Trust Your Instincts
If I could magically impart a gift to all my expecting clients, it would be this:
Giving them the confidence to trust their instincts. Stress, fear, endless information, perfectionism are all things that can discourage us from listening to our inner wisdom. I remind people to look at that expanding belly as a tangible reminder to “follow your (growing) gut”. During pregnancy we tend to place a lot of weight on what the experts tell us. And while information is invaluable, it isn’t always enough. Did your practitioner leave you feeling unheard or unimportant? You can find a new one. Did the doula you interviewed seem “off”, even though she comes highly recommended? She’s not for you. Are you feeling pressured to accept the advice of older and well-meaning loved ones? Trust yourself and do things your way. Does your ideal birth scenario feel like “too much” to hope for? Do what you can to pursue what your heart wants.
Honoring your instincts during pregnancy will reinforce the same with your new baby. Being sent home with that fresh and vulnerable person can feel overwhelming and scary. But no matter how much or little baby experience you have, your instincts around your infant are powerful and can be trusted. Sure, there’s a lot to learn, but you and your baby will learn, and that process will be less stressful to everyone if you can trust that you are already the expert about your baby. If additional support is needed, you can receive it as helpful augmentation to your parenting rather than as a message of failure.
In my years of work with pregnant and birthing people I’ve become very aware that letting go and trusting the processes of bodies/nature/medicine doesn’t always come easily. We have so many options and expert opinions at our fingertips that it might even feel foolish to look inward as a first option. But I want to encourage my pregnant clients and their partners to listen to their own wisdom while consulting with the professionals and family members. This will help align them with people who will best support their needs and desires in this amazing process of becoming parents.
One of the most common concerns and questions I hear as a doula is this one:
"Will I poop during delivery?!" The short answer is: probably. As your baby descends during labor, their head is pushing out everything in its path and since it goes past the colon and rectum, it effectively evacuates all of that matter.
This idea of having no control and executing such a private activity in front of others can feel pretty horrifying to a lot of people. But there isn't much that can be done about it, and nurses and midwives are very accustomed to it happening. The better practitioners are stealthy and efficient about removing the evidence and usually the laboring person (especially if they have an epidural) and partners aren't even aware of it happening. Often a person's bowels have been loose in the days before birth, so there can be less stool than usual.
Other than giving the birthing person an enema in early labor, which is thankfully no longer a common practice, there isn't anything one can do to avoid this. If you are especially anxious about it happening in your labor, you could bring along essential oils, sprays or diffusors to have bedside. Also, many hospital and birth centers have peppermint oil on hand and that can be opened and placed nearby to diminish any smells you are uncomfortable about.
The 4-1-1 (or sometimes you'll hear 5-1-1) rule about labor is this: If you are experiencing labor at term (36 weeks or later) you should go to the hospital when your contractions are coming every 4 minutes, each lasting about a minute, and this pattern has been going on for at least an hour. This very rough formula can be helpful to determine when it is reasonable to go to the hospital without the fear of being sent home again (which is not the worst thing, but can be discouraging and tiring for the laboring person). The message that most people take from this formula is that once your contractions are 4-1-1 you'd better not wait, but get your butt to the hospital ASAP or you're having your baby in the car!! In reality this timing recommendation is to keep people from going to the hospital TOO SOON. Before one's contractions are 4 minutes apart, it is usually not necessary to be hospitalized. We are a society with little first-hand experience of birth and lots of Hollywood dramatizations around it so many people feel it is safest, and even expected, to dash to the hospital at the first signs of labor. Most first births are going to take a very long time to get into active labor, so most people will benefit from staying at home until they actually need to go in. This is a very good reason to hire a doula, who is experienced in all the signs and indicators of where a person probably is in their labor and can give sound guidance about when it makes the most sense for that pregnant person to go to their chosen birth location. It can help to have a support person reminding you that 4-1-1 isn't TOO LATE, but maybe the earliest that you'd want to head to your birth location.