When autumn comes to New Mexico, the aroma of green chile being roasted fills the air. Locals buy big burlap sacks of chile which are poured into a big drum that turns over a fire until the chile is charred (which then allows the skin to be peeled off).

Chile is mild, medium, hot, or very hot! Locals know enough to ask, “How hot is your chile?”

One day a newcomer to New Mexico stopped at the Grocery Emporium on Girard Boulevard and bought a bag of roasted Chile. The aroma made her mouth water all the way home. Using her chile, she prepared a traditional New Mexican dinner. A few bites into the meal, her eyes began to water and her tongue burned painfully.

The following day she marched up to the chile roaster and began complaining that the chile he sold her was too hot. “Look lady,” he replied, “I just roast and sell chile. If you don’t like your chile hot, you should have asked me about it!” (from Birthing From Within, by Pam England and Rob Horowitz)

So what do YOU think this has to do with birth?

Many of us will will have certain things we’d like to have or do during pregnancy and childbirth, some people write a birth plan and others just have a vague wishlist of what they would and wouldn’t like to do. The birth plan or wish list might contain things like:

-       no interventions unless they are absolutely necessary

-       to use breathing techniques or gas and air for pain relief

-       my husband and mother to be with me

-       to hold my baby straight after he or she is born

-       to breastfeed my baby and have him or her in the room with me

Other vague ideas you might have in the back of your mind during labour might be things like

-       I might like to take a bath during labour

-       I think I might like to be squatting when I give birth

-       I’ll drink water and apple juice to keep my energy up

Just like the lady and her chile, with the idea of having a delicious meal that wouldn’t blow the roof of her head off and clear her sinuses like never before, she was doomed to disappointment before she even took the first step.

Hospitals too are selling a product, and there is often some very fine print that stipulates certain protocols that are in direct opposition to what you might be planning or wishing for. It’s important to know what you’re buying so you don’t discover at the point of being in labour that your hospital is only in the business of selling extra-hot chile when your preference is for ultra-mild! (hows that for a mixed metaphor? Ha!)

When we choose to buy something as like a car, we ALWAYS explore our options, read up on different makes and models, test drive a variety of cars and really weigh up all the different options available so we get something that suits our needs and our pocket too.

When you think of something as important as the day your baby arrives in the world, shouldn’t we be exploring ALL our options too?

I can honestly say I know nothing about cars. I can differentiate between the different types according to size and colour, but that’s about it! I can totally understand how parents can find exploring all their care options for birth quite daunting, as it can be a huge learning curve. That’s a lot like me trying to choose what car to buy. While I’d love to be able to walk into a car dealership and tell them what kind of car I’d like to be driving, they’re only going to sell me one of theirs and not suggest the dealership across the street instead!

Some hospitals offer their own childbirth classes but there is something important to remember about those classes. If a hospital expects women to lie flat on their backs with feet in stirrups when it comes time to deliver they aren’t going to give you information on alternative positions or giving birth in water.  That’s not part of the product they are selling, so there is no reason why they should inform you of other versions of the product that are available elsewhere.

You might have seen some of those adverts for insurance options where a third party website will get you quotes and options for cover from a variety of places. This is the kind of approach we need for childbirth. We need to seek out a classes that aren’t helping sell a specific product, but rather give us all the available options.

It’s also one of the frustrating things most Doula’s encounter quite a bit. We see women who would really like to have a natural birth and be free to move around as they feel comfortable and be free to birth as they please. Then they go and choose an obstetrician as their primary care-giver who works in a hospital with a c-section rate that is over 80%. To use the car metaphor again, that’s like wanting to buy a cheap and economic car but going to a high end car dealership to buy it. When the mother is asked why, she can give a variety of reasons but the doula knows deep down that what this mother believes to be true about birth is very different to what she says she says she wants.

The Birthing From Within classes that I give are about helping mothers discover what this truth is. I ask them directly - What is it that YOU need to know, or do, to give birth? This is a harder question than one might realise, because it leads you to the real crux of things – what do you believe is the truth about giving birth?

To discover what your truth is, just imagine someone saying the word “childbirth” and draw the first image that comes to mind - like you would in a game of pictionary. This immediate image is often created by these “truths” that we are both consciously and subconsciously influenced by.

In most cases I see pictures that resemble this:

It’s important to be aware of these images because once you are, you can strip away the preconceptions and truly start to look within the deepest parts of yourself to understand what birth is to you, and you alone.

Like life and death, birth is not something we plan but something that unfolds before us with many surprising twists and turns along the way. When you start exploring what you want and need to give birth, it’s about exploring options and then setting sail in a particular direction but not having a “lust for result” or caring too much about how to get to your final destination. What you do want to prepare for is the journey and for dealing with whatever unfolds.

This exploration is more than just about childbirth, it’s actually about learning more of who you are and even expands to other areas of your life. Everything becomes so much more of an adventure when you find harmony between having a goal and also being open to go with the flow of the present moment.

Like I now say – how you give birth is not whats important, it’s feeling loved, supported and cared for along the way and knowing that each step you took to get there was done in awareness through making informed choices.