Beyond the Birth Plan: Building Your Birth Philosophy Over 35

by Deborah Lynn

There are many philosophies about giving birth. Some support a completely natural experience with no drugs. Some tout the benefits of certain structured breathing procedures and positions during birth. Underwater births, at home births, doulas, midwives and planned caesarians are all considerations. I believe that each woman is different and that she should decide how she will handle and, perhaps more importantly, view, giving birth.

How Do You View Giving Birth?

I remember watching All in the Family when I was a child. Gloria was pregnant and getting ready to deliver her baby. She was scared. I thought about how scary giving birth must be and have carried that fear with me throughout my life. Ridiculous to be so impacted by a television scene? Perhaps. Valid nonetheless.

Now that I have delivered my little girl, I view giving birth much differently than I used to. In fact, I viewed giving birth much differently when I took a childbirth course. The first few classes didn't do much to calm my fears about how painful and long childbirth would be. As I became more comfortable with the birth process, I listened to the wisdom of women (including my Mom) who have been through childbirth. I applied life lessons gained in my 40 plus years of living, and developed the following birth philosophy which I encourage you to consider and then develop your own personal birth philosophy:

My Birth Philosophy: Points to Consider about Childbirth

I understand the process and risks but will focus on the positive. It is easy to get wrapped up in all of the details of childbirth and what can go wrong every step of the way - placenta previa, cord prolapse, breech birth, premature labor, prolonged labor, unplanned caesarian, etc.

During my childbirth class, one of the women was very upset and worried about vomiting during childbirth. All of her friends had told her that they vomited during the process of birth and she was terrified that she would vomit, be lying on her back and aspirate it. The course instructors did their best to calm her fears and explained that they didn't believe that vomiting was common to every woman and that she needed to let her doctor and nurses know of her fear so she could change body positions if she felt nauseous.

The point is that she had spent much more time worrying about something which might or might not happen, than the time she will probably actually be vomiting if it ever happens. I, myself, have spent most of my life being afraid of a process which lasted less than 18 hours. By the way, I did vomit once during labor and is was not a big deal.

It hurts, but it's a relatively short timeframe. Contractions hurt. A lot. No doubt about it. Watch any episode of Birth Day and you can see the agony that the women experience. I had no pain medication until my contractions were 1 minute apart and my labor stalled at hour 10. The contraction pain was the worst I had ever experienced. I asked for and received the epidural. Thank God for modern medicine.

On the other hand, I have recently experienced a rib injury that has been incredibly painful and has made it difficult to walk, sit, drive a car, sleep, cough, sneeze and bend over. This injury has caused me to cry out loud in pain when rolling over in bed and has lasted for several weeks. Labor did not last for several weeks. In the big picture of life, labor represents a miniscule percentage of one's life. Understand the process and the risks, but realize that labor won't last all that long. You will get through it.

This is how I am going to get my new baby into the world. I read an article in which the author discussed trying to equate tolerance of dental pain with tolerance of labor pain. They suggested that dental pain wasn't designed with a purpose and positive outcome in mind so it was a completely different thing. This makes a lot of sense. Labor pain was "designed" to help us get our babies into the world. If we change the way we view it from a dread of a painful experience to a welcome process that allows our baby to enter the world, how much better will the experience be?

Let the process unfold as it will: I don't have to go in with a rigid plan. I believe that having a solid well thought out birthing plan makes lots of sense. It allows families to think through the process and their preferences around it. It should not, however, be so set in stone that it doesn't allow for flexibility within the process.

In my childbirth class, we saw a film where a women expressed that she wanted an epidural as soon as she got to the hospital. She knew that she had no tolerance for pain and didn't want to feel any more of it than she had to. It turned out that her labor progressed much more quickly than she or her doctor thought it would, and she did not need (or have time for) the epidural she insisted she would need. She got through labor and got her healthy little baby with no medications through a process completely different than she had planned.

I wanted to have as natural experience as possible for both my daughter and me. The birth did not go well and I had to be very flexible including accepting narcotic pain relief, an epidural and forceps. I am not advocating one philosophy over another; however, I am pointing out that flexibility is critically important.

Pain management is available if I want/need it. There are all sorts of options for pain management during labor and delivery. Almost everyone has heard of an epidural, but there are other options as well. It is important for you to understand the benefits and the risks. You will learn about all of them in your childbirth class but should also discuss them with your doctor. She most likely has wisdom/advice to share if you ask her for it.

Women have been birthing children for thousands of years. It seems in recent years, we have become accustomed to the easy fix and the "no pain" solution. This applies in many situations including childbirth. The truth is that there are few "no pain" solutions. Your Mom probably didn't have the option of an epidural and she was able to get through the process of labor. Same with your Grandmother and Great Grandmother. Please don't misunderstand. As noted above, I eventually needed an epidural despite my desire to go natural. My point is that we need to keep in mind that labor and delivery are natural processes that our bodies were built for and miraculously able to accommodate.

There are many more points to consider about giving birth. The ones above helped me have a healthier and less fear based birth experience. At the end, I got my beautiful healthy little daughter without a bruise or mark on her. As the doctor was finishing my stitches, I barely noticed because I couldn't stop looking at the little miracle in front of me.

Take some time to think about and write down your personal birth philosophy. Talk to your husband, friends or other family members. The philosophy is the strategy that will get you through the twists and turns of childbirth.

Deborah Lynn is a former fortune 200 executive who left the corporate world to focus on having her first child at the age of 44. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Kansas; a Master's degree in Kinesiology from the University of Northern Iowa and conducted doctoral work at Indiana University in Physiology. She is now the mother of her happy and healthy infant daughter, Alexandra. Over35newmoms contains detailed information about getting pregnant over age 35 including infertility testing, sperm donor selection, artificial insemination, labor, delivery, special considerations for moms over 35; and even designing your baby's nursery.

Copyright © Deborah Lynn. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.