*I use the term "non-empowering" because I was just fine with my son's birth experience. I was treated with respect at all times but in no way was I empowered before, during or after that birth.
Non-empowering: I compulsively googled strollers, baby carriers, breast pumps and baby boy bedding sets. I learned absolutely nothing about normal birth but I could tell you all about the different bedding sets at Target. At 20 weeks, I did switch ob's to a doctor I loved and respected but I chose him simply for the fact that I thought he was a nice man, not based on his attitude toward birth or his c-section or induction rates.
Empowering: I decided to have a natural childbirth. Bam! Instant empowerment. I realized I was in charge of my pregnancy and birth and I would be the one calling the shots. I compulsively googled natural childbirth stories, read everything I could find about normal childbirth, spent weeks perfecting my birth plan and ultimately, made the switch to a homebirth midwife at 35 weeks.
Non-empowering: I woke up in labor two days past my due date and was completely filled with dread. I was scared of labor pains and really didn't connect the fact the pain would bring forth my son. I labored at home and checked into the hospital when I was sure it was "real". IV narcotic drugs, an epidural and 4 hours of sleep later, I woke up to the sound of my very sweet L&D nurse telling me it was time to push.
Empowering: I woke up in labor 9 days past my due date and absolutely thrilled about it! I was ready for the contractions and ready to put into place everything I had read about labor during my pregnancy. I swayed my hips, walked the house, bounced on my birth ball and called my midwife to let her know the time was here. The pain was a for a powerful purpose and I knew it......even though I needed a doula to remind me during transition.
Non-empowering: Flat on my back and with my feet in stirrups, I "purple pushed" as my nurse counted to 10 with my contractions as viewed from the monitor. I was 100% numb from the waist down and had no concept of my pushing contractions so the counting was very much needed. I literally felt nothing and had zero control of my body. But, somehow I pushed out that sweet little baby in just 35 minutes.
Empowering: I tried several different pushing positions and eventually settled kneeling on the bed with my arms around Mr. Messy's neck. Feeling every movement of Liza's descent through the birth canal, I watched in a big mirror over my dresser as I slowly and painfully gave birth to our daughter. Yes. It hurt. But, my body was giving my birth exactly as it was designed to do. Every hormone, every loosened ligament and every uterine contraction was serving it's purpose. And what a sweet little purpose it was.
So yeah. An empowering birth is pretty awesome. I was immediately and deeply attached to my daughter in a way I just didn't feel about my son after his birth. I also realized I can do anything. Anything. And, I learned an empowered birth is not unattainable, magical, mystical or solely reserved for women in beautifully written birth stories. It is the hard-earned product of arming yourself with knowledge and choosing to be an informed consumer of maternity care. If you care enough to google baby bedding, you should care enough to google normal birth to help to ensure your baby will be protected during his or her entrance earthside.