What to Do When Your Friends and Family Don’t Support Your Birth Plan

Let’s face it; planning the birth you truly want to have is tough enough. There’s a lot of work you have to do to educate yourself, un-learn the myths and misconceptions, shift your mindset, do deep inner work to release fears and anxieties, and then there’s also that search for the care provider who will actually support you in that birth.

But trying to plan your birth your way and not having the support of family and friends at the same time?

That’s so much harder!

I remember all too well what it’s like and let me tell you, when I was planning my first homebirth there was no end to the calls from “concerned” family members.

In the end, I gave in.

I live with that regret every day that I didn’t listen to my heart and do what was right for me.

When I got pregnant with Mckayla it was after a lot of soul searching and working on my mindset for birth.

Knowing that the system routinely traumatizes those who birth inside it, and while knowing that I didn’t want to risk another trauma did help steel myself against criticism, it was still hard to do when it came to my family.

The truth is that we are social beings, and we seek to be in connection with those who should care about us.

While the opinions of strangers on the internet can be easily ignored, the opinions of family and friends can hold a lot more weight.

This is true not just for birth, but for anything from how we choose to parent, what careers we consider, or even whether or not we go after a dream of building our own business.

The lessons I learned when planning my birth have also applied to my building my programs and putting the education on birth out there in a way that is more accessible. I know that a big part of the reason I went after my dream of creating Empowering Moms (and believe me, I didn’t have much support from family or friends) is because I had also gone against convention with my birth choices.

No one in my family had ever had a homebirth.

They were horrified when I told them I had zero intentions of having my baby in the hospital.

They couldn’t understand what would possess me to be so “reckless”.

If you’re reading this, then chances are that you’re experiencing a lot of the same resistance and criticism that I did.

You’re not alone.

Most of my clients have also had less than supportive family members and friends. That’s usually why they hire me to coach them through it.

Here’s what I tell them, and what I’m going to tell you.

You have to do what is best for YOU

No one else can live your life, and no one else can birth this baby for you. That means that you are the only one whose opinion truly matters when it comes to what that birth experience should look like for you.

You can debate with them all day long about the safety of homebirth, or vaginal birth after cesarean, or vaginal breech birth, or any other number of “controversial” birth choices. But it doesn’t matter, because those aren’t the real reasons you’re choosing the kind of birth you want to have.

If it was about safety only, well there is no 100% safe way to give birth.

Even in the hospital, things happen that can cause birth to be unsafe. Furthermore, the things that make birth safe for one person may not feel safe to you. I knew instinctively that I would feel safer at home than in the hospital, and so the result is that I had birth trauma in the hospital because I didn’t feel safe or supported in that environment.

Someone else might not want the kind of birth you want to have, and that’s okay. You also don’t want their birth experience, because it’s not something that speaks to you.

In the end, if you feel that you are called to birth in a way that works for you, then that is the right choice. As a mother, you will have to make decisions for yourself, your kids, and your family. This is your initiation into that new role you are taking on.

So release the thoughts that you should do what others say is “best” and tap into your intuition.

Ask yourself: What do you want?

Remember they have good intentions

I know it’s frustrating to have to constantly defend your choices to friends and family.

They just don’t seem to get how badly you want to birth this baby your way, and they keep trying to tell you how “dangerous” your birth choices are. They may even tell you a “healthy baby is all that matters.”

First of all, take a deep breath and let that go.

I heard a lot of this when planning my births. The same idea that “most small businesses fail” is echoed with the sentiment that “mothers and babies die in childbirth”. The difference though is that when you’re pregnant it can feel like there’s a lot more at stake if you make a riskier choice than what most people say is safest.

But here’s the thing, there is no risk-free way to live, unless you’re intending to live a life full of regrets.

Try to remember that your family and friends haven’t read the same birth blogs you are reading. They haven’t taken the same classes and they may have had completely different desires for their own births.

A sister who expresses her deep love of Pitocin may have also chosen to have an epidural.

That doesn’t suddenly invalidate your feelings that Pitocin is evil incarnate and you would sooner plan another cesarean than be subjected to it again.

A mother who tells you that she couldn’t have gotten through labour without all the drugs may have had a typical birth in hospital with lots of interruptions, vaginal exams, and maybe even lacked the education to understand how to work with her body for a less painful labour.

That doesn’t mean that you will also have a horrifically painful birth.

The truth is, your family and friends don’t understand. They are also coming from a place of fear and mistrust because our birth culture is built on a lot of fear and mistrust of our bodies and of birth.

That isn’t your truth though.

So accept that they love you and want the best for you, and then assure them that you know what you are doing. Thank them for their concern, and then do your own thing anyway. Sometimes they need to see the proof for themselves.

I intentionally spent less time around people who didn’t trust birth when I was pregnant with my second baby because I already knew that spending all my energy trying to convince them wasn’t a good use of my time.

I didn’t even tell them my due date or when I was in labour. They found out I had my daughter at home after the fact, and many of them came around after that to accept my choices.

Consider the consequences of NOT following your desires

It can be really hard to not have acceptance from those who are closest to you.

You may feel like you’re disappointing them, scaring them, or worrying them too much.

As women, we’ve been socialized to put the feelings of others before ourselves, even when it’s to our detriment.

This is why I ultimately had Hunter in the hospital.

My family, friends, and even my husband all said they didn’t feel comfortable with me having my baby at home.

At that time I hadn’t learned how to set firm boundaries and still felt responsible for making them comfortable with my choices.

The result is that I wound up sacrificing what I wanted and ultimately suffered the consequences of that.

I learned a very harsh lesson that I want to pass on to you: if you feel that you are going to regret making a choice that makes other people happy, then you probably will.

Living with deep regret about your birth is painful, trust me. I think about what was stolen from me and my son whenever I remember his birth. I want you to look back on your experience knowing that every single choice you made was what had felt right to you, and that you can own that experience.

Birth Trauma often occurs when you are backed into a corner and forced to make a choice you don’t want to make, even as you can see another alternative that is being denied to you.

Being told you are “not allowed” is trauma.

So before you take into consideration what your friends, family members, or even your spouse wants for your birth, really think about what impact that will have on you.

I knew that going back to the hospital for my second birth was absolutely out of the question for me. Even when labour stalled and my midwife went home, I knew that the desire to stay home was stronger than what convention had determined to be the “appropriate” thing to do.

So in the end I labored mostly on my own and didn’t call the midwife until the fetal ejection reflex kicked in and I knew there was no stopping my baby from coming.

I had only voiced this intention to birth unassisted to one person: my doula. My husband hadn’t even known of my backup plan until the day my daughter was born. It turned out he was fine with it, but if he hadn’t been then I would have sent him off on some “very important” errands that would keep him out of my birthing space. Some women just won’t let anyone stop them. I think the reason for that is that they know exactly what’s at stake.

Why did I choose to send the midwife home? Because I knew that the regret I would feel wasn’t something I could live with, and this was my last baby. I knew she was healthy, I knew I could birth on my own, and I trusted my instincts that were telling me to not call the midwife back until the end.

But what if the doubts creeping in are your own, and it feels like you’re being pulled in two different directions by your deep desires and your fears?

Get the Right Support

Sometimes, all it takes is having that one person who truly believes in you.

I was fortunate the second time because I happened to be a birth advocate and had started building connections to the larger birth community. In those early days my network was much smaller than it is now, and yet having those few close friends was crucial to helping me block out the messages I was getting from my family.

It’s not easy to find this support if you don’t routinely hang out with birth workers.

Most women have not been taught enough about birth physiology and they are coming from a place of fear.

The most popular pregnancy book out there for moms is also the worst for this! Everything in that book leads to more fear and creates a lot of doubt that you are the one who knows your body best. Instead of helping you trust your intuition, there’s a lot of advice telling you what you “should” do.

Mainstream mommy groups on social media operate in a similar manner. Sometimes you’ll be lucky to find someone like me in the forums and we’ll tell you that you are the best one to decide what is right for you, however most of the time you’ll get more of the same conflicting bits of advice. You may be made to feel bad about wanting to decline a test or plan a less conventional birth.

Hiring a midwife can help, however there are limitations depending on what kind of insurance your midwife carries or what the guidelines are for their practice. In an integrated maternity care system it’s often the doctors who determine what midwives are allowed to tell their clients. Most often, true informed choice is not possible in this kind of system. There are outliers, of course. These “rogue midwives” often have to be careful how they say things and they may support your choices at home when no one else is watching and do a lot more interventions in the hospital where there is a nurse or someone in higher authority to dictate the way they practice.

A doula is a helpful witness and advocate, and yet they often face their own limitations. There may be issues of liability, depending on where they were certified and what they are allowed to say or do. I have seen clients get fired by their doulas for planning an unassisted birth, even when that client did everything possible to seek out a midwife. The client knows that a hospital birth is not an option for them, and yet they can’t find a midwife able to attend them at home. The shock of having their doula suddenly refuse to support them in their birth can be devastating.

What this means is that you really need to know who to trust and who to look to for support. Find that one rebellious friend in your life (or make a friend with those traits) and go to her for that support you need. If you are lucky enough to know a doula (or several) who will support you from afar, then that also will help remind you why you deserve to have the birth you want to have.

Sometimes, it takes that one person to tell you that you can do it.

If you are currently struggling to find that person, then you aren’t alone. Many of my clients also don’t have that support accessible to them within their family and friends. Thankfully I knew this struggle all too well and when I began to form connections in the larger birth communities I realized that this level of support was what was missing! I created the Take Charge of Birth Program to fulfill the need for support and education, and my clients can come to me each time the fear, anxiety, or overwhelm of planning their birth creeps in. I get them to come back to their birth from a place of power, and often my support is just what they need to go forward and have that amazing birth of their dreams.

Bottom Line: You can’t control what others will do or how they will react when you tell them your birth plans. You also aren’t responsible for their feelings. What you are able to control is what you choose to do and whether you will follow the crowd or forge your own beautiful path forward into motherhood.

This is your birth and your baby. No one else has any right to tell you how you should feel, what you should want, and what you need to do. You are the one who will live with the memory of that birth for the rest of your life, and your body is the one that will birth this baby. If something doesn’t feel right to you, then it isn’t right. If you have a deep desire to choose something different for yourself, then trust yourself. And remember that you can also change your mind.

Those who truly love you and want the best for you will eventually get over it after you’ve had that amazing birth your way. Those who don’t get over it were making it all about themselves and if that’s the case then I would suggest setting some firm boundaries because they may also have these same feelings about your parenting choices or even whether you return to work or start your own business from home.

I’ve had two kids and supported hundreds of mothers in their own parenting journeys. Many were complete strangers on the internet, and all of them were made stronger for listening to their own inner voice.

So listen to yours.

What is it saying, and who can you reach out to for support?

Carly Bonderud is a birth educator, advocate, and coach who specializes in helping moms/birthing people achieve an empowered birth and postpartum. She has been an advocate since 2014 and started with Improving Birth in her home community of Abbotsford, BC, and quickly gained recognition by the greater birth worker community in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and even other parts of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

She is the founder and CEO of Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching and also runs the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms: Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Beyond

You can connect with her through her Facebook Page, her group, and via email at: Carly@EmpoweringMomsBirth.ca

4 Reasons to Take Charge of Your Birth

It’s no secret by now that maternity care is in crisis!

In a lot of hospitals in North America as a whole, the rates of cesarean can range anywhere from 1 in 4 births to 1 in 2, and that number can shift depending on which doctor is on call in the hospital that day.

Many of these surgeries aren’t planned, or they are presented as the only choice.

Breech and twin births are increasingly labeled “high risk” and care providers automatically schedule a cesarean with no discussion of waiting for labour to start or attempting a vaginal birth.

You may not be told all the options for a vaginal birth with your next child if you had a previous cesarean, or your attempts at VBAC could be undermined by hospital policies that don’t support the physiological birth process.

If you manage to avoid a cesarean, chances are still pretty high that your birth will be messed with in some other way.

You might be induced because you “aren’t showing signs of labour” before 40 weeks, or because they don’t “let” you go a certain number of days past your due date.

