Want to know what <bleeps> me off? Fear mongering. I’m over it. I’m especially over it when it comes to the issue of pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. It seems to be everywhere. From formula feeding to immunisation to baby wearing to C-sections and VBACs. Is it too much to ask for a calm, rational discussion of the facts of a certain situation?
My intention for this blog was never to be political. But some doctor on tv today has just seriously given me the irrits, so I’m about to let off some steam. On tonight’s local news an obstetrician spoke out against home births – in doing so reminding the entire viewing public that childbirth is “the most dangerous time of a woman’s life”. (Or something like that – sorry I couldn’t grab a pen in time to get the quote verbatim.)
Congratulations Dr whoever you are – you’ve just frightened several thousand pregnant South Australian women – not just the ones planning a home birth – all of the others as well. Well done, thank you. Your comment is totally going to give them the confidence they require when they walk (or waddle) into the delivery room.
Now, this post is not a debate about home birth. It’s a discussion about the impact of fear on a pregnant woman’s ability to deliver her baby safely, confidently and positively.
I know labour has its inherent dangers. When things go wrong in pregnancy and childbirth, it’s tragic and traumatic for everyone involved. I’ve been blessed to have had safe pregnancies and deliveries, but I’ve had close friends experience the worst kinds of tragedies and I have seen the heartbreak that goes along with this. I don’t take these dangers lightly.
But everything we do in life has dangers. So why is it that pregnancy and childbirth in particular are so shrouded in fear, uncertainty and a sense of helpless dependence on medical personnel? What if we treated everything in life from this paradigm?
Childbirth is often compared to running a marathon, so lets take that as an example. Running a marathon can be dangerous. People get sick and injured – they tear muscles and snap tendons, develop organ failure, pass out from dehydration. Some even die. At least 11 runners have died while running the London Marathon in the past 30 years.
But as a society, we don’t view marathons with as much fear as we do childbirth. Could you imagine what would happen if we only focused on the negative effects of running a marathon? What if Runners World magazine only ever featured stories of marathoners who get injured, or who had to be carried over the finish line by their supporters. What if the winners of the Olympic marathon were reluctant to tell anyone about their gold medals in case they upset those other competitors who had to pull out at kilometre 32? What if we never saw images of 78 year olds crossing the finish line, inspiring others half their age to think “Wow, if they can do it, then I can do it too!”?
We need positive stories and images of pregnancy, labour and childbirth. Pregnant women need the same inspiration and encouragement as wannabe marathon runners. More, actually – because we have a long way to go to re-dress the fear that is already out there.
Why can’t we encourage expectant Mums to be confident in their ability to run their birth marathon? To prepare their minds and bodies for the big event and to go into the delivery room full of hope, excitement and expectation – instead of fear? Say to them – “You got this one hun, go get ’em!”
Certainly, it pays to be aware of the potential risks and complications and to be prepared for those. I’m not one for sticking my head in the sand and thinking happy thoughts. But can’t we reframe our view on childbirth so these are seen as the exception, rather than the rule? Because going into labour full of fear serves no purpose. All it does is spark uncertainty in the mind of the pregnant woman, it undermines her self confidence, increases tension in her muscles, potentially slowing the course of labour and very likely increasing the intensity of her pain experience. But, what it won’t do is prevent tragedy from occurring – hence, I say again, it serves no purpose.
So, here’s to letting go of fear.