First time mum to baby Johnny in Munich, Germany – I had a wonderful and easy pregnancy and decided that I didn’t need to know anything about childbirth. I was feeling positive and that was enough. It would go down exactly as it should; a slow build-up of contractions then the calm controlled final stage of labour of pushing the baby out. I didn’t want anything to scare me or change that. I felt under pressure to have a birth plan since I have a plan for everything else in life, but it was basic and it simply stated no drugs, no C-section and no episiotomy (unless absolutely necessary), if only such requests could easily be honoured! In actual fact I did accomplish the first two but quickly realized that you can’t plan birth in this way.

The best advice that I got was from Cheryl MacDonald, my dear friend and author of this book. She told me about Birth ROCKS concepts, but since I lived far away, I, unfortunately, couldn’t participate, but a few simple words went a long way in helping me through my birth. She taught me that everyone manages pain and childbirth in their own unique way and the best way to prepare would be to get to know myself. I thought to myself, how on earth can I possibly do that until I am in the situation, but she guided me to discuss painful events in my life and think about how I dealt with them. The first thing that sprang to mind was getting my tattoo. For some it is just a scratch, for me, it was unimaginable pain. That taught me my first lesson, everyone reacts to everything differently. I could run marathons, do triathlons, fast for a week, get body piercings, but not a tattoo!

Cheryl asked me to tune into how exactly I felt at that moment and I remembered being unusually silent, crying on the inside with wet tears in my eyes and almost holding my breath whilst trying to hold onto my strength and perseverance. Would you believe that my childbirth was exactly that? It couldn’t have been more exact. I did not utter one word, never even when asked a question.

My labour shocked me to the core. It was fast and furious! Less than 2 hours and too fast for medication or even my hospital gown! Not at all how I had planned or foreseen. The only thing that kept me calm was knowing that I was reacting exactly the way we had discussed, which gave me the feeling that I was somehow, through all the chaos, in control.

Like so many mums, although my birth was perfect on paper and actually perfect to the outside world (My husband said that I made it look easy!) I suffered mentally afterwards because it was not what I had planned. I had imagined a slow build up with me totally in control, not a sudden onset directly to active labour and a baby less than two hours later. The best birth preparation that I actually did was to listen to Cheryl guide me to get to know myself and how I handled pain, not to imagine how it will look, how long it will be or how I thought it would feel.

Not only was I in shock that I wasn’t dressed, or that it happened so fast, for me it felt so different than I imagined or how it felt for other women. The contraction pain for me was manageable, but my body was weak from the fast and hard contractions and the nausea was so strong. I was not at all prepared for that and it caused panic and fear. I could not have prepared for that because everyone woman is different and that is why expecting the unexpected without a predetermined picture is very important, something I failed to understand. I was right in not having a too detailed plan but subconsciously I had managed to picture how I expected it to go, either from media or other mothers. But fortunately for me the calm in the storm was suddenly realising Cheryl was right, I am acting the way we discussed. A-ha! Suddenly a known in this unknown mess and that is what I held onto throughout the birth and beyond. That is what got me through. Even in the postbirth guilt phase of the birth not going exactly to plan, I still took great comfort from the fact that I was able to determine my reaction beforehand. Thus if I were to go through it again, I would focus on getting to know me and not predicting how it will go or feel. Even having gone through childbirth, the next could be totally different!

This blog is adapted from the revised edition of Birth ROCKS by Cheryl MacDonald, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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