The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
The impact of birth is powerful. Women are often left surprised by the deep emotional impact that birth has on them. When I began to explore the connection between negative birth experiences and incidents of postpartum depression and post-traumatic stress disorder I wanted to find out what exactly makes a negative birth experience and what we can do to help make it a positive one.
Studies have shown that women's choices during labor and delivery and whether or not a woman feels heard in those choices can impact her birthing experience even more than the specific details or outcomes of the birth itself. If a woman feels like she didn't have a say over decisions in her birth or she was disrespected in making those choices, it can leave negative thoughts about the birth experience.
So, what can we do to encourage a positive birth experience? It seems a positive birth would then be a birth in which a woman has access to accurate information and knows her options, feels she has freedom of choice, and is heard, supported and respected (all different things) in her decisions. But if you don't know your options, you don't have any, right? So I believe some mamas are unknowingly setting themselves up for a possible negative birthing experience by simply not going in informed and supported. While more birth education and more planning can help, please hear me say, it doesn't make you the one in control of your birth. I know that sounds a bit unsettling but stick with me.
Childbirth education is important because a lack of knowledge about labor can contribute to long, painful labors, unnecessary interventions and complications. I believe taking responsibility for your healthcare is important and there is wisdom in planning for your birth. Birth plans are a wonderful tool to help a woman think through all the aspects of labor and birth, to research and consider prior to labor and to help communicate her wishes. They help expecting parents discover things they may or may not have thought through before. They create a space to talk about anxiety, fear or uncertanty that expecting mamas and their partners sometimes carry with them. I truly love and see great value in a good, organized birth plan.
As a birth doula, I care about every detail of your birth. I am passionate about educating and making your voice heard on one of the most vulnerable days of your life, but the truth is, I don't have any control over the birth plan that I help you piece together. Of course, I will stand by you and your decisions firmly when needed with unbiased support. I will communicate your options and encourage you in the decisions you make, but Our Heavenly Father, the creator and giver of life, is the only one with complete control over your baby's birthday. Doulas and birth plans are helpful tools but they are not what we place our hope in or disappointment can be quick to follow your birth experience. For those of us that know Jesus, we can be sure that the one who knit us (and our babies) together and the one that planned out all of our days before we were even conceived (Psalm 139:16) has a much better plan than we do.
So, once you have finished the journey of educating and empowering your decisions regarding labor and birth, give it back to Jesus, fully trusting that He knows, loves and cares for you and your sweet baby more than anyone ever can.
The last step to completing your birth plan is to surrender it. Trusting Him with your plan is a beautiful opportunity to pass off any of that fear, anxiety or uncertainty about your birth that you may still be holding on to and fully to rest knowing He's in complete control. (Psalm 34:4) Prayerfully surrender this plan over to him. Pray over every detail. Pray that He will provide you with the strength that only He can supply for you that day. Preparing for labor is the perfect time to humbly confess that it's His strength at work in our weakness. I'd love to help you encourage a positive birthing experience, but no matter what happens at your birth, I'll be there to hold your hand and remind you that He is a good and loving Father and that you are never outside of his care. Cling to this truth today and rest knowing that He goes before you and He's the one that will establish your steps.
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