I look at a lot of birthing pictures, quotes, sayings and ideas everyday. Some are awesome, some are quirky and funny, some mean well and some are just, well, I have to be honest, some just really bug me.
I love the power of positive thinking, I strongly adhere to the premise that you are what you think. I agree that it is amazing to only be surrounded by pleasant stories and pretty anecdotes….however….
To me, constantly reading how pregnant women SHOULD only be surrounded by positive birth stories, is like being told that people who are getting married should never hear about relationship breakups or divorce. It is unrealistic and naïve. Hearing about relationship struggles lets people know that a good relationship requires work, commitment and a strong foundation of love and that sometimes, even with all those things, even the most loving relationship can end or at the very least, look much different than what you first imagined.
Birth is a deep and life-changing women’s mystery. It covers everything from the ecstatic to the traumatic, sometimes all in the one birth. 1 in 3 women feel traumatised after the birth of their baby, for various valid reasons. 1 in 3 women suffer from Post Natal Depression. Quite often women are traumatised because they have NO idea of the realities of birth. So many are led to believe that there is a PERFECT Birth just waiting for them, if only they just do this thing, read this book, buy this item, do more yoga, don’t eat that food.
Yes, there are many things that pregnant women can do to support themselves to have the BEST birth possible, however, this in no way GUARANTEES the perfect birth that too many practitioners silently promise their clients. Leading women to believe that a course, or a thought, will give them what they want, is just setting them up for failure and is much more disempowering than any negative birth story could ever be! All we as birth workers can do, is help to prepare women, give them tools to put in their tool belt, so that they hopefully have what they need to draw on, when the time comes. We owe it to them to tell the truth about birth, to discuss the scary stuff as well as the nice stuff. It is up to us to point the way, to shine the light, to ask the taboo questions and to bring up the scary scenarios.
Birth plans are fantastic if they get you thinking about lots of different situations and how you would like to manage them, if or when they happen. I think birth stories are fantastic, the so called “positive” ones, where everyone gets what they wanted, a healthy baby, a birth that goes to plan, a satisfied mother and a happy family at the end. I also believe that so-called “negative” birth stories are important for women to hear throughout their lives and preceding the birth of their child as well. Not to scare the pregnant mumma, not to make her feel disempowered or unsafe but so that she KNOWS that there are as many ways to birth, as many outcomes to a birth, as there are women, so that she can prepare to the best of her ability in the ways that call to her. All birth stories are valid, all birth stories need to be heard, all women should feel the right to share there deepest experience of their rite of passage to motherhood without feeling like they are ruining someone else’s day.
“Our birth stories, our birth experiences, are our medicine that we share with our community.”
I would like to think that if a pregnant woman is triggered by a birth story, that she could take the opportunity to look deeply at where her fears are coming up in relation to that story. Find that place, look that Tiger in the eye and face it. It is an opportunity to feel more empowered, not disempowered. It is an opportunity to take the fear out of the scenario, not add more to it.
First births are a transition from maiden to mother, a part of this transformation is being able to let go of the childish naiveté of the little girl and step up into the strong warrior that will be giving birth. No one else can give birth for you. Innocence is beautiful but you wouldn’t send a soldier to battle without being fully prepared. Prepared through combat training, through knowledge of what they are facing and with a realistic idea of all that a battle can entail, again, not to scare them but to prepare them for all that is possible, so that if the “unthinkable” happens they are ready to face it and step through it.
It is true that our current society shrouds the TRUTH of birth in secrecy and superficiality. As a women’s mystery it is always about facing the unknown. Yes, some women share their stories in a way that feels like poison and that’s not just the mumma’s with “negative” birth stories. I think the sooner we make space for all women to feel safe in expressing their personal initiation into motherhood, the less energy these stories will hold for the new mother to be….
I LOVE pregnant women, I KNOW the strength, courage and determination they will need to draw on to become mothers, which is why I believe in the TRUTH of birth, all births, happy & sad. It is why I teach “Taming the Tiger” and why I work with mothers to integrate and heal from their birthing journey. It is not a journey for the faint hearted, it is not a journey for a little girl, it is a rite of passage that will show you who you are, your strength, your wisdom and your truth. When embraced as the life-changing event that it is, with all the joyful bits and all the scary parts, then it becomes the initiation into MOTHERHOOD.
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