I was reviewing my notes from a birth that happened last year. I had forgotten something and I’ve been thinking about it all day.
I had been with the couple in their home for 7 hours. We were getting close to the “go to the hospital” decision. The mom was getting restless. My notes say she was prowling the house, experiencing some nausea. She was feeling a bit of pushy pressure at the peaks of her waves.
Suddenly she sat down and blurted out, “Let’s make a list of all the things I’m afraid of.”
She said it like you might say at a slumber party, “Let’s make a list of the cutest boys in school.”
We sat with her and she dictated her fears:
- The car ride
- Hospital people
- Owning a child
- Being tired
It was easy for me to forget this part of her birth. We only spent 10 minutes talking through her fears. They weren’t paralyzing fears.
Or were they? And if they were, was naming them all that was needed? Could it have been that simple?
Seems like it.
She was satisfied to move on after naming her fears to us, taking the brave step of putting them on paper, and hearing our acknowledgement of them.
We left for the hospital 45 minutes later.
She never mentioned fear again during her birth although she did ask for a pep talk once in that same “slumber party” tone.
Undoubtedly, fear impacts birth. There are several studies that correlate the mom’s level of fear with outcomes.
In some cases, the presence of someone else who is afraid can affect the labor.
Birth is a process driven by hormones. Fear should remain a wallflower in this delicate dance.
What are some ways you worked through your fears before or during labor? If you’re a birth worker, what works for your clients/students?
Answers from students and birth workers:
Hypnosis: I’ve only attended one birth, the birth of one of my Hypnobabies students and fears. She held on to some fear during her birth. Finally she decided on her own to take some time, listen to the fear clearing track, read a self-written affirmations sheet and then she really got into her active birthing time. Baby came super fast once she was able to release those fears. Pretty amazing.
Processing previous experience to prepare for VBAC: I had feelings of failure following my first birth. I’ve worked through my fears through talking about it, processing and reprocessing my first birth w/ my son many MANY times. I’ve cried. I’ve prayed. I’ve talked w/ people (you included) and allowed myself to experience the feelings that came after that first birth. Being pregnant again I don’t feel fearful. I have worked through my fear and KNOW that I CAN have a VBAC, natural birth. When I think about it, I am excited. Excited for what I know I can do, excited to have this opportunity again. Excited to be past my fear.
Preparing through education: I prepared myself by reading a lot. For me, if I know what to expect, it isn’t scary anymore. So I learned all I could about the birthing process and what to expect, what was normal. Also, reading and listening to lots of birth stories of all kinds. I wasn’t afraid at all during birth and loved my experience. This time around most of my fears center on others and their involvement after the birth which was a big issue with my last birth. I’m trying to work through it by preparing them and also lining up my own support.
Talking about it: I spoke about my fears with my husband, my doula, and the psychologist who did my hypnobirthing sessions. Talking through them and having a plan to deal with the possibility, made me more calm.
Expecting birth to be natural and normal: I really didn’t have any fears. Part of that was ignorance of course, the first time, but I’d been raised to believe it was all very natural and normal. Not easy, but nothing to fear. I’m grateful for that since Mom went through nearly every scenario over the course of five births, including one that was painless, and a very traumatic emergency c/s (that was actually medically necessary!) and so much in between – she could have passed on very negative views of birth, but she didn’t. I read everything I could find, I was determined to go natural, but hadn’t even considered homebirth at that point. And by God’s grace, Mom was right about birth for me. My first daughter’s birth was amazing! Faster and easier than I thought it could be – but more painful than I expected, as well. Back labor caught me off-guard, but counter-pressure made a huge difference. I was checked all too early and all too often, but I had progressed each time, so that helped me stay positive. It was after my daughter was born that the fear showed up! I think I focused so much on the birth that actually having a child to raise was something of a shock.
Visualization: I realized that my fear of pain, tearing, pooping, swearing was basically mind over matter. During the course of my pregnancy I gained strength from envisioning Mary giving birth to Jesus and how she had no anesthesia, no hospital, etc… It helped me know that I could do it. And I would do it. No. Matter. What. If SHE could do it, I could do it. I told myself this every time fear would creep in.
Redefining it: I think for me, the scariest thing about the birth was my mother racing me to the hospital like a madwoman–traffic in Cairo never scared me so badly as my mom whipping in and out of traffic like she was! (Really, did the midwife *have* to tell us that an ambulance would take too long, and then tell my mom that she may have to pull over and help me birth somewhere along the interstate? Couldn’t she have just said “Go now, and go quickly”?) Before the birth, my biggest fear was that my daughter would come early, and my husband wouldn’t have come from Egypt yet. That’s actually how it happened (which is why my mother was driving), but during the birth itself, I felt sadness for that, but no fear about whether or not I could handle it. In retrospect, even the fear of that happening before the birth wasn’t *fear*; it was sorrow for what he’d miss out on, and what we’d miss out on as a family, if that happened.
Choosing NOT to fear: I ignored fear during my pregnancy. I reveled in my glow and bore my growing belly proudly. When I went into preterm labor at 34 weeks, all of the fears compounded and blossomed. The fears of the unknown, of the inexperience, and questioning whether my body would instinctively know what to do came pouring down right beside the new fears…will my baby be okay? How long will he be confined in NICU? Why is he coming now? What is the problem???
During active labor, I pushed my fears away. I made a conscious decision my baby was not going to be born into a feeling of fear. I would not fight him; tell him it wasn’t time–but in my mind embrace him and love him. I imagined fear during labor washing away like waves on the sand. Breathing, loving, crossing one bridge at a time, focusing not on what lay on the other side but what was happening at the present.
The whole time I wanted to/could have easily given in to fear. Instead, I mindfully decided to trust God and His Purpose. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,” Ps 46:1-2.
Writing down the fears: With my first pregnancy, I wrote down an entire list of fears probably a couple of weeks before my birthing time. I still have the sheet and it is interesting to read them now.
More hypnosis: With my second pregnancy, I worried that the birth might not be as great as the first one. I guess I just listened to the fear clearing Hypnobabies c.d. to remove some of that fear. The birth was super awesome, so the fear didn’t come true.
Identifying with other women: With this pregnancy, I know in the beginning I had worries….1 in 3 women have a c-section, is my luck out? Then just two days ago I was reading Holistic Midwifery, Vol. 1 and I came upon a page that talked about that fear specifically for mom’s going in to their third pregnancy. I made me feel so much better reading that other women feel the same way. I’ve been listening to fear clearing more too