You might manage to be one of those lucky moms who does go into labour before 41 weeks (average gestation for a first time mom is 41 weeks and 3 days) but then you don’t progress at 1 cm per hour and so they break your waters or speed it up with Pitocin. They might call it ‘oxytocin’, but that stuff isn’t even close to being the same thing as the hormone your body makes on its own!

The result is often a much more painful and traumatic labour and birth than the one you pictured when you were reading up on planning a natural birth, or when you were taking those birth classes with the nurse at the health unit or hospital.

You’re left reeling after the experience, wondering how it all went so wrong when you did everything you were supposed to do.

Why Does This Happen?

You may have had one class on interventions and what to expect, but you probably didn’t pay much attention because that wasn’t the kind of birth you were planning to have.

You trusted your body, and at the same time you were told that you “failed” to progress and you “don’t go into labour on your own”.

If you had a cesarean, you may feel that you “failed” at birth.

But you didn’t.

The truth is that the system failed you.

A lot of advocates will tell you that the system is “broken”, but I have since realized that the system isn’t broken at all. It’s working exactly the way that it was designed to work: the goal is to extract a live baby from a live mother, and do so in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.

Hospitals and maternity care are a business!

That means that your experience isn’t something they can measure, and it’s not important to their bottom line.

If you survive birth, and your baby survives, then they did their job and they pat themselves on the back for that.

Those of us in birth work who understand the intricate design of our birthing bodies and what is needed for a respectful, empowering, physiological birth can often see the outcomes and the resulting traumatic births before they’ve even happened.

We’ve seen the same patterns, heard the same words said by many clients who come to us after previously traumatic births, and we know what awaits those moms who don’t know their rights, options, or how birth and their bodies actually work.

We know what awaits them inside our Patriarchal maternity care system.

And the worst part of knowing is that we are often powerless to do anything about it.

We can’t sit in on your prenatal appointments with you and tell you that your chosen care provider is setting you up for trauma.

We can’t tell you what to do, nor do we want to.

We believe that you are your own best decision maker, but when you aren’t being told everything you need to know and your doula isn’t allowed to tell you everything either for fear of getting in trouble, or we get to your questions in the mommy shaming groups too late, then how are you able to even make a truly informed decision?

When everyone around you is telling you that birth is dangerous and a healthy baby is the only goal, then how are you going to feel confident in going against that advice you don’t want to take?

Why Birth Professionals Can’t Fix This Alone

Even your midwife or care provider is (figuratively) bound and gagged within the confines of the system.

There are doctors and midwives who are extremely skilled at supporting a vaginal breech birth, homebirth, and VBAC. They would love to support you in the birth you want, but they aren’t allowed to. If they do, they risk being punished by their colleagues, the organization they work for, and even the local hospitals they have privileges at.

Basically, that means that by telling you that you can say no to the policies and recommendations passed down from a governing health authority that doesn’t even understand birth, they risk their careers.

They can’t fight this battle from the inside. For decades they have worked hard to try to change this system, and it isn’t working.

Instead of making things better, often it’s the outspoken birth advocates in the healthcare professions who get fired or discredited in some way.

Midwives have gone to jail for supporting client autonomy.

Most midwives burn out after 7 years.

A lot of doulas burn out after 3 years.

Some last longer, some burn out sooner.

Many carry trauma from the births where they had to watch helplessly as the system pushed another of their clients to make choices that led to more unwanted interventions. Or they witnessed outright assault of their clients by doctors or nurses, or both in retaliation for going against the “rules” of the organization or institution.

They know that those births could have been so much better had they had more power in that environment.

There are doulas and midwives who only attend homebirth, because the hospital setting is too triggering.

I didn’t discover this side of maternity care until I became an advocate and started sitting in on the birth network meetings. Hearing the stories from midwives, doulas, and nurses, I learned just how little they were really allowed to use their voices to change the system.

I learned that the power we really needed to change things had to come from the moms who were most affected by the policies and guidelines.

The midwives, doulas, nurses, and few doctors who want to support physiological birth are being silenced in the institutions and organizations they are a part of.

They won’t have a voice until we give it back to them.

Why Empowering Moms is the Answer

So what can you do?

We need you to educate yourselves on how your bodies work, your rights, and what is happening in our maternity care system. We need you to understand that in order to change this system, we have to dismantle it.

Mothers and birthing people need to be the ones at the top of the hierarchy, not the healthcare administrators.

Until enough of you force the system to change by refusing to take your business to those care providers who keep that system running and instead choose to hire the “underdogs” who believe in your abilities to birth your babies your way, the truly good care providers will continue to burn out or get pushed out of the hospitals and clinics.

Until you flat out refuse to attend birth classes that treat you as the “patient” who will do as expected, then those classes will be the ones that continue to dominate prenatal and birth education.

Until you toss out the birth books that say “don’t write a birth plan, and go with the flow” and start putting your money into purchasing the better birth books out there, then guess what will crowd the shelves and limit the other books to one copy—or none at all?

I have a phrase I’ve used a lot in the past when I discuss this with my fellow birth workers and advocates: “Change, or GTFO of Maternity Care.

This is something I am convinced needs to happen.

We need to inspire that change to happen.

If we all stop birthing in hospitals that have high cesarean and induction rates, then those hospitals no longer make money off our births.

If we stop hiring doctors who believe they are the ones who make the decisions for us, then they don’t have any clients.

If we stop buying a certain book that is inexplicably popular with newly pregnant moms despite its horrible advice and scaremongering in every chapter, then that book will stop being published in such mass quantities and we’ll be able to make room for other books on the shelves.

If we stop attending the birth classes sponsored by the hospital and instead enroll in the ones taught by independent childbirth educators, midwives, and doulas, then those hospitals birth classes don’t make any money and the independent educators make a decent living and may be able to offer more classes more often.

By changing what we choose to purchase, enroll in, or whom to hire, we put the power, money, and resources in the hands of those who can actually serve us.

The patriarchy isn’t some big bad boogeyman in the sky casting spells on us or slamming a fist down on anyone who speaks up.

It’s just an idea made up over collective generations and perpetuated by society.

It’s only upheld as long as we value the things that the patriarchy values.

So if we want to take our sledgehammers to it and break free, then we need to recognize our power.

We can choose not to support or fund anything that takes our power from us.

Much like we have decided in this century to no longer tolerate mansplaining, rape, sexual harassment, or sexist ideas of how women show up in the media, we can also decide that we will no longer tolerate care providers telling us what we are “allowed” to do with our own bodies.

We can decide that no amount of birth trauma is ever justified or okay and demand better.

We can criticize the media for portraying birth as inherently dangerous and traumatizing.

We can inform the market what we really want for our births.

If you want to change the system, then you do have that power.

Why You Need to Be a Powerful Consumer

Now that you know that you have more power than you thought, you’re probably wondering how you can help. Luckily, there’s several easy ways to do that and none involve becoming an advocate yourself (although if you want to join in this work send me a message because we in birth work would love to have you).

#1) You can support this website and all the other amazing websites created by birth workers and advocates who are fighting to change the system and educate you on your rights. Many of these sites are even housed inside the Empowered Birth Library. Tell people about these websites, direct traffic to them, and if you can make a donation to help keep them running then that helps too.

#2) Follow Empowering Moms and the other advocates, birth workers, bloggers, and educators on Social Media. The more exposure we get, the more our stuff shows up in the news feeds and the more attention we’ll get from the actual media. Birth Monopoly, Improving Birth, The Positive Birth Movement, and Evidence Based Birth got as big as they did because they grew a huge following. I was sharing their stuff everywhere before I started creating my own content. Social media is powerful, and women are more of a presence on it than men and more likely to share content that is meaningful and educational. You can Pin, Tweet, Repost from Instagram, Subscribe to YouTube Channels, and Share all the content every time it comes across your news feed, and the more you share, the more you’ll see it.

#3) You can choose to only purchase books on birth that recognize that you are your own best expert in your body and your baby. You can stop buying the kinds of books that perpetuate the idea that birth is a medical emergency or that making a birth plan isn’t important.

#4) You can hire the right care providers, and fire the ones who tell you repeatedly that you aren’t “allowed” even after you’ve politely reminded them that you are the client, not a patient.

#5) You can write in to the hospital you have chosen not to birth at, to tell them why you aren’t setting foot there. Inform them that their policies don’t support physiological birth and that it’s not okay with you. They won’t know why people are leaving unless you tell them.

#6) You can spread the word about the Empowered Birth Work Shop and sign up! You can support the work of independent childbirth educators by attending their workshops and investing in their programs too. One of my students in my program also invested in the VBACFacts course for families as a complement to what she’s implementing in the Take Charge of Birth Program. You can tell your friends, when they inevitably ask you “should I take a childbirth class?”, that yes, they need to, and then direct them to the Empowered Birth Workshops and our Facebook Group for Empowered Moms.

I know what you’re thinking about that last point. “Birth education should be free; doulas and educators shouldn’t charge so much for their important services because we need them so much”.

 I used to feel the same.

But I want you to think about this for a minute.

The work of women is often devalued in our patriarchal society; especially caring work.

This is why there’s a gender pay gap in the first place. Women do a proportionally higher amount of caring work, paid and unpaid.

Here’s the problem with that: It’s not serving any of us, and allows the Patriarchy to remain unchallenged.

The reality is that if you don’t choose to invest in these independent programs, services, classes, books, and websites, it can be very hard for the owners and creators to keep them running long-term. So when you choose to invest your time and money into the right education and support, then that allows those of us who are passionate about birth work and your rights to autonomy to continue to show up for you, create more value for you, and ultimately attend conferences where we can add our voice and speak up for you.

Many of us are women and many of us have children.

We work tirelessly to show up to support and educate you because of how much we care, and we also burn out doing it.

Rebecca Dekker, Cristen Pascucci, and Jen Kamel were able to get as big as they did because they started charging for their work. They have membership sites for birth professionals and courses for families. They have merchandise and books. That didn’t happen by chance, it happened because they charged what they are worth.

So while I teach a lot of content for free, I learned from these powerful women that in order to truly make an impact, I needed to build the Take Charge of Birth Program in addition to my free Empowered Birth Workshop and this website.

And ultimately it will be the funding gained from my paid services and program that will allow me to add my voice to theirs, and fight for you and have your back.

The birth workers in my community also often add classes on top of their typical services because they know that by offering these classes they can fund their own work, whether that’s a blog, a documentary, a book launch, or attending conferences.

The more people hear about our services and invest in us, the more we can invest back into the community and fund larger projects like independent birth centers and birthing houses so that there are more locations available for families when it comes to choosing where to birth.

If the Patriarchy controls everything right now, it’s only because all the wealth is being controlled by those who wish to maintain its hold on society.

To destroy the Patriarchy, we simply stop investing into it.

We invest in a Matriarchy instead, because moms get shit done and we don’t step on everyone else to do it.

The Bottom Line

Nothing will change if nothing changes, and money is power.

But it’s not those up at the top that control the market.

We do.

As consumers, we pay them.

Nobody gets rich on their own. It takes market demand and what people will pay for.

This is what happens when you become a consumer of maternity care, and you learn how to use your power effectively.

You get to vote with your wallet.

Rachel Rogers talks about this in her new book “We Should All Be Millionaires”. It’s not about birth, but she is a mom and she’s also a badass woman intent on taking her own sledgehammer to the Patriarchy.

She knows that the way to put power back into the hands of women is for us all to get really rich and vote with our wallets, and I believe that in birth we discover our own unique power and find our calling. Whether that’s changing careers, creating your own business, becoming a philanthropist, or becoming an advocate, we all learn just how capable we are of greatness after an Empowered Birth. Is it any wonder why the Patriarchy keeps traumatizing us?

Even if you don’t have a big wallet just yet (go read Rachel’s book, and you’ll get one), your voice is just as important because you get to tell others where they can invest their time and money.

The more word spreads, the more the market shifts, the more the culture changes, and the harder the patriarchy will fall!

