Written by Tricia Murray
When can you first remember someone telling you about birth?
What were your memories of those conversations?
Was it about your birth?
Your cousins/family friends/neighbors/community?
What did you hear?
As women, we are so obsessed with our birth stories and those of others. They are cornerstones for how we SEE ourselves and others – and how we FEEL about ourselves. A good birth experience isn’t only about a healthy baby – it’s about so much more.
We know that birth is unpredictable – there is nothing in this world as certain as how uncertain birth can be.
What’s important though, is how we are able to reflect on that birth.
Did we feel in control?
Were we listened to?
ere we active decision makes in that process?
Were we cared for with compassion?
Supported by love?
Because all those things matter – all of them. Yet, this is something that so often we gloss over – we often see birth as a mechanical event that is DONE to us, not something where the power lies within us.
Think about birth – what images appear?
What do all these things mean?
That birth is dangerous?
That we are ill?
Something we need to be saved from?
Birth is a physiological bodily act – similar to having sex, eating, going to the toilet – it’s a bodily process/function.
And what we need to give birth is very similar to all of those above – we need privacy, to feel unobserved, to not feel pressure to perform, to feel cared for, loved and unconditionally supported. When those things happen – we can fulfill all the normal bodily functions that we do.
The same is true for birth.
And it’s this mismatch between what is the normal process for birth in much of the developed world and what our primal birthing needs are (i.e. physiological process vs a medical event).
…We often see birth as a mechanical event that is DONE to us, not something where the power lies within us.
It’s this mismatch where the conflict comes as birth is also a massive transformational experience where we become mothers. And when things don’t go well in that primal period and women are made to feel powerless, compliant, and like they must be the good girl and not ask questions that many women end up emotionally scared from their birth experience.
The quest for safety in childbirth has led to an increase in women experiencing maternal mental health exploration. More and more evidence is being published about the role of Pitocin and hormones in labor and postpartum depression. There are more women across the world being diagnosed with PTSD/PTSD-like-symptoms following their birth. Suicide is one of the biggest causes of maternal death in the first year post birth.
This is serious stuff – and so much of it can be linked to how we gave birth.
My belief is that so many women are unprepared emotionally around giving birth.
We are educated on antenatal appointments, hospital choice, when we should ring the hospital, dilation rates, induction process, what happens in theater etc. What we are not educated on is taking responsibility for our births.
Women are expected to be compliant within a system driven by fear about all the things that could go wrong rather than all the things that could go right. Whilst, without a doubt, we need doctors and hospitals for a minority of births, this belief that women can’t give birth without doctors is contrary to what women have been doing for thousands of years -successfully.
What we need to do as birth educators is REMIND women that they are the ones that are powerful in their births. They are the ones that have full decision-making power in their births. That they are allowed to ask 5 million questions, they’re allowed to say no, they don’t need to be compliant, they can be as fussy, problematic and as specific as they want to be.
Fundamentally, your birth matters and how you FEEL and REFLECT about your birth matters – because that birth lasts with you for a lifetime. And the stories that you want to be handing down to your children about their birth matters.