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**This post was made in partnership with Kathryn Sullivan.**
Congrats, Mama! You did it! You grew an entire human! There were many times on my journey where I didn’t think I was going to make it, but somehow here I am 6 weeks postpartum. I can tell you that as different as you now may feel in this new role of Mama, you are still in there and make sure to take care of yourself.
Next stop, childbirth!
Now that you’re here and ready for childbirth, I’m sure you have some mixed feelings just like I did. Mixed feelings such as, “Get this baby out of me before it gets any bigger,” or “I don’t ever want to give birth because I don’t want to share him and the safest place he’ll ever be is in my belly,” or better yet, “I’m so goddamn hungry somebody feed me before I cry.” All of these feelings are valid and expected at this point in pregnancy. If you’re like me and this is your first babe, or even your fifth, you’re probably fighting back the onset of the fear of childbirth.
Fear of childbirth is natural! There is zero shame in being afraid; it’s what has kept our species going and evolving to this point! A human will be exiting your body soon. If you weren’t a little scared about that, I would be concerned about your mental state. I’d like to think I’m a pretty level headed person. I am a Capricorn after all, but fear can bring out the most irrational parts of you that you didn’t even know your subconscious was holding on to. So let’s explore some of the fears of childbirth and talk ourselves off the metaphorical ledge.
It’s going to be painful.
Pain is an obvious fear of childbirth because for some of us, this is our first time experiencing this. It’s hard to prepare for something when you don’t know what to expect. All we know is that it’s going to be the worst pain of our lives and then we’re going to black it out of our minds like some kind of psychopath.
This fear can be managed! I’ve read several blogs that went into detail about managing expectations. If we go into this experience expecting very uncomfortable pressure and not extreme debilitating pain, it changes the way your mind interprets the pain. This will make it easier to manage labor. I know this sounds crazy! However, if you can rewire how your mind lives through the “pain” it could help change your mindset and expectations on the rest of labor.
Am I prepared?
The feeling of being unprepared is another fear of childbirth. I had several family members ask me if I went to a Lamaze or birthing class. For me, there was nothing that they were going to tell me in a class that I hadn’t already learned from my own research or from talking to other mamas. I didn’t need to learn their weird and outdated breathing techniques that we all make fun of. I know how to breathe from several months of practiced meditations. I’ve been working on meditation and breathing since I found out I was pregnant in order to work through some old childhood traumas that I did not want to bring into my journey of motherhood.
Meditative breathing helps to get more oxygen into your body and brain which is good for mommy and therefore good for baby. This is the important breathing because the more oxygenated your blood is the better your body will handle the “pressure” of labor. Meditating is a hard thing to practice at first, but you get better, I promise! I focused on my breathing, breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for 5 seconds and breathe out slowly from your mouth.
While doing this I would also recite mantras or affirmations depending on what I needed to hear. Some days I would tell myself how strong I was. Other days, I just needed to remember to trust my body. It helped manage my expectations thinking that labor would be exactly what I could handle and the universe (or God if you are more religious) would take care of the rest.
This really helped me during labor! It sounds cooky, but breathing this way through contractions makes them feel shorter and manageable. I say that now being able to look back on the moment and know this breathing helped me not panic. While Hubby timed my contractions, I would breathe through them. I told myself to “Trust my body, it’s doing what it needs to do.”
With my birth experience, my labor intensified very quickly. By the time I checked into the hospital and got settled, I was already at 6 cm. My contractions were coming too fast for me to catch my breath and recenter myself. I started losing control of my mentality, my breathing, and I started to panic.
Unlike in the movies where the women are just screaming at the top of their lungs, during labor you HAVE to make low moaning noises. Screaming puts your body into fight or flight mode. This does not help keep your mind and body calm like you need it to be. I knew I was losing control when I started screaming and could not focus on anything else except the pain. So girl, I got that damn epidural. I am not ashamed. I’m so proud of the fact that I even got that far without medication! However, do what you feel is right.
It’s your choice
If you feel that you really don’t need the birthing classes don’t let anyone mommy shame you into thinking that you have to go, like my dad tried to do. In my experience, I do my own research and come to my own conclusions. The more I am bogged down with unnecessary information the more anxious I become. For me, going to these classes was going to actually make my fear of childbirth worse.
However, if you need the most information you could possibly have at this point, then by all means go! Most hospitals offer multiple types of birthing classes for free so take advantage.
Fear of the unknown.
Still on edge? It’s hard to calm down and focus on your breathing when labor can go so many different ways. I know women who were in labor for days. I also know women who were in labor for all of 5 hours. The best way to combat this type of fear of childbirth is to focus on your birth plan! Your doctor is going to highly recommend you do so. Plus, it’s a great way to get familiar with the different paths that your birth experience may take such as drug-free, epidurals, or a C-section.
Now that you’ve done some research and created a plan, it’s now time to let go of that plan. SAY WHAT?! Why even bother, right? After reading so many blogs and talking to so many mamas, their birth plan became so important that when the plan had to change, they were devastated. They felt like their body failed them or that they weren’t strong enough to do it the way they wanted to.
