I’ve been noticing this theme of wanting people not to fear childbirth on your feed lately and I’m a bit puzzled by it. I hated pregnancy and childbirth. I had all the information and choices and what not a person could have and it was still a completely, totally miserable experience. I see it as having been a necessary evil I had to get through to achieve the goal of having a baby to love and raise. Why should people not fear it? Having been through it once, if I were ever to do it again (not in my plans at all, never was) I would be freaking TERRIFIED. I wasn’t that afraid going into it, frankly. I thought it would be tough but temporary and as a fit and healthy person, I thought I could handle it. I did, but was scarred, both physically and emotionally, by it. I probably should have been afraid. Why do you say people shouldn’t be?
She poses a good question: “Why do you say people shouldn’t be afraid of childbirth?”
I am going to break this down into a few different posts; this being the first one. I also think it is important to understand the lens in which I view childbirth. There are two: 1) instinctive physiological birth and 2) birth as a peak performance event. As someone who was immersed in sport psychology and peak performance, I have come to view ‘preparing for childbirth’ as that of an athlete preparing for a ‘big game’. So my focus on overcoming, or rather working with, childbirth fears is supported by both birth physiology and, sport psychology.
To put it in plain terms: Fear gets in the way of any human peak performance whether it be a sporting event or birth.
I want to preface this post by saying that by no means do I think every women ‘should’ get rid of their fears. I recognize that for some women this idea is not a fit. I encourage and support women to be true to themselves, first and foremost. For example, there is nothing wrong in my opinion with choosing to have an elective c-section because dealing with the layers of fears surrounding birth, just feels like way too much work for some women. I see compassion in that choice, and a gentle acknowledgment of what is true in that moment, for that woman.
The reality is: a) some women want to engage their psyche and face their fears so they can know that they did everything they could leading up to their births; they want to fully experience their birth and b) other women want to get through the process as quickly as possible and with as little pain as possible, so they can get on with the life long task of motherhood, without having to do much preparatory work, and pick up where they left off.
The first group values the notion that birth is a ‘rite of passage’ and they want to be as prepared as possible. The second group values motherhood as the end goal, and not so much the birthing process. Both groups want to offer love to their baby’s in which ever way they know best; furthermore, my guess is that they want to feel a sense of safety. One is not better than the other. I do however have to draw the line when women in either group, are mistreated, disrespected, violated, or injured by the experience. I have zero tolerance for this kind of ‘care’ and cannot support mismanagement or mistreatment of women in labor.
However, if a woman wants to have a physiological birth then addressing fear is necessary. Furthermore, if a woman wants to feel empowered throughout pregnancy and birth, wants to be a part of the decision making process along the way, and wants to feel respected and have her dignity left intact; than dealing with childbirth fears is also a necessary preparatory phase regardless of her birth outcome (i.e. medicated, cesarean, or natural).
So the question posed is why should women not fear birth?
I want to rephrase this to say: Why might a women want to address her fears about childbirth?
- Because she wants to feel like she has some skill to handle her fears as they arise during labor and birth
- Because she wants to feel empowered throughout the process
- Because she wants to feel less anxiety
- Because she wants her hormones to function optimally, decreasing physiological pain and suffering
- Because she wants to understand her physiology better and not feel dumbfounded by the ‘chaos’ of birth
- Because she wants to learn tools to be able to voice her needs prenatally and during labor and birth
- Because she wants to gain knowledge about ‘what she fears mostly’ and what she can do to prevent that fear from happening
- Because she wants to know that she was in charge of her birthing experience and no one else
- Because she doesn’t want an unwanted c-section
- Because she wants to know her strength and feel amazed by her body
- Because she really wants a better birth outcome than her last birth
- Because she views birth as a healing rite of passage and wants to experience that
- Because she is tired of her mind tricker her into believing that ‘something might go wrong’ or ‘that she won’t be able to handle the pain’
- Because she wants to learn how to best prepare her environment to support instinctive physiological birth with little to no intervention
- Because she wants to take her birth into her own hands and claim her experience as her own
- Because she felt violated and victimized by her last birth and she wants to regain her power and confidence
Of course there are physiological reasons why we want to address fear. I will attempt to provide insight into these reasons in a future post, along with other questions: How do you overcome fears? What about the ‘What If’s’? What are the best environments to reduce anxiety and fear? What does a high performance athlete do to prepare for a big game and how does she overcome her fears?