Sometimes, the root cause of a problem isn’t easy to uncover. It’s hard to acknowledge something if nobody’s willing to admit it exists.
Fear of childbirth is one of those things.
Even though birth is widely acknowledged in our culture as painful and intense, when it comes to actually being pregnant and preparing for labor…fear of birth seems to be brushed aside - or at least, not spoken about directly.
The pain meds and the protocols are meant to keep us safe…yet the maternal mortality rate tells a different story, and 1 in 3 pregnancies in the United States end in surgery.
We conceive our babies in tender, private, intimate space…but they are born into a harsh and impersonal environment that views birth as inherently dangerous.
Admitting something is scary is often scary in itself, but I think there’s more to it than that…
Our results-oriented culture has caused us to view the process of labor with impatience and indifference. The goal is, baby » born, right?
Many birth education classes stick with teaching the basics of biology, and what to expect at the hospital. Even in natural birth education, a lot of it is focused on body mechanics; learning about centimeters of dilation, timing contractions, and breathing techniques.
This may be helpful to a point - but I’ve long believed that the real prep work for labor and birth is in getting brave enough to explore the wild unknown of our psyche.
Labor is anchored in an emotional journey of going within, getting curious, and facing up to the emotions and beliefs that birth and motherhood may challenge within us.
I think that fear of childbirth itself is rooted in many layers of unconscious or semi-conscious beliefs that women have been conditioned with - culturally, historically, and even personally - i.e., from their own familial stories.
Maybe you grew up hearing about how long and difficult your mother’s labor was, for example.
Everyone has a unique constellation of stories they tell about themselves - and often, these originate in the voice of our family members. These ‘prophecies’ may be uplifting and inspiring, or profoundly limiting of our potential.
Whatever we believe about ourselves generally rings true, and it takes effort and patience to excise unhelpful beliefs and stories from our psyches - stories of weakness, shame, unworthiness - none of which will serve us well if we’re seeking to give birth without fear.
Another layer of unravelling our culture’s hidden fear of birth seems to be hidden, because expressing fear is still viewed as a weakness - an unsafe vulnerability that many women would rather just not acknowledge.
After all, childbirth has been happening since the dawn of time. Our mothers and grandmothers got through it somehow - but maybe they never felt safe enough to share the fullness of their experiences…
Additionally, some women may minimize their fear of labor because they do not want to think about losing control in front of their partner, birth attendants, or even themselves.
Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on ‘keeping it together’ and suppressing our emotions, even as we acknowledge that it’s not sane or healthy to do this.
Yet, an unhindered, natural labor will demand us to dissolve, shatter, and let go - to get in touch with our primal, raw, intuitive nature.
Birth is not civilized.
It can feel like possession by something greater than ourselves - and that can be scary, especially when we’ve spent most of our lives believing that our experience of the world and in our bodies, is reasonably predictable, mundane, and straightforward.
Labor is like walking through a stargate into another realm - it cracks our heart open and sends our logical, tidy mind into a psychedelic initiation.
Whether we resist this cosmic journey or welcome it with relish…it’s clear that one way or another, the only way back to planet Earth is through the portal of labor-land.
After witnessing many mothers in labor, it seems that fear of pain was not the most common reason for seeking pain relief intervention - but rather, a fear of surrendering to the intensity that labor demands.
I believe women, especially, have been taught to fear and distrust our intuition, our animalistic nature. With our instincts injured like this, we maintain an unwillingness or inability to open to the powerful, primal surges of labor.
We have worked so hard and long as a culture to detach from our lineage as beings of the Earth, to be separate and above our mammalian instincts.
The fact is - no creature with its instincts intact would willingly choose a place like a hospital to give birth in.
As mothers, we seek warmth, privacy, soft sounds, ambient lighting, only loved and trusted ones around us (or complete solitude). We need each of these factors to feel safe in mind and heart, so that our body will naturally follow suit and relax, release, and open.
We need freedom to move without restriction, to vocalize without fear of being shushed. We need to be able to follow our intuition as it arises, without needing to explain or verbalize why to anyone else.
In short, we need freedom to give birth - yet we’ve been conditioned to believe safety lies in the direction of abandoning our instincts.
When we obediently submit to the so-called ‘higher power’ of the medical system, we agree to disconnect from our instincts.
The system is highly specialized in finding problems, so that it pathologizes all but a very narrow definition of ‘normal’.
When we enter the system, especially due to fear - we diminish our power.
This is how women lose our intuitive connection to labor, to birth, to our autonomy and authority as mothers.
Birth in the system is birthing in captivity.
We treat zoo animals and barn cats better - and somewhere, deep in our psyche, women know this.
The reason we have trouble addressing our fear of childbirth is that it’s not really fear of childbirth itself - it’s fear of birthing in captivity - and it’s valid.
It’s normal to fear birthing under bright lights with IV lines and monitors entangling us;
normal to fear birthing in a sterile, drab room we’ve never been in before, deprived of food and drink, with none of our home comforts nearby;
normal to fear birthing with strangers putting their hands on us without waiting for consent, barking at us to “push!”;
normal to fear birthing on someone else’s arbitrary timeline, all while being harassed by interventions.
It is a normal and sane instinct to fear strangers’ gloved hands invading our most private spaces… yet we’re supposed to endure it politely, like good girls?
It’s appropriate and normal to fear birthing in a foreign, public place, filled with ever-present threats.
It is an entirely normal and adaptive response to fear and wish to avoid being subjected to drugs, abuse, and surgery when you are on the precipice of meeting your baby.
These are all valid and normal things to fear - yet, we’re collectively gaslit by all of society to accept these ritualized abuses as ‘normal’, as ‘just part of birth’…
Then the band-aid solution we’re offered is a basic 6-week childbirth class—?
Birth is as safe as life - we have nothing to fear from our own primal nature.
Traditional childbirth classes are always done with partners present, and while I do not wish to diminish the very important role a partner plays in childbirth—
My childbirth education materials are created exclusively for women.
I believe that the deepest, most vulnerable emotional aspects of birth are something most easily and authentically shared with women—with those who have or will embody the experience of birth.
Traditionally, mothers and grandmothers were the birthkeepers, and men held reverence for this most sacred, esoteric calling of women.
Often, the intimacy that’s present in a longstanding, trusted relationship is needed for women to feel comfortable enough to open up and really address their worries and fears - and we no longer birth within our communities, with our aunties, sisters, and grandmothers.
That level of trust and intimacy takes time and focused attenton to build, and while many heart-centered professionals may strive to bridge that gap, it’s not a high priority for most mainstream ‘care’ providers.
The challenging nature of birth, both physically and mentally, is hard to overstate…yet—
Birth isn’t meant to be scary, painful, or traumatic.
Ideally - we will emerge from the portal of birth with an expanded awareness of who we are, the lineage we come from, and what we’re truly capable of.
Birth is a massive personal growth journey in every respect, and when honored appropriately, virtually no other experience can compare.
Birthing in Power is a childbirth course unlike any other - a course that focuses on our intuition as mothers. You can sign up for the waitlist here.
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