rethinking modern birth series part 8 - don't feed the tigers
Don't feed the tigers. Don’t welcome them in, or let them get comfortable around you.
In the pre-modern world, when humans lived in the wilds, women had to go on with the rigors of daily life, pregnant or not. If they were out in the jungle gathering food or water, and a tiger appeared, they still needed to be able to run away with all the stamina they possessed--EVEN if they were in labor!
Did you know?? Our biology is hard-wired to stop or stall labor if we are sending out signals of fear and panic, to protect us and our young!
Even though we don’t live in the wild anymore, we are still ruled by primitive physiology. Our brains still respond to fear, stress and anxiety as if we were wild women, and our babies would be in imminent mortal danger if we gave birth under those mental/emotional conditions.
So it’s no small wonder that labor tends to be delayed, or stalls out in women who are anxious.
The sad irony is, anxiousness and worry is normal, when we’re not free to give birth under the conditions where we naturally feel most safe and at peace.
Fear and worry are expected, obvious reactions for a mother who is told that her birthing options will be limited if her birth doesn’t meet all the (arbitrary) criteria of “normal” - or if baby is not “on time” according to the (artificial) timeline of the medical providers.
No matter whether a fear is real or imagined, your brain will process it as legitimate, and it could potentially impede your labor. So don’t feed those tigers.
Many routine tests and screenings are optional - and can create unnecessary harm by stirring up worries and fears of potential, what-if scenarios that may never come to pass.
Baby isn’t head-down at 26 weeks? They have plenty of time (and room) to turn!
Multiple ultrasounds “just to check”? Check what? The very act of checking for problems can create stress, worry, fear - not to mention, ultrasounds are not comfortable for baby, and repeated exposure can be harmful.
GBS test at 33 weeks? Why? GBS is on our skin in varying quantities at all times, so your GBS “status” can change from day to day - but if you take a test and it’s positive, then you’ve opened up a cascade of additional interventions that are likely to cause stress, harm, yet only offer minimal potential benefits. (more details here)
More testing does not equal a safer birth…but it might predispose you to a less-safe birth, due to unnecessary, overzealous interventions.
The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Pregnancy and birth are exquisite, interconnected dances of literally thousands of chemical and hormonal processes - and to think that we can control, intervene with, and perfect the process is frankly, arrogant of us.
If you don’t already have major, chronic health challenges, you may consider wild pregnancy as a lovely and safe option that quiets so much of the alarmist “noise” of typical prenatal care.
Contrary to popular belief - you do not need to go to a doctor to “prove” pregnancy.
Since you’re pregnant, not sick, you don’t need to go to a doctor when pregnant any more often than you would otherwise.
Most prenatals with an OB last less than 5 minutes, so you’re not exactly missing out on major, life-altering knowledge drops if you choose to opt out of these appointments.
Prenatals with a birthkeeper, however, are typically much more beneficial, as they’re longer, more intimate, and custom-tailored to exactly what you wish to discuss at each stage of your pregnancy. If you want to track your weight, fundal height, and even blood pressure, yon can do these things at home - IF you want.
We are a data-hungry society - data equals comfort and safety in a world of numbers and measurements. But birth does not exist in that world.
Birth invites us to tap into the subtle rhythms of knowing, of trust, of understanding and intuitive knowing.
We cannot create an ideal birth experience with data or test results…no matter how hard we try.
Focus your thoughts elsewhere, concentrate your energy elsewhere.
Recognize the need for data collection as stemming from fear - and don’t let the fears take hold.
Your body and baby have innate intelligence that knows how to grow and develop - and how to give birth. The best thing we can do is to get out of our own way and focus on the things we can control: Our overall sense of wellbeing, and our connection with baby.
Analyzing every little twitch, tickle, and tension in your belly - and rushing to get the reassurance of a so-called “expert opinion” will mostly just frustrate and/or worry you, and deplete your energy as well.
Now, research, like birth stories, can be a dual-edged sword. You may come across things to read that uplift, reassure, and empower you, and you may find things that feed your fears (i.e. the tigers). Know when to pull back from the soundscape of others, and to recenter yourself with your own heart-knowing and awareness.
This is one reason why taking time for yourself, or recentering, is so important to do regularly. Ease up on the data collection, and don’t feed the tigers.