Fear of Childbirth

Many women today in our culture fear childbirth.  Although there is no U.S. data available, surveys of British women show that nearly 87 percent of women report that they are “frightened of giving birth.”  I believe it.  It’s no surprise, really.  When I was expecting my children, there were no shortage of women eager to tell me how either their births, or their “aunt’s cousin’s coworker had a friend…” whose births went drastically wrong or were horribly painful.  When I expressed my desire to have a birth without medication or intervention, most would shake their head knowingly, waggle their eyebrows while telling me, “Honey, just get the epidural”.  Movies and television shows portray birth as a catastrophic event where everything goes wrong, or the birthing mother is howling down the hallway for pain medication.  There certainly are occasions when the compassionate use of pain medication, or the lifesaving actions of a cesarean birth are necessary and welcomed.  However, with a U.S. average c-section rate of 32.8% , and upwards of 90% of mothers choosing epidural pain relief, I would imagine that “compassionate” has morphed into “blanket” use.  Women who inquired and found that my last two children were birthed without pain medication of any kind were shocked.  They honestly didn’t believe that anyone birthed without medication anymore, much less enjoyed the experience.  Ladies, it’s possible!  You are not a failure for choosing pain medication any more than women who don’t are martyrs.  But believe in your power and strength as a birthing woman.  Don’t listen to Dear Aunt Bertha who tells you that you cannot.

I’m a firm believer in protecting your nest in your final weeks of pregnancy.  You nest especially includes your head space as well.  It’s easier to protect your physical nest than your mental nest!  When the pharmacist goes to tell you a birth story, stop and ask if it’s a positive story, and refuse to hear sad or traumatic stories.  Read positive and encouraging birth stores.  Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” and “Spiritual Midwifery” both have positive birth stories.  The entire first half of “Guide to Childbirth” is only positive birth stories.  “Birthing From Within” is arguably my favorite childbirth book.  The author, Pam England, has mixed together compelling birth stories, wonderful advice for preparing for childbirth (including mental preparation exercises that are incredibly effective), and activities for creating birth art.  Birth art, while it might sound a bit contrived, it a very useful tool in determining your own inner beliefs about childbirth.  I did some of the birth art activities in preparation for my second birth.  After such a difficult first birth, I needed healing and focus to prepare for my out-of-hospital birth.  Birth art provided me that outlet and helped me focus intently on my upcoming birth.  Even if you draw only stick figures, it is so helpful to not just envision what you want, but to look at it on paper.

You are not broken, trust your body, trust birth!