On Childbirth: Separating Fear from Pain
After talking to hundreds of clients about birth, reading books like Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and of course, going through my own homebirth, I’ve come to a realization.
We are afraid of pain.
No shit, right? Who wants to deal with pain? We should avoid it at all costs, right?
Well, yes. I agree that generally we want to avoid pain, but there are some situations where pain is inevitable and we have to learn to deal.
Childbirth is one of those situations. We know it’s going to hurt, so we generally set up a birth plan that will minimize this pain, like getting an epidural. Why? Because we are afraid of pain and want to avoid it at all costs.
What if we changed our thinking here a little bit? What if we weren’t afraid of the pain, and just accepted that it will be a painful experience, and to just be okay with experiencing that?
What if we set up a team of professionals (i.e. midwife/OB, doula, partner) that we know have our best interest in mind, and let them do the thinking, analyzing, and worrying for us, while we focus on feeling the sensations and going with the flow?
This was one of my birth mantras – fear and pain are two different things. Pain is physical sensation. Fear is a mental/emotional sensation.
So how do we learn to not let that mental/emotional sensation take over?
One of the most interesting things I read about, is that fear can actually stall labour. It can make your cervical dilation actually go backwards! Ina May Gaskin uses the example of a zebra giving birth in the wild. If something scary happens, like a lion chasing her, she will put her labour on hold to run away. This is our same tactic! Fear tells our body that there is danger, and your body will protect your baby from coming out into danger’s way!
So this means that in order to have a successful vaginal birth, we need to get into a mindset that we are NOT afraid of pain. We are NOT afraid of birth. We were made to do this, and we are warriors who can get through that pain, one wave/contraction at a time!
Once I read that, I knew that I needed to think about how I would learn to be okay with pain.
Here are my top tips for separating fear and pain
Create a birth “wish list” that includes being in the space that makes YOU the most comfortable. For me it was at home. For you, it may be in a hospital, close to all the intervention tools, just in case. You have to think on that and determine (regardless of ANYONE else’s opinion – even your partner’s) what will make you the most at ease.
Create a birthing team. This is all the people who will be in the room when you are in labour who will make you feel safe and comfortable (sorry, mother in-law’s). I always recommend a doula because they are the ones who advocate and take care of YOU. They are professionals at it, so it’s not just moral support. They know how to guide you through the whole process from labour to latching!
Exercise! I swear, this is the one thing that allows you to push yourself to the point of “pain” without harming yourself. The “muscle burn” sensation that we all think of as painful, is something that is actually beneficial to our bodies, and the more we can learn to push through this specific type of discomfort, the stronger we will be, and the more comfortable we will be with experiencing pain! Win win! Tip: I have great prenatal fitness programs available here.
Work on your mindset. Read books (I personally loved The Calm Birth Method), take courses (i.e. hypnobirthing), find mantras that will help you to convince your brain that pain is nothing more than a physical sensation, and that you do NOT have to be afraid of that!
And in the end, if you need to have an epidural, or emergency cesarian, you do what you gotta do, but always know that you are a warrior, and it’s not going to be easy, no matter what route you take. Stand strong in the face of fear, and stay present in the experience of pain. You got this mama!
I want to hear about your birth wish list or birth story! Tell me all about it in the Glowing Mamas Facebook Community!