By guest blogger, Ann Marie Walsh of Second Heartbeat Childbirth Education
Fear. The four-letter-word we feel so often in pregnancy, labor, and delivery. What we don’t know is how often fear can play a large part in that same pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Women grow up hearing the ‘horror’ stories of our families, friends, neighbor, and random person at the grocery store – the crazy number of hours they were in labor, how terrible the pain was, the traumatizing conclusion of the birth, etc.
The women sharing these experiences don’t stop to think about how these ‘inspiring’ stories may be setting up the expecting mother with her own set of expectations.
These external sources aren’t the only fear affecting the soon-to-be mother. Environmental and even the subconscious can leave it’s own impression.
Ina May Gaskin describes environmental fear the best in the Guide to Childbirth. She goes into detail about her ‘Law of Sphincter’. Gaskin explains how the cervix is just another sphincter like the rectum and can open or close when facing an environment that isn’t hospitable. This is easy to believe when a woman who is not comfortable can reverse dilation until the situation resolves itself.
The subconscious fear is even more difficult. It isn’t always clear-cut with the cause or resolution! I experienced this type of fear with my second labor and birth. My first ended in a cesarean when I wasn’t able to dilate past 4cm. I believed I was mentally prepared for my second labor. I had prepared my birth preferences for either the vaginal delivery or a repeat cesarean. I had attended birth classes, changed providers and hired a doula. I had processed my previous birth and knew the cause so it wouldn’t happen in this one as well. When I went into labor, I was progressing fairly slowly. In about eight hours I dilated 4cm. However, when my provider examined me and told me I was 5cm, I cried. I knew, no matter what else happened, that I had achieved something by getting further than with my first. In the next hour and forty-five minutes, I managed to go from that 5cm to pushing and holding my new baby.
Looking back, I believe, no matter how prepared I THOUGHT I was, my subconscious was still stuck. When I cried, I think that was the emotional release my body needed to finally let go of all the emotional baggage I wasn’t even aware I was carrying.
It is very important to be comfortable in your birth environment and the people around you. Processing your previous birth or experiences is also significant to achieving your desired outcome. This can be hard on both sides because how do you ask your mother not to be there for the birth. You may even need to seek additional outside counseling to help get through some of those mental blocks.
Let’s work to make fear less of a four-letter-word and more of something that doesn’t even matter or have power in our birth!