Is birth really so uncertain?

End of pregnancy has come to feel uncertain and agitating. It didn't used to be. It's recent, largely caused by the routine volte face made by UK maternity care when mothers reach nine months.  

For eight months, care for healthy women is composed, calm, appropriately hands-off, only to jump out with a big BOO! at the end. 

It's perverse how the energy switches at 40 weeks, as is the way the care remains stubbornly unaware of its own impact. Women feeling thrown; Emotional and psychological whiplash; What looked like relaxed trust turning to overblown risktalk on the turn of an appointment. And now just one loud message, all of the time - that the mothers's body and baby are somehow working against each other. 

Is it any wonder end-of-pregnancy has come to be so unpredictable and baffling? That fearful, instead of capable is what women often feel.

To balance that - to increase certainty and reduce the sense that birth is a mysterious glass ball, I sometimes send a few thoughts on what a mother CAN be sure about....

Dear S...

Sounds like your body is getting nice and ready. Why wouldn't it be? You've grown a healthy baby. Your midwife appointments have confirmed you and your baby are equipped for birth, so now you can relax. Job done. Your body and baby know exactly what they are doing and all you have to do from here is listen and follow. 

Remember that the ingredients for birth are actually quite basic. A spontaneous start. A well-placed baby (tucked, head down, like a little ball). A heap of privacy and quiet. Keep these things in mind and you have a huge - AN ALMIGHTY chance in fact - of things unfolding simply. 

In these last days, beware anything that shoves your body into labour, whether a sweep or an alternative therapy. It often causes a slam of the brakes or for birth to go too fast. Let your baby give the cue, and labour is far, far FAR more likely to unfold at a manageable pace.

Enjoy these days. Walk, rest, eat, relax...repeat. It's a precious time. There's no threshold like being about to have your first baby so savour it. And when things do begin, remember the golden rule. Take no notice. Take no notice until your body insists that you do. 

First feelings - your body readying - this can be a few hours but they can also last a couple of days. Annoying but at least it's PREDICTABLY unpredictable, so be patient. You've waited nine months, what's the rush? Just settle in and expend only the energy your body asks. Eventually, when labour starts to establish, the feelings will grow highly predictable, and repetitious - strong, clear and loud like a metronome. And now you can completely let go to it, because it all starts to make good physical sense. Along the way, find comfort, as you want, when you want. A hot water bottle, a soothing tea, a bath. Some strong lavender to breathe. Just save your full attention for when your body demands it. 

Now when the contractions come, ride them, don't resist them. Don't bunch up, let each wave wash, anticipating nothing but the lovely rest that's going to follow....