days where I doubted myself and felt overwhelmed by it all, I would think, WHAT AM I THINKING?! I'VE NEVER DONE THIS BEFORE?!
Preparing to leave on my bicycle adventure, I was met with so much support. Some asked questions or expressed concern, but for the most part, people shared their encouragement. Hearing others' enthusiasm made me feel so well supported and I could almost feel myself cycling to the peak of a mountain or seeing the Pacific Ocean!
I'll write more about the actual cycling experience in upcoming posts, but for now, think about what you're saying or doing to provide support to those in your life that are preparing for their upcoming adventure or life experience. Are you compassionate? Caring? Curious enough to ask questions rather than project your worries or your own experience on them? Do you ask them, how can I support you? What do you need?
If you're preparing for your own adventure or life experience, what does that entail? How do you gather that support? How do you prepare for your unknowns? What are you telling yourself, in terms of how you will do (physically, emotionally, mentally)? Are there resources in your community or online that you can tap into so you don't feel like you have to figure it all out on your own?
Looking forward to sharing more with you in upcoming posts about my discoveries on the road and how it always came back to labor, birth and mothering.