After experiencing my Cesarean Birth I started to question myself, my body, and everything that I thought I knew about birth. I had done tons of research during my pregnancy to prepare for a natural birth. I spent hundreds of hours on the internet collecting information, reading birth stories, talking to other moms for tips and advice. I spent so much time, that my husband had to tell me (more than once) that he thought that I was scaring myself, that I was worrying about it too much, and that it [birth] wasn’t such a big deal. To which I would grumble about him not being the one to squeeze a watermelon out of his bum or something to that effect.
It is so interesting to me that two people, husband and wife, would have such different views of birth. I grew up never hearing about birth; learning just the minimal amount that was taught in the public school system in the 90’s. My mother had three children, one vaginally and two (including me) via cesarean section in the early 80’s. I was never told the details of her birth stories, or how she really felt about her births. Several women in my life had had children while I was growing up, my Nanny as well as my aunts, but I wasn’t there for any of the births nor did I learn the birth stories. Looking back, it just wasn’t a topic that was ever deemed appropriate or important to discuss and it certainly wasn’t common around me. So when we fell pregnant, I felt like I didn’t know anything about what birth was going to be like. I felt scared by my own lack of knowledge, so I immersed myself in the cerebral aspects of birth, learning all that I could about mechanics of birth.
In contrast, my husband is the second oldest of five children. He and his older brother were born in the hospital, but his younger siblings were planned unassisted home births! He remembers his parents preparing for the births, he was there in the house for them, he remembers the process and how natural it was. With the exception of his younger brother, they were all uncomplicated births that went as planned at home. His younger brother had meconium in the amniotic fluid, so they went to the hospital in that case. No one had to explain to him what birth was like, he had been there for it. He knew what a natural process it was and that it wasn’t something to fear.
There is an overwhelming amount of negative information regarding birth available to expectant mothers. For many in American culture, it has turned into a mysterious and dangerous thing that has to be controlled and monitored through medicine. Young women aren’t exposed to birth in a normal and natural way like they were in generations past, when babies where born at home with the assistance of other women in the family. It is no wonder that so many women are terrified of giving birth!
But what if it goes even deeper than that? The extremely harsh culture that judges a girl from birth on her ability to be pretty, to be skinny, to be exactly what the mainstream says creates a self deprecating habit. As girls, and women, we judge ourselves so harshly based upon the perception that we have to perform a certain way. The images that we see of birth are of two extremes: a highly chaotic and dangerous birth that requires every intervention and danger we could imagine, versus a calm and serene woman who gently births her baby with her hair and makeup still intact. How unrealistic! We scare ourselves by seeing the chaos, and hope for the serenity, just to feel inadequate when we can’t lay there and take it!
When these fears are slowly formed over a lifetime, how do we possibly set them aside? Without setting them aside, they continue to lurk, and the body can feel the fear even if the mind denies that it is there. During labor, these fears can slow contractions, keep the cervix closed and high, and delay delivery. So it turns into a self fulfilling prophesy: fear of complications begets complications, which begets self deprecation, which begets more fears, etcetera.
Until we can normalize birth within ourselves, and trust our bodies more than we trust our culture, we will continue to birth with fear.
Tell me about how you’ve overcome a fear. How has this helped you in your goals?