Alone, it can feel like we are the only ones fighting. But it’s not true. A drop in the ocean creates a ripple. Many ripples create waves. And enough waves can change the tide.

What ripples and waves will you create?

Carly Bonderud is a birth educator, advocate, and coach who specializes in helping moms/birthing people achieve an empowered birth and postpartum. She has been an advocate since 2014 and started with Improving Birth in her home community of Abbotsford, BC, and quickly gained recognition by the greater birth worker community in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and even other parts of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

She is the founder and CEO of Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching and also runs the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms: Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Beyond

You can connect with her through her Facebook Page, her group, and via email at: Carly@EmpoweringMomsBirth.ca

How to Plan a Natural Birth

Would you like to avoid the epidural and have a natural birth but you don’t know where to start or how to plan for it?

Parents make 3 BIG mistakes when they first set out to plan a natural birth (myself included).

Many just assume it will happen if they take a natural birth class or hire a midwife, or get a doula.

These things help, but they’re not enough.

Here’s 3 great tips on how you can start planning for that natural birth!

Did you like this video? We take a much deeper dive into all aspects of pregnancy through new parenthood each week inside our Facebook Community for Empowered Moms.

Come check us out!

Loved this video? Pin it!

Plan an Empowered Pregnancy With These 3 Quick Tips!

Want to have a more empowered pregnancy so that you can keep fears from entering your space and sabotaging your natural birth plans?

Follow these 3 quick tips for keeping yourself calm and confident in your birth plans.

Want more great content and a community that will lift you up instead of tell you that you’re crazy for wanting to skip the drugs in labour?

Come join the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms

What You Really Need To Learn To Plan a Better Birth

If I were to ask you what book to read prepare for pregnancy and birth, which one would you recommend?

Chances are that unless you’ve spent a lot of time in a birth community for Empowered Moms, or happen to have doulas for friends, you might tell me about the most popular pregnancy book in the Parenting section of the book stores.

It’s the most visible book in most book stores when you search the Pregnancy section.

Your mother probably read it, and her mother before her.

It’s been passed down for generations and there are now, at present count, 5 editions of it.

They even made a movie with that same title!

I’m talking about “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”, of course.

This is the book that most new parents get automatically as a gift from well-meaning family or friends.

It’s also a book that birth advocates, midwives, and doulas hate so much that some of us will even buy them in thrift stores or off of the buy/sell websites for dirt cheap just so that there’s fewer copies out there.

So, what exactly is wrong with this book?

Well, if you’re looking for a book that tells you everything that could possibly go wrong in pregnancy, I suppose it does its job.

It also tells you how your body will change and how your baby will grow each month.

In those ways, the book does its job.

What it doesn’t do is give you a good idea of how birth actually works.

It doesn’t tell you how to find a supportive care provider.

It doesn’t tell you the risks and benefits of interventions and routine tests in pregnancy.

There’s no discussion of your rights to informed consent.

The information on midwives is barely 3 pages long.

To sum it all up, if you’re looking for another book to tell you to just do whatever your doctor tells you (and it is heavily implied that obstetricians are better than midwives because they can handle emergency situations and perform surgery), then “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” will fulfill that role.

But it’s not going to give you the empowered birth you want to have, and you could very well be advised not to skip the cesarean chapter because it’s more likely you’ll end up getting one.

So what will help you have an empowered birth?

The Right Education

The third element for an empowered birth requires you to think beyond that one book, and actively seek out the resources and education that will help you sort through the many, many options for birth.

With the Right Education, you will know which birth classes to enroll in and which ones to avoid.

You’ll skip the self-doubt that leads to many parents seeking help in the mainstream parenting forums that constantly have questions such as:

“Can I have a vaginal birth with a breech baby?”

“Can I say no to this induction that my doctor is scheduling for 41 weeks?”

“Am I allowed to eat or drink in labour?”

“Am I allowed to decline this test I don’t want?”

“Do I have a choice on whether or not I get to birth my baby the way I want to?”

I have seen these questions asked too many times over the past 8 years, since I first became a mother. I’ve also seen these answers in response:

 “I heard that if you don’t induce after 40 weeks there’s a higher chance of stillbirth.”

“A vaginal breech birth is so dangerous! Why would you even try?”

“Why would you want to decline that test your doctor wants you to have? Don’t you care about your baby’s health?”

“Of course you need an IV in labour! They wouldn’t offer it if it wasn’t necessary!”

“You should just ask your doctor and do what they say. They went to school and know better than you.”

The problem is that none of this is true!

Even if their doctor told them that the placenta breaks down after 41 weeks, it’s not based in any concrete evidence.

Hospital practices vary depending on where you live, even in the same city.

In the same hospital, two doctors could have two different opinions on any given treatment or recommendation.

Even more problematic: hospitals rarely see a truly physiological birth where the birth is undisturbed and able to unfold without any interference.

When you consider that most mainstream birth sites, books, and classes do not teach anything other than what to expect in a hospital birth, where there is more intervention as a matter of how they practice, then you can see that accessing that information is just going to lead to a medicalized birth experience with little to no autonomy and a “doctor knows better than you” mentality.

Unless you have a certain set of tools, or someone to show you the way, it can be incredibly difficult to determine what’s true and what isn’t.

So, what are the things you need to learn?

You Need to Learn Your Rights

You need to know your rights to Informed Consent and Refusal inside and out. You need to know that the maternity care system is heavily influenced by patriarchal values and that there’s an implicit bias toward any woman or birthing person who dares to question the “all knowing” doctors.

You need to know about Obstetric Violence and how often it happens in maternity care. You need to know what it is, what it looks like, the subtlest signs that it could creep up in the course of your care, and how to protect yourself from it.

You need to know what to do and say to ensure that your rights are respected and you are not bullied by the system into doing anything you don’t feel right about doing.

If you read about the Right Mindset already, then you may have a foundation to build off of in knowing that you are your own best decision maker for your care. That will help you, however until you understand your rights fully and have done your homework enough that you could spot a misrepresentation of those rights, then you could still be led to believe that you don’t have a choice in how you birth.

Cristen Pascucci of Birth Monopoly has created countless blog posts and editorials that fully explain your rights to informed consent. Inside my Empowered Birth Library, I have housed the links to some of her best articles that fully illustrate how to exercise your rights in your pregnancy, as well as several other web links and summaries of each article or publication so that you have multiple sources from reputable websites and organizations and don’t have to go searching through Google pages trying to find it all.

Having that baseline of knowledge is powerful in helping you to step fully in your role as the capable Decision Maker for your Empowered Birth.

You Need to Know How Birth Really Works

Inside the mainstream parenting forums there are essentially 2 camps of parents who want a natural birth:

  1. The parents who want to “try” for a natural birth, but don’t really think it’s possible and may end up changing their mind and going for the medical birth.
  2. The parents who desperately want to avoid the medical interventions, are scared of the epidural, desperately wish to avoid a csection, and may even wonder whether they should just have a homebirth.

There is a third group, however they are considered on the “fringe”, and chances are that if you’re reading this and don’t see yourself as wondering about homebirth but are actively planning for it, then you’re in that fringe group.

I was in that third camp when I was pregnant for the first time with my son. I actively searched for everything I could find on “natural birth” and homebirth in particular.

The problem was that even though I considered myself to be the queen of the Google search back then, I didn’t know enough about what to Google, or how to word my questions.

As a result, I got mostly links back to more mainstream parent forums, a few parenting blogs, and a lot of misinformation.

I did manage to find one good blog to read back then, but mostly I found my articles through the Facebook news feed and was only able to read whatever my midwife group had shared on their page.

I am very much aware that if I had not chosen a midwife group with a very active Facebook page, I may not have ever learned about Improving Birth or Evidence Based Birth.

I was fortunate to have chosen midwives because they did teach a lot more about how birth works than the hospital-sponsored birth class that I was attending a few times a month, but those classes were not enough.

I created the Empowered Birth Library to house the many articles and resources I have come across over the past 8 years, because I remember how difficult it used to be to find out everything I needed to know about planning a birth that works with our own physiology.

In addition to the usual natural birth articles, I also found articles and videos on breech birth, vaginal birth after multiple cesareans, birth at home with twins and triplets, and so much more than I could ever have found in the 4 books I had checked out of the local library (including “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”). 

Inside this library is the full education that I only wish had been available when I was having my first baby. My friends who have seen the incarnations of it over the years have said the same, and some have used the articles I shared from it to go on to have empowered births of their own.

Understanding how our bodies work is crucial to being able to make choices that are right for us. Ina May Gaskin still said it best: “It’s easy to scare women. It’s even profitable to scare women. But it’s not nice, so let’s stop it.”

The maternity care system in the patriarchy was built for profit and got as powerful as it did by scaring women and birthing people into believing their bodies were defective. It got its start in the industrial revolution and men (because the doctors were all male) then set out to “prove” that our birthing bodies were inefficient machines that needed medical management.

We were stripped of our midwives, isolated from our support system of other women, and told that we were broken and couldn’t birth without “help”. The babies were pulled from bodies with forceps, with mothers unconscious, and now they are often cut out for “failure to progress”. Our labours are induced, and weeks before that date we are told that we aren’t dilating yet, so therefore we’re likely to not go into labour on our own.

Reading even just a handful of the articles on “Waiting for Labour” linked to inside the Empowered Birth Library will show just how wrong that thinking is, and reassure you that your body is working perfectly and you can go ahead and refuse those vaginal exams.

When you know how your body works, it’s not so easy for the medical system to scare you into making a choice that isn’t right for you.

You Need to Know All Your Options

There is no right or wrong way to birth and no two births are the same.

You are not your sister, your mother, or your aunt.

What you want for this birth is the only thing that matters, and when it comes to options for what you can ask for it’s less of a menu and more of an all-you-can-eat buffet!

You can customize your birth however you like, but to do that you need to know what the possibilities are.

This is extremely difficult to do in a mainstream parenting group or through reading one or two books, and unless you’ve spent almost a decade reading everything on birth and have doulas in your friend circle to collaborate with and share more articles and videos with, it’s not likely that you’ll have an idea just how many options there actually are.

One of the things that I do with my clients is to help them decide what their ideal birth would be. We don’t focus on how they can get what they want just yet, but instead look at what the ideal is. Once we have that idea on paper we brainstorm the possible ways that birth could happen. Often I have that baseline of information and experience to let them know that other parents have done what they want to do, or part of what they want, and then that opens up an opportunity that they couldn’t see before.

Inside the Empowered Birth Library are not just articles, but stories in the news and on blogs that show all the possible ways that people have birthed their babies. I especially like the ones that are so “out of the box” that they make the news headlines.

Stories of mothers birthing breech babies on the side of the road in their cars, or of choosing to fire their care provider while pushing and catch their own baby!

The community of doulas and midwives have these stories from their clients, and I’ve gathered them over the past 4 years and housed them inside the Empowered Birth Library to pull out whenever a mom needed encouragement that she could have that birth she wanted to have.

Stories are powerful. They show you that anything is possible, and as a result you dream bigger and do the “impossible” in a whole new way that is uniquely your experience.

You Need to Know How to Ask the Right Questions

It’s not enough to just grab all the information that you’re being told by other people. The real power comes in being able to recognize good information from the bad.

This is not so easily done when your main source of learning is a mainstream parenting group and the simple question “can I have a bath after birth” is met with several different answers, all contradicting each other.

When you ask a much more controversial question such as “can I have decline this induction, and also I have gestational diabetes and am planning a vaginal birth after 3 cesareans” you’re basically setting yourself up for an onslaught of horrified comments about how you’re being reckless for even considering going past 39 weeks, let alone 41. I use this exact example because a good friend of mine actually did have a vaginal birth after 41 weeks and after 3 previous cesareans, and she was an older mother, and she had gestational diabetes.

The reason she got to experience this amazing, empowered birth that led to her working with me in birth advocacy for 5 years?

She educated herself on her options and she knew enough to recognize when the care providers who told her “NO” were not telling her the full truth.

