Words to a first time mum……

December 19th, 2010

I wanted to share these words as I think they are so beautifully put and definitely rang very true to me. They are from a person replying to a mum on an online pregnancy club. I myself have never had a truly ‘unmedicated birth’ as I have used gas and air or entinox. But I completely understand the desire to achieve this kind of birth.

She was asking for support for her sudden feelings of fear about her desire for a natural, drug free birth, and her sudden emotional neediness.

She was admitting that now, fears about going through natural labour and birth are rising up in her, and asked openly for reassurance…….

You are normal to need and want to be soothed and caressed as if by your mother right now, and in fact, if you had been born to a different culture, you could have been born to one of many in which the expectant mother IS “mothered” and wrapped in love and protection, and delicate understanding, by her mother, sisters, aunts, best friends, and given rituals to help her feel like part of something and protected, which our culture really does not offer.  Preparing to open ourselves to giving new life, makes us by necessity more delicate, more tender, more gentle and open, ourselves. As our hearts open to a new life, our hearts are also more vulnerable, and in a perfect world, everyone would understand and support that vulnerability during this precious time, and not treat it as nothing.

And it’s quite natural to need that connection, before, but especially after, giving birth, most especially for the first time. Sadly, few women [in America] are even familiar with those ideas which are assumed givens in many other cultures as part of what is a basic necessity for a woman to have a healthy, happy transition through that major life passage.

As for unmedicated labour and mind over matter… our society paints a picture that would lead us to believe we have to be so strong in labour, even as if doing battle, but that’s backward… from my experience, the real strength comes when you find out that you DON’T maintain control, that you are able to lose yourself to the experience… fighting to maintain in your normal, conscious/controil frame of mind acts against the reversion to an instinctive, primal awareness needed to go through it instead of fighting for a way out or around it.   It’s important to feel safe to LOSE control, safe in the knowledge that those there with you will understand and support, and can be trusted.

That is where your support team comes in. If you have anyone doubting your ability, tsk-tsking over you, frowning upon your resolve, belittiling the importance of your going through this, and arguing that you ought to just take the drugs (primarily so you’ll shut up and stop stressing them out, if they don’t understand real birth and what real women sound and act like while giving it, or else are pressed for time and have deadlines to meet and just want to get you off their plate), it could be really hard to make it through.

If, on the other hand, you have someone who knows and understands birth, is not afraid of it, or the sounds you make, can reassure you when you are frightened during that special time when your mind starts realizing your body is totally taking over, and no amount of “self-control” is relevent any more, and who will ride it out WITH you, supporting you but not attempting to interfere or distract you, you have a much better chance of coming through it empowered.

I can tell you, for me, pushing out my 10 lb son all natural at home last time, there was “manageable” and then there was the point at which women may panic, fear they can’t do it, or look for a way out… and that’s the turning point. Very soon after a woman utters the magic words “I can’t do this!” she is through the eye of the needle, and the pushing urge began right after that for me, and a new awareness… the moment I realized there’s no way but through it, and then got that pushing urge, the intensity had direction, my feet had traction on the ground, and I felt the power to make things happen, and the pain was no longer something to fear or fight, but more like the pain a marathon runner feels on that last leg to the finish line, that propels her forward.

It’s every bit like the most momentous slow-motion clip of the winning goal, the victory in which the hero strove beyond what they thought was the limit, to make that last-second save, and the crowd goes wild. You can see the pain of concentration in the face, the sweat of effort, and you see them fall, victorious and exhausted, even in pain, but alive with the glory of “I Did It!”

Imagine how that sports hero would do, if, instead of the awe and respect for his moment of glory and absolute effort, with tension etched on every face rooting for him, he was instead surrounded by boos and jeers of “give it up! what are you trying to prove?!” and told over and over that he ought to just leave the field already and quit trying to beat the unbeatable odds.

Who is rooting (or booing) in your stands, matters. And in birth, so far as I can tell, it is in having the courage to relinquish control, that the primal is unleashed and carries you through. If you have supporters instead of detractors present, it makes all the difference in the world.

And I support you! It’s natural to be afraid after all you have heard all your life about birth and how women can’t do it, or those who want to do it must be masochistic nutjobs… but enough of us felt a loss when we missed out on it before, and then found something immeasurably precious and powerful in ourselves when we did experience it fully, that it’s not so crazy.

I can highly recommend Pam England’s book “Birthing From Within” and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, for the real stories of the amazing type and variety of births from women’s perspectives, what it meant to them, how it felt.  I take what I want from them and whatever doesn’t apply to me, I leave.

Watching natural birth videos also really helps you to see and get an idea of just how much variation is still normal in a natural birth, from women (like me) who roar like lions, to women whose high-pitched and semi-panicked cries in transition can make the hairs stand up on your arms, to women who “go within” so completely that they seem silent, passive, nearly asleep except for panting. When you see that they all go through it, with different details yet a pattern emerges, it’s reassuring. Even those who are terrified of jumping off the high board for the first time, learn, through doing it, that the fear is greater than the actual doing, once it’s done. The ones who turn away from the high board at last, and climb back down in defeat, because someone said “of course you can’t, you shouldn’t have to” or “I knew all along you couldn’t, glad you came around to sense” may believe the rest of their lives, they never would have made it, and that’s too bad.

Youtube is where I see most of the natural birth footage, and you can get a real sense of the variety that natural birth offers, and have a chance to see and hear women in labor, every type from screaming to groaning or moaning or even howling and singing, every position that works for them, and it loses a lot of the fear and mystery.

I know there are plenty of women who have been quite happy with their medicated births, and wouldn’t have it any other way, and would not take kindly to anyone insinuating that they should. I certainly won’t do that to them; that would be a lack of respect for our choices and diversity.

I also am sensitive to the fact that not everyone who wants an unmedicated birth gets one, and conversely, not every woman who signs up for an epidural has it work for her… sometimes you plan one way and things go another.

But to anyone here who is in need of reassurance, support, and validation for her desire for unmedicated labor and birth, I offer my experience and wholehearted “you can DO it!” cheers.

Birth is about as safe as life gets, but unforeseen events can happen to anyone, and for that, modern medicine is a blessing when it makes a positive difference. But it’s worth noting that despite seeing accidents on the news or roadside daily, no one suggests that everyone should either give up driving, or else only drive with an ambulance behind them on standby just in case. Birth is as safe as life gets, and with a fair and reasonable chance to give birth unhindered by doubts and unreasonable restrictions, most women can do it just fine, even if they were in a traffic jam, a stuck elevator, or as in the case of the woman during the flood, up a tree, if necessary.

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