Words by Sophie
I find this subject an extremely interesting one to tackle and one that is very much like marmite. It’s seems to me that mostly it is either the only focus or it’s hidden away and not discussed, both extremes are not necessarily the best course of action.
We do need to talk & share our experiences but we must be mindful of some of the ways we have been conditioned as a culture to fear birth & mistrust our bodies and how this has had a HUGE impact on how we as a nation birth. ( and as a result how we talk about birth )
In plain terms we have been lied to. We have had what I see as a truly wonderful, and almost magical instinctive ability hidden from us.
We are told that we cannot do it
We are made to feel like we will always need help
We are taught that our bodies are not amazing, wonderful and beautiful. They are not tall enough, slim enough, curvy enough, that our skin is not clear enough.
We have been taught that individual is not beautiful, individual is bad.
And yet we are ALL individual.
We are labelled with the word risk (high risk- low risk) even when everything is absolutely fine.
We are made to feel like something could go wrong at anytime when if you look at the statistics it’s much much more likely (and even more likely if we feel safe, calm and relaxed) that it all goes well.
But we are not made to feel like this.
And we are not taught that even if something does go wrong we can still do it. We can totally do it.
Throughout history there have been long periods of time where the way women were viewed and the care (or lack there of) impacted hugely on the way we view our bodies even today. Because of this focus has not been put on finding out more about childbirth & breastfeeding until recently (in terms of history). So even though there have been leaps and bounds in recent years (benefits of skin to skin, the role Baby has in labour, positioning in birth & the microbiome to name a few) there is still a long way to go in terms of hospital policy & procedures changing to ensure women (even those women who are uneducated & unprepared in terms of birth) can be guided through birth in a much more instinctive and individual way.
But we can take control of our own stories. We do in other aspects of our life & this should be the same.
So back to pain.
Often this is the thing that the women I meet are most anxious of.
What will it feel like?
How will I cope?
Trust me I know, I have the lowest pain threshold. I cry & fuss when I stub my toe. I waited until I was 18 before I could muster the courage to get my ears pierced! I was so worried about not being able to cope with birth and tried to seek information to help me feel more ready and more prepared.
And what did I find. Those voices talking exclusively about the pain. About feeling frightened and fearful. And I felt more frightened and that did not help me to birth. In fact it hindered me.
Those voices that I needed to hear - the ones speaking about my power and what my body could do were silent.
To talk about pain we have to consider something first.
When you think about the word pain. What does it conjure up for you?
A time perhaps when you broke a bone or had a cut. Maybe recovering from an operation or being in an accident.
Always something going wrong.
Something outside of your body doing something to your body that isn’t meant to happen.
And birth IS meant to happen. Our bodies are made for birth. They have so many things within them that help and aid us to bring our babies into the world.
It’s not the same as a bruise, a cut or a broken bone. A sting, a fall or an abscess.
The other thing to consider is that fear = tension = pain. The more we tense the harder our muscles have to work and the creates more pain. When we feel fear and anxiety, in heightened amounts, a higher level of adrenaline is created and that in turn keeps us from entering our birth brain which is the state our brain has instinctively created to help us to cope, feel calmer & direct our power to the parts of us working to birth our baby.
This fear we gather before we even begin to think about birth. It is the information we have been gathering all our lives. And this is the dangerous thing- the more we focus on not talking about empowering birth openly and the more we exclusively hear from those who birthed in fear. The more we fear birth. And this is the same cycle. Fear = tension = pain.
And the final thing to consider is that everything is subjective. We feel & think totally differently to everyone else. We are individuals & what is the experience of one person will not be the experience of someone else.
Some women will birth quietly, some loud. Some will have long labours, some will have fast and some in between. Some women will breathe their babies out and some will roar. Some will say they were comfortable during labour, some will say it was so very intense and some yes will talk about pain.
We are all different. But one thing that is the same for all of us is that being relaxed and calm will help us. And so with this in mind here are some ways to feel more comfortable during birth.
- Take steps to relax & deal with fears and anxiety before you birth. Relaxation actually makes our pain receptors less sensitive.
- Get educated & prepared about how your birthing body works.
- Have a supportive & prepared birth partner.
- Practice some breathing techniques to use for labour.
- Take time everyday to relax and focus on feeling good- this has an accumulative effect and will help you to have a good mindset on the day.
And remember you are amazing! Look at what you are already doing- and without thinking about it. If you would like to find out more about what we do & how we help women (and their birth partners) prepare for birth then head here. Sending you empowered birthing vibes x