She got extremely good at reading through the articles and learning what was fact and what was based on a very tiny percentage of negative outcomes that had nothing to do with her actual experience for her pregnancy.

It took her 3 prior cesareans and a lot of time researching her options before she even got pregnant again for her to achieve that amazing VBA3C, and when she and I met I started gathering a large collection of articles on VBAC in every kind of circumstance I could find.

I may have avoided having my own cesarean experience, but the women I chose to surround myself with when I was working as a rally coordinator for Improving Birth had already had those experiences themselves and had so much to share with me on how they would choose differently next time. I learned of the best articles for VBAC and extended my interest to breech birth as well, and today that section of the Empowered Birth Library is one of my favourite areas to pull links from when helping to inspire moms who desire a VBAC of their own.

I do not take all the credit for tracking down these resources. If it wasn’t for the friends I’ve made in the birth communities I would not have found half of them. Truly, it’s been a collaboration and many doulas, midwives, and nurses have contributed to it by sharing their wisdom online and then circulating that wisdom over social media. I simply collected them all, put them into an archive and categorized them so that they could be found and accessed whenever I wanted to read them. For 4 years it was my Best Kept Secret. I’ve pulled articles out of it for doulas, midwives, nurses, and any mother who has come to me seeking information has received a handful of articles that I have saved in this archive.

But I don’t wish to keep it a secret anymore.

Is “Dr. Google” Not Turning Out the Results You Want?

With the Empowered Birth Library, you’ll never have to blindly search for anything ever again!

We’ve got a bunch of great resources to get you started with some of our favourite blogs, websites, video channels, podcasts, and more!

The beauty of this Empowered Birth Library is that it continues to grow each week.

The Transforming Birth Luminaries in my community share resources with each other both publicly and within our own group, and as a result of our willingness to give to each other the Library will only continue to expand and enhance the way we pass on our wisdom.

The Empowered Birth Library is how you can get that Right Education off to a good start, and receive that baseline knowledge you need to have a truly collaborative sharing of ideas with your care providers and with your doula. It builds off of what we share inside the Facebook Group for Empowered Moms and creates a solid foundation for making decisions around the final 3 elements of Right Environment, Right Care Provider, and Right Support.

Bottom Line: Having the right information at your fingertips can be a powerful tool to help you achieve the empowered birth you deserve. When you already know your rights, have researched all of your options, and know the evidence for maternity care practices you are in a better position to advocate for yourself and come to your appointments with your chosen care provider already knowing what you want to happen. You stop asking “am I allowed” and start telling them how you would like them to support you. Essentially, when you have that solid foundation of the right education in your birth options you are better prepared to Take Charge of Your Birth! When you know where to look for that information it is much easier to get that foundation than if you’re Googling blindly, reading mainstream birth books or asking the questions in the mainstream parenting forums. When you combine the support of the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms with the Empowered Birth Library, you are two steps closer to getting the kind of birth you desire to have.

Carly Bonderud is a birth educator, advocate, and coach who specializes in helping moms/birthing people achieve an empowered birth and postpartum. She has been an advocate since 2014 and started with Improving Birth in her home community of Abbotsford, BC, and quickly gained recognition by the greater birth worker community in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and even other parts of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

She is the founder and CEO of Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching and also runs the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms: Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Beyond

You can connect with her through her Facebook Page, her group, and via email at: Carly@EmpoweringMomsBirth.ca

This blog post is part 3 in a 6-part series on Empowering your Birth. You can find the previous posts here:

Dear Midwife, I Forgive You

Dear Midwife, I Forgive You

Perhaps you don’t remember me, or maybe I’m on your mind a lot since I filed that complaint back in 2016.

Maybe you see my posts on Facebook, maybe you don’t, but due to our close proximity and my growing connections in the birth community I would be surprised if you weren’t aware of how I’ve been telling my story for almost 8 years:

The way I felt when you told me “first time moms usually end up transferring anyway”.

When I felt like I didn’t know my own body, because all of my instincts that I told you I felt were dismissed.

How I went for non stress test after non stress test, every week, and did all the ultrasound scans, but not once was I told that the growth was normal and he was just smaller for dates.

How I wasn’t told that ultrasound scans aren’t 100% accurate and have a margin of error that was significant enough to warrant questioning.

How I wasn’t told that a truly growth-restricted fetus would also have a placenta that wasn’t functioning, and my placenta was healthy.

How I wasn’t told that I even had the right to choose a homebirth even in spite of these recommendations of a hospital birth.

How it was to have my husband, aka, the “voice of reason” in a patriarchal society, stand there and be told the risks of me having a homebirth so that by the end of the pregnancy he was no longer wanting to risk the possibility of a bad outcome, no matter how miniscule that outcome might actually be.

How it was to learn 2 years later, when I was planning the birth of my second child, that you had information in my files that might have led me to choose a homebirth and stop doing those unnecessary tests that had put financial strain on me and my husband due to parking and his missing work to take me to the appointments each week.

How it was to have suffered PTSD and Birth Trauma from my son’s birth, of which I never thought I could fully heal from…

Until today.

Today, I met with a former client of yours who painted for me a much happier picture of you than what I have carried around with me for 8 years.

She told me that you give full informed consent in your practice now.

That you encourage your clients to dive into the evidence and research, and that you provide them with lots of materials to come to their own conclusions.

That since I saw you last, you have become the care provider that I actively seek out to refer people to.

I wish to forgive you, finally, after 8 long years of holding that pain inside.

I do not know when you changed your way of practicing.

Perhaps back then you had been pressured by the OB culture.

Perhaps you had been facing internal pressure from your own group practice, and that is ultimately why 2 years later when I went to interview there I found that it was under the control of the midwives and no longer a shared practice with OBs.

Perhaps you had heard through the grapevine that I was unhappy, and you have been silently lurking and watching how I tell my story, and you’ve taken it to heart as an opportunity to change.

Or perhaps you simply got as fed up with the lack of informed consent, saw how toeing the line was hurting your clients, and you decided that you were going to be a bit more rebellious if it meant serving those clients as they deserve to be served.

Whatever the reason, I wish to say thank you.

Whoever told you, or however you came to shift how you serve your clients I want you to know that I see you now.

I see you, and I honour you.

I also wish to tell you that while the past did hurt me, it also inspired me to become who I am today, and to serve the birthing families and the birth workers who support them so that we can all shift maternity care away from paternalism and toward true informed choice and bodily autonomy.

While at the time I felt like my confidence was undermined, I did seek to understand the pressures that midwives in our province are dealing with and I wanted very much to believe you were under that same pressure. I am happy (and also sad for you) that I was right about that. You did what you felt you had to at the time, based on circumstances and the experience you had leading up to the point we met, and now that the years have passed you have continued to grow, as I have, and you have done your best to move forward and learn from the past.

I appreciate you, dear Midwife, for the work you did to get where you are today.

I honour your journey, and I wish to let you know that should our paths ever cross again I will greet you as a friend and invite you into a conversation of healing and understanding, not judgment and anger.

I release my pain I held onto for 8 years in knowing that today someone spoke of you is such high esteem.

May you continue to serve and grow in your experience and wisdom.

All my love,

Carly

How to Get Over Your Fear of Birth

When I think back to what “went wrong” with my first birth and what can “go wrong” for so many new mothers, they all have one thing in common: We didn’t know what we didn’t know.

I touched on this a little bit in my previous post, but what I didn’t talk about was how the Right Mindset in itself has layers we need to work through.

I had worked through the superficial layers of believing that I could have the birth I wanted, and I even believed that I deserved to have a good experience. The trouble was that when obstacles crossed my path, I didn’t realize I was allowed to do as I pleased.

It’s funny to me now, because I was one of those difficult little girls who grew up to become a “Difficult Woman” and I had prided myself on not letting anyone tell me what to do.

And then I got pregnant.

I could go into the multi-layered reasoning WHY that mattered, but both Cristen Pascucci and Milli Hill have written articles and books about that, and it boils down to one single word:

Patriarchy.

As women/birthing people, we have been socialized to defer to the experts in all things.

It wasn’t too long ago that pregnancy and birth information didn’t exist in our culture. Our grandmothers were told “not to worry” and that all they had to do was trust their doctor.

I can tell you right now that line of thinking led to episiotomies, forceps deliveries, and being “knocked out” for the birth. It also led to generations of mothers believing that they needed to bottle-feed because breastmilk was somehow inferior.

Today, it’s led to a cesarean rate of 50% or even higher in the majority of hospitals, and on average 1 in 3 women will birth by cesarean.

Induction is now more common than waiting for labour to start on its own, and we’re handing our babies the eviction notices before we even hit 40 weeks gestation.

As a long-time advocate I saw the same stories play out in the parenting forums every week. Moms would ask “how do I avoid an induction? I don’t want a cesarean”. But when they were told they could refuse the induction…they often didn’t listen.

Why?

Because our society has instilled a mindset in so many of us that works against our instincts and against our own physiology.

We have been taught not to trust those instincts or even believe our own bodies.

When we feel something is “not right” we are told not to worry, and when we’re told that something isn’t “normal” but we feel that we know our bodies better we are often talked down to until we start doubting those gut instincts.

This is what happened with my first pregnancy. I let someone else put doubts into my head.

After that birth I did my homework and the more I learned, the more I recognized the key mindset shifts that are needed before you can have an empowered birth.

They are:

Believing in Your Power to Birth

Believing that You Know Your Baby Best

Believing that You Are In Charge

Believing that You Are a Consumer

Believe in Your Power to Birth

Believing in your power to birth requires you to focus on how birth goes RIGHT instead of how it can “go wrong”.

I see this a lot with mothers who express how they would love to have a homebirth, but that they can’t help worrying that if they do that something could “go wrong”.

Or there’s a mother who fears that she will have a cesarean but there’s no health indications that would lead to her definitely needing one.

Sometimes the lack of belief in your Power to Birth can show up subtly in how you absorb information. A care provider may talk of a 25% “risk” if you don’t do a certain test or procedure, but rather than focus on the 75% possibility of success you focus instead on that 25% and it paralyzes you.

As a general rule, I have found very few instances when a risk was as high as 25% in a physiological birth (meaning a birth that unfolds without interference or intervention), however we do have cesarean rates this high (and higher) and when you consider that the World Health Organization and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada have expressed real concern that doctors are doing too many cesareans, it might be a good idea to question why this keeps happening.

So how do you start Believing in Your Power to Birth?

Stay away from horror stories, for one thing!

The more you’re surrounded by negative stories, the more likely you’ll start to absorb those messages. This is a good rule to follow in life as well as in birth, because we shape our own reality through our perceptions of it.

In my first pregnancy I made a conscious effort to seek out homebirth stories because generally those are the most positive. Birth is purely physiological in a home setting and therefore you’ll find a lot more variations to it. There may be challenging moments, but they are overcome. If there is an emergency it is often dealt with in a much calmer manner, with the mother looking back knowing that those interventions were truly needed.

When you feel that you did everything you could and that you made the best decisions for yourself out of a place of confidence rather than fear, then that birth is empowered even if the outcome is a cesarean.

This is why I created the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms! As a birth advocate, educator, and coach, I’ve noticed that a lot of what was shared in mainstream parent groups and forums on social media can be terrifying, with very little positive images or stories on vaginal birth at home after a cesarean, breech vaginal birth, or even birth of twins! Fortunately I know where I can find those stories and through my wide network of connections and resources I have been able to get the most positive videos, images, and true accounts of birth outside the variations of “normal” in our heavily medicalized birth culture and share them daily within the Facebook Community.

These stories are part of what makes Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, and Beyond so special! Stories are powerful, and the positive ones can lead to shifts in your mindset and understanding of what can actually be possible!

The more people who believe in your ability to birth your baby, the more you will believe it yourself. This is true of anything.

The key to success has always been to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals who will hold you accountable and set you back on your path when you start to doubt yourself.

Believe That You Know Your Baby Best

If you’re a first-time mom then you may not yet fully appreciate what I’m about to say, but I’m going to tell you the best piece of parenting advice you will EVER get:

Just Do What Works!

