I’m going to start this blog off by saying I am not your typical Doula. Many people are surprised to hear that this was what I chose to do as a career path. Let me rephrase and say that I am not your stereotypical doula. Many of us doulas are not the ‘tree hugging, granola types’ which often comes to mind when people think of women in my profession. Why am I telling you this? Because I know that blogs about natural childbirth can sometimes be passed off as another idealistic piece that is only good for tree hugging, granola types, not actual women who just want to have a healthy baby (and a somewhat intact lower half) at the end of the experience. I am very type A, I follow the rules and I also believe that birth should not hurt….quite so much.
To be clear, I’m not saying birth should be painless (although I’ve seen it happen) but it can be way better than what we’ve got happening these days. Here’s how:
1. You’re doing it wrong.
Ok, that’s a bit harsh, but this idea going though the intensity of labour while stuck on a bed, surrounded by strangers, under bright lights, has got to go. I say intensity of labour because yes, your body will be working hard to make changes that allow a baby to be born and that’s INTENSE. All of these intense changes are designed to happen, just not under these strict conditions. You are designed to move into positions that allow you to feel better, to walk, lay, sit how you please and to work with your changing body.
2. Women are terrified of birth, and for good reason.
Anyone who’s ever sported a baby bump knows you may as well be wearing a sign that says ‘tell me your birth story’. As soon as that bump appears, so do the negative birth stories. Pregnant women become the sounding board for everything bad that has happened in a birth, ever. Not to mention how birth is seen in movies, books, and other pop culture streams. How could you be anything but scared?
3. Fear causes tight muscles, and guess what? Your uterus is a muscle!
As stated in point 2, women can be a bit scared of birth, and that feeling doesn’t usually go away once labour begins, even if you’ve learned some breathing techniques. Here’s how it works: Fear = Tension = Pain. Trying to push a baby through tight muscles is not comfortable, not at all, but don’t worry you can do something about it. It’s not JUST about learning some breathing techniques, it is about practicing them. It’s about learning how to relax (hard for us type A’s) and practicing that skill…everyday!
Deep thought: Why does labour often start at night while you sleep, and stops during the day?
4. It’s all in how we look at it.
Pain is defined as suffering caused by illness and injury. During birth you are not ill or injured. For some women, it actually helps tremendously to know that what she is feeling is not causing herself or her baby any harm. The cervix is dilating, the hips are opening, the baby is squeezing her way though, but none of this is causing injury. It has an exact design. A wonderful midwife and author Ina May Gaskin (if you have not read her book ‘Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth’, you should) once said a contraction is ‘a sensation that takes all your attention’. It may sound a bit odd, but it helped me quite a bit through my own birth.
5. Plan. plan. plan.
I hear it all the time, ‘I don’t want to create a birth plan and then be disappointed’. I get that, trust me I do. My planned home birth turned into a hospital birth, with an epidural. Does that mean I was disappointed? A little, yeah. Was I pissed off because I didn’t get everything on my birth plan? No. I always talk to expectant moms about the creation of a birth plan, not because it is a ‘set in stone’ plan for what must happen, but because it is an incredible way to learn about the options we have in birth. People often feel scared when they are in situations that are unfamiliar, so it only makes sense that familiarizing yourself with the process could help remove some fear (and tension, and pain!). Knowing exactly what was happening, and what to expect, when my birth plan changed made all the difference. Plus, part of my ‘plan’ was to be surrounded by loving people who supported my decisions when I changed my plans.
I guess I could have made this post much shorter by simply saying ‘stop listening to birth stories, read more positive books on birth, create a plan, build a supportive birth team, and build confidence in yourself. Ok, maybe that doesn’t sound so simple, but take some small steps each day and maybe, just maybe, birth doesn’t have to hurt like !*#@!
Natasha Marchand is a birth doula, hypnobirthing instructor, and mother of the amazing 4 year old Sadie K. She is also co-owner of bebo mia and Baby & Me Fitness.
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