Not OK: 1 in 3 women report having a traumatic birth. Here’s how to change your brain so you can enjoy labor.
Do you want to have a positive birth and actually enjoy your birth experience Instead of just getting through it? Are you feeling anxious about birth? Maybe a little overwhelmed about the idea of getting a baby out of your body?
Birth is a pivotal moment in a woman’s life, a true rite of passage. Most women will only have the opportunity to bring new life to earth a few times. With all transformational events, it’s normal to feel everything from excitement about what’s coming, sadness about the chapter that is closing and everything in between.
Other than a baby in your arms, what do you want from your experience? The fact is that birthing a baby is a big deal. Through it, you as a woman will be changed. If you have an idea of what this experience means to you, then you have a lot of choices during your birth experience. Birth can truly be one of the best experiences of your life. I’m here to tell you, you as a woman can expect things for your own birth. Developing a positive birth mindset is the best way to build a foundation for a positive birth experience.
How to develop a positive birth mindset that will help you actually enjoy labor.
1. Decide to be at the center of your birth and have high expectations for all those around you.
1 in 3 women report having a traumatic birth and 18% have PTSD after birth. That means that 33% of women are not only dissatisfied with their birth experience, but carry trauma or pain from their birth into their future as a mother. This is not okay.
Birth at is core, is designed to be an incredibly joyful experience. Did you know that there will never be more oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone, in a woman’s body than during a positive birth experience? Of course, feelings of doubt, shame and fear can cancel this all out.
In her book Down Girl, Kate Manne gives us some wonderful language to describe why so many women feel dehumanized as they navigate through our misogynistic and sexist world. These underlying beliefs about the role of women cannot be more evident than in the halls of labor wards around the country.
Dr. Manne says there are two types of people, human beings, and human givers. Human beings have a responsibility to simply be, to follow their passions. Human beings live life the way they want and are expected to do so.
Human givers on the other hand, have an obligation to give everything they have, time attention, affection and even their bodies to the beings around them.
As you enter your birth, explore the areas where you are a human giver. Unfortunately, I believe most, if not all of us women, have been taught to fill the role as a human giver.
Next, set clear boundaries. In your birth, step into the role of the self-actualized, human being.
Think about what you want. If the people around you expect you to lessen what you want to make them more comfortable, to make their schedule easier, to make their own insecurities about birth go away, set a clear boundary and do not allow it. The easiest thing to do is to take a permanent, or semi permanent break from these people.
I have been asked, can this extend as far as changing doctors? My answer is an absolute yes. An article in NPR examining why the United States is the only developed nation in which the maternal death rate is increasing, found that some doctors who attend births were able to complete their training without stepping foot in a labor and delivery unit.
All doctors that oversee birth are not created equal.
Have the courage to ask your doctor how they handle complications. Ask them about their c-section rate. Evaluate if they are truly supportive of your birth plan or if they are merely tolerant or even dismissive of it and you.
Remember, you birth this baby as a glorious, wonderful and powerful human being. Though you are giving life, you do not have to give up your identity, your value, your being to do so.
2. Develop a positive inner voice about birth.
1 in 3 women report traumatic births. Yet, every day, there are women who say that birthing their baby was one of the best experiences of their lives. Positive birth does exist.
There are those of us, like myself, who have experienced both the worst birth has to offer and the best birth has to offer.
Study these women and pay attention to what moments of theirs speak to your soul. Ask yourself, what would it take to have that kind of support? What would it take to have that kind of experience?
The truth is, while there are always elements of the unknown in a birth, you can be prepared with how you like to handle surprises, what support you need and who will attend you during birth.
These things will all bring you closer to a positive birth experience.
3. Learn to focus and direct your energy to a positive outcome.
I recently spoke with a mother whose husband was so worried about birth that he actually felt the need to say goodbye to her the day before her induction. Yes, he has since apologized. Yet fear of birth is tangibly real.
This mother went on to not only be induced, but have a wonderful, non-medicated birth in the hospital.
She stayed focused on her hope for her experience and had faith that her body would birth her baby. She was able to navigate a challenging situation, an induction which was not part of her original plan, which scared her and her partner, and have a triumphant experience through it all.
There is no one right way to birth. Many women love the experience going natural and feeling their primal power. Others feel an epidural helps them be present and connect with their child. A c-section is far from an easy way out and comes with its own set of challenges.
All birth will have its own story and unfold in its own way. Recognize that whatever happens, you cannot fail in birth. Let go of judgments and shoulds. At each moment, make the decision that is most filled with love for yourself and your child.
My prayer for you is that your birth will be one of the best experiences of your life.
Have you had a positive birth? Have you had a traumatic birth? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.