The best expert on your baby is YOU.

Not your mother.

Not your partner.

Not your doctor.

YOU.

You are the one carrying this baby inside you. They are growing with you and when you quiet your mind you can tune into what they are communicating.

Our “pregnancy brain” is nature’s way of tossing out “useless” information that is not in tune with what our bodies and our babies need from us. For many of us, this is when Intuition really shines through.

I knew, instinctively, that there was nothing wrong with my son’s growth. I was still hungry all the time, he was kicking up a storm, and truthfully it wasn’t until weeks of no support for my plans that I gave into the idea of having a hospital birth against my better judgment and in spite of my desire to be in control and feel safe.

Sadly, by giving in I started off motherhood with a lot of self-doubt. I was constantly battling against what others told me I “should” do while also defending what I felt was right for me and my son. I was doing what worked for me, but somehow that was “wrong”.

But really, what’s wrong is doing something that isn’t working for you or your baby, or doesn’t align with your Birth Vision, values, preferences, or needs, just because someone else tells you that’s how it’s always been done.

Breaking free of that belief that others know more than you about your own baby, requires you to stop seeing yourself as knowing less just because you’re a “new mom”.

By the time you’re ready to birth you have spent nine, even ten months with your baby. You’ve gotten to know your body more intimately, you’ve felt the changes, and this tiny little person has been a part of you that whole time. Not only that, but for however many years you have been alive you have lived in your body. You know what foods don’t agree with you, what level of light is tolerable, even what positions feel good to be in. No one else can feel that for you.

The Patriarchy likes to tell us that we don’t know our own bodies or our own minds. In fact, it needs us to believe that so that we remain compliant, looking for someone else to tell us how to think, feel, and act.

But we don’t need to do that.

One of my favourite quotes from Ina May Gaskin is, “it’s easy to scare women…it’s even profitable to scare women. But it’s not nice, so let’s stop it!”

Inside the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms, we draw a hard line on scaring moms! In fact, we don’t tolerate any of that “not allowed” nonsense and won’t tell you to do anything you don’t want to do “just in case something goes wrong”. The mothers and birth workers in the community believe that birth is a physiological event that sometimes needs medical help, but that ultimately it is your choice how you wish to interpret the evidence for or against interventions, practices, or your perception of risk to yourself and your baby.

Believe That You Are In Charge

Birth is a time when we can truly shine in our own power and learn our bodies and our babies so well that instinct takes over and we just do what feels right in the moment.

When we let go of the idea that others know us better than we know ourselves, we’re ready to step into our role as Decision Maker in our care.

The key to Taking Charge in Your Birth is to know that you were always capable of doing so. Even if you had a traumatic first birth and felt powerless, that doesn’t have to be the end of your journey. Even the greatest heroes and heroines in movies have moments when the villain overpowers them for a moment, when they feel like all is lost, and then they get right back up and fight again!

When you recognize that you can Take Charge of Your Birth it extends to your entire parenting journey. You won’t spend hours on the parent forums asking if you should do something that doesn’t feel right to you just because your doctor said it; you’ll already know that you don’t want to do it, so you won’t. You won’t ask others “am I doing it right?” because if it feels right to you then it’s right.

Only YOU can decide that!

The first step to recognizing that YOU are in charge is realizing that no one else can be.

You know your body best.

You know your baby best.

You know what you want and what you don’t want.

You know what feels like a huge risk and what is less significant.

No one else knows all of that!

Your care provider is operating with their own perceptions of risks that may be vastly different from your own.

Everyone has biases!

When you stop seeing healthcare professionals as all-knowing gods and instead recognize they are human beings it’s much easier to see their recommendations as simple guidelines that you are free to agree or disagree with.

Second, knowing your rights to Informed Consent and Refusal reaffirms that YOU are “in charge” of your care.

It is ILLEGAL for your care provider to force you into any test or procedure you do not want.

If you tell them you don’t want vaginal exams and they tell you that you “have to”, that is a red flag, not something open to debate! They are going against the LAW by implying or even outright saying that you have “no choice”.

Finally, toss out “Am I Allowed” from your vocabulary!

I cannot stress this enough!

“Allowed” has NO place in any conversation when it comes to our rights in birth or in life!

You are a grown-ass woman! NOBODY gets to tell you what you are “allowed” to do with your own body.

Cristen Pascucci of Birth Monopoly wrote an entire blog post about this!

So the next time someone asks you if you’re “allowed” to have the birth you want, refuse such and such test, or even change your mind about what you agreed to do in labour, respond with “I’m an adult. I decide what’s allowed.”

Inside the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms you will learn of your rights, your options, and feel more empowered to advocate for yourself in your maternity care. You’ll also get the perspectives of many other mothers who may have been in your shoes once, as well as the insight from the larger community of birth professionals. We only bring in those birth workers who believe in your right to informed decision making, who will support you to come to your own conclusions of what is best.

But what if your care provider really does tell you that what you want is “not allowed”?

This leads to the final mindset shift you need to make to have an Empowered Birth…

Believe that You Are a Consumer

This is the most powerful of the 4 Mindset Shifts because I truly believe that when we all believe this, maternity care will have to change!

People don’t recognize that hospitals and the overall maternity care system are a business!

Like any business, they are focused on getting a steady stream of customers coming in to bring in money.

It doesn’t matter that our medical services in Canada are paid through taxes and we don’t see any money leave our hands, the reality is that healthcare professionals get paid for the births they attend.

That means that the object of the hospital is to fill and empty beds as quickly as possible, and the more beds they fill, the more money that hospital makes.

Hospitals are also vigilant about avoiding potential lawsuits.

This means that the policies that are in place are designed to minimize risks of litigation and to maximize profit.

The “bottom line” is extracting a healthy baby from a healthy mother.

They don’t concern themselves with the experience of the birth for the mothers because after 1-3 days those moms leave the hospital with their babies and are dealt with in other areas of the healthcare system.

Nothing is integrated; these different tiers of healthcare are all separate from each other.

Wait lists for birth trauma counselling can be long.

Health care issues may not be attributed to birth trauma or the way a birth happened.

To sum it all up, our healthcare system is a mess!

But how do we fix it?

Well, how do we show a business we don’t like what they’re doing in a way that really hits them hard?

We choose not to interact with them.

We take our business elsewhere.

This may not always be possible in smaller regions with only one hospital, however we can still exercise our rights by requesting a different care provider, requesting a different nurse, or even firing our care provider in the middle of labour and birthing our babies into our own hands on the hospital bed.

Remember the laws of Informed Consent clearly state that a healthcare professional is not allowed to touch you without your permission.

Ideally, if you have other options for your care besides the hospital with the 60% cesarean rate where they insist on giving an IV and an epidural to every mom “just in case”, then choose one of those options instead. And if you can birth at home, consider that as another option should you not like the way the hospitals operate their maternity units.

When we step into the role of Consumer, we “shop” for our care providers cautiously and are more likely to reject those that aren’t willing to give us what we want in our care. We also start shopping much earlier in our pregnancies, even before we get pregnant, and we research our options more.

If this seems odd to you, consider that most first time parents spend hours researching car seats, strollers, cribs, and other baby gadgets. They may have a bunch of baby registries set up at different stores. They stock up on different size diapers.

I did this too, so don’t feel bad! This is the common thing to do in our culture. We spend a lot of time buying “stuff” for the baby that winds up only being used for a few months or not at all.

For the record, I don’t recommend stocking up on diapers before the baby is born because not all brands and fits work for all babies. My kids can NOT wear Pampers, while my sister’s son needed Pampers and his older sister was in Huggies like mine. My kids also had to be in different styles of Huggies! You won’t know which diapers will work until after your baby is born.

I also spent $600 on a crib! I put a lot of time into setting up the nursery for my son.

Guess who wound up co-sleeping for 5 years each kid?

So how do you learn what to really focus on when you’re planning and budgeting for your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum?

Inside the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms, we believe that you are the consumer of maternity care and we encourage you and give tips on how you can shop for the kind of care and support that fits your needs, values, circumstances, and preferences.

Bottom Line: With 1 in 3 women suffering from birth trauma we need to really look at what the effect of NOT Taking Charge of Birth can have on us long-term. That feeling of powerlessness doesn’t go away after we have our babies. The more we defer to other people to tell us what to do, the less likely we will be able to tune in to what our bodies and our babies are telling us. However, if we come into our pregnancies with the mindset that WE are our own best experts on our bodies, our babies, and what is important to us, then we’re more likely to feel Empowered in that birth!

You are not selfish, nor reckless, to choose a path that aligns with your values over the one that most people take without question.

Healthcare professionals are not “authority figures” and if you don’t feel comfortable with a recommendation you CAN ask for a second and third opinion or even alternative options. You can create your own alternatives as well. You are not a “patient” of maternity care because you are not sick.

Pregnancy is not a disease, it is a physiological state of being and a natural process that sometimes needs medical help in 10-15% of cases, but many birth professionals who understand physiological birth would agree that our rates of intervention in birth are too high. It’s highly unlikely that 1 in 4 women can’t birth their babies without intervention, let alone 3 in 4! Humans would have gone extinct a long time ago if that were the case.

It can be difficult to un-learn the conditioning of our patriarchal society, but it’s not impossible. If you would like to start breaking the cycle of fear in our birth culture, come join us inside the Community for Empowered Moms!

We’d love to have you ❤

The Next Post in this Series is now Up! Read about the 4 things you need to educate yourself on for an Empowered Birth.

For more on the 5 Elements, be sure to follow this series of posts and join the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms where I teach about a number of topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding each week in my Live videos and posts.

Carly Bonderud is a birth educator, advocate, and coach who specializes in helping moms/birthing people achieve an empowered birth and postpartum. She has been an advocate since 2014 and started with Improving Birth in her home community of Abbotsford, BC, and quickly gained recognition by the greater birth worker community in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and even other parts of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

She is the founder and CEO of Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching and also runs the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms: Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Beyond

You can connect with her through her Facebook Page, her group, and via email at: Carly@EmpoweringMomsBirth.ca

The 5 Key Elements to an Empowered Birth

When I was pregnant with my first baby I set out with one mission in mind:

I wanted a relatively pain-free birth, and I wanted to do it at home where I felt safest.

My reasons for this were pretty simple back then.

I hate needles

I didn’t want to stay overnight in the hospital eating gross hospital food and being disturbed every few hours.

I DEFINITELY did NOT want a C-section!

I wanted to be in my own space.

I don’t like pain.

That last one might seem contradictory, but in my quest to avoid the dreaded hospital interventions and needles, I learned about the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle of childbirth. I hadn’t read the birth books that I have now, but I had enough understanding after reading a blog post from “Giving Birth Naturally” (that site is no longer up) that referenced Grantly Dick-Read’s research and discovery of this phenomenon.

Basically it was put to me like this: you feel unsafe/scared. You tense up. You can’t relax. You feel more pain as a result.

It was that basic level of understanding that led me to seek out ONE of the 5 Elements that would become the foundation of my Take Charge of Birth system, and as a result I planned a homebirth.

Unfortunately, the other 4 Elements were missing, and I learned (the hard way) that without all 5 Elements it’s not so simple to Take Charge of Birth.

For the purpose of keeping this post short, I will be creating a series on the 5 Elements to an Empowered Birth, using the concepts I’ve learned over 6 years and integrated into the Take Charge of Birth system.

I will cover more of what I have learned over the past several years throughout this series and you’ll learn exactly what Elements are needed to Take Charge of Your Birth!

Here’s the thing:

If you don’t have all 5 Elements fully optimized to fit your needs, values, and preferences, then there are not enough books on birth out there to help you have an Empowered Birth.

The 5 Elements cannot simply be understood as a checklist, but as a wholly integrated system with everything connecting and leading to a bigger vision, what I call the Birth Vision.

And that is what I failed to see in my first pregnancy when I was planning out my homebirth.

I wouldn’t say it was entirely my fault though; the fact is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know at that time. And how could I? There was NOTHING about these 5 Elements put together in ANYTHING I had read!

