Is it possible to create a childbirth experience that is positive, empowering, meaningful and memorable? How much control does a woman have when it comes to creating her birth experience?
What I know for sure is that childbirth is unpredictable. A woman doesn’t always have a choice as to how her baby will position itself or how many hours she will labour for and this can effect whether her baby will enter the world vaginally or by caesarean. Despite these uncertainties there are mental, emotional and physical ways to encourage a positive childbirth experience, regardless of hospital or home setting, vaginal or caesarean delivery and pain medications or not.
First, consider the idea that the female body is capable of delivering babies in more ways than one. To most women, a vaginal delivery is considered "natural”. But what does natural mean? Does a dictionary effectively define what natural means or does each woman identify what natural is for her? If a woman gives birth to her baby by caesarean is this any less natural than a vaginal delivery? I believe both forms of birth are equally natural and both exist equally as options for women to consider. Pregnant women who are open to accepting both forms of delivery as equal options could suffer less or not at all in the event that a caesarean delivery is necessary.
If I tell my client who had a caesarean delivery after three days of labour that her birth was not natural, how might she feel? I can’t say for sure; but if I heard those words after delivering my baby, I would have been very upset. Choosing to label vaginal childbirth as natural and caesarean childbirth as not natural can provoke a number of feelings for new mothers who have delivered by caesarean. Feelings such as shame, embarrassment, guilt, sadness, anger, helplessness and many more. Is it not overwhelming enough to be a new mother? Need we add extra hardship by suggesting that a women’s birth was not natural?
Having a baby is a miracle of life no matter what a woman’s "delivery status” is. Choosing to label vaginal childbirth as "natural” and caesarean childbirth as "unnatural” can be destructive for both new mothers and their babies. Accepting the thought that birth is natural no matter how a baby arrives could potentially prevent postpartum depression, breastfeeding difficulties and tension between new parents.
I encourage pregnant women to keep their minds open and flexible. Allowing the mind to think rigidly using black and white ideas can set a woman up for a very difficult childbirth experience. Rather than focusing on how a baby arrives, could it be more useful to shift the focus to the simple idea that a baby is a miracle of life – no matter what the delivery route?
To keep the mind fresh and open, pregnant women can work with positive affirmations such as:
My baby is healthy
My baby will arrive safely in whatever way he/she needs to
I am a strong woman
My body is built to deliver my baby
I surrender to a greater power
Second, our society often underestimates the power of visualization. This is one of the most powerful tools that humans have access to at all times. This tool enables us to create a unique and happy life and can be used to create a positive childbirth experience. But how can this tool work when childbirth is so unpredictable? Visualization allows women to move beyond the unknown of childbirth and into the present moment. The present moment is where a pregnant woman can discover her greatest potential, recognise her ability to take responsibility and self-direct her childbirth experience.
A woman can coach her baby into the perfect delivery position, teach her baby not to bring the umbilical cord above his waist and even turn a breech baby just from using visualization techniques. These exercises do not guarantee a specific outcome for labour and delivery, but they can enable a mother to feel empowered and in control of her experience.
Thirdly, pregnant women can learn to surrender and let go. The female body’s process of baby growing and delivering is so intricate and detailed. It is quite possibly one of the most obvious signs of a greater power at work. If a woman is able to grasp this belief or idea, she may feel overwhelmed, scared and experience anxiety. To resist against this life force can create confusion, tension, irritability and a positive birth experience could be in jeopardy. In the face of these feelings, it is best to surrender and let go, trusting that a greater force will work as it needs to.
Pregnant women need to be careful as to how much of their power they are willing to surrender when it comes to giving birth. The more a woman can stand up and take charge of her childbirth experience the more chance she has for creating a positive and empowering memory that she can share with her child.
Regan Grill is a certified yoga instructor and doula. She focuses on empowering pregnant women and new mothers. She owns Aum To Earth Yoga & Doula Care and can be reached at 250.754.2862.