I was chatting to a Mum at a social gathering this evening, a get-together with the Community Choir my husband sings in, and we started talking about birth, which happens a lot I am sure to anyone like me, working in antenatal education. We discussed how amazing women’s bodies are, how she LOVED giving birth, “opening up” she said, how each pain she felt knew meant her baby was doing something and was on the way. Her second baby was induced and she found herself surrounded by what felt like hordes of medics, waiting for her to give consent and sign for the epidural. However she could not understand why they would want to her to miss out on feeling the awesome power of her body, with a little help from the drip to which she was attached, opening up and pushing her baby out.
In over 20 years of preparing women for birth I have rarely come across such spontaneous positivity. We agreed that women could have many different experiences, that labour was unpredictable, that babies could get themselves into awkward positions, but my goodness I came away feeling such a lightness of heart.
Why is it that this is such a rare occurrence? Why, when all has gone well with a birth do women talk about “how lucky” they have been, words she used herself, in fact. It is a sad commentary on how birth is perceived in our western society today that the medical model has become so prominent. I sit on the Labour Ward Forum at my local Hospital as a Maternity Services User Rep and I know that doctors and midwives do amazing things every day, saving lives but also how hospital procedures and protocols can make what should be a life-affirming event seem abnormal and out-of-the-ordinary. The impact of fear on the process of labour is well understood, stemming from Grantly Dick-Read’s observations that ignorance of the process seemed to make it all so much more frightening and painful. On another note, useful though these observations were, why is it that we rely so much on what others tell us about what is essentially a natural life-event that occurs only to women?
However, the power of this woman’s words are in the impact they have had on me and how I am determined to double my efforts to spread the word that birth need not be scary, even life-threatening, but life-affirming. The more women focus on the positive nature of pain in childbirth, the less they will fear what is happening to their bodies and will be free to “open up” and birth their babies as naturally as possible.