I learned about yoga.

I learned about breathing methods.

I learned about hypnobirth.

I learned that Orgasmic Birth was a thing.

I learned about red raspberry leaf tea.

I learned about evening primrose oil.

But I didn’t learn about the 5 Elements until after all the things I had thought would give me an Empowered homebirth failed me.

So what are the 5 Elements?

Broken down simply, the 5 Elements are…

The Right Mindset

The Right Education

The Right Environment

The Right Care Provider

The Right Support

Why You Need All 5 Elements

THIS is what I was missing when I was planning my homebirth.

I had “sort of” had a bit of the Right Mindset, but not to the level that I needed to Take Charge of My Birth at the level I wanted to.

I had “sort of” had the Right Education because I did take a childbirth class outside of the hospital-sponsored ones and I had learned a bit about the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle…but I didn’t know much about my cervix, the mind-body-connection, sphincter law, or the intricacies of physiological birth.

I also didn’t know my rights to Informed Consent and Refusal at the level I needed to know them, nor did I understand that the Maternity Care System was not set up in a way that facilitated physiological birth.

I had NO IDEA that there was a huge game of politics being played behind the scenes, and ultimately I got caught up in the middle of it. Had I known about this game, I would have asked more questions the right way, but these things just were not taught in the “Natural Birth” parenting forums where I had spent much of my time.

In the beginning, I had the Right Environment. I had planned a homebirth, so that was one thing in my favor. I had understood enough to know that I needed to birth where I felt safest.

But what happened when that “safe space” was taken away?

I panicked.

I started reacting from a place of fear rather than acting from a position of empowerment.

I started asking for permission instead of knowing that I could say no to ANYTHING I didn’t want to do, including questioning the validity of the recommendation to birth in the hospital.

I had that gut feeling that everything was fine.

I was even TOLD that I could have my baby at home!

But weeks of having my confidences undermined and not knowing enough to ask the RIGHT questions and have the RIGHT discussions had worn me down.

And immediately after that birth I came to the most haunting realization of my life.

I could have had him at home, my way, and avoided all that fear if only I had known what I know now.

Sadly, that feeling didn’t go away even after I had my daughter at home.

It wouldn’t go away even if I had 2 MORE kids at home.

You never forget the birth of your child. It sticks with you.

I know what was stolen from me with my son’s birth, and I developed the Take Charge of Birth System because I couldn’t watch silently as mothers with desires similar to mine, who were desperate for a birth where they had control, were ultimately failed by the system.

I couldn’t bear to hear any more stories from moms who, after learning about birth physiology and the way the system actually works, would cry and tell me “I thought it was me. I thought I was broken.”

To quote Ina May Gaskin, “your body is NOT a lemon”.

I have seen mothers who were told they couldn’t birth vaginally go on to have a vaginal birth after multiple cesareans!

I have seen mothers who were told they “just don’t go into labour on their own” rock a homebirth past 40 weeks with a healthy baby. Their bodies and babies just needed a few extra weeks, and that was normal for them.

I have seen mothers who were induced go on to have homebirths and express amazement at how relatively painless those births were in comparison to their hospital births!

The Right Education makes a huge difference, but without the Right Mindset you may never get there, and you won’t know what the Right Environment is for you without shifting your mindset and learning everything you need to know to make that Birth Vision possible.

The final two are trickier to accomplish than having the Right Mindset, Right Education, and Right Environment.

It’s easy to go out and decide “I want to Take Charge of My Birth”.

It’s easy to go read a bunch of books on homebirth or “natural birth” and pour over the blog posts.

It’s even easy to decide “I want to birth at home” or “I would feel safest in the hospital” or “I think I want to try a birth centre”, or any other idea that comes to mind (there’s way more than just those 3 options).

It goes back to that old saying that we can only control ourselves.

We can’t control others.

The Right Support Matters!

If you hire someone to paint your house whose preferences are to paint it beige, like they do every other house they’ve worked on, but your vision is far more colourful, then how likely is that person you hired going to be able to recreate that vision in your head?

They’re used to working with one brush and one colour, and you’re asking for the house from “Up”! That takes way more work on their part, doesn’t it? They may not know HOW to do it. They might even try to convince you that a beige house, like what they’re used to painting, is the far “safer” choice.

This was my big mistake when I hired my care provider for my first pregnancy!

The first visit was with an OB practice, so I knew right away that I didn’t want the epidural they were “selling” that first day. My aversion to overly-medicalized care was enough for me to know I needed to change care providers.

Unfortunately I thought “midwives are all the same and will all give me what I want”.

I had no frame of context or understanding that the Midwife vs OB decision is far more nuanced than that.

As a result, I chose a midwife practice that didn’t fully align with my Birth Vision that I was dreaming up in my head.

To go back to my house analogy, I was asking the painters who didn’t do “beige” but had a few more colour pallets in their portfolio to step WAY outside that box and paint my house in a way that only a few members of that team could realistically accomplish.

And, they had a boss that I had never met, and that boss preferred that clients stick to the pre-approved colour pallets on offer.

After the birth of my son, the one midwife who understood my Birth Vision and believed in it told me that for my next birth I needed to choose my care provider more judiciously. It was in learning from her that true midwifery was “dying” in the wake of regulations and protocols that were placed on the practice that I started to understand that I needed that 4th Element of Right Care Provider.

Finally, the Right Support outside your Care Provider is crucial to an Empowered Birth.

Even with the Right Mindset, Education, Environment, and Care Provider, having people who you see every day and interact with on a more personal level are the biggest determinants for whether or not you choose to follow your dreams or give in to the fears.

I did NOT have the Right Support at the end of my first pregnancy.

I fought off the voices of concern and caution as long as I could, but in the end when my midwife called me up at 39 weeks to help me plan my homebirth I had already lost my nerve because outside those frustrating appointments I was also getting more fear and less support for my desire to continue to avoid the hospital.

The second time around, I surrounded myself with other women who understood birth. I still had those family and friends who didn’t get it, who were worried about me planning a homebirth without any apologies or room for discussion. The difference was they weren’t the only people I had around me anymore. I chose to surround myself with the Right Support.

The Right Support also includes your birth partner, and a doula! You need people to support you during labour, especially in the early stages when you need to let the Oxytocin flow and reduce Adrenaline and Cortisol. The Right Support from a doula will keep you focused and calm as well as your partner. Without it, you can invite unnecessary anxiety into your environment and fear is the enemy of Oxytocin.

Consider how other mammals act when they are birthing. If the attendants watching rush in to try to “do something” to help, their labour often can slow, stop, or there may be complications. Animals may even reject their young because the Oxytocin that was meant to bond the pair after birth was not at high enough levels.

Bottom Line: Without all 5 Elements present, birthing the way you want can be a struggle. Without the Right Mindset, your fears can overtake you and you risk giving in to pressure. Without the Right Education, you may unknowingly introduce external factors to your birthing space that work against a physiological birth, or you are unknowingly coerced into following a certain policy because you didn’t know you could say no. Without the Right Environment you may not feel safe enough to birth, or the place of birth won’t be set up to facilitate the birth you want to have. Without the Right Care Provider you risk being “bait and switched” either near the end of your pregnancy or even during labour and birth, or your confidences will be undermined as your concerns are dismissed, or you’re led to believe you couldn’t possibly know your own body and have instincts! Without the Right Support, the time you spend away from a care provider will be spent surrounded by misinformation, doubt in your ability to birth your way, or even direct undermining of your efforts.

When you optimize the 5 Elements, you increase your ability to trust yourself, your body, and even the people you have hired to support you. By having a solid Birth Vision, you can refer to it as your roadmap of where you ultimately want to go, and any detours you need to make along the way can be easily integrated into that plan. Once you have that Birth Vision, you can optimize the 5 Elements to an Empowered Birth: one where YOU are the Decision Maker in your care!

The Next Post in this Series is now Up! Read about the 4 Beliefs for the Right Mindset

For more on the 5 Elements, be sure to follow this series of posts and join the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms where I teach about a number of topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and breastfeeding each week in my Live videos and posts.

For more on the Take Charge System and how Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching can help you optimize the 5 Elements to Empowered Birth, Click the button below!

Carly Bonderud is a birth educator, advocate, and coach who specializes in helping moms/birthing people achieve an empowered birth and postpartum. She has been an advocate since 2014 and started with Improving Birth in her home community of Abbotsford, BC, and quickly gained recognition by the greater birth worker community in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and even other parts of Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.

She is the founder and CEO of Empowering Moms Pregnancy & Birth Coaching and also runs the Facebook Community for Empowered Moms: Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum & Beyond

You can connect with her through her Facebook Page, her group, and via email at: Carly@EmpoweringMomsBirth.ca

Gone, but NOT Defeated: My Long-standing Battle with Parent Life Network Comes to An End

It’s been no secret that my mission in life is to destroy the patriarchy!

My own nearly 5-year old daughter came into this world as my fiery little feminist, doing things on her own time in her own way and she hasn’t apologized for ANY of it! Whether it’s telling the friends of her older brother to “fuck off, you fuckholes” at the age of 3 when they tried to tease her and wouldn’t give back her doll, stealing my Gloria Steinem book “Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions” from my bookshelf multiple times even though she can’t actually read yet, or when she’s taking my phone and saying “destroy the patriarchy” in an ominous tone while videoing herself, she’s been an example that the rest of us only dare to follow some of the time, but longingly wish to unleash whenever we’re being screwed over!

Of course, I’ve taught her well, and I’m damn proud of the young woman she’s going to become one day.

But one thing that she has not yet learned is the downside to being an outspoken woman who doesn’t care to blend in and follow ALL the rules, and that quite often we get in trouble. I wrote a blog post about the time I ruffled the feathers of the patriarchy and unintentionally got a midwife friend into hot water, but aside from stern warnings I hadn’t really been punished in a way that limited my ability to reach other moms and deliver the messages that many birth workers count on me to deliver for them, because their own hands are tied and their words are being watched.

I did rather well for 6 years, having discovered a HUGE community of parents from all over Canada who were getting rather shitty advice from other parents who didn’t know that our maternity care system sucks and that informed consent isn’t just a form you sign that allows your care provider to do whatever they think is best. In that time, I helped moms. I reached out and dropped links to websites, told them to talk to other moms I knew who would encourage them, helped them find doulas, midwives, and even switch care providers. I was part of the journeys to empowerment for so many women. I made friends, I changed lives.

I remember vividly the conversation I had with a mom who had found my comments on Parent Life Network to be uplifting, exactly what she needed to hear, and she reached out to me. She asked me if I could help her plan a vaginal birth after 2 prior cesareans, and I gave her all the information she needed. She thanked me, and I didn’t hear from her for months. Then, one day she sent me a message. She had done it! She had just had her VBA2C and it was amazing, and she said that she wouldn’t have known she had that option if it wasn’t for meeting me. I changed her life simply by commenting that my friend had a vaginal birth after 3 cesareans, and that VBA2C was not “impossible”. I told her that she had rights, options, and dropped links to important resources of information that she could consume and learn all she needed to learn. The power was in her all along, and I merely showed her the way and believed in her. But looking back, I realize how POWERFUL that was! How many comments do you see in mainstream parenting forums that EMPOWER moms to make their own choices? Unless you’re in a forum full of doulas and midwives…not many. Believe me, I’ve been in the parent communities long enough that it started to depress me.

Now, here’s the thing. I HATED Parent Life Network! It was a headache trying to deliver information moms needed and also deal with the criticism, the nasty comments, and even the admins who just wanted the maintain the status quo. They banned any posts that invited mothers to consider choosing their care provider like a consumer (my first infraction, called “shaming” even though I wasn’t blaming moms for not knowing what they didn’t know) and over the past year, as I grew bolder in my invitations to other mothers and dropped the link to my page and my Facebook Group, they started banning me from commenting for 24, then 48 hours. They lock posts where moms were asking if they could refuse an intervention they didn’t want to have, such as an induction or a certain test, and they absolutely hate ANYTHING that spoke of the “controversy” of circumcision. Put simply, that place is full of negativity, misinformation, bias, and there’s enough mommy-shaming in there that I didn’t need to add to it and I was sometimes one of the few voices in the posts trying to lift up the moms who were being attacked for daring to question the all-knowing patriarchal systems in maternity care and into postpartum and parenting.

