"This isn't what happens on TV," a laboring woman moans. Even though few American women have had the privilege of watching a new life come into the world, most women have some concept of "the perfect birth" and "the perfect baby." But it doesn't often turn out the way we picture it.
Have you ever planned a dinner party or a wedding? Often, we rely on the advice of others — friends, wedding consultants — and sometimes we agree with them, sometimes not. Rarely do things go as we envision, and birth is no exception. It just can't be planned; there are simply too many unknowns, such as:
- Will the pregnancy go normally, without complication?
- Will the baby be born at term or early or after the due date?
- Will the baby be healthy and able to handle the rigors of labor and birth?
- How long will labor last? Will labor support be constant and appropriate?
- Will the mother be able to tolerate the stress? Will labor be progressive or stall out? Will pain medications be necessary?
- Will the amniotic membranes rupture before labor? Will there be meconium in the fluid? Will induction be recommended or required?
- Will medical intervention help or hinder progress?
- How will the baby make the transition to life? How will breastfeeding go?
- Will recovery and the postpartum period go smoothly? Will the mother get adequate support? Enough sleep?
Labor and birth have a lifelong impact on baby, mother, family and the wider community. It's no wonder that every mom wants to "do it right." The number of children per family in the U.S. has continued to fall throughout the past century, and pregnancies are often planned to "fit" between school and work or scheduled according to summer vacation! It's tempting to plan our birth experience as well.