In my work, I hear the secret fears women have about childbirth. Today’s mothers are keenly aware of how their mindset affects the way they live their lives and wisely, they assume the same must be true of childbirth. They are ready and willing to seek out ways to become more mindful, more aware, and to stay more present in the birthing and mothering process, however they face a birthing climate that is still struggling to define the normalcy of childbirth and motherhood. Within that structure women are often wrought with demands of perfectionism which can lead to disconnection, disappointment, and lack of attachment to the birthing/mothering process due to a fear that they just aren’t “enough.” They worry about things such as:
- They feel their fears are petty and they just shouldn’t worry about it.
- They are embarrassed to admit they don’t have it all together and don’t want to worry their partners or friends.
- They may not know exactly what they are afraid of and don’t know how to put it into words.
- They think that allowing their fear to come out might somehow cause harm to the baby.
- They feel guilty, inadequate, and discontent.
The openness and transparency I hear in these statements is beautiful and astounding. In voicing these fears women are creating a shift in the paradigm simply by showing up. They are addressing the fact that birth is not just a physical event by addressing their fears of it. They are embracing the birth and mothering process as a whole body/mind experience that has lifelong implications, just by asking for someone to listen to their concerns. They are refusing to stay silent; they are refusing to act like everything is perfect. We are definitely moving in the right direction.
Calling It Out
Although it may seem as though voicing fears will give them greater strength, it’s holding fear in that gives it such tremendous power. Taking a “Birth Inventory” is something Peggy O’Mara describes in her book, “Having a Baby Naturally.” This can be a helpful tool any of us can use to uncover ideas we may have that we are not even consciously aware of. In a “Birth Inventory” women, and everyone involved on their birth support team, can explore preconceived notions of childbirth by asking questions about expectations, where they come from, and how they’ve had a hand in shaping our feelings. Women can pull together a simple list of questions or create a more complex list based on their personal needs and goals for birth.
When we take some time to ask ourselves questions about the origins of our expectations, the answers can be very revealing. When facing fears, they lose their debilitating power and you can then begin to address them.
Modern psychology teaches us “what you resist, persists.” In other words, don’t be afraid to be afraid. Resisting fears, or denying them, won’t make them go away. However, digging further into their origin can help you unpack those negative feelings and allow you the opportunity to give yourself an abundance of grace with kind, tender, empowering affirmations for the great work you are doing for this generation and the next. None of us are completely without fear, but we don’t have to let it lead us, and we certainly don’t have to do it alone. That, in and of itself, may be the most empowering self-discovery of all.
CLD, CCCE, CAPPA Faculty
Erica is a CAPPA certified labor doula and childbirth educator, certified birth doula, and a certified HypnoBabies HypnoDoula. Erica has been working as a perinatal professional and supporting families in her community with gratitude and passion since 2006. As a mother of four beautiful children, who has personally experienced the gamut of pregnancy and childbirth, she knows how important it is to have the right kind of unbiased advice and access to evidence-based information and personalized assistance when having a baby. Erica believes it is an honor to support women and their families during pregnancy and birth, and that women who surround themselves with caring, trusted supporters become mothers who are transformed and empowered by their amazing journey. Erica lives in the Cincinnati area and is highly active in her local childbirth community.