I Don’t Fear Childbirth Anymore and Here Is Why
When my pregnancy test turned positive, I had a moment of absolute excitement and joy quickly followed by the realization that I was going to have to birth a baby. I wasn’t even that worried about how to actually parent (which I should have been) but rather was much more consumed with the daunting process of getting this little person with a big head out of my body.
I had never seen a birth or been a part of someone else’s birth experience. Movies and TV had been my education. They always featured a woman on her back screaming – Rachel yelling and head butting Ross while she pushed out her baby, Katherine Heigl looking almost possessed in Knocked Up, and how about that horrible birthing scene in A Quiet Place!? Screaming, writhing, and misery was what I thought was normal and to be expected.
I also grew up in the church and was taught at a very young age that childbirth was the “Curse of Eve” and as women we were meant to be punished for our sin with painful childbirth. So, I came into my birth experience poorly informed and with a lot of baggage, as so many of us do. I had never had anyone talk about the actual process of labor in a positive way. It was always described in very negative language.
After learning more about the birthing process I decided I wanted an unmedicated birth and was prepared to gut it out. When I went into labor I expected pain so I tensed up (which makes contractions feel much worse). I expected misery so I was in fact miserable. I felt like I created my negative experience before I even gave birth. Lucky for me it was a short labor, but afterward, I thought I couldn’t possibly do that again.
Two years later we were getting ready to welcome baby number two and I was bringing even more fear to the experience than before. I was watching birth videos on YouTube to try to help ease my mind when I stumbled across someone describing their labor as blissful, gentle, and pleasurable. I thought she was crazy and embellishing what she had experienced.
This video sent me down a rabbit hole of exploring more birth experiences described as pleasurable. I started to seek out positive birth stories and read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and The Calm Birth Method. I wasn’t sure I even believed it to be possible – but I wanted a blissful birth.
This meant I had to find a way to cut ties with the truckload of fear I carried every day that I was pregnant. Here is what helped:
- I meditated daily on my birth experience, envisioning how it would take place from start to finish. I used only positive imagery and created a vision for what I wanted. I tried to hear, see, and feel what I wanted in my birth experience. I wanted it to be shorter than 8 hours, I wanted to be able to relax my body, and I wanted to remain calm throughout the process, even when it was challenging. When I voiced these desires to friends, I was usually mocked. I get it – who goes into birth thinking I am going to find a way to enjoy this?
- I did not allow myself to watch, listen to, or read about birth experiences that were traumatic or felt scary. I surrounded myself with positive stories so I could start to rewrite the experience of childbirth in my head. I needed to believe in my core that a less painful birth experience was possible.
- I changed the language I used to describe birth. “Painful” was no longer in my vocabulary. I stopped describing birth as feeling as if someone was cutting me open and picked some new imagery. The most helpful analogy someone shared with me was to view contractions as the equivalent of a hard, short sprint. Your muscles are screaming, and your body is tired, but you are also enjoying the challenge and feel in control of the experience. Plus, you get a break in between sprints (contractions).
Along with this change in mindset, I practiced a lot of breathing techniques to relax my body during birth, as well as other discomfort management techniques like massage.
Believe it or not – it worked. When my contractions started at 2:00 am one morning, I was calm and relaxed. I didn’t tense up or worry about what was to come. I even welcomed the intensity of labor, relaxing into it and accepting what was happening to my body. I was able to smile, laugh, and enjoy the break in between contractions.
When I got to the hospital, I was 6 centimeters dilated and my midwife put me in a tub in a dark room. I put on relaxing music and continued to labor. I was so calm that no one knew the baby was about to arrive (including me). I had one strong contraction, my body started pushing, and the baby immediately crowned. My midwife came running into the room just in time to catch the baby. They put her on my chest, and I could not believe the experience I just had. It was the birth I dreamed was possible. Fear had not been a part of my experience.
I know I am very fortunate to have labor experiences without a medical emergency or some additional trauma that can truly bring fear into the situation. I am also grateful to have had a supportive birthing team. I probably sound like some hippie-dippy crazy person, but a blissful birth is possible. I just wish I had known that with my first birth. I hope my story can add to a new narrative around birth where we are taught that we can experience joy and peacefulness during some (or all) of our labor experience.