How to Manage Expectations for Childbirth

Childbirth is one of the most formative experiences in a woman’s lifetime. It has been noted that in the later life stages of an Alzheimer’s patient who has a history of childbearing, their birth stories are among some of the final memories still intact; an example of how deeply we are imprinted by this life experience. 

It is therefore understandable that in the months and even years prior to labor, women create and carry a set of expectations into this exciting event. You might have a short list of what to expect and plan to keep it that way. You might have a laundry list of the things that you plan and hope will happen during the arrival of your precious child. But no matter what, there is expectation. It is the very word we use when referring to pregnancy – you’re expecting

How should you manage these expectations? 

  • Be aware of what you expect in the first place. 

Sit down for a time and journal about what you think labor and birth will be like. What are you excited about? How do you imagine things happening? What are the potential parts of labor that give you anxiety? Do you expect that a particular physician will be available at your birth? How do you expect your partner to act with you when you are in pain? You might be shocked to recognize just how many expectations you really do have. Once you have named your expectations, you can better manage which ones are realistic and good, while also discovering which ones you might need to relax a little. 

  • Prioritize what is the most important to you. 

Throughout my years as a midwife, I have always encouraged my clients to list the two or three things that are the most important to them and list those at the top of their birth plan. A list of 26 different desires and rules about how your birth will go is likely to see a lot of shifting when it actually comes down to the special day. If you create expectations that are too high, there is more likelihood for disappointment. That being said, it is very beneficial to think through everything and know what you want. You can achieve great things if you are aware of your choices, pay attention to your body, and work hard!

  • Invite your provider into your expectations. 

All who might be involved in your labor and childbirth must be privy to good communication about what to expect and when to expect it. Please let your provider know those two or three things that you are very hopeful about with your birth story so they can help you best achieve them and give you the tools to do so. 

  • Honor nature in the process. 

We live in a culture with abundant privilege. With that often comes high expectation that things will go the way we want them to, especially if we educate ourselves hard enough and advocate for what we want. Remember in the process of childbirth, that there are things in nature that cannot be controlled. You can only do so much to try and turn a breech baby (and sometimes, they are breech for a reason and we must respect it!). Recognizing the parts of the journey that are out of your control helps you to acknowledge and learn about what’s happening with your body. Then you can process that information, accept the current situation and move forward in the best way you can. 

  • When life throws you a curveball, hit it. 

Just in case something goes differently than you expect or desire, prepare yourself to be ready for change. This could be something difficult – an early induction due to elevated blood pressures when you wanted to go on your own time; or something wonderful – a quick, effective labor when the women in your family have typically labored for days. The point is to emotionally be on point for the parts of your story that are unexpected. Stay present. Look for things to be thankful for as the hours go by… even if everything seems to be different than you expected, there is always good to be seen. 

If you are an “expecting” patient of ours or will be one day, it’s our honor to help walk you through your expectations and help you navigate this exciting journey toward giving birth!