Plans change; especially in labor and delivery. Honey, I’m sorry to tell you, you are not in charge here. And if you haven’t learned that through this entire pregnancy you should definitely learn it now. This baby is going to get here anyway it needs to. Therefore, please just let go of your need to control and be open to changes. This will be so important for you mentally and physically.
This type of thinking is probably most important to us first time mamas who don’t know what to expect. We have tried planning this birth out to a T in order to gain some type of control and therefore be less fearful. In reality, if you are resistant to change it will create more fear.
Give yourself grace
For instance, you may want an all natural birth. However, you’ve been in labor for 40 hours and your body is not relaxing enough to dilate past 5 cm. Plus, you haven’t gotten any sleep, or the “pressure” is ungodly, OR babe is distressed and you need a C-section. Getting down on yourself and stressing yourself out is not good for your body or little one’s. Once your babe is here and is safe, does it truly matter how they got here? Let your body and medical team do what needs to be done to take care of you.
On the other hand, mamas have also said that upon arrival to the hospital their medical team seemed very forceful on going the drug route, even when the mom specified they wanted all natural. While I did not have this negative experience, I sought out the epidural after giving it my best shot. Many people say this is a common occurrence in Labor and Deliver.
You will have an incredible team there to support you so let them fight for your birth plan. You will have your significant other, your midwife, nursing team, or maybe you have even gone as far as hiring a doula. A doula is someone you can hire to be there to support you for the birth of your baby. Some people prefer this route so that their significant other can be in the moment. Maybe your significant other isn’t the greatest at knowing how to help you through the pain; that’s okay!
Doulas are trained specifically to help coach you through different circumstances and position changes. Most importantly, they are there for you and only you. On the other hand, your nurses and doctors will be leaving the room consistently throughout labor. Knowing that you don’t have to keep your shit together because you have an amazing support system will help your body and mind relax.
This surrender is so important to get to during your delivery. This is what is going to help you know your body and its needs. Trusting your mind and your body will help you know if you are going to be able to stick with your birth plan. It will help you advocate for yourself if the medical staff is being a little too pushy at times. Not to say that this will happen. However, being able to listen to your body and let your team help you is going to get you there.
Fear of medical intervention or even death.
My biggest fear of childbirth when nearing my due date was having to be induced. I really did not want to be induced. Any mama I talk with that has been induced has had somewhat of a long and drawn out labor. I wanted to be able to go into labor naturally and be able to let my body do what it was made to do.
Ladies, we have been birthing babies for millions of years; I think our bodies can take it! However, sometimes medical intervention is necessary. This can be when babe is overdue. When this happens, the placenta can begin to “die” and babe is no longer getting the needed nutrients. In this case, doctors will make the decision to induce.
Another common reason for induction is mama has high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia and baby needs to come out asap. In these instances, it is important to trust your medical staff and do what is important for you and baby.
I was very much afraid of this mostly because nothing is guaranteed. It’s scary to think that something could happen to you or your baby after you’ve taken so much time and care to grow and protect them. It’s something that was in the back of my mind this entire pregnancy because I know several people who have had stillborn children. This is a fear of childbirth that I have seen in real life.
While this is a real fear that is completely natural to have, it is one that doesn’t happen often at all. The CDC states that stillborn babies affect 1% of all deliveries in the United States and under 2% of mothers die during childbirth. This is very scary to think about because we could be one of these statistics. However, if you stay connected to your support team and trust your medical staff, they will do everything in their power to get you and your baby through labor and delivery safely. Focusing on meeting your little one will help you not focus on the negative and scary aspects associated with the fear of childbirth.
You’re going to be just fine, Mama.
You have had an amazing team behind you every step of the way; ensure that you are continuing your communication with them. My doula asked me an excellent question that I want to share with you guys! She asked me what I’m like when I am in pain. When I’m in pain I become quiet, scared, and internalize all of this. Personally, what I needed from my support team was to keep me focused on the positive and not on the pain. Things like a massage, changing positions, telling a joke, really anything to get me out of my head and not focused on the fear I was feeling got me through.
Other people may get very quiet and need it to stay quiet. They can get themselves out of the fear, but need no one to talk to them or touch them because they will lose focus. It’s important to communicate which type of person you are so that your team knows the best way to help you.
My husband, my doula, my nursing team, my best friend and even my dog were such an incredible support team. This led to my labor and delivery being such an incredible experience that (I feel gross for even saying this) I miss it! Seeing my husband become a father and holding our baby for the first time is something I cannot even begin to describe. I am so excited for you mama’s to meet your little ones; you’re gonna be great!
Share your experience!
We all learn different ways to cope with fear. Please share your experiences in the comments below of how you get through fearful times, such as the fear of childbirth. Your experience could help someone else reading this!
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**This post was made in partnership with Kathryn Sullivan.**