If future me could go back in time and talk to myself while pregnant with Ri, this is what I would say:
1. Read more than just "What to Expect When You're Expecting". There's some helpful information there, but it doesn't go in depth about the process of birth, pros and cons of tests and procedures, etc. I recommend watching "The Business of Being Born". It's a documentary with a lot of helpful information. I would also recommend "Ina May's Guide to Childbirth"
2. Hire a doula!!
"The presence of a doula can be beneficial no matter what type of birth you are planning."
"Numerous studies have revealed the benefits of having a doula present during labor. A recent Cochrane Review, Continuous Support for Women During Childbirth, revealed a very high number of positive birth outcomes when a doula was present. When a doula was present, women were less likely to have pain relief medications administered, less likely to have a cesarean birth, and reported having a more positive childbirth experience.
Other studies have shown that having a doula as part of the birth team decreases the overall cesarean rate by 50%, the length of labor by 25%, the use of oxytocin by 40% and the request for an epidural by 60%." - source
3. Don't assume everything your OB tells you is true...even proven statistically. I was told at 30-something weeks that Ri was a bit over 7 pounds based on an ultrasound. What I wasn't told was that late ultrasounds can be off by a pound or more in either direction. (source) The truth is, there's no way to know how big your baby is until he/she is born. I was also told that induction would be my best option to avoid a c-section. What I wasn't told was that statistically, the "use of labor induction (whether elective or not) increased the odds of having a C-section by more than 2.6 times." (source)
4. Don't wait to become educated after your first baby due to fear of the unknown.
I remember saying, "I'm very interested in natural child birth, but it's just too much to learn about right now" and "I'm just too scared to try it with my first".
Sure, everything might go just as you dreamed it would...contractions hit, arrive at the hospital, labor progresses, perhaps get an epidural, baby comes out fairly quickly, minimal to no tearing, everyone is happy and healthy.
But what if it doesn't go that way. It didn't for me. (If you haven't heard about how everything went, you can read about it here.) I suppose if everything had gone differently, I'd be all for using an epidural again in a hospital setting.
5. Check with your OB to see their induction rates (and reasons), cesarean rates (and reasons), as well as the hospital you plan where you plan to deliver.
I had NO idea I was seeing an OB practice that has one of the highest cesarean rates in the area. Part of this is due to the fact that they see a lot of high-risk patients. But I wasn't high-risk. So why put myself under care that's almost "over kill"?
6. There's truly no way to know for sure how any medical intervention affects a baby in utero.
A drug was used for over 30 years (from 1938-1971) called diethylstilbestrol (or DES) because it was thought to help prevent miscarriages for pregnant women. Turns out, it didn't help prevent miscarriages at all. And even worse, it negatively affected the reproductive system of the growing baby - causing abnormal cells later in life for the child. (source)
It's just a little scary to me that this drug was used for SO long and it took more than 30 years for them to realize the negative effects. It just makes me wonder what other interventions are being used today that may later be shown to have negative effects as well.
So, I've learned that I view birth differently now. After researching, I feel it's not to be treated as a medical condition. It's to be treated as a natural process (that granted, sometimes needs medical intervention - yet the majority of the time, that's not the case).
I've learned that because I wasn't educated with my first baby, I'm now limited to my birth options with my subsequent babies. Yes, I'm planning a vbac. But it's not been easy.
Please let me say again, I do NOT feel women who choose a route other than natural child birth are harming themselves or their babies or are uneducated. I'm saying I was uneducated and because of that, my options now for subsequent births are more limited - not what I had planned and not what I wanted.
So if you're pregnant for the first time or thinking about becoming pregnant, let me encourage you - don't wait! No matter what birth experience you're looking for, educate yourself as much as you possibly can!