I have been a midwife for 6 years now and over that time it is safe to say that I’ve seen a LOT of births. Each one is completely different and each one is immensely special in its very own way. However, there are some births that tend to stick in my memory. Sometimes it is because the birth was particularly close to my heart- being there for friends, when they have had their babies is certainly an experience I will never forget. Sometimes it may be because the birth was stressful in some way and sometimes it is because all the rules were thrown out of the window and things happened against all odds.
There are a handful of births that fall into this category for the same reason. I obviously won’t be divulging any actual details of these births but the phenomenon that I am thinking of is this- when a mum is adamant that she will give birth with an epidural but actually ends up giving birth with no pain relief whatsoever (I mean- no gas and air, no pool, no TENS, nada, nothing).
This has happened on enough occasions to get me thinking- how is it that mums, who are convinced they cannot deal with the sensations of birth, without being numbed from the waist down, end up giving birth naturally and without any pain relief at all?
Well, it is actually relatively simple and it is certainly not a new concept.
You see, the reason I believe these mums have such ‘easy’ (and I use that term very loosely) births is because they have no fear.
They have no fear of any challenges ahead, they know that as soon as it gets ‘too tough’, they just call for the anaesthetist and all of their problems are solved.
So, why then, don’t they have their epidural?
Is it because there was no anaesthetist available? No.
Is it because their horrible midwife (aka me) forced them into giving birth without one? No.
It is simply because the point at which it gets ‘too tough’ never comes. They actually cope with the sensations of birth far more easily than they thought they ever would.
Interesting, right? A mum that doesn’t believe she could possibly give birth without an epidural, ends up giving birth without any pain relief at all.
It all comes back to a theory postulated over half a century ago. The wonderful ‘Fear, Tension, Pain’ Cycle developed by Dr Grantly Dick-Reed. He put forward a theory that when women feel fear in childbirth, they subconsciously tense up and this leads to pain, which leads to more fear, more tension and more pain. You get the gist.
And this is why I think these women never reached the point of no longer coping and opting for an epidural. They never had the fear there in the first place, so their bodies weren’t tense and were able to do exactly what they needed to do and therefore they experienced far less pain than they would have otherwise.
So, what is the point of what I’m saying here? I’m certainly not saying we need to all rely on an epidural to swoop in and save us if we need it, and I’m also not saying that if you just release all of your fears around birth, you’ll have a quick, easy and natural birth.
However, there is a lesson that we can all take away from it- fear, stress, anxiety- all of it has no place in birth.
If a woman is to allow her body to do what it needs to do- she must be surrounded by calm, relaxed people, she must be enveloped in comfort, she must be listened to, she must feel heard, she must feel free, she must feel able to listen to her body, to move with it as it asks and she must do whatever the bloody hell feels good.
That all sounds well and good but modern day birth is often a far cry from this ideal. So, what can you do about it?
- Get yourself booked onto an awesome, in depth, inspiring antenatal course- just for the record you might want to check out this one here– but in all seriousness, do your research and find the right one for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all, when it comes to antenatal education but there will be something out there that’s right.
- Spend time getting your head into a positive space around birth- listen to hypnobirthing tracks, watch positive birth videos, read books by people like Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Sarah Buckley, Milli Hill.
- Find yourself a stellar birth partner *hint hint- this might not necessarily be the father of your child*- an independent midwife could be worth her weight in gold and doula would be too.
- Choose where you plan to give birth carefully- don’t just assume that the normal choices are the right ones for you. Explore home birth, midwifery led units in the community and in the hospital and the obstetric labour ward.
- Drown out the negativity- when you are pregnant, people love to share the scariest of stories with you, don’t be afraid to shut them down and simply explain that that really isn’t what you need to hear right now.
- And MOST importantly- don’t be afraid to do what feels right to YOU. Ignore what the Jones’ are up to, who cares what the Smiths are doing- do what you need to do, follow your instincts and make the choices that are right for YOU and YOUR baby.
Phew- that spiralled into something I wasn’t quite expecting when I sat down to write this blog post but it all needed to be said. Birth is such am important time in our lives, it’s easy to think “well, it’s just one day, it doesn’t really matter”. Believe me- it does matter, you matter. Don’t be afraid to seek out the experience that you deserve.
If you’d like some more support then we have loads to offer at Do It Like A Mother-if you’re near Upminster, then I’ve got the Better Birth, Better Motherhood Project starting on October 1st and I’ve got Relax Like A Mother (a whole morning dedicated to helping you feel relaxed about birth) on 7th October too. Plus private courses if those days and times don’t suit you. If you are nearer to Southend the Keri and Steph have you covered with Pregnancy Relaxation Classes, full hypnobirthing courses and private courses as well.