Like most first time pregnant women, I found the idea of pushing a human out of me in a short nine months unsettling, to say the least.
I’d adopted so many assumptions and fears about birth from my environment. Whenever birth is spoken about in the media, or portrayed in film, it’s always loud, painful, and kinda gross. There’s always a sweaty, red-faced women screaming for drugs, and everyone is paranoid about making a different kind of deposit on the delivery table.
Birth can be such an empowering, even enjoyable, experience and I wish we presented this as a reality to women too. There is so much taboo surrounding birth, and if we spoke more openly and positively about birth, women could have a completely different experience.
I decided around half way through my pregnancy that I was going to have a good birth. I’d constantly joke I would sneeze and Willow would pop out. It was mostly out of fear; I was worried if I spoke about how anxious I was, I’d feel worse. So every time it came up, I’d joke and laugh about how painless and easy birth would be. My light hearted approach to the difficulties of birth helped me feel more confident.
I constantly told myself that the female body is incredible and was designed to birth children. Birth is literally what our bodies are designed to do. We have evolved over millennia to be the best, most efficient baby making machines, and when the time comes to deliver, our bodies spring into action.
I also watched a ton of birth videos on YouTube. There was a woman in our prenatal classes who left the room every time a birth video was shown. She was anxious and wanted to go in knowing as little as possible. It made her less anxious, but for me, it was the complete opposite.
I wanted to see every single birth video on the internet. Despite all the discomfort, noise, and blood, the second the baby was born, everything was calm. The love between mother and child was palpable. I was brought to tears every time. The videos constantly reaffirmed that no matter what my birth would entail, I was going to have my daughter afterwards. Focusing on my baby made everything much less intimidating.
Watching so many videos exposed me to the million different ways babies can be born. Every woman had different positions, different pain levels, and such vastly different births.
I also read Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth, of which almost half is composed of birth stories. Again, I was presented a variety of births, from calm and planned water births, to emergency C-sections and breach births. I felt like every type of birth was discussed. Like I witnessed in the birth videos, every stressful birth ended with a beautiful healthy baby, and the new parents overcome with love.
It can be difficult to take a relaxed approach to something as big as birth, but watching birth videos and reading birth stories helped me normalise birth. Having never seen a birth, either in person or on video, I was shocked at first. However the more videos I watched, the more I began to appreciate the strength and beauty in birth that I had never been taught to see.
Having had my daughter, my next birth will be a completely different experience. I no longer fear birth. I reprogrammed how I thought about birth during my first pregnancy, and now with an empowering and healthy birth under my belt, I can go into my next one with confidence.
Obviously, not every birth is considered easy, or peaceful. It is challenging, and you can’t truly prepare; unexpected things arise and sometimes intervention is needed.
However, the more empowered women go into birth, the better the outcomes, and the better the experience for the mother. I truly believe if we framed this challenge as normal and healthy, more women would go into birth with confidence.