Please don’t lie awake at night worrying – do something about it! At the end of this blog is my short film interviewing some absolute legends in the birthing world – do yourself a favour and WATCH IT!
To be perfectly honest, in our culture, you’d probably be slightly strange if you didn’t have an element of anxiety regarding labour and birth, particularly as a first time parent. What experience have you had? What do your friends and family tell you about their experiences? What have you seen on TV? Are you scouring internet forums?
Our expectations arise from social conditioning, education (horrifying school vid at the end of primary school, anyone?), influence of medical staff, stories from friends and relatives and media representations (One Born Every Minute, anyone?) and all of these influences affect the deep-seated, instinctive force of our subconscious mind which studies show has a far greater influence than that of our conscious mind.
Not many of us are exposed to labour and birth as part of growing-up anymore as most births take place away from the home. We don’t have that awareness to draw upon. Almost everyone around us views birth as a medical event.
A doctor on one of my courses once said to me – “my view of birth is completely skewed – I never see normal birth”, and this was echoed in a talk given by Amali Lokugamage at a conference I attended. Amali is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and author. She explained that obstetricians are continually immersed in crisis medicine rather than physiology: a large part of their workload involves complicated cases, and medical students have little education or experience of truly undisturbed birth.
It’s worth considering these influences that may affect health professionals’ subconscious minds – the emotional baggage that’s not visible to us but may, over time, promote an believe that womens’ bodies are flawed, incapable, not up-for-the-job-in-hand, which will surely influence how they guide women as to the best management of their pregnancy and birth: a primal response to avoid litigation. Quite frankly, straightforward birth may not be at the forefront of their minds.
The stories women hear from other women about their birth experiences are often negative. On forums it seems that when a woman asks a question, other women can’t wait to leap in with dramatic, frightening accounts. The possible reasons behind this would involve a whole new post, maybe one I’ll return to.
And then, of course, there’s mainstream media. In TV dramas women in labour are usually shown to be panicking and screaming and documentaries, in a bid to provide compelling watching, also tend to focus on labours and births in a histrionic way. I suppose it would make for fairly dull viewing otherwise – their objective is high ratings, after all.
Essentially we’re mammals, highly intelligent ones, granted, but mammals all the same. And if we look at how other mammals give birth – your dog or cat for example…. although we know that they’re capable of feeling pain and being scared, in labour they tend to be fairly stress free. Why is it so different for humans? FEAR. That’s why … due to all the stuff I’ve listed above. Your dog or cat doesn’t have all that crap floating around their heads – they haven’t watched One Born Every Minute, they haven’t had their mates telling them about how hard they found labour & birth and they don’t have access to internet forums!
But don’t just take my word for it – have a look at the video I made for The Positive Birth Movement where I was so privileged to interview, via Skype, Denis Walsh (Associate Professor in Midwifery, Faculty of Medicine & Health Services at The University of Nottingham), Mark Harris (Midwife, Author and Founder of Birthing For Blokes) and Sheena Byrom OBE (Midwife Consultant) here. These are ACTUAL EXPERTS who really know their onions! It’s 10 mins long, but I urge you to take the time to watch it if all this is ringing true with you. Make yourself a cup of tea, sit back, start thinking and start preparing for a calm, confident, positive birth!