I am writing to you today as a midwife of eight years and as a mama of three children. I want you to know that I totally get it. You are about to do one of the most intense things of your entire life, and you're feeling a little nervous.
I was too. Each time.
Being a midwife never took the nervousness out of giving birth. Yes, I knew what to expect a little more, but no amount of knowledge or experience can take away all of the thoughts and concerns surrounding this huge moment in your life.
I wish I could wrap you up in a big hug right now, but because I can't, I'll share a few things to keep in mind:
1. It's okay to feel nervous
Or worried. Or excited. Or overjoyed. Or unsure. Or a big tangled web of all of those things. You are not alone, and it's okay.
If you can, try not to push those feelings away—be in them, even if it feels messy. Emotions are a very real and important part of this journey, and being nervous doesn't make you weak, it makes you human.
Often times when we try to dismiss our emotions, they come back stronger. See if you can take a few quiet moments and sit with your feelings. Chances are your nerves will calm quite a bit.
Remember, if you ever feel like the nervousness is turning into fear or taking up a big part of your thoughts, you can talk to a therapist about them.
2. Trust your body
I don't mean this in a sit back and let your body take over, and everything will be perfect way. Because sometimes our bodies do need some help. Whether it's an epidural, pitocin or a C-section, sometimes interventions are necessary.
What I mean is, trust your body to tell you, and us, what it needs.
If what your body and your mind need is to be left alone, in your zone, doing your thing without interventions, your body will tell you that—you'll feel like you can cope with the contractions, your cervix will dilate, your baby's heart rate will stay stable.
If your body and your mind need help coping with the pain, you'll know. Pain medications and epidurals have a place in birth for sure, and if you feel like you need them, it's okay.
And your body will let us know if an intervention is needed. If you're not dilating, if your blood pressure is high, if the baby is less than perfectly happy—your body and your baby will tell you and us know all of these things, and everyone will adjust accordingly.
No matter how your story unfolds, you and your body will be the guiding light. And speaking of your story…
3. Your story will unfold slowly
It can feel overwhelming to think about the entire process of giving birth to your baby—one day you're just hanging out and the next day...you have a baby! A baby that you gave birth to, out of your body. Whoa.
But generally speaking, your story will actually unfold quite slowly. Yes, there are the rare occasions of very fast births, or emergencies where things happen quickly. But for better or worse, birth often takes a long time. Which means you'll have an opportunity to wrap your mind around what's going on.
Your team should explain things to you as they happen, and one step will lead to the next step, and eventually, you'll have your baby. It's a pretty great story, even when it's really long.
4. You have more control than you think
Mother Nature is the ultimate boss here, but don't forget that you have a lot of power here, too. If you are giving birth in a birth center or a hospital, there may be some protocols that the staff follow—but never be afraid to ask for what you want. Sometimes we just get a little busy or set in our ways and we forget to offer other options. That doesn't mean they are not available to you.
For example, maybe you are not a fan of the hospital gown situation. Ask if it's okay to wear your own nightgown (as long as you don't mind it getting a little soiled). Another common thing is that we might forget to take the blood pressure cuff off your arm after it's done squeezing—ask if you can take it off.
Ask if you can get out of bed and walk or dance next to it, as long as you stay hooked up to the monitor. Ask if you can have some chicken broth. If there is something that will make you feel better, ask. You have every right to, and you may be surprised how often you'll be met with a "oh sure!"
5. You get a baby. And your baby will be obsessed with you.
In all the busyness of pregnancy—appointment, registries, nesting, nurseries—it's really easy to forget that at then end of all this, you get a baby. YOUR baby, that you get to hold, and kiss, and dress, and smell… oh that newborn baby smell.
And, your baby is going to be madly in love with you. You're not going to be a perfect parent. None of us are. But you are the perfect parent for your baby. And they are just going to love you to the absolute moon and back.
You've got this, mama.
A version of this article appears in The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey.