Just “go with the flow”?
It’s common advice given to pregnant women as they face the unknowns of childbirth. “Just go with the flow.” When faced with negative horror stories, it’s a welcome and relieving instruction. But is it really helpful?
I was definitely in denial when I was pregnant about how hard childbirth can be. I’d heard the horror stories. and they terrified me. Denial was my only friend. So I got busy convincing myself “that won’t happen to me”.
Consequently, I had no proper birth knowledge or plan worked out about any birth choices, policies or procedures. Rather than think too much about the possibilities – which led to fearful thoughts and images – I was just going to “go with the flow”! It was a whole lot less scary that way.
I often hear that advice on mummy pages and the well-meaning women that give the advice probably had good births. “Trust your body” they say. “It knows what to do.” “Go with the flow.” It’s well-intentioned but it can easily be interpreted as “go along with whatever happens at the hospital”. Or “don’t bother planning , it’ll all go well”.
I’m not sure how well that advice works for women who birth like me though, full of tension and extreme pain!
Luckily for my first ever birth, I happened to enjoy a long gestation and by the time I had waited ten day (past forty weeks) a good friend had emailed me a few birth stories and an Indie-Birth Plan and I began educating myself and even began planning my birth (I literally did it out of boredom and looking back, I am so lucky I did. I thank that friend’s input in those last two days, for my natural, vaginal birth).
By handing up a birth plan stating that I was hoping not to have an epi or use drugs, I ended up with midwives who stood by my plan, and even when I begged for drugs, they carefully supported me and my ability to cope.
And I did it. I coped and I birthed naturally! I didn’t need drugs.
(I just thought I did – for a while there)!
Now, when I hear a woman saying she is going to just “go with the flow” I feel terrified for her. I know how broken the maternity system is. It’s not shaped to be able to provide pregnant women with the time, patience and support they need.
I’ve seen women forced into uncomfortable positions on a bed, with CTG straps on her belly and the baby heart monitor alarming everyone. Mother and baby are in obvious distress, I can see something is very wrong with the position the mother is forced into. The mother is nauseous and in agony, she needs to move! But she is told to stay still for monitoring. And finally (with panic all around her) the mum insists on shifting to a new position – and the heart trace becomes perfect!
I know how quickly a low heart beat can be turned into a cascade of interventions and often the first, worst interference was the uncomfortable and unnatural position the mother was put in to get a heart trace in the first place.
How then does a woman “go with the flow”, but also, regain her ability to have a say?
How different would the advice be, if we just jiggled just one single word and advised her to follow “her” flow and not “the” flow?
As a birth educator, I want to encourage women to follow their instinct and not be passive in the face of procedures.
I want all women to know how valuable their instinct is.
A woman in an uncomfortable position with the monitor on, has the right to get up and move if she feels the instinctual urge to do so!
Following instinct is a safer birth!
During birth I encourage women to move in a way that feels good. Groan, moan, breathe, grunt and sigh – however they need to, however they want to.
That instinctual flow, that natural rhythm, that is birth!
Only the woman truly knows what it is needed.
The mothers’ body feels the baby with every cell of her brain and uterus.
(she knows what her baby needs, she knows it deep down).
Can a women in labour hear her flow?
Are supporters being quiet, allowing her to listen to herself?
That’s what I strive for as a doula, I ask her what she wants, and birthing women are so wise – they follow their flow and find the answers they seek.
GradDipC, GradDipPsyc, GradDipEd, Bsc (Hons), CCE, CH
0406 934 645
NOTE: I am not suggesting that babies health should not be monitored. But there are less obstructive ways of doing it and the purpose of this blog is to raise the question of how often it could be done following the womans natural positioning and needs instead of limiting her natural flow?