Fear. We fear pain, we fear the unknown — fear is a completely normal emotion — but why do we fear childbirth? In movies, on TV, and even in our own circle of friends, childbirth often has a shadow of fear cast upon it. Like sponges, we absorb the fear and often loose the light, the beauty — the reward of childbirth. Today’s guest blogger, Denise Spatafora, author and creator of the Bornclear birthing method, addresses the fear surrounding childbirth and invites women to wring out the sponge and embrace their births!
There is so much fear around us, and we may absorb it in many ways — through our own thoughts and from what we read, what we see, and what we hear. We may not even realize how much fear we’ve absorbed. If we are not clear about the direction we want to take, it’s easy to imagine how the fear around us can be overwhelming, even upsetting.
But just as you can squeeze water out of a sponge, you can release your fears. Once you actually start to dismantle them, everything gets lighter, and you return to your true self. You may have specific fears about childbirth. You might be concerned about pain, your past experiences with childbirth, images from TV or the Internet, cultural expectations, thoughts about your body, the health of the baby, a change in your lifestyle once the baby arrives, or something more personal to you.
It’s completely normal to be fearful about childbirth. In fact, the fear of childbirth is almost universal in our culture. Although women inherently know that our bodies are designed to give birth, at the same time it’s almost impossible to envision how it happens. This is especially true since birthing has become “medicalized,” and has been taken out of the world of women’s wisdom. Many of the doctors I interviewed for my book have never witnessed a birth where there was no medical intervention. This is partially because a birth without complications was never presented as part of their medical education. It is also due to the fact that for many doctors, the fear of childbirth without intervention has become “the norm.” Without the knowledge of how unassisted childbirth is supposed to occur, the predominant emotion that is left for most people is fear.
Yet outside of the Western world, there are hundreds of cultures where women continue to birth their children naturally, supported only by other women in their communities. Some of these communities have reclaimed childbirth practices that were being lost in the haste to adopt Western practices. In Bali and the tsunami-ravaged Aceh region of Sumatra, Indonesia, Robin Lim, a renowned midwife, has created the Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth) Foundation. The project trains local midwives to serve their clients by reinforcing the ancient wisdom of childbirth with the safe, culturally sensitive, gentle, appropriate application of modern techniques.
If we can recreate a knowledgeable community of women as Robin Lim has, we will be able to release the collective fears and anxieties that surround birth. It will be a new era of childbirth where parents are enlightened, and our current cultural paradigm will shift.
I find that fear is often the result of confronting the unknown. Your fears may stem from the fact that you don’t have a frame of reference for this experience. For women of childbearing age, it’s quite common that their mothers gave birth at a time when women were put to sleep to deliver their babies. Even your grandmother’s experience may have been similar. So, you are left with fear because there is no one to share her experiences with you. Even your friends might not be comfortable enough to talk frankly about their childbirths.
Or, if you have delivered before, it might not have gone the way you wanted. Without examples or information, you continue to fill your sponge with fear. Many fears about childbirth are foisted on us from the outside. “Advice” that we receive from people, even if it is given in good faith and with only the most loving intentions, can subconsciously create new fears. For example, we’ve all been told that labor will be a painful experience. The fear of pain is embedded in the minds of men and women, including members of the medical community. The universal conversation about childbirth goes something like this: “Hey, good luck. You know that it’s going to hurt, so I hope you make it, and don’t forget to order the epidural ASAP.” You don’t normally hear that birthing will be a beautiful, safe, fulfilling — and even exciting experience, all of which it can be!
During pregnancy, the best thing to do is to turn off the “birth channel” and stop having conversations with people about their childbirth experiences, unless these are positive and uplifting. I find that it’s best to create distance from others who try to impose their negative thoughts and images on us. This negativity could potentially create fear and, worse, cut off the possibility that childbirth will be a rewarding experience. You don’t want to build your objective reality around someone else’s story. You are then giving up the right to create your own baby’s birth, and instead are mirroring what the other person experienced or embellished.
No matter what your specific fear or concern is, recognize that any negative thoughts and beliefs will limit you in your childbirth — and also throughout life. By addressing these fears and negative thoughts, you will be able to remove this attitude of fear from your current context. Just as you can absorb fear, you can also wring it out.
Denise Spatafora, author of “Better Birth, The Ultimate Guide to Childbirth from Home Births to Hospitals,” is the creator of Bornclear, a nationally recognized birthing method backed by renowned doctors, midwives and celebrities. Her revolutionary book, “Better Birth” is based on the mind-body connection preparing women and couples on all levels for conception and birth: emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually — leaving them educated, empowered and trusting themselves and their choices. There are also many opportunities throughout the book to bring greater self-awareness and personal growth to birthing themselves as mothers and parents. Spatafora has appeared on a number of television and radio programs. She is also a contributing expert and editor for several publications and sites, such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Elle, New York Magazine and Allure. Find “Better Birth” on Facebook.
To celebrate letting go of your fears, Get Upright and Follow the Urges to Push.