I’m both relieved to be done with that group, but also greatly saddened because I have lost access to the moms who most need me to be speaking out. Sometimes it’s that ONE voice in the crowd who makes the difference. Just ONE person telling you that you matter, that your feelings are valid, that you have a RIGHT to feel as you do, and that YOU CAN SAY NO. That you are able to Take Charge! I didn’t have that voice in the crowd when I was in the parent forums, pregnant with my first child. I was desperately reaching out for someone to tell me it was okay to have a homebirth regardless of the “rules” and I didn’t get it. Instead I got “it’s not so bad, you’ll be okay”. I got a lot of that, and guess what? It wasn’t okay. The ONLY good thing about that birth experience was that it led me here, doing this work! That birth is what taught me the harsh lessons I needed to learn so that I could help other moms. It was what got me “good and mad” enough to DO something BIG with my life. To use my talent for writing and connecting with people in a way that would impact generations of mothers. Prior to the birth of my son, I had no idea that this would be my future.

But then a few days ago I noticed that Parent Life Network was no longer in my news feed after weeks of me ignoring those posts and leaving it to my new friends in my Facebook Group who were dropping my links for me. I couldn’t see the group, it didn’t even come up in my search engine. They finally decided to kick me out and block me. For what, I don’t know. Maybe offering help to other moms was what got me kicked out. Maybe they were just tired of me telling moms they had other options. Maybe they didn’t like that I was diverting the attention of their audience to other, better groups like the Coalition for Breech Birth, International Cesarean Awareness Network, BeBaby Family, and even my own group Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, & Beyond. Maybe they saw my “beware the mainstream mommy groups” post on my pages and got offended that I would dare call them out, even if not by name?

Whatever the reason, I’m banned from the cesspool of a group that once caused me so many headaches and led me to wonder if I was even getting through to people at all.

But what I leave behind are many moms who were helped by me, who know the value I bring, who echo my important messages. I also leave behind moms who desperately need to hear those messages from someone, anyone, and that is what makes this bittersweet. I was not ready to leave THEM. If I had my book out in stores, that would have been one thing. I could have touched lives each and every day on a much greater scale and not cared one bit about Parent Life Network because my celebrity status would be no match for them. But I don’t have 2 years to wait for that time to come and neither do the moms still consuming the garbage advice in that group. THEY are the ones who are going to be most hurt from Parent Life Network’s decision to kick me off.

So what do we do? Do we let them win?

NO!

To loosely quote Game of Thrones, the patriarchy is like the God of Death, and what do we say both to the Patriarchy and the God of Death? NOT TODAY!

The women who came before us fought for our rights to not be property, to vote, to have our own bank accounts, to keep our children with us even if the marriage fell apart or there was no marriage, to not be raped by our husbands, to not have to marry our rapists, and to simply have JOBS and to be educated! We fought for control of our bodies, and we continue to fight for that today, but what was ignored was BIRTH! Birth is where I have chosen to fight because it ties into EVERYTHING!

When a mother is truly empowered in her birth, when she experiences that high afterward, when she goes into that zone where it’s like she’s between worlds, when she triumphs and does the “impossible”, it changes her on such a level that she will never, ever, ever go back into that box she might have been in before. The box that the patriarchy tries to shove us all into is much too confining, too limiting, and we have realized that we are SO POWERFUL because we birthed our children. It’s no wonder men tried to disempower us in our births for decades; mothers in their full power are UNSTOPPABLE! We see the patriarchy for what it really is, and we teach our children to dismantle it, bit by bit. Generation by generation, we work to bring it down. We have the #MeToo movement because our mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and so forth all paved the way. They dropped their little hints, their whispered words saying “you actually have more power than you know.” And some of us listened and quietly rebelled in ways that didn’t draw attention, and then there were the few who just couldn’t be quiet and we created the ripples that became the waves.

Some of us stood up, said “this is bullshit!” and we did something about it! We shouted our messages! Not everyone who heard them stood up too, but they were listening. We are ALWAYS listening for the magical words that free us from the box.

So now, what do we do?

We gather in our groups and we then take our messages out and drop them in the mainstream groups.

I may not be able to reach the mothers in Parent Life Network, but YOU can. YOU can show them where to go to find the light that was always inside of them, that they need to see in themselves. YOU can invite them to join my Facebook Group for Empowered Moms, and YOU can be that voice in the crowd that says “yes you CAN” to a mother when everyone else tells her that she can’t or shouldn’t want what she wants.

The era of the Mommy Martyr ends with ME! It ends with YOU! It ends with ALL OF US!

We have generations of women not yet born that count on us to keep the chain going. We WILL make the world better for them and not be limited by the boundaries of the patriarchy! We WILL Transform Birth! We will do it together.

Go out there, ask yourself “If I don’t tell this mom that she has options, who will? What will THEY say? Will it be enough?”

Will you get criticized? Probably. The internet isn’t kind to women who have strong opinions on things. But is the criticism you receive worth it if someone, maybe not the mom you’re responding to in the comments, but SOMEONE is changed by your words? Is it worth being slapped on the wrist for “making trouble” if that trouble leads to MORE mothers knowing their rights, options, and how to advocate for themselves?

Is it worth making a few enemies if you make several more friends? Is it worth being called “crazy” if your words lead to a mother reaching out and thanking you for being supportive and truly helping her?

I’ve gotten used to people not liking me, because the right people, MY people DO like me. I’m quite comfortable being a “difficult woman” because a wise birth educator and mentor told me that to do this work WELL means that one must get in trouble at least once a month. The older I get, the more I aspire to be that Wise Woman that other women look up to and admire while others under the thumb of the patriarchy say I’m “too brash, too bold, too loud, too troublesome”. I embrace fully that I am not to sit quietly and do as I’m told, and instead lead generations of women to “bad behaviour” that will dismantle the system further.

When women gather, magic happens. It’s just what we do. And when we stop fighting each other and turn our sights instead to the very system that wants us to keep fighting with each other, magic will indeed happen.

So go out, share this message. Tell other moms about this blog, the page, the facebook group, the videos inside it, and give them the keys to freedom from “The Box”.

Dare to be difficult with all the stubborn tenacity of a 4 year old! Entire generations of women depend on it!

10 Things I Wish I Had Known As a First-Time Newly-Expecting Mom

I will confess that I went into my first pregnancy woefully unprepared! I hadn’t planned on having a baby, but life threw me a curveball and I had to learn fast. Unfortunately, I hadn’t grown up in the most birth-positive household. I had been taught that babies were expensive time-suckers and that I shouldn’t be so quick to want one. I was also told that I wouldn’t be able to handle motherhood or the pain of birth. Not exactly the most supportive environment.

So, when I realized that my spouse and I were expecting our first child I made several errors in how I went about planning my birth. Truth be told, these are very common errors, and many new moms make them because our culture has told us that’s how it’s done. We don’t question it.

But I really wish I had known there was a less stressful way of planning and taking charge of my birth experience, so I’m hoping that this list will help you avoid the same pitfalls that tripped me up that first pregnancy.

Note: If you’ve already done some (or most of them) don’t beat yourself up about it; you still have time to pivot and choose a more empowering path.

Finding a Care Provider Takes More Than a Google Search

I peed on a stick, found out I was pregnant, then called the first female family doctor I could find. She wasn’t attending births, unfortunately, and so I was referred to the local maternity clinic. I knew nothing about them, didn’t know what their care model was, and didn’t even have TIME to ask any questions. Then, I chose a midwife practice by just googling midwives in my area and called the first place on the list.

As a result I didn’t hire the exact right care provider for ME. I thought all midwives were the same, but that’s not true. The practice I was with wasn’t actually a good fit for my needs and the rest is history, as you know.

Choosing a care provider isn’t as simple as asking who your friend used, going with whichever OB/GYN your family doctor refers you to, or showing up at the local maternity care clinic and assuming you’ll get the care you want. What I didn’t know at the time is that individual and group practices all have different philosophies and preferences in how they attend births. These aren’t often outright stated at the first visit, and unless you know to ask and what to ask before you hire your care provider you might later find that their idea of a “good birth” isn’t the same as yours. Some practices do have a website that can give you an idea of their hidden policies, such as if you come across a FAQ page that states that a birth plan isn’t necessary, or that if you go 10 days past your “due date” you will be offered induction. That OB clinic I went to had policies like that, and I know exactly what kind of birth I would have wound up having if I had stayed with them.

It’s also important to note that just because you hire a midwife doesn’t mean you don’t need to be cautious of who you’re hiring. Midwives don’t all practice the “Midwifery Care Model”, unfortunately. Some of them are “Medwives”, that is to say they are more likely to follow hospital protocol and suggest interventions such as induction or labour augmentation (speeding up labour with drugs or breaking your water). They might even neglect to tell you important information that would lead you into declining a recommended care plan that is against policy or their preferences.

Remember that you are the sole decision maker, and that care providers are HIRED. Treat your first visit like an interview, not a first appointment, and pay attention to any red flags or gut feelings that this care provider might not support your birth vision and impose their own.

Planning a Homebirth and Taking Charge of Your Birth Are NOT The Same Things

It helps to avoid the unnecessary interventions and vaginal exams if you plan a homebirth, but the tricky thing about hospital politics and how midwives work in Canada is that often even if you think you are not under hospital policy…you are. Registered midwives have a long list of things that they are expected to do, and they have protocol to follow. When they have been called to a birth at home, they still have to call the local hospital where you registered to let them know a homebirth is taking place. This means you are “on the clock”. There are also restrictions on who is “allowed” to have a homebirth; and if you deviate from the textbook in labor, even if it’s not a real emergency, your midwife might have to consult with an OB anyway.

That’s if something doesn’t come up in pregnancy that leads your midwife to tell you that you can’t have a homebirth, even if that something is based on an unreliable ultrasound scan. Or maybe you just go past 40 weeks, or they tell you you’re having a “big baby”. I didn’t know that in order to have the birth I wanted, I had to Take Charge of it. I was under the impression as a newly expecting mom that midwives would just automatically tell me the truth and one of mine was telling me that it was no longer safe for me to birth at home. I had NO idea that there were hidden “rules” at work, but by my second pregnancy I learned and was prepared not only to ask the questions about the risks to ME and my baby, but also what hidden policies or expectations the health authority had that could put my midwife at risk. I ensured that she understood from the start that while I didn’t want to get her in trouble, I was going to do things my way and I needed to find the “loophole” for us to both get what we needed.

It’s also important to understand the hospital politics in case of emergency, or should you simply change your mind about homebirth. In the rare case that you do end up needing to transfer for legitimate reasons, you don’t want to go into the hospital unprepared. You need to learn the tools to advocate for yourself and understand how the system works and what your options are EVEN if you don’t end up needing to use those tools. I’ve found that knowing how to advocate and make decisions, while understanding the inner workings of the system puts you into a position of POWER in your birth. Regardless of what emergencies come up, if any, knowing that you were the one in control and made the right decision free from fear or pressure from external sources can ensure a more positive birth, even if you end up going to the hospital.

Your Birth Partner or Your Doula May Not Be Able to Protect You

I’m going to tell you a secret: doulas witness obstetric violence all the time. They do their best to protect their clients, but ultimately they are not the ones making the decisions. YOU need to be confident and understand your option and your rights, and YOU need to know how to advocate for yourself. Your doula can help support you and remind you of your options and decisions you made, and they can be a witness should there be any level of coercion or abuse in your birth so you can later file a complaint. But your doula and/or your partner can be kicked out of the birth room if your care provider feels they are interfering. YOU can’t be kicked out of your own birth though, and YOU need to know how to protect yourself. You can’t rely on others to do it for you.

