For some women, birth is like a walk in the park.
For a friend of mine, that was certainly the case. She didn’t even realise she was in labour until it was time to run to the hospital otherwise the baby would have been born in the car.
For the rest of us mere mortals, birth can be a little overwhelming at best, and absolutely petrifying at worst.
Thankfully, if you’re reading this post today, I have some solutions for you.
Where does this fear come from?
One of the biggest questions I began to ask myself during my pregnancy was where the fear came from.
When you rationalize the fear, you get a better understanding of its presence in the first place.
How did we get to this when women have been giving birth over centuries? Did all those women before us fear birth in the same way?
If you ask most women what exactly they fear the most during childbirth, the answer it often the same: the pain of labour.
The fear of pain
We’re so used to fearing pain and any kind of sufferance in society that we begin to go against it and try and block it out.
Yet, we know that when it comes to labour, this is highly counterproductive.
This is because the more fear you have, the more you send the message to your body to tense up.
Your body needs to be relaxed to allow labour to happen.
The opinions of others
A huge poster that you see on a bilboard at least 50 times a month on your way to work will leave you with a lasting impression.
Chances are, you’ll remember exactly what the advert was for, somewhere in the back of your mind.
Then one day, in the supermarket, you buy the exact same biscuits that were on the billboard without even realising it.
The same goes with people’s opinions. The more you hear something, the more you begin to internalise that very thought.
That’s why it’s important to be picky with who you hang out with during such a sensitive time. But we’ll get onto that later.
Information passed down to us
We’re aware that we can pass down physical traits from generation to generation, however the idea of passing down behavious is a subject with people arguing either or.
There are those who believe that we inheret our parents ways of being in your DNA, versus others who are more for the nurture against nature theory.
Really it is hard to tell if you grow up every day with the same family.
Though you may have some basic fears – of spiders, dogs, you name it; if you are generally an anxious person – your genetics may be to blame.
The reason for this is because the genetics affect the function of your neuro-transmitters, which control such hormones such as adrenaline and serotonin.
You can read more about that here, but for now let’s get back to it: nature or nurture, nothing is fixed in stone.
That’s right, you can change your perception of fear, pain, and just about everything else…if you put your mind to it 😉
So here we go…
1) Listen to your fears
One thing I picked up way back when was a concept I found in a book by Lise Bourbeau.
She said that the best thing you can do when you have a fear that you feel is limiting your life is to sit with it, as you would a friend.
Unecessary fears come from your ego (that nagging voice in the back of your voice telling you that you’re wrong, not good enough etc).
You need to sit down with it and have a little chat. Use empathy to understand the rationality of the fear.
Understand that naturally, it wants you want to protect yourself all that you can from possible pain or suffering.
Be gentle, thank it for it’s say and tell it to move on – you don’t need the fear now. You are in a safe place, you are informing yourself of how labour happens.
You are growing with knowledge.
2) Take the reins
I’m gonna admit – this is easier said than done. When you do sit down and have that little chat I just mentioned, you want to make sure you’re in charge.
Our minds are a very powerful tool…but most of us don’t know how to use it to it’s full potential.
Or rather, we are not the master of our minds. Our minds are mastering us. If you think of your mind as a computer for a second, would you neglect it for months without doing updates?
I’m guessing you wouldn’t. I’m guessing you wouldn’t have it on standby either.
The whole aim in life I believe is to keep evolving, growing as a person. If we don’t have some sort of control or say in what our mind does, we have little control in our lives.
When we let fear overcome us instead of vice versa, we’re not evolving. We’re stuck at a brick wall.
So how can we be the master of our own destiny?
It starts with awareness. You have to do some practice every day at exiting your mind and observing from outside.
When you have quiet time, it is the easiest to do this. Observe the phrases you say to yourself day in, day out.
What in particular is creating the fear of childbirth?
3) Surround yourself with positive people
Our mind is very easily influenced from external goings on – it picks up on a lot of ‘stuff’ during the day and stores it away without a second thought.
So where we live and who we hang out with can play a real big part in forming the mindset we have.
I live in a little village in France. When my neighbours began to find out that I was going to have a home birth, some were afraid, some were supportive.
