A Muslim woman recently asked for some general pointers for birth, and I want to share it with all women and people who are pregnant and just starting to try to make sense of all the information out there. This one especially goes out to my sisters. 1. Know your options. Your care provider may be limited in his or her choices, by the protocols of their institution or group practice, by their insurance policy, by his or her views about pregnancy and birth, and even by their work schedule. Know that there are different approaches to birth, and that working with a midwife is associated with a lower risk of cesarean and better outcomes. Know that your provider works for you, you don't work for them. Find out their c-section and episiotomy rates. Do they support VBAC? Ask the right questions. Find the provider who is 100% committed to you, and if you feel like a just another pregnant body passing through their practice, find someone who sees you, you, all of you, you as a whole person with hopes, fears, expectations, preferences, emotional and spiritual and psychological and so many other dimensions. With respect.
2. Surround yourself with positivity, because we live in a culture of fear around birth, where birth is pathologized (this is not a universal view, and it has a specific history in the United States). Two resources I like for this are birth videos (see my playlist here) and The Birth Hour, a podcast with tons of birth stories. I also recommend reading beautiful and positive birth stories. Here's one I love from my dear friend Shannon, a midwife in the Bay Area, and mine. Know that as you're watching and reading and listening to positive stories, that your body is not different, that your capacity to carry your baby with joy and taqwa and your ability to birth with joy and tawakkul is no different from other women who walk away from their births feeling strong and humbled and joyful.
4. Move your body and connect body and mind through restful but focused movement. Prenatal yoga is wonderful. I also like this podcast episode on body alignment in pregnancy (there are tons of great episodes to listen to from Taking Back Birth). And, I strongly recommend chiropractic care in pregnancy.
5. Hire a childbirth doula (seriously, the science says so!). Hire someone that you feel supported by, and who totally reinforces your power.
6. Take a childbirth ed class, but not the one offered by the hospital. Take one that opens your eyes to how incredible you are as a birthing woman, and that reveals birth as an amazing process that happens through you, and which you and your baby and your partner participate in. I strongly recommend HypnoBirthing, but I also like Birthing from Within (the Birthing from Within book is fantastic and a great read, especially for people who process creatively).
7. Don't just learn about and prepare for birth, but actively prepare for the postpartum (this postpartum worksheet can help). You'll need rest, nourishment, time away from people and responsibilities, support, and lots of extra love, for weeks.
8. Use zikr to connect to Allah and reflect on His Rahma for you just as you nourish a little one in your Rahm. Invite space in yourself to be curious and in awe of all that is unfolding within you and around you, and make space in your life to receive this guest and this gift.
I you feel like you'd benefit from a conversation, I do birth consults. We can talk about anything you want, but some suggestions are: determining what kind of experience resonates with you, what kind of care is appropriate for you, understanding birthing and pregnancy options, processing and releasing fears, anticipating the postpartum, and really just holding space whatever comes up in pregnancy and postpartum. This is judgment free, for all kinds of births, all kinds of pregnancies, all kinds of people. I love companioning women through pregnancy and birth and postpartum, and what I like about these conversations specifically is that I can do them with women around the world.