This month me and my husband celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. We met in 2012 and were engaged within 3 months. I guess when you know, you know, and when he got down on one knee in a forest I just had to say yes. Obviously nothing to do with the fact I wanted to make a quick getaway from the swarm of biting midges! Arranging the wedding was pretty easy really, I didn’t have much to think about.
We got married at the church in the village where I grew up. I already knew the vicar and it was the closest to where we lived.
The reception venue was really close too. I didn’t bother visiting in advance, a friend of a friend’s photos looked lovely. A few people had told me they’d had their special day there and they liked it so I went with their recommendation.
I’m not particularly fashion conscious so when choosing a dress I had no idea what styles were on trend or what would suit my figure. I sent the dress shop my measurements so they just contacted me when I was due for a fitting. They are so experienced and do this every day, they know better than me.
I was pretty happy with how my hair looked, I’m not too fussy, it’s only for one day. I asked the hairdresser to do the easiest thing as I knew she had lots of other women to see that morning.
We didn’t create a playlist, we just put our whole iTunes library on shuffle and hoped for the best. We ended up doing our first dance to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but hey, we went with the flow and you can’t expect everything to turn out perfect.
The chef at the reception venue had been catering weddings his whole career. We knew we didn’t want beef but other than that you can’t please everyone so we went with whatever he thought would work best.
I decided the best option for a cake was a plain vanilla sponge cake from Tesco. I didn’t want to plan something more detailed that could just go wrong and I’d end up disappointed.
We didn’t want to put anyone out by expecting them to be available on the day we chose to get married, but we didn’t mind who was there anyway. All that matters is a healthy marriage, not the wedding day.
For our honeymoon, a couple of people told me to go for the trip of a lifetime. I’d seen pictures of perfect destinations and the people in the pictures looked so happy. I knew there was no way it would end up like that for us. I’m not that lucky. So we went with what we thought would suit us better and Bognor was kind of OK.
What a load of nonsense!
Of course none of this is true! I spent months and months focusing on every detail of the wedding day; reading blogs, looking through magazines, searching websites and talking to friends. I realised just how much I could tailor and choose, and just how personal the whole thing was.
Me and my husband spent all our spare time talking about what we wanted, and what was best for us. I believe the whole process brought us together and when it came to the day itself, we both knew the details inside and out.
The vicar, photographer, venue management, catering staff, florist, musicians and fireworks technicians (yes, I know…a ridiculous way to burn cash but a pretty awesome surprise from the new hubby!) all knew what we were about and what we needed. We’d met them, asked questions (lots of questions!), tasted the food, heard the music, visited the venues.
Yes this was the start of our marriage. And yes, our marriage has far more importance than one single day. But, that day will stay with us for the rest of our lives. It will create permanent memories, emotional associations and the start of a whole new phase for us.
So. And I think you know where this is going. Why the hell are we not giving the same level of investment and preparation to birth?!?
Let me go back to some of the statements I made as I described my fake approach to planning a wedding. I’ve replaced a couple of specific references to reflect the new context of birth rather than a wedding.
It was the closest to where we lived.
A few people had told me they’d had their birth there and they liked it so I went with their recommendation.
They are so experienced and do this every day, they know better than me.
We went with the flow and you can’t expect everything to turn out perfect.
We went with whatever he thought would work best.
I didn’t want to plan something more detailed that could just go wrong and I’d end up disappointed.
All that matters is a healthy baby
I knew there was no way it would end up like that for us. I’m not that lucky.
How many of these have you thought or said about your own forthcoming birth?
Did you, or would you, EVER have said them in relation to your wedding day?
Why would you approach these two hugely significant life events so differently?
You wouldn’t allow someone else to take complete control of your wedding, yet you would for an event that involves significant changes happening to your body. I’m sure you wouldn’t trust someone else to make the most important and personal decisions for your wedding on your behalf , yet at a time when you are incredibly vulnerable and need to feel powerful, you do. You wouldn’t plan one of the biggest moments of your life to take place at a venue you’ve never visited, yet you’ve never taken a tour of the place you will give birth. You wouldn’t think you had to rely on pure luck to have a great wedding day, but you assume this about your birth.
