FFHQ's Midwife and Pregnancy Expert, Avril Flynn, talks about why she loved giving birth to her son Felix and reveals how you can love giving birth too.
We all do it- when we hear of a friend or family member having birthed their baby, the first thing someone will ask “Are they alright?” or “Is the baby ok?”
In our culture, we associate giving birth with a very high degree of risk to both mother and baby. It’s not our fault, by the way - we are conditioned, almost from the moment we know what birth is, to think that labour and birth are both very dramatic, incredibly painful and extremely dangerous. On TV and movies how many storylines involve a traumatic birth story where something goes terribly wrong?
And yes, as a midwife I am well aware that sometimes things can go very wrong but do we have a disproportionate idea of the level of danger? Absolutely!
On the vast amount of occasions, things can and do go very well. Not only can a good birth be achieved for most women, but a great birth!
An experience that can be transformative, healing and a beautiful - don’t believe me? Well, it’s true- I know because I had the most amazing labour and birth myself, and I believe it to be much more achievable than people think.
You would think that having worked as a midwife and being caught up in obstetric emergencies a lot that I would have felt nervous about having my son Felix. I truly wasn’t. I felt excited and couldn’t wait to experience labour.
I laboured at home on and off for a couple of days. I felt totally at ease, in control, comfortable and happy. Yes, the contractions were intense, but I felt utterly content and totally trusted my body to do its thing.
When I went into the hospital, I was surrounded by my former colleagues and had the most incredible care. When the discomfort reached a certain level, I got a wonderful epidural and Felix was birthed in utter calm a short while later. It was elating and I loved (nearly) every minute of it.
Why? Well, I did hypnobirthing which taught me to trust my body and re-wired my thinking to believe I was going to have the birth I wanted. I was in the driver’s seat the whole time and was cared for by people that totally respected my decisions.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that a good experience has to be perfect- far from it. I believe that even if a birth ends with an emergency- I think the mum can still have an experience free from emotional trauma.
So why do I think this? Well, what if I put it another way - what makes an experience or a birth story traumatic for a person? The difference is the person who is giving birth's perception of that experience.
I have trained as a hypnobirthing practitioner and set up my business to help women re-discover their power and help them achieve a great experience- just like me. I call it “being a birth goddess” and I give private antenatal and birth preparation classes where I aid women in planning the experience they want (whether that is a totally drug-free birth, or an elective section, or birth where they have an epidural from the earliest moment)!
It’s about them, their wishes, their perception, their experience. I teach them to advocate for themselves and help them to remain involved and calm and in control- no matter what happens.
I have been able to use all of my knowledge to design totally bespoke antenatal education for parents so that they have the birth story they wish.
So how do you have a great birth? Here are my top 5 tips!
Stop listening to bad birth tales.
Why do people just love telling pregnant people awful stories? It's like someone saying they are off on holidays and a negative nancy harping on about a plane that has just crashed! Surround yourself with good stories - if you know someone like me who had a positive birth experience, get them to tell you all about it or if in doubt get a badge like below!
Don’t watch “One Born Every Minute’ or anything (movies, tv, radio, podcast) that involves negative or traumatic births.
Although it’s a great tv show, at the end of the day, it’s a tv show and not reflective of you, your body or your birth! It’s like trying to learn how to drive by watching ‘The Fast and the Furious’- if you want a positive birth, you have to believe you will have one!
Educate, educate, educate!
Whether it’s hiring someone like me, or a Doula, or going to a hypnobirthing class, or a yoga birth workshop or an antenatal course that suits you – learn as much as you can about your body and what way you would like your story to be.
Read the books that make sense to you. Write your preferences down and make sure everyone that is caring for you knows and will respect them.
Pick a maternity provider that is going to support your choices.
ALL your choices. If you want an elective c-section there is no point in hiring a homebirth midwife-and vice versa. I’ve written about the different birth options before (find that article here). Pick a maternity hospital, a consultant, a doula or midwife service that is going to support your birth preferences.
Learn to be a vocal advocate for yourself or have a doula or birth partner that will advocate for you!
Don’t forget for a second that this is about YOU - your baby, your body, your story, your experience. You do not have to explain your choices to anyone, they are yours. As long as you feel like the most important person in that room and get the respect that you absolutely deserve, regardless what way your little person arrives into the world, you can have a brilliant birth!