Nervous about birthing?

I sheepishly raise my hand and admit I'm nervous about birthing again. This might surprise some. It's my fourth baby, after all. A baby we planned, no less. I *knew* she was going to have to you know, be birthed. I've helped other women feel confident during their own births as a doula. And yet here I am, anxious about doing it all over again. Theories abound about why exactly birth is physiologically uncomfortable. Some are religious, based on text from the Old Testament about Eve's original sin and others about bringing women closer to Christ during suffering during pains of labor. I don't particularly believe either of those theories and think more in terms of muscles and body parts that just aren't used all that often. The cervix doesn't make a habit of opening to the size needed to bear a child on any kind of regular basis. I firmly believe that the end of pregnancy is so uncomfortable as a way to ready us for birth. Walking around at forty weeks, I don't care what has to occur to bring this baby into the world, let me please just get on with it. I've birthed three children, two without epidurals. I've had long births and a very short birth. They've all been difficult in their own way. So how do I get past this nervousness?

The first step is figuring out exactly what I'm anxious about. I'm not anxious about complications. I'm not anxious about needing a cesarean. I know my body births babies. And should a complication or need for a cesarean arise, I know it will be an absolute emergency because I trust the team I've assembled. So what am I nervous about? Well, it's hard. Physically harder than anything I've done in my entire life. I believe in the women who experience painless childbirth. I'm not one of them.  So what can we do to make it better? 

1. Allow into your birthing space only those who YOU wish to be there. The atmosphere of your birthing space can change so much about your perception of pain. There is a good chance that our children will need to be present for this babies birth because of my previous fast labor and childcare issues. This isn't my absolute first choice, but we are preparing by watching birth videos and will have all.the.screens and all.the.snacks available to them when the time comes. I'm excited about this new "rolling with the punches" plan because we are preparing for it. However, having people around you who make you feel uncomfortable can physiologically cause dilation to reverse. Our bodies have amazing self defense mechanisms, and a woman's body will not birth in an environment her instincts don't feel is safe for her baby.

2. Think about what feels pleasurable to you during pain ahead of time and SHOW your partner how to do it. I failed pretty miserably at this during my last pregnancy and Will had no clue how to comfort me. I ended up retreating to a corner and laboring mostly alone until transition. Those around me mistook this for confidence when I really needed a hand (or two!) on me. If you like to have your hair played with or brushed, show your partner or your doula. If there are certain words that feel really good to hear, tell your partner or doula exactly what they are ahead of time. You won't be in a space to communicate these needs exceptionally well if you wait until birth day.

3. Stay as active as possible. I absolutely cannot stress this enough. I don't believe you can have a sedentary pregnancy and expect a very, very physically grueling process like birthing to go well. Walk, squat, dance, play, MOVE.

4. You gotta have some confidence. No two ways about it. This is a struggle for me. After Rowen's birth I felt like I could climb any mountain. But that feeling eventually faded. We've got to do hard things if we want to be able to do more hard things. Stephen Gaskin, the husband of the famed midwife Ina May Gaskin said in her book, Spiritual Midwifery,

                              "If all your life you never do anything heavy, there's certain passages
                                     in life that are heavy. Having a baby, for instance, is one.                             If you be a total paddy-ass all your life they're going to have to knock you out
                    when you have your kid, because you're going to be too chicken to have it.
                       And if  you do something that builds character ahead of time, you'll have enough character that you can have that kid, and it will be a beautiful and spiritual experience
                                                                              for you."

   In about 16 weeks or so (holy cow!), it's going to be time for me to do something heavy once again.
                                           I can do it and I will do it. And you absolutely can too.
               However your baby is born, I hope that you will be informed, well cared for and listened to.

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