Buckle up your bootstraps, this is going to be a long one.
As parents we just love to tell anyone within a 10km radius our birth stories. You don’t even have to ask! You might have a well-intentioned sister, a work colleague still trying to process their own birth story, or your next door neighbour’s latest girlfriend tell you exactly why YOU should fear childbirth. It’s crept into the collective conscience. Birth is scary. It is dangerous. You hear things like ‘my pelvis is too small for birth’, or ‘she failed to progress’, or the classic ‘I tore from A to V’. (side note: parents, this is not helpful for any pregnant woman to hear. I know, trust me I know, we think we’re doing the right thing but we’re not. We are contributing to the fear and thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy and I’ll finish this rant another time. Back to this post).
Fear. I’m here to tell you that fear is good. Fear is that thing that stops you from picking up a brown snake. We are biologically wired to respond to anything threatening by instinctively switching to our survival response and our bodies release A LOT of adrenaline. Bottom line = fear keeps you safe.
Fear plays an important role in childbirth. Many women at some point in their labour will feel out of control, like they cannot go on anymore, that they’re done with this childbirth business thank you very much and fantasise about taking a seat at the Qantas lounge while waiting for their business class flight to Bora Bora, mimosa and all. And there’s a very good reason why this is going on. Your body is doing exactly what it’s meant to be doing.
During transition, (the period between your cervix fully opening and your baby descending down the birth path) your body is flooded with adrenaline, the same chemical responsible for our survival response. Now this may seem counterproductive, and it is during other stages of labour like when we are surging and dilating, but once we’re fully dilated all that adrenaline comes in super handy. It’s like having a big can of energy drink halfway up Mount Everest. Now if you’re anything like me and energy drinks send you into a next level panic attack, you’ll understand why some women completely lose their shit during transition. And you know what? It’s ok.
It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok to lose control. It’s ok to rage, or cry, or withdraw, or whatever you might do once fear takes over. It’s ok. It’s just fear.
You know the saying feel the fear and do it anyway? Feel it. Feel every ounce of it. Own that feeling like the badass mother warrior you are. Because eventually the flood will recede. Every storm runs out of rain and every feeling passes if you allow it to. In the words of my dear friend Elsa Let. It. Go.
So now we know that fear during childbirth is normal and actually serves a function during labour we can talk about fear leading up to your baby’s birth. Here are my hot tips for dealing with fear during pregnancy:
Write it down
Write it all down, every single thing, leave no stone unturned. It doesn’t just have to be about your birth. It can be about your pregnancy, your relationships with others, your finances, anything and everything that you fear, write it down and then destroy that piece of paper like it’s been dipped in nuclear waste. We want it gone.
Stop the noise
This one’s a bit harder but it is definitely worth it. You know how you need to wee every 5 minutes? Use it to your advantage. When you hear a negative birth story the toilet is your wing person. ‘Sorry Aunty Susan but if I don’t get to the toilet right this moment, your couch will be needing a steam clean!’. That’s your new mantra.
Read books by some of the childbirth greats (Michel Odent, Dr Sarah Buckley, Dr Rachel Reed, Ina May Gaskin, Grantly Dick-Read to name a few), listen to positive birth podcasts, search the Cochrane Library for the latest evidence based research on all things pregnancy and childbirth. Book in to an independent childbirth education course. Talk to people who have had positive birth experiences and ask them for advice. Knowledge is power. Ask the questions. You’ll be glad you did.
Find your tribe
Be it a Facebook group, an Insta account, your BFF, or a doula (which I highly recommend), source the people who are going to support you emotionally and spiritually. These people are your spirit animals.
Believe in yourself
This is your journey. Trust the process. Surrender to your baby and your body. No matter what turn your birth takes you can and will do this. Your mind is powerful and your body is amazing. Listen to guided meditations or seek out a trained therapist to help build your confidence and work on any underlying fears or traumas.
I’ll finish with one of my favourite quotes by a talented young Australian woman:
“And you ask ‘What if I fall?’
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
- Erin Hanson
Blessings to you all x