My husband is a tough guy, and when it comes to protecting his family he’s fierce. Few would mess with us while he’s around, but in the hospital that powerful man was reduced to staring helplessly, unsure what to do, when I was wishing he could read my mind and help me get off my back. I was pulled to the bed, and when the nurse and midwife said they wanted me up on it, he helped them. When the nurse told him to hold my legs so I couldn’t brace myself and push up the incline of the bed in an attempt to get off my back, he complied. He admitted afterward that he didn’t know what to do. I had told him many times that I didn’t want to birth on my back, but we never knew that the hospital policy would take over what we wanted and ultimately leave us feeling powerless.

My homebirth might have turned to a hospital transfer if I had not been aware of my rights and known that I had to fight for those rights. It’s not enough to expect others to fight for you; you need to be able to fight for yourself, and consider your birth partner and doula as your witnesses and backup, should you need it.

Your Reading Material Shapes Your Mindset

There are so many great childbirth books out there and What to Expect When You’re Expecting isn’t one of them. If you’re looking to stay afraid and compliant then sure, by all means read it, but for taking charge of your birth and feeling confident that you could birth any time, anywhere, with or without your care provider, that book doesn’t help at all.

Like most newly expecting mothers, I was gifted a copy of that book by my own mother. It was sort of a family tradition of sorts. My aunts read that book, my mother read that book, my stepsister probably got a copy, and now I had one. For nine months I read each new chapter and each month I found new things to worry about. The tests were presented as things that you could “expect” and there was nothing about risks, benefits, alternatives, or even declining. The birth chapters freaked me right out.

Sadly, I was recently browsing the shelves in Indigo and that book was the most prominently featured title in the parenting section. Ina May Gaskin’s “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” had all of 3 copies, and they were seemingly thrown in as an afterthought. In contrast, What to Expect’s series had a full 2 shelves. If you’re going to get any childbirth books, your best bet is to shop online or ask your doula or midwife if they have a lending library you can make use of. I included some more empowering books at the back of my free PDF Guide to Avoiding Unnecessary Interventions, but I also mention my top 4 books in my Reset Your Mindset Challenge in the third video, which you can find in my Free Facebook Group Empowering Moms in Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, and Beyond.

Not All Childbirth Classes Teach Physiological Birth

You want a class that prepares you for physiological birth and teaches you that you have options. It’s not enough to just hold some ice in your hand and breathe. What you really want to know about is your rights, how the system works in your area, coping methods you can use while at home, the different paths a physiological birth can take, how to make decisions, and it should have some information for postpartum and breastfeeding as well.

I was fortunate that the midwife practice I was with in my first pregnancy offered free mini-classes each week for clients. I got more out of those classes than I did out of the ones my mother had paid for that were run by the health nurse of the local hospital. I will also note that out of the “graduates” of that class, I was the ONLY mom who had given birth without any interventions and the only mom with a midwife.

The classes I find have the most value are the ones taught outside the medical system. Classes taught within the system often are subject to censorship of anything that the local health authority doesn’t feel is “important enough” for the public to know. Risks of the epidural may not be permitted to be discussed, or they are glossed over. There may be more emphasis in the classes on being a “good patient” rather than understanding one’s rights to bodily autonomy and informed decision making. By choosing a class outside of the medical system, you may gain information on the true practices and policies of your local health authority, what options and rights you have, REAL coping methods for labour that work with birth’s physiology instead of against it, and depending on the type of class you may even learn about breastfeeding and postpartum care.

If time is a factor for you, there are many online classes now available that allow you to study the material on your own, while gaining support within a larger online community. Gone are the days of having to practice breathing exercises in a room full of strangers!

Your “Due Date” is a Guess Date

I have some news for you…you are probably not going to give birth on your “due date”. In fact, there is only about a 5% likelihood that you will give birth at 40 weeks. If you’re like my sister, then you might be one of the few that give birth before 40 weeks and avoid the stress of waiting entirely, but don’t count on it happening and if it does happen, then be pleasantly surprised. It’s more likely that you will hit 40 weeks and not go into labor. I know, it was such a let down for me the first time too. I was already cheated out of my homebirth and I was anxious to just get birth over and done with, so when I hit 40 weeks I eagerly watched for that first labor sensation. I mistook back cramps for labor and wound up wasting the whole day trying to “get things going” only to have it all fizzle out by noon. Then I assumed that maybe I would have him in time for Mother’s Day (3 days past my “due date”) but nope, he didn’t want to come then either. I went for a sweep that Tuesday, but it didn’t work and I just wound up feeling crampy and irritable all night because of it. Finally, at 40 + 6 I went into early labour and by 10:55pm the next night he was born!

I will also note that if my son hadn’t arrived at 41 weeks I had an ultrasound scheduled for that same afternoon and if he hadn’t arrived by the next appointment on Tuesday, then the midwife would have discussed my options, including induction. I knew already that I was going to refuse induction, but one of my friends was also a client in that midwife group and she went to 42 weeks. I now know that had I gone past 41 weeks I would have been put under extreme pressure to induce, like she had been. I will also note that neither of us knew that we had the right to refuse and fight for our right to supportive care.

My point is this: your due date is a guess date, and can be off as much as 2 weeks! You can go to 42 weeks, and even a little past that if you’re comfortable. The risks are often greatly exaggerated. If you want to know more about induction, Dr. Rachel Reed has an excellent book “Why Induction Matters”, and Dr. Rebecca Dekker shares the Evidence for Going Past Your Due Date.

“Go With The Flow” is NOT a Physiological Birth Plan

Honestly, I was fortunate to have been born with a stubborn streak that doesn’t allow me to go with anyone’s flow but my own. I feel that this stubborn streak is what kept me from being 100% compliant with what the midwives and overseeing OBs wanted me to do, however I also know that not everyone can hold their ground the same way.

If you are the type to just do whatever someone else tells you is best, because of how you were raised, then it can be difficult to stand up for yourself and go against your care provider.

There is a huge difference between going with the flow of your body or going with the flow of what your care provider and hospital’s plan is. Depending on where you are choosing to birth your baby, you may find that your care provider manages every step of the process. They plan for you to arrive in early labor, they hook you to monitors, they restrict movement and possibly food and drink as well. They determine how much progress you need to be making before they try to “speed up” labour. They decide how long you are “allowed” to labour for before they perform a caesarean. They might also decide whether or not you are “allowed” to hold your baby immediately, when the cord gets clamped and cut, and even whether or not you can “successfully” breastfeed.

Don’t go with their flow.

Birth is unpredictable, but your body and baby are the ones in charge. Birth in a hospital where the doctor thinks they are in charge of managing every aspect of your birth is uncomfortably predictable. In fact, it is so predictable that we have a name for all the management in birth and the outcome: The Cascade of Interventions.

Protect Your Head Space

Some people cannot help themselves and like to scare pregnant first time moms. It’s not nice or helpful to do this, and yet it is so common. I got told many times that my birth plan wasn’t going to work out. I was told that I would change my mind and beg for the epidural. I was told that I wouldn’t care how the baby got out, as long as it was healthy. My confidence was undermined the whole pregnancy, and I had to fight back with my own evidence, trying to educate people who really didn’t care to learn anything. It was exhausting. I don’t recommend it.

Just smile, say “thank you, but I’m not comfortable talking about this right now” and change the subject.

Your birth plan is none of their business, and you have a right to protect your headspace from anything that could undermine your confidence.

If you can, surround yourself with positive birth stories. Read about the “Impossible” births that have happened at home with twins, breech babies, triplets etc. Inside my free facebook group I often share stories from other groups I belong to. It’s the proof we need that our bodies are amazing and we can do anything.

Resist the Temptation to Join “Due Date Groups” on BabyCenter

When I was pregnant with my first baby I joined all the due date groups on all the birth and pregnancy websites. I signed up for the emails. I read everything. But in the end, I got a bunch of mainstream, medicalized birth information. I didn’t learn anything about Informed Consent, and worse, these groups were a place where “alternative” birth choices were the minority. Mean Girls don’t all grow up after high school; they become the Mean Moms who tell you that you’re a “bad mom” if you “prioritize your experience over a healthy baby”. If you ask “can I refuse x test” then you get a bunch of nasty comments about how you’re being “selfish”. If you go past 40 weeks and ask if you can refuse induction, you’re “putting your baby at risk”. Every answer to the “can I say no” line of questioning gets the response “listen to your doctor, (and stop thinking you matter more than your baby)”.

I created my free Facebook Group because I know how awful the Mean Girls can be to any new mom who dares to exercise any bodily autonomy. I have been attacked for telling other moms they have the right to refuse anything and I have been told I don’t deserve my children because I dared to refuse a test or even just because I chose a homebirth.

When you’re pregnant for the first time it’s only natural to want to seek advice and support. We are so isolated from friends and family these days, especially right now in the middle of a pandemic, and parenting forums can be a great source of support for a lot of things. Unfortunately it can also be a major source of anxiety as not everyone on the internet is kind or compassionate. When asking questions of a mainstream parenting forum, be prepared to deal with a lot of mainstream answers.

“I want to refuse x test, am I allowed?” won’t always get you a link to the page on Informed Consent unless the right people are online that day. Most often you could find yourself being questioned as to WHY you want to refuse the test, and others who would tell you that you are being selfish. Perhaps you’ll trigger someone whose baby was sick, and they’ll tell you their horror story and how they would never “put their baby at risk”. Either way, it’s a flip of the coin whether or not someone will respond positively and give you the information you actually need. I’ve done my best to get my comments into certain threads, but often the poor mother has already been beaten down for even daring to ask if she could decline. Unless you are particularly strong-willed and used to bullying so that it no longer affects you, choose your groups you hang out in based on how well the members lift each other up. Part of what I offer in my facebook group is a safe space to ask questions and get real answers, with none of the bullying, toxic behaviour that is so prevalent in certain parenting forums.

You DO Know How to Birth Your Baby, EVEN If You’ve Never Done it Before

Here’s another secret: Your body knows what to do.

If you were unconscious and in labour, your body could still birth your baby and your baby might even crawl up to your breast to nurse on its own. If you go into labor somewhere far from a hospital, your body will still know what to do and you will have a baby. The only thing you need to do is follow your instincts and what your body is telling you to do.

Ina May Gaskin says it best: “let your monkey do it”.

Your thinking brain is not needed in birth, and actually needs to be turned off for you to switch to your primal/animal brain. So even if you don’t have your doctor or your midwife arrive “in time”, you can still birth your baby. That means that if you happen to recognize red flags in a care provider or the hospital, you can say NO and be confident that if they threaten to leave you without care (which is illegal, by the way) you can do it without their help.

There was one woman who fired her doctor in the middle of birthing her baby because he refused to “allow” delayed cord clamping. So the mother birthed her baby and caught it herself, then wouldn’t allow anyone to touch them until she wanted the cord clamped.

Had I known that my body was capable of birthing my son without any cervical checks or fetal monitoring, I might have stayed home and waited until he was crowning to call the midwife. I might have just rented the pool on my own and laboured in it the whole time like I did for my daughter’s birth. I might have said “no, I’m not going to the hospital. I changed my mind. I’m staying home”, and any threats that they wouldn’t attend me would have been dismissed outright because legally someone would have to come out if we called them. You would be surprised how fast doors can open that were firmly shut if you keep pushing at them.

You aren’t powerless, you are powerful. You are the one birthing your baby, and you don’t actually need anyone to tell you how to do that. View your care provider in the role of someone to assist and support you, not someone who “delivers” the baby. As Rebecca Dekker says, “Babies are not pizzas. They are born, not delivered.”

Taking Charge of Your Birth doesn’t happen all at once. It starts with shifting your mindset from thinking you can’t to realizing you CAN. It’s about putting yourself back in the driver’s seat, recognizing what works for you and what doesn’t. In essence, Taking Charge of Birth ensures that you enter parenthood feeling confident that YOU are the expert on your child. People will solicit their advice, criticize you, tear you down, tell you that you’re doing it all wrong, and you won’t feel that sense of shame or fear that they’re right. When you learn how to trust in yourself, fully and completely, that power radiates to all aspects of your life.

YOU are enough ❤

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