Last week I taught a special class that was filmed by national TV to feature in a popular show; it felt daunting, scary even and yet I knew I could conquer that fear. I could kind of relate the way I felt to birth (hey, I’m a pregnant antenatal educator so I can relate lots of things back to birth).
These emotions are a part of us and trying to deny these feelings is to try to stem the flow of something meaningful without really getting to the heart of the matter.
Do you think we’d be better off if we could approach birth realistically by feeling that fear, acknowledging it but yet not allowing it to overwhelm us? Instead we can use it, harness that nervous energy in a way that is productive by focusing on the goal that we so desire that sits on the other side of fear. We can devour information, learning and preparing thoroughly for whatever it is that we are approaching with trepidation, and in doing so are able to convert some of that fear into excitement as the moment nears, and exhilaration as it begins to unfold.
The alternative is a risky one, putting our fears into a metaphorical ‘box’, stuffing it under the bed and hoping that nobody or nothing can open that box. I rather like thinking of it as kind of ‘up-cycling’ our fears and anxieties so that they can evolve from being defunct and of no useful purpose to something that has value in and of itself. The process of crafting and making it happen is cathartic and the sense of accomplishment makes that conversion all the more rewarding.
In childbirth, as in life, there’s no one magic ‘method’ that will work for everyone. Imagine, if you trained everyone for a marathon in exactly the same way, without taking into account their unique strengths and challenges. And then, when you get to the start line, you realise that no two runners are taking the same path anyway. If you don’t know which path you’ll be taking then you’d best prepare for all eventualities, even though you know you’ll probably not need all those different techniques. The same is true of labour.
This is one of the reasons I love teaching Daisy Birthing classes, because we’re not about walking one path to achieving a positive birth. We combine so many different aspects in supporting mums along their birthing journey so that as theirs unfolds, they can call upon whatever feels right for them. We’re about cutting through the static noise that is negativity from others, self doubt and an entrenched attitude sometimes displayed by society that implies women don’t know how to give birth and re-tuning you back into your own way of giving birth, supporting you to make informed choices that are right for you and your baby.
I was still thrown a bit of an unexpected curveball during my filmed session last week, showing that in fact you can’t always be entirely prepared for all eventualities. And yet, all that preparation I had done stood me in good stead to ‘roll with it’ and to deal with it in a way that was consistent and in line with my own values and ethos. Had I started off from a place with that unharnessed fear and nervousness, I’ve no doubt I would have been less rational and logical in handling things on the day. And whilst I won’t reflect back on that session as being ‘text book’ perfect as I may have imagined in my mind’s eye, I do still feel that I was in control of the situation and did the best I could in the circumstances.
If we as women can reflect back on our birthing experiences in a similar way and we are able to feel a sense of pride in how we were able to trust our instincts on our birthing day, asking questions to allow us to make choices if we needed to, then perhaps we would also feel more able to be kind and gentle to ourselves as our journey along parenting unfolds, a common thread that arose during discussions at a Positive Birth Movement meeting I facilitated here in Havering over the weekend.
So let’s not deny it if we feel a little fearful in the lead up to birth, nor feel that we can pack it away where it magically can’t be seen or heard. As Albert Einstein wrote, ‘energy can’t be destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another’. Mamas, let’s use that nervous energy, invest it in our learning and hunger for knowledge, use it in our movements and exertions of giving birth and eventually, see it be re-invented as we cradle the fruits of our labour in our arms. x
(Contributed by our Essex teacher Lynn Zanatta)