In the beginning months of my first pregnancy, I spent many nights wide awake thinking about labor. I had fears that held power over me that I knew needed flushing out. For most women there is some degree of fear when it comes to childbirth. If you don’t know how fear directly impacts the birthing body, read my blog “Adrenaline can be a Real Pain”!
So you know fear is far from ideal in the birthing space, but how do you get rid of it? Let’s walk through 6 ways that help you eliminate your fears of childbirth.
1. Be Aware of your Fear
It’s hard to combat fears that you’re unaware of, so the first step is to ask yourself, “What about my pregnancy, labor, or motherhood is bringing me fear or anxiety?” For some the answer will come right away, but others may have to sit on the question and dig a little deeper before it’s revealed. When I asked myself that question, my answer was 1) pushing, 2) tearing, and 3) feeling helpless during labor. Once you know what your fears are, you can begin tackling them!
2. Verbalize your Fears
Do you ever notice when you keep your fears pent up inside, they seem to grow? Part of eliminating birth fears is saying them out loud or writing them down. In doing so, you give fears parameters so they don’t run wild. Saying them aloud or writing them down helps you define and normalize them. Writing my fears down worked best for me, plus, once you’ve conquered that fear, you get to burn that piece of paper and watch those fears disappear like smoke in the wind!
3. Learn about Birth
As a first time mom, a lot of my fear stemmed from the unknown. The most painful experience I had come across in my life was a stubbed toe, so I couldn’t even imagine what birth was going to be like. My mother gave birth to five children and I remember asking her years ago to explain what birth felt like. Her response was, “Giving birth is like having a big poop.” Since having a baby, I can say from experience that this was an accurate description of what birth was like, but at the time of my pregnancy, this answer wasn’t good enough. And, I’m assuming this answer isn’t good enough for you either, so do your research!
Point your research in the direction of overcoming your fears. I was afraid of tearing, so I learned what the vagina does during labor: it responds to a hormone called Relaxin to allow the ligaments to relax and stretch. It is designed to widen and narrow in response to what is put in or what comes out. Most importantly, the best way to aid in the relaxation and opening of the birth canal is having a relaxed body that works with the surges. I had to learn about what my body was capable of before I could be confident in it.
4. Bring your fears to a trusted person
Talking to a trusted person about your fears will help validate those feelings and work through them. This trusted person could be a friend who has experienced childbirth, your doula, or an OBGYN or midwife. It’s important that this person has experienced childbirth before and can encourage you. Telling someone your fears that has never experienced the challenges of labor may not be able to connect with or encourage you. A trusted and experienced person, however can give you insight on those fears- maybe a certain fear is very unlikely to happen or maybe another fear is one that isn’t as bad as you imagine it to be.
5. Prepare for your dream labor
We’ve all heard it before- that labor is like running a marathon. Well, it’s true; it’s long, it’s challenging, and without proper training and support, it feels impossible to finish. Preparing your mind and body for labor is one of the most crucial steps in eliminating fear. Exercise your body and mind throughout pregnancy to strengthen it for the birth you dream of having. I achieved this through learning deep breathing techniques, practicing Yoga, stretching my hips on a birthing ball, etc. Preparation helps empower, and empowerment eliminates fear.
6. Have a labor team who will encourage and strengthen you!
I saved the best for last, because when it comes down to it, you need a labor team who supports, encourages, and strengthens you during one of the most vulnerable and challenging times of your life. My third fear was being helpless during labor, so I built a birth team that I knew would be my constant support and help. Your birth team will cheer you on when you feel like you can’t do it anymore, will remind you of your strength when you’re exhausted, and will support you when you’re weak. The birthing space should be comfortable and safe and the people in it should exude that. Your birth team may include your birth partner, family members, and your doula. Whoever it is, let them be a source of courage and strength!
Let birth be the happiest day of your life, not one that you dread! I hope these 6 fear-eliminating steps help you burn your fears to the ground so you can love your birth!