When it comes to childbirth, things can be unpredictable. Take me, for instance. I’ve had the pleasure of birthing 4 small humans, and each labor was remarkably different from the others. I have often said that the only thing predictable about childbirth is that it’s unpredictable.
This isn’t true for every woman of course. Many women fall into a pattern and have very similar labor experiences from one child to the next. I’m not one of those women.
When it comes to our approach to birth there are several options. There’s The Bradley Method, Hypnobirth, Lamaze, and others, all telling you that their principles will guarantee you the best possible outcome for your birth. Over the years I’ve heard many women say, “I’d like a natural birth but I’m keeping an open mind.” We keep an “open mind” for the desire or necessity of medications during childbirth, but what about other comfort measures? We think we know what we want, but sometimes things just get a little… undpredictable.
When I was preparing for the birth of my first child I read books on all sorts of methods and gleaned what I could from them. I planned a home water birth, visualized being in labor, and I thought I’d want my husband right by my side. I like to be touched so it made sense that a massage or hand to hold would be fantastic during this incredible time of bonding while bringing our child earthside.
Touch Me Not
It turns out that while I’m laboring, any touch outside of properly applied counter pressure makes me want to crawl out of my skin. If someone applied improper counter pressure it was all I could think about through the contraction. There go all those ideas of intimate moments rocking and swaying together, of his strong arms holding me together. I wanted someone to press on my back in the right place at the right time. End of contraction, end of touching.
Keeping an “Open Mind”
Several months ago one of my Facebook friends did a poll about touch during labor. She compiled the results into a pie chart and allowed me to use it for this post.
Allison is a local photographer and active member of the local Attachment Parenting community (check out her photos, she’s an amazing photographer). I found her data remarkable, as it was split nearly 50/50 with people who wanted to be touched and people who didn’t.
When we say we’re keeping an open mind about our births, are we talking about medication only, or are we leaving room for the possibility that the way we thought we’d want to labor may be different once we get there? I thought I’d want my husband nearby, it turns out he didn’t really need to be. He felt more useful prepping the pool or watching the other kids anyway, so it worked for us. I was content with a midwife, doula, or sister following me around and pressing on my back, or just moving through contractions on my own.
Roll With It
Give yourself permission to change your approach. Massage may not be your thing, but having your hips squeezed may make angels sing. You may prefer pure darkness, silence, or you may dance and sing your baby out. Whatever your preference is, roll with it. Don’t fight against your body’s instincts for the sake of keeping “pure” your chosen birthing method. Your body may have it’s own birthing method so be flexible. Touch me? Touch me not? The “right” answer is the one that makes you comfortable and prepares you for one of the most amazing journeys ever.