There are so many different attitudes and perspectives swirling around the topic of birth and there seems to be a counterpoint for each. Some say you can’t have a positive birth story unless you expect to. Others say it’s foolish for mothers to expect anything in particular lest they end up disappointed. Still others say, “Who cares? Isn’t birth just having a baby?”
Personally I believe something incredibly profound happens to a woman who has given birth. It is a complex series of physical and emotional changes. Many women agree, which in part fuels what appears to be a growing fascination with pregnancy, birth and parenting.
Where to give birth and with whom and how to avoid anything unpleasant are all questions pregnant mothers have. I’m not going to delve into the range of choices available to women (that’s what childbirth class is for), but I want to discuss how perception affects a birth experience.
Many of my thoughts on this subject are focused on attitude. If a woman has a positive attitude, it’s possible for her to perceive that her birth was a positive experience even if circumstances would suggest otherwise. But the caveat to this is that when women do not perceive their experiences positively, birth professionals and medical caregivers must validate those feelings and listen without judgement.
As a childbirth educator, much of my interest revolves around how to help prepare women for childbirth. I do what I can to facilitate a positive attitude and perception about birth in a world where a positive birth story can be difficult to come by. My goal is to provide a practical, realistic perspective about what happens during the birth process using positive and descriptive language. My belief is that no one ever says after giving birth, “I’m so glad the childbirth instructor told me how intense the pain would be! I would have been so traumatized if she hadn’t.” But I do think that many women say, “I’m glad that I gained confidence during pregnancy and felt less afraid. I feel a little disappointed that I didn’t give birth pain-free like some women do, but I feel pretty proud that I did it!” Many women mitigate some, most, or all discomfort by using self-hypnosis. Those who do not believe it’s possible to do that with just the power of the mind will not benefit from self-hypnosis as much (though even a little open-mindedness can go a long way towards changing those beliefs). Negative beliefs are not anyone’s “fault,” they’re just a part of who we are. The birth experience is an extension of the woman. It doesn’t define her as a person or what kind of mother she will be, but she will remember at least some of it and her perceptions of those memories will influence how she speaks to other women (and herself) about birth and motherhood.
Having a positive birth story is realistic, but agreeing on the best way to achieve one probably isn’t.