How Do We Really Prepare For Birth?
There are so many variables in birth. I think it’s a good idea to have a general understanding of the process and to know there are many variations on what is ‘normal’. For instance, a normal gestation can be anywhere between 37-42 weeks and labour has three stages. There are many factors that can influence how a birth unfolds and it’s great to have a ‘toolkit’ of helpful supportive measures. It is also really important to know what we, as individuals, need to feel well-supported. For example, are you someone who is comforted by touch and positive words? Would you feel more comfortable labouring at home or in a hospital? What has helped you through big life events in the past?
Expectations vs Reality
Through simply being alive, we are exposed to birth stories. You may have witnessed animals birthing. Many people have seen some sort of portrayal of birth through the media. Often television or movies show birth as being quite loud and dramatic. Or the opposite may also be true, where birth has been portrayed as perfectly peaceful and even orgasmic. But where is the middle ground? Through hearing others stories, viewing media and reading books, we form ideas and hopes for our births. It’s great to visualise how we’d like to birth and to work towards making this a reality. However, very rigid plans can set us up for disappointment if the journey or outcome is wildly different to what we were hoping for. Preparation is important, support is essential and surrendering to the moment is key.
Processing When Things Don’t Go As Hoped
Unfortunately, for many people, their experience of giving birth is not what they imagined or hoped for. Trauma from birth can lead to people having mixed emotions, feeling triggered or envious when hearing others birth stories, replaying parts of their birth over and over again or worrying about having more children. Even people who have had seemingly good births can feel upset or saddened by parts of it. It’s often not what happened but how they felt during the process, that is remembered. People may feel they ‘should’ have done something different or maybe they didn’t birth ‘right’. It’s natural to want to understand the events that lead to a particular outcome. De-briefing is important. Journal about your experience and find a caring friend or professional to share your thoughts and feelings with. This can help you find meaning and understand your story better. It is totally ok to feel sad if your birth was different to how you wanted. It can be helpful to request a copy of your birth notes and go over them with an experienced midwife, birth professional or counsellor. You may like to have a ceremony or ritual to help transform your feelings. I offer closing ceremonies to help bring peace and closure. There’s also a great website, Birth Talk, that has lots of resources. The founders of Birth Talk have written a book called ‘How to Heal a Bad Birth – a gentle guide for women who have experienced a difficult, disappointing or traumatic birth, and want to make sense, make peace and move on’. Please reach out if you need more support.