1) Educate yourself. You can't make a choice if you don't know your choices. And yes, doctors and nurses and midwives have seen more births than you, but they haven't seen the one you're about to have. Many institutions have a way that they normally do things. That doesn't mean that way is right for you.
2) Speak up. This is my #1 regret with baby #1. I ignorantly thought that people had read my birth plan or cared. Some things happened in the hospital both during and after labor that I did not agree to. And I wish I'd spoken up. I wish I'd told that night nurse to leave my room and get someone else. I'm not great at speaking up for myself. And I don't think either my husband or I realized that we could and should speak up. This is where a doula could really help.
3) Rest and enjoy the moments between contractions. With baby #1 I was so anxious to go into labor that I didn't sleep in very early labor, which was a Thursday night. Then I spent all of Friday and Friday night in labor and didn't deliver until Saturday morning. Exhaustion did not help the challenges I faced in labor or the recovery period at all. With both births, I spent the moments between contractions in fear of the next one. And that got me nowhere. Labor is not nonstop pain. One of the main things I want to do differently this time is to try to remember to use the moments in between to relax, to renew, and to enjoy not having a contraction.
4) Remember the baby. I know this sounds weird, and hopefully I won't be judged too harshly for it, but at many points during both my previous labors, I was so wrapped up in the work and the pain and the exhaustion that I didn't think about the coming baby much. I'm not saying I didn't care, but I didn't take advantage of the coping technique of imagining the baby in my arms--the whole point of what I was going through. This is my favorite picture from the birth of baby #2. I have it framed and I recently got it down to look at to remind myself that this is what it's all for:
I've also gathered some quotes from my readings that I review and want to remember. Here are just a few:
“Don’t let your over-busy mind interfere with the ancient wisdom of your body.” – Ina May Gaskin
“To diminish the suffering of pain, we need to make a crucial distinction between the pain of pain and the pain we create by our thoughts about the pain. Fear, anger, guilt, loneliness, and helplessness are all mental and emotional responses that can intensify pain.” – The Dalai Lama
“Knowing unshakably that everything is in constant transformation can be extremely helpful in childbirth. No matter how long your labor takes—hours or days—or how challenging or easy the experience is, it will end. Each labor lasts only a certain number of breaths. Then it’s over. We don’t know how many breaths we will take in and release during labor or many intense physical sensations we call contraction-expansions will arise and pass, but however it goes, it goes. That much we do know.” - Nancy Bardacke