When you first discover you’re pregnant, birth feels like it’s a million miles away. You’re focused on pregnancy, excited about parenting, and maybe planning your dream birth. At some point towards the end, things get very, very real. There’s a great big baby in there, and it has to get out. No one else can do it for you. You can’t avoid it or delay it. You probably won’t even know which day is your last day to prepare. Talk about intimidating!
Fears and anxieties about childbirth are absolutely normal. Maybe this is your first birth experience and you have no idea what to expect. Maybe your previous birth(s) were traumatic experiences you aren’t eager to repeat. Either way, you may benefit from considering the following tips to battle birth anxiety.
Don’t believe the hype
Everyone has a second hand birthing horror story, and for whatever reason they’re all too eager to share them with pregnant women. The reality is no one talks about the smooth, uneventful births. They aren’t note worthy, they happen every day. It’s human nature to seek out the anomalies. The unusual. Keep this in mind when you hear a rough birth story through the grapevine. Stories have no bearing on your experience. They’re just that, stories.
Forget the due date
Due dates feel so important when you’re pregnant. It’s the number by which all other factors are measured. Your baby’s growth is charted by date, your EDD is recorded by every health and support practitioner you meet, even strangers on the bus will smile and ask “when are you due?”. When you’re anxious about childbirth, your due date feels like an ominous countdown clock.
The truth is an estimated due date is just that, an estimate. Your baby doesn’t have an iCalendar app running. A small minority of babies arrive on their actual due date. Take the pressure off that date. Try to reframe it as a “due month”. Your baby will likely arrive between 37 and 42 weeks. When they’re ready.
When I was pregnant with my first, there were things I assumed would be horrible. How can I deliver an entire baby’s body without absolute agony? I held back, pushing half heartedly for two hours. Had I opened up to an experienced mother ahead of time, I would have known there is no greater sensation of relief than the moment after baby’s first shoulder is delivered. I would have known that working with contractions provides relief. I would have known delivering the placenta isn’t bad at all. I wouldn’t have been as afraid.
Ask the women in your life. Dont be afraid to sound naïve. Ask the embarrassing questions. Ask the tough questions. Going into birth blind sets us up for fear of the unknown.
Eyes on the prize
Which sounds more frightening? “I’m going to push a 10 pound object out of my vagina” or “I’m going to meet my child?”. Those are two distinctly different scenarios!
That’s not to say you should ignore your fears. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve to feel and process them. There’s no reward for martyrdom. You should not at any time feel like you need to suck it up and feel what you’re “supposed to” feel. That being said, there’s value in affirmation, and there’s value in faking it till you make it.
When you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of birth, take a moment to remind yourself of the facts. The fact is, you’re doing it. You’ve already grown a beautiful baby. Your body is already preparing for the birth to come. You will get through it. One way or another, you will not labour forever. You are capable. You will meet your child. Even the hardest moments will be a step on the journey to one of the most impactful moments of your life.
Many of us picture birth support as someone to hold your hand while you push. It’s so much more than that. I’ll use the word doula here, but the same points apply to any birth support person, professional or not.
Be honest about your fears. As much as I’d love to practice as a Psychic Doula, that’s unfortunately not an option. When a client is open and honest it helps me determine how best to support her. When she’s afraid of pain, we can practice coping mechanisms and address pain management on the big day. When she feels unprepared for parenting we can work on baby care skills together.
Reach out when you need support. You aren’t alone. If it’s the middle of the night and all you can think about is how terrifying birth sounds, pick up the phone. Sometimes saying the words out loud is enough to calm you down. Don’t keep it bottled up.
Get early labour support. Your care provider probably suggested you labour at home for a while before calling in support or heading to the hospital. Early labour can look a bit different for everyone. I know I had one labour that gently progressed, increasing in intensity from beginning to end, and another when the first contraction felt just as intense as the last one. It’s easy to see why one might panic if early labour is intense, and you’ve been told it’ll only get harder from there.
Don’t do it alone. Clients often ask when they should call me. The answer is whenever you feel like you need support. If you need that support sooner than later, reach out. Maybe you just need to vent your concerns over the phone. Maybe your doula will keep you company and head back home once you’re comfortable, and give labour time to progress. Regardless, never feel like you need to tough out that fear by yourself.
There is no wrong way to feel about birth. This doesn’t have to be magical and exciting for everyone. But when those feelings get overwhelming, lean on your support person. You aren’t alone, you are enough, and you can do this.