As I flipped through the current issue of Mothering Magazine I noticed an article on birth fears. I found that ironic because as my own baby's birth gets closer and closer I've been taking the time to examine my own birth fears, and I was planning to share that with you.
It's not an easy subject to think about. In fact, it's scary to bring fears to light. But I think it's important for every pregnant woman to do. If you think through your fears and deal with them you regain control. The status of power that a fear holds over you recedes and can even dissolve.
If a fear during pregnancy comes true, or it comes true during birth, it can leave you paralyzed and unable to cope. Working through your fear beforehand can lets you deal with it should it manifest – or you'll realize you can put it aside and have a healthy pregnancy and a good birth.
Many women fear things like being unable to handle the pain of labor or not being able to get what they need during labor.
For me I don't hold these fears quite as much, though they are fears that I had to deal with in my first pregnancy. After working through three births I don't doubt my body's ability to give birth. But one of my worries and fears is still “what will I do if this is a long labor” or “what if it is very intense?” And my biggest fear has been the same through all my pregnancies: “what if I need a cesarean section?”
I don't fear an unnecessary c-section anymore. I feel quite confident that if I have one it will be because my baby and I really and truly need it. But that didn't stop the paralyzing fear of “what if I need one” from haunting the back of my mind.
Working Through Them
It's good to work through fears – take the time to explore them (then let them go). Really look at your fear; ask yourself “if there's nothing I can do to prevent this situation, how would I like to handle the situation?”
For my own fear I found that question to be really helpful. It was helpful for me to sit down and think “ok, if this really happened, what would I do next?” It took me from a place of being paralyzed by fear – “oh my gosh I can't imagine what I would do if that happened!” – to a place where I could actively think about what I would do.
Here's my response, taken from my private journal:
How would I like to handle the situation if my baby and I needed a c-section: With grace. I would like to accept that it is needed. I would like to work hard to heal up well afterwards, and take the time I need to process it. I would also probably want to make sure (and realize) that others didn't think I was a failure or that I'd failed them (especially Scott). To realize that it is only something that happens to my body, and it will bring my baby into the world to have a chance at life. But I will take the time I need to heal. Physically and emotionally. I would like to keep an overall good attitude about my recovery and love and enjoy my baby. Take things slowly and heal so I can get back to caring for the family.
As you can see my response touches on some raw emotions and worries that I have that go along with the thought of having a c-section (would that make me a failure to my baby, to Scott; how would I deal with healing and be able to care for my family). Other questions in the fear-processing exercises helped me to realize what worried me so much about the thought of a c-section and let it be OK to acknowledge those worries and fears – even if when I write them some of them out they sound silly.
Fears about Labor are Not Silly
The fact that I have them however, means they're not “silly” and they need to be looked at and acknowledged. Writing out what I would do if the situation occurred really helped me to realize that even if my baby was born by a cesarean birth I would not be powerless. I could take control of my recovery and I would still be able to love and care for my baby. And it would be ok for me to take the time to process my experience.
Doing this exercise calmed the fear that lurked in my mind. If it comes up again I can now look at that fear and say “I already know I can handle this situation if it arises.” That leaves me free to move on and spend my time thinking about other things – like cleaning the house, talking to my baby, and visualizing how I'd like the birth to go 😉
I also did the exercise with other fears I have, the biggest being “could I handle a long, intense labor?” That one was harder for me and will involve some additional mental preparation in the weeks leading up to my baby's birth. But just addressing it and realizing that I feel I will be able to do the work, and that I have a good birth team in place to help me in the event my labor is long and/or intense, and that I'm taking the time to learn childbirth skills and do mental preparation… these thoughts comfort me. They take a fear and make it into something manageable.
I encourage you to take the time to list your own fears and worries, and look at them – why they bother you, what is it that's just so scary? And how you could prevent that from happening – or you couldn't, how would you handle it?
Doing this valuable work allows you to address fear and worry if it should arise again, and it allows you to move on and focus your attention on other things – like your health and childbirth preparation (and all those daydreams of your beautiful baby!)
I've put my visualization and journaling exercises together in an easy-to-use workbook. Click to discover more about how Fearless Birth can help you