Expect the unexpected: Keeping an open mind during birth

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 Photo: Getty Images

The hospital maternity reception is full of expecting parents like my husband and me, waiting for the birth unit tour to start.

We all stand around acting casual, but we know that within a matter of weeks (for most) we will be in here giving birth to the baby that we've been looking forward to seeing for many months. Our casual act can't hide the excitement and nervousness I can sense.

Whether this is your first or your third baby (like it is for me), giving birth is one of the most incredible experience parents can go through.

Our hospital tour coordinator comes along and passes us each a yellow leaflet. On the front is written: "Expect the unexpected. Keep an open mind." Having previously given birth to two children I know a bit about this – as much as I like having a birth plan, in my case, much of it has ended up being thrown away when things didn't progress as expected.

A lady near me however doesn't think things will go unexpectedly for her. This is her first child and she has done all the birth courses that can possibly be done. "I am fully prepared and know what to expect," she declares. "I'm feeling empowered".

I remember being her. With my first birth I did hypnobirthing classes, got a doula, and attended all the antenatal lessons. I was ready. But my body had other plans. Because of complications I was told I would be induced early, which upset me. I sought help from acupuncturists, reflexologists and chiropractors in the hope that somehow they could make the baby come without medical intervention. They couldn't.

Much of what happened during the ensuing labour I had little control over. It took me a while to realise that sometimes you just have to do what is best for baby and you – even if that means tossing your birth plan in the bin.

As the maternity tour progresses, the lady who is confident about her birth decides she doesn't want to even bother looking at the maternity rooms because she isn't expecting to be wheeled from the birth suite to the maternity ward. "My plan is to labour mostly at home, be in the birthing suite for two hours, then go straight home with the baby," she tells another first-time mum.

I hope she gets what she wishes for, but I can't help thinking of being wheeled into the maternity suite after giving birth to my children – a squishy pink being in my arms, and a soreness in my nether regions I had never experienced before, the thought of which is making me cringe as I'm soon to go through it again. Yes, it would've been great to go home straight from the birthing suite, but in my case I don't think that would've been possible.

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I liked knowing that at least for the first 24 hours I had medical staff nearby to ensure that my child and I were doing well. With my first I had trouble breastfeeding and the hospital staff helped me with that. With my second I had a private room and I liked getting at least that first 24 hours of me and baby time before I was launched into home life that was dominated by a toddler.

So what about with my third? He's to be born very soon and while I've outlined my wishes to my midwife I'm keeping an open mind. This time I'm not averse to pain relief, or having my waters broken if need be. This time my mantra is to "go with the flow".

I'm keeping in mind that our bodies react differently to every birth. We can't choose how things are going to go.

But we can choose to keep an open mind, as the leaflet I got handed instructed. The more we can relax and hope for the best, the more our body can let go and do what comes most naturally to it.