Empower yourself and take control of your birth experience
As a recent mother and also a Solo Mom, I can attest that childbirth has many surprises. Preparing yourself for the “big moment” can be daunting and even scary for any mom-to-be, but just how do you handle going to classes and info sessions geared towards couples when you are a party of one?
Life just got a little bit more curious and complicated now that you are expecting as a Solo Mom. I started out by questioning all my mom friends: What birthing method did you use? What is labor really like? How do I decide how I want my birth? Who is going to be there? Am I crazy doing this on my own? You will ask yourself all these questions and many more. First, you are not alone. We live on a big planet, and your city, town, county—and even other countries—have other people, friends, and family you know would gladly be there to help you on the big day. You may not want them all to be there, but we all have someone who will come out of the woodwork and offer support.
If you are the type that doesn’t like to ask for help or you feel uncomfortable with your coworker or friend seeing you and your privates, you can always hire a stranger. “What?” you say. “Why on earth would I do that?” I’m not talking about the lady standing next to you in the grocery store line. Doulas are trained in birth coaching and are perfect stand-ins for the Solo Mom needing unconditional support during their pregnancy education and labor. See “Need a Doula?” or find out more about doulas and their work at DONA International.
Even with birthing support, you need to get educated about your upcoming birth, and now it’s time to choose your classes or other resources. I personally decided to use books, videos, and talk with like-minded friends who had children to help me get educated—rather than attending in-person classes. Some of the women I talked to were Solo Moms, others had boyfriends and husbands. Regardless of your choices in how you learn and how you give birth, there are some principles that can help you make sure you feel comfortable with your choices.
Don’t worry about what other people think
Your life is your business and no one else’s. It is your right to be in any class you want to take. You can always speak to the practitioner before signing up to discuss your needs. It is up to the person or people teaching to create an environment that is open and comfortable for all. I found that no one thought about the Solo Mom, and I was usually singled out. I now understand that Solo Moms need to teach people what we need, and maybe what we need is to blend in. Or you may want to be singled out. Come on now, you are a superstar who’s decided to be a Solo Mom, and you do deserve to get some positive attention for your efforts starting right now. More points if you are carrying more than one baby.
There is not only one way to have a baby
The baby is going to come out of you either by a natural birth or a cesarean section. The good news is that there are many methods to help you through your labor. Some of the more popular methods and classes include:
- Lamaze technique. This is a widely used childbirth method in the United States. Lamaze classes keep a neutral stance about pain medication during labor and routine medical interventions during labor and delivery. Their focus is to inform mothers-to-be about their options so they can make positive choices about their own labor and delivery. Classes are a minimum of 12 hours of instruction and provide information about a variety of subjects including breathing techniques, relaxation practices, support during labor, massage to ease pain, labor and birth positions, medical procedures, breastfeeding, and more.
- Alexander technique. This is known mostly for creating ease and freedom of movement, coordination, and flexibility, so ideally you will take classes while pregnant. The more you practice, the greater the results. Goals include comfort during labor and delivery, pushing effectiveness, and aid in childbirth recovery.
- Hypnobirthing. Also know as the Mongan method, this is a birthing technique using self-hypnosis techniques. Teachers focus on pregnancy and childbirth, as well as creating a bond with the pre-born baby. Classes tend to run about 12 hours total.
- Hospital classes. Typically these include a tour of your birthing facility and an opportunity to see staff during their normal routine. Classes will include basic pain relief options, coping skills, physiology of labor and birth, childbirth options, and specific hospital practices.
- Online videos. There are so many informational tools online. If you want to take some of your education into your home, you can watch them on your own schedule and still get everything you need. Baby Med has great resources.
Want to watch a few births?
When I was pregnant, I realized about four months in that I had no idea what really happened during birth. OK, I knew that it was going to be hard, likely with pain, and that if all went well, I would be having a natural birth, and that the other option was a C-section. What I didn’t know . . . There was a lot! In our minds we understand that we will have the baby in the end, but what I really had trouble grasping was that it was going to be an epic experience. I needed to watch birthing videos to really get myself together for the reality of childbirth. It is a bit gross the first, or many times, as you watch. There may be some body fluids, and there will be some body parts that only your ob-gyn or waxer sees up close. I was totally floored. It was amazing, shocking, and sometimes scary to watch, but I got a fantastic education. Plus, I was really emotional with all those hormones coursing through me. The floodgates opened each time I watched a birth, and I was so excited to meet my little one. There are some great home videos on YouTube. One of my favorites is this home birth.
I also became addicted to a British television program called One Born Every Minute. I think this show gave me the most information about birth. It follows many different women, some Solo Moms, some with partners of all kinds. They are of different ages and walks of life. All have stories, some with rocky labors and a few have sad endings, but it is real and extremely touching. I also found myself laughing a lot and found a lot of reassurance in these episodes. You can find One Born Every Minute on YouTube.
Self-education is the best tool. Start reading and you will have more knowledge to make informed decisions. You are in charge of your body, so make sure you are getting the care, comfort, and support you need from your doctors and your family. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with someone who is part of your care, remember you can switch to a new practitioner or make a change in your birthing coach. They may be upset or disappointed for a moment, but remember you are the one having the baby and you need to feel safe, comfortable, and loved. In the end, everything else will work out, even in the most difficult situations, as long as you put your baby first.
ESME is a unique resource for Solo Moms, including this great article about birthing plans. Babble is another online resource, and they got it right with these seven books about childbirth—make them part of your daily reading. Remember that you only need to do what feels right for you, not your neighbor or your sister or your mother or your friend. You are the queen of your domain, and don’t forget it!
Lastly, I want to challenge you to be that kid who asks all the questions. If you don’t like to be noticed or have attention on you, what do you think is going to happen when you are in labor and it’s time for this baby to come out? Right . . . You are going to the star of your own show called “I’m having a baby right now.” Asking those really important questions will not be on the forefront of your mind, but you may be wondering why you didn’t ask more questions about Pitocin or what you will look like right after having the baby (I can answer that one: you will look pregnant when you leave the hospital, but with a jiggling belly and a beautiful baby to love). All these questions and more can be answered in a class setting. Make a list of questions, and if your teacher does not cover them, be sure to ask during class or talk to your doula or doctor. Don’t be afraid of looking silly because most first-time moms are wondering the same thing. If you really can’t bear to ask the teacher during class, ask for their email or phone number.
Whether you are expecting or just had your baby, Sisters is a supportive, confidential community of Solo Moms who get it.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
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