5 things I’ve learnt about giving birth

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 Photo: Getty Images

Having had three babies in three very different ways, I feel reasonably qualified to make this statement: there is no "right" way to have a baby. And apart from "take your prenatal vitamins", advice for pregnant women is not one-size-fits-all.

Everyone has an opinion on how babies should be born, and for the nervous pregnant woman faced with the daunting task of getting a brand new human being out of her body, those opinions can be overwhelmingly loud and confusingly different.

So rather than attempt to give you my sure-fire birthing goddess tips, I simply want to share five things I've learnt that hopefully reassure you that no one really knows what they're doing. Birth is an intense and messy leap of faith and once you get to the other side, there's no feeling like it in the world.

1. It's good to have a plan

Don't ignore what your instincts tell you about how you want to give birth.

It's helpful to consider the things you think might help you feel safe and supported during labour – and those things that might be counterproductive. Reading a mix of evidence-based information along with the birth stories of other women, I got a pretty good sense of what sort of birth I wanted to have.

Of course, there is no way to be 100 per cent prepared for something you've never done before, but writing down your hopes and fears can be a useful tool for you to order your thoughts and for those people present during the labour to know how best to support you.

2. But flexibility is key

This is not about whether you can do the front splits or not - although there was a point during my third baby's birth when the midwives were attempting to get my knees behind my ears that I thought I could have been a little more limber. But the flexibility I'm referring to here is the ability to adapt to the curve balls that can and frequently do get thrown during the course of a labour.

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Childbirth can be very unpredictable. For this reason, no one can guarantee you a perfect birth. Heading into labour with a rigid set of expectations is a recipe for disappointment. The best you can do is surround yourself with people you trust and then give yourself over to the experience.

3. Every woman is different

When you've never given birth before, there is no way to tell how you will handle it or how your body will respond. What works for one woman may not work for another.

Case in point: my friend and I, both pregnant with our first child, both induced for medical reasons. My induction was intense and long and eventuated with my son being born via emergency caesarean 12 hours later. My friend's induction went smoothly and she birthed her son vaginally five hours after the drip went in.

And I have a load more stories just like that one, because labour and childbirth is a unique experience for each and every woman.

Comparison is the thief of joy and giving birth. Don't rob yourself of the joy by comparing yourself to other women and their experiences. No matter how your birth goes, you will discover you are braver than you ever thought possible. YOU CAN DO THIS.

4. There is no easy way to do it

Yes, you can do it. But the truth is that there is no completely pain-free way to bring a baby into the world. Labour is painful. Crowning is really painful. But abdominal surgery is no walk in the park either, so anyone who thinks caesareans are the easy way out have clearly never had a baby pulled out of an incision in their guts.

My three babes came in three very different ways. One emergency caesarean, one vacuum extraction VBAC with all the drugs, and finally, a 140-minute vaginal birth with gas only. The final and most natural birth was absolutely the best for me but it was also the shortest by HOURS so that's a no-brainer.

It took me three goes to really understand how to give birth and to feel in control. Maybe I'm just a slow learner. But one thing was the same each and every time; holding my baby for the first time was the best feeling IN THE WORLD.

5. Childbirth is just the beginning

When a baby is still on the inside of your body, the focus of most of your thoughts and energies are on how you're going to get them out.

Childbirth is an epic experience, no question. But it's a relatively short period of time when compared with the lifetime that lies ahead. Once that baby is finally in your arms, how they got there becomes less and less important as you begin to negotiate the myriad other challenges that come with raising a child.

That's not to say that the birth experience isn't important and that residual feelings about that birth are not valid. I was certainly disappointed that my first baby was born via caesarean. It was the opposite of what I wanted and I found telling other people how my baby had been born made me feel like I had failed. But that just seemed at odds with the beautiful, healthy baby I was holding in my arms.

If you're happy and healing and your baby is thriving, then don't dwell on how they arrived. It pales in significance to the lifetime of experiences just waiting ahead for you.