People feel that it is in their right to give their opinion on what they would do in your shoes. While this is all in good spirit, we are all made differently and what works for one, clearly doesn’t work for all.
In this way, people pass on this fear to you in the form of their best advice, and you are susceptible to believing it at some level.
Do you think I stayed for coffee with the nay sayers? Na-ah. I stuck with those that supported me in my decision, spoke to other women who’d been there before and gave me encouragement.
When you’re pregnant it’s safe to say you’re hyper sensitive. You have to be picky about who you choose to be with, what you choose to hear.
3) Write it down
One of the best ways to eliminate fear is to write it down on paper. Your whole thought process as you have this fear and sit with it.
By externalising it, you make it so much smaller and easier to deal with. A whole array of thoughts begins to make sense too when you see it there in front of you, unscrambled.
Another ….thing happens when you begin to touc pen with paper…your thoughts begin to flow without even meaning to do so – that’s you opening the connection with your subconscious.
You allow yourself to dig deeply instead of scratching the surface of your fear. You can dissect each part of it and learn the root cause.
And again…once you have your thoughts flowing, you’ll find that they’re actually smaller and less useful than you believed!
Try jotting down your anxieties in a journal – you can do bullet journalling if you want to, but if you’re first starting out or you just want more flow, I’d encourage you to just use a pen and a blank page.
You can start a timer if you like, and write for only five minutes – you’d be suprised at how much you’ll get out in the open in such a short amount of time!
When you do write, make sure you’re in a quiet place without distractions to be able to really tune out and connect.
Here you can learn more about journalling your fear. They even suggest writing a goodbye letter to the fear as a means of letting go.
4) Identify the exact fear
Not all women fear the same things about childbirth.
While there is a large number of women that fear the pain, this is not the case for everyone.
The more specific you can be (after writing down), the more specific you can be in treating your fear.
For example, if your fear is that of making a scene in the hospital, what are you goign to do to make you feel less self conscious and more comfortable?
If your fear is the pain, what types of pain management are you looking at?
Read also: Top ten tips for coping with natural labour
Likewise, if your fear is the actual life-changing arrival of your newborn in your home and how you’re going to manage, perhaps you could talk to someone you trust and talk through these worries?
What could you do to maintain your identity and still do the things you love even with a child in the mix?
Have you talked about what roles you’ll take with your partner? Have you created a support system? You could even consider a postpartum doula.
Think of birth as only part of the story. This way you don’t laser focus on the event, but see it as a bigger picture – welcoming your baby into your family.
5) Trust your body
Finally, I come onto the final point that I’m going to make in this post and perhaps the most important that you can take away from here.
I say this because I believe that over time, us women have lost our connection with our creative, motherly intuitive energy…
Well, I wouldn’t say lost perse. Rather I imagine the mute button being pressed on this beautiful instinct.
One day when my midwife came to pay me a visit at home, somewhere during my third trimester, I remember admiting it to her.
I admitted that I was afraid, I didn’t know what it would be like, I was diving into the unknown – how did I know that I was going to come out the other side?
How did I know that I was capable of bringing a little being to the world?
My midwife is the calmest woman I have ever met. Saying goodbye to her after my final postpartum check brought a tear to my eye and made me want to have another child just so I could experience everything with her again.
I digress – what I wanted to say was, she said something to me that day that stuck with me forever and this knowledge is so simple yet so valuable that I wanted to mention it here:
Lose the urge to control what is happening
In the beginning of your labour, you’ll be able to be in control of your contractions, do the breathing you’ve practiced, distract yourself with some humour…you name it. But you will come to a point where you can’t control anymore.
Can’t control? This didn’t seem like something pheasable for me. I love to have everything in my life in order and under control.
She said the biggest mistake a woman can make is to try and give birth with her mind. She said that when you reach this point, you must surrender to your body and let labour happen.
I couldn’t imagine what she meant until the day arrived. Sure enough though, I hit that point a few hours in.
You know what helped me enormously? I depended on my partner for reassurance. Whenever I would feel any fear or ask how long will it still last, he was there to tell me what a great job I was doing.
My midwife explained what was happening as I went along and that was amazing as it helped me understand that everything was progressing well, making me relax and trust my body.