Plan your birth like you plan your wedding.
When planning a wedding you picture it, in great detail. This is visualisation. You see in your mind how you will look, what the room looks like, who will be there, how you’d like them to behave. You never thought this would be tempting fate. No-one would have accused you of being naive.
Do this for your birth. Do it now. See it. See how you want it to be. Take it all in. What is the environment like? Who is there? How are they behaving towards you? How do you feel? What is making you feel that way?
Research all the options and choices you have for your individual circumstances. And trust me when I say, there are a lot. You’ll be surprised just how much you are in control of and there is no element of pregnancy and birth that is obligatory.
Put together a birth ‘plan’ (I refer to this as birth preferences) and the value comes in the process of doing it rather than the document itself. Talk it through with your birth partner, it is important they understand your choices.
Ask questions. Lots of questions. For every intervention or procedure that is offered you are required to provide consent. Informed consent. Being informed is your right, and if you are not informed your control is being taken away.
Place of birth: “It was the closest to where we lived.”
You don’t have to have your baby at the closest hospital/birth centre to your home address. If you want to look at alternatives, do so. It is your choice. If being close to home is preferable, perhaps birthing in your home is an option for you.
Taking guidance from others: “A few people had told me they’d had their birth there and they liked it so I went with their recommendation.”
Everyone’s preferences are different. No matter how much you trust or know the person who is giving you the recommendation, only you know what is best for you. Their birth is not yours.
Health Care Providers: “They are so experienced and do this every day, they know better than me.”
Health care providers are experienced and highly qualified. They are able to provide information based on observations, scans, monitoring techniques and tests. They do NOT know YOU better than you.
Not bothering to make a ‘plan’: “We went with the flow and you can’t expect everything to turn out perfect.”
If you decide to go with the flow, who’s flow do you think you will actually end up going with? This isn’t about seeking perfection. That doesn’t exist. You can be flexible, you can respond proactively as circumstances change, you can stay in control, but only if you are aware of what choices you have and what your preference is.
Accepting the offer of intervention: “We went with whatever he thought would work best.”
Of course, it might be that you DO decide to accept what one of your care providers thinks is best. There is nothing wrong with that. Based on the information you have been given, the essential question to ask yourself is what do YOU think is best? Here I encourage you to use your BRAINS (Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Instinct, Nothing, Space) to process the decision.
Fear of disappointment: “I didn’t want to plan something more detailed that could just go wrong and I’d end up disappointed.”
The idea that it’s easier not to get your hopes up, then anything else is a bonus, is so real. You convince yourself that if you have no expectations you won’t be disappointed. But if you open yourself up to all the options, and get informed, your understanding and knowledge of the whole process will build. If your understanding and knowledge builds, you become more powerful. With power, you get confidence and a sense of control. And when you feel in control, even in circumstances that weren’t quite what you’d hoped, there is great positivity.
Who matters?: “All that matters is a healthy baby”
No. A healthy baby is not all that matters. A healthy baby is a top priority. It is not ALL that matters. Your well being matters and your mental health matters. Your emotional and physical recovery matters. Importantly, your birth experience matters. You matter.
Luck or being prepared?: “I knew there was no way it would end up like that for us. I’m not that lucky.”
I always maintain that luck has nothing to do with it. Someone who has a positive birth experience is not lucky. Someone who has a negative birth experience is not unlucky. Why rely on what you think is luck, when you can stack the odds of a positive experience hugely in your favour by simply preparing every way you can. Every woman deserves to have a positive birth. You deserve to have a positive birth. You CAN have a positive birth. Plan your birth like you would plan your wedding.
If you would like any support in preparing for your birth, whatever your circumstances, just get in touch and we can talk about what I can do to help. At the present time there is a range of online options. Just click here to find out more.
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