Birth without fear doesn’t mean you can’t be scared

March 20, 2011 · 36 comments

the intensity of birth

Birth without fear sounds pretty ballsy.

For many women (actually, most women), the idea of laboring in blissful calm without pain is something only superhumans (or at least only supermodels) do.

I remember being in labor the first time (after confidently assuring everyone that I was completely prepared for the pain and intensity of an out-of-hospital birth) — being on all fours in the shower, trying to squirm away from the pain … or wrapping myself in a blanket on my bed, breathing deeply through each contraction but wondering how on earth I would keep going … or shaking my head at my midwife and saying, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this”.

Even at my second birth, as I moved into transition, I asked over and over again why I wasn’t the kind of person who just took the drugs.

My birth experiences weren’t anything like the strong women I watched in birthing videos, who chatted and laughed right up to when they started pushing, at which point they turned their focus inward, breathing deep, and hardly moving or making a sound.

No, that was definitely not me.

I was scared. I wanted the pain to stop. I just wanted to get it over with so I could stop being pregnant and meet my babies. I didn’t feel strong, and I certainly didn’t feel fearless.

These four things got me through it:

1. Information

Fear is dispelled with information. To dispel fear about birth, I learned about physiologically normal birth. Not birth with interventions (as normally depicted on shows like A Baby Story or Born Every Minute), but unimpeded birth that proceeds with cues from the mother (not the provider).

In my Bradley class, we watched video after video of amazingly strong women giving birth naturally in different settings: hospital, birth center, and home. You could see their pain, but you could also see their control. They had their families with them, including many with smaller children. Everything about those births was beautiful, natural, and normal.

When I saw the birth process working — beautifully, spontaneously — any fear couldn’t help but be replaced by joy and wonder.

2. Support

The intensity of labor surprised me, and it surprised my husband. It was very, very important to me that he respected choices and wishes, and didn’t panic when he saw me pain. He was a champ, and in both my labors it was his calm and cool head that helped me move through the worst of it.

3. Preparation

To prepare for my first birth I took a Bradley class, and read everything about birth I could get my hands on. I wanted to know what I could expect out of a natural birth. The classes helped a lot — partly through the information we received, partly through learning relaxation and massage techniques, and partly from knowing other women who wanted to have natural births.

The other part of preparation was choosing locations for birth that respected my choices. My midwives at both the birth center and my home birth were attentive throughout my pregnancies. My appointments lasted from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and they knew me well by the time I went into labor. It was very comforting to be to experience labor with women I knew and trusted, and with whom I shared a mutual respect.

4. Trust

This isn’t blind trust — a blissful unawareness of potential risks or dangers. I believe women’s bodies were designed to give birth. I trusted my body would give signs if something is awry. And I trusted my caregivers to help me understand what was happening with my body and assist me in making informed decisions about my care during labor.

Birth without fear doesn’t mean you have to be exceptionally brave, or strong, or fit. It doesn’t mean you can’t be scared.

You don’t have to be extraordinary in any way except in your trust of the process of life and birth, and your willingness to accept the process — with all the good, bad, messy, moaning, pushing, exhaustion that brings your child into the world.

What do you think about birth without fear? Were you scared during your labor? Was it what you expected to feel?

Photo credit: Eyeliam on Flickr

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