Some people spend their lives being afraid of just about everything. Granted, we all have our phobias and needless fears, and some are definitely more founded than others. But when it comes to childbirth, fear and worry are not only unnecessary, they can also become severely detrimental in the birthing process. This can cause issues for men and women alike, but the most severe problems will be for the mother who has to labor in order to safely and successfully bring her child into the world.
When a woman has endured severe trauma or abuse in life, especially if it is sexual in nature, serious complications can arise if she ever has to birth children. The birthing process takes a lot of mental and emotional fortitude, in order for a woman to stay focused, breathe through the intensity of contractions, and give all that she can to keep her mind and body working together. Flashbacks to past traumatic or abusive events can create mental and emotional blocks that can burden even very low risk and otherwise uncomplicated pregnancies.
Having had first hand experiences involving situations where a birthing mother had some serious difficulties both in pregnancy and during labor, I have seen how hard it can be to overcome psychological issues in childbirth. This certainly doesn’t make me an expert in psychology or childbearing, but has given me some insight into the importance of mental health and strength in regard to birthing children.
Sometimes it is a matter of who is present during pregnancy and birth, or involved in the process along the way. For some, having the advice and guidance of a good doctor throughout pregnancy is helpful and comforting. Others may prefer to work solely with midwives and doulas for prenatal care, and would rather give birth at home alone or with a midwife than in a hospital. There really is no correct way to do things and each person and pregnancy is different, so it truly is a matter of preference and circumstance, though many may not realize or be afforded these options.
But one thing that is for certain is the fact that a woman must feel safe, secure, and comfortable throughout her pregnancy, during childbirth, and afterwards as well. Unfortunately, this basic human need is often left unmet when it comes to dealings with doctors and nurses. From my own experience, it seems that many doctors focus on the worst case scenarios and tend to treat pregnancy and birth more like a medical condition than anything else. While this may be helpful for the preparation of medical staff, it certainly doesn’t do much to assuage the fears and anxieties of a new parent. And in the end it mostly dehumanizes one of the most important of all human experiences we’ll ever go through.
Between the increasing number of expectant parents seeking natural alternatives to hospital birthing, and the continual neglect of the medical community to make any sort of meaningful changes to address this need, several movements have been born. In recent years a campaign called Birth Without Fear has arisen to provide a space online “to inspire, support and unify women in their communities,” and to allow for the sharing of their stories. The website is primarily a blog, but also has a store and an event page for people to find opportunities to connect with one another offline as well.
Aside from supportive communities, there are also a number of alternative birthing movements that promote and advocate for various aspects of natural childbirth including midwifery, home birthing, and even unassisted childbirth. However, other than peer support, there seems to be little information that can be easily discovered when it comes to these alternative methods of childrearing, other than several websites and a few articles here and there. One such resource that can be found is the Midwifery Today website and one article in particular on that site explains perfectly how fear and past abuse can cause difficulty during childbirth:
“The fear of losing control makes some laboring women struggle against their contractions. Relaxation may be impossible and suggestions from well-meaning midwives, doulas, or nurses to ‘relax,’ ‘surrender,’ ‘yield,’ ‘open up’ may remind the survivor of other times when she was made to do these things and was hurt. Other suggestions, meant to reassure, such as ‘Trust your body’ and ‘Do what your body tells you to do’ are incomprehensible to the survivor whose body has been a source of anguish, pain and betrayal. Her efforts to keep labor under her control may actually slow or stop progress.”
Birthing a child can and should be a beautiful, intimate occasion for those of us who are privileged to enter into parenthood. Too often, pregnancy is merely the result of some bad choices, which may be faced with many mixed feelings, including anger, fear, anxiety, regret, and hopelessness. Even committed life partners can find themselves in a situation where an unplanned fertilized egg seems more of a burden than a celebration. However, the decision to nurture, love, and ultimately birth the new life that has been initiated can be the most healing and empowering undertaking of all. If only we can find the path that will take us through the right birthing experience, any apprehension, fear, or reliving of past trauma can be abated and avoided to make room for endless beauty and love.