I wish I learned sooner how wrong I was.
When I graduated from midwifery school, I felt prepared to do two things: To support people giving birth and, well, to give birth myself. It turns out that I was only ready for one of those things. Spoiler alert: It wasn't giving birth myself.
It turns out that as much as I had learned and even witnessed, I had absorbed ideas about what birth should be, just by being a woman in our society—and many of those ideas were wrong.
If you are getting ready to give birth, I want to share this misinformation—these lies—with you, in the hopes of empowering you about the very great adventure to come.
These are the 5 biggest lies I believed about giving birth:
1. I believed that there was a best way to give birth.
I didn't realize until years later how much pressure I put on myself to have a certain type of birth—an unmedicated, birth center birth, to be specific. After all, I am a midwife. That's what midwives do, right?
Nope. Not this midwife. This midwife gets epidurals. If I had been honest with myself sooner, I would have allowed myself the grace of trusting my inner wisdom.
Birth is birth is birth is birth. It's going to look different for everyone, and that's okay—that's what makes it great, actually. You can absolutely have hopes and needs for your birth (more on that in a bit). But please do not think that one outcome or type of birth is superior to another. You are bringing life into the world. Rock star status, no matter what.
2. I believed that I had to share my birth plans with everyone that asked.
There is nothing more fascinating than a pregnant woman; her belly, her glow, her future baby name choices and her birth plans are just so fascinating, and everyone wants to talk about it all. But I learned that just because people wanted to know everything, it didn't mean I had to share it. My body, my baby, my birth.
My advice? Be selective about who you share information with. It can be therapeutic (and fun!) to talk about your upcoming birth plans, especially with people you trust. But please remember that you are not obligated to share any of it, so don't go telling your super judgmental relative about your birth plan if you know that she is going to ruin your vibe.
3. I believed that I had to politely listen to everyone's advice (and birth stories).
This one ties into lie number two. Well-intentioned, loving people are going to want to give you advice and share their birth stories with you. It (usually) comes from a place of wanting to help, protect and prepare you—and sometimes it does those things. But often, it does the opposite.
Feel free to ask people to hold back their advice and stories (unless you truly want to hear them). Try saying, "I so appreciate you wanting to share this with me, but for right now I'd love to change the subject. I've realized that hearing birth stories makes me nervous, so let's check-in after I give birth and I'm feeling up for it, I'd love to hear your story."
4. I believed that the experience didn't matter that much.
"Healthy mom, healthy baby, that's all that matters." We hear this phrase all the time. And while yes, those are arguably the most important outcomes at birth, they are not the only outcomes; and it's okay to say so.
You are allowed to want to experience your birth in a certain way.
You are allowed to expect that you will be respected and listened to.
You are allowed to feel disappointed by your birth—yes, even if the baby is healthy.
Your birthing experience matters.
5. I believed that I had to control myself while in labor.
Ever-striving to be the friendly, well-behaved woman, I carried the idea into my birth that I had to somehow act in a certain way. Don't lose control of yourself. Don't yell too loud. Don't make people uncomfortable.
I regret this entirely.
Giving birth is deeply primal (no matter how that baby comes out of your body) and your body is going to act in ways it's never acted before—don't stop it. Feel like yelling? YELL. Have the sudden urge to growl like a bear? GROWL, MAMABEAR, GROWL. Suddenly feel like you NEED to get onto your knees and rock? ROCK N' ROLL, my dear.
Try to be respectful of the team helping, of course. Try not to bite your labor support person (ahem, sorry dear husband). But do not feel like you need to control yourself for others' comforts.
Your birth is your birth. It sounds so simplistic, but it is perhaps the easiest thing to forget. The only people you "owe" anything to are yourself and your baby. It's okay to stand up for yourself and ask for what you need.
As you prepare for your birth, here are our favorite resources.
This is the pregnancy book we wish we had when we first became mothers. Community-inspired and expert-driven, this guide will take you from conception through birth and beyond.
You've got a lot on your plate. Let us handle the packing for you. This pre-packed birth bag has everything you need to have your best birth, so you can focus on the most important thing: You know, the whole having a baby part!
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