Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why it is So Hard to Counter Birth Fright

Being able to counter birth fright is such a challenge because it is everywhere. Movies and TV shows often associate disastrous outcomes with pregnancy and birth. The media is constantly running stories that show home births or any births outside of the “norm” in a bad light. Interviews of pregnant celebrities always focus on the “horrible pain” of childbirth. Even most people you talk to about pregnancy and birth have opinions that slant toward those events being among the most dangerous and painful one could ever encounter in life. But, in reality, birth is inherently safe and can be the most empowering experience of the mother's life. So, how can someone push back the wave of birth fright with the truth?
In the world of TV and movies, pregnant characters are almost always shown giving birth while screaming and dripping with sweat. Although there might not be complications, per se, the emphasis is that birth is hideously painful. Even a seemingly normal birth will sometimes take a turn for the worse in an instant with only seconds between life and death for the mother and baby until the hero doctor swoops in and saves the helpless pair. Almost worse than their portrayal of birth is their portrayal of doctors being able to perform god-like feats of life-saving proportions. The message is sent, “Thank God that woman was in the hospital so that the doctors could use their life saving machines and save them both...”
The media is not any better. They don't hesitate to run every story about home births gone “bad” or to make a huge emphasis on the danger of a woman giving birth in a car, in a shopping mall, or accidentally on her kitchen floor. And there always has to be someone to save the day, be it a policeman, plumber, or the person on the dispatch who talked the frantic husband through the “delivery”. If a home birth should end in tragedy, the story is run on the slant that it was because of the home birth that the baby or mother died. However, if the story is about a laboring mother who developed life-threatening complications from procedures at a hospital, the doctors are still seen as the heroes and the near-tragedy is shown as a “Christmas Miracle”.
People that you talk to about birth all have their opinions, most based on what they have seen, read, or heard, and not necessarily from what they've personally experienced. They will tell you about their sister's cousin's ex-girlfriend who would have died if she hadn't have had that cesarean or about their brother-in-law's mother-in-law who lost a baby because she had a home birth with one of those “midwives”. People believe what they understand and it doesn't make sense to them that doctors, the media, or their favorite character on TV would lie to them. They buy into the lies that the hospital is the safest place for every woman to have a baby, even though they are more likely to die in a wreck on the way there than in childbirth.
Birth fright is so rampant, the thought of trying to counter it can be overwhelming. But when people are armed with the truth, it can be amazing to see fear and lies melt away. The truth is that birth doesn't have to be horrendously painful. Women have been giving birth since humanity began and I haven't heard a story of a woman dying from the pain. I have, on the other hand, heard stories of women having orgasms during childbirth! And I have also heard stories of women dying from what they received for pain relief. It is also the truth that birth is safe and births have better outcomes when they are left alone, as nature intended. People are born trusting birth and those of us who still believe in its inherent safety and stand in awe of its ability to transform a woman into a mother must never stop speaking these truths.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dispelling Birth Fear

People in our culture have been programmed to fear birth. They are taught to believe that birth is inherently dangerous and must be left in the hands of the “experts”. In order to dispel these myths, they must be shown how safe birth is when it is left alone. They must hear, read, and see the truth so that they can learn to trust birth again. Providing reliable information about normal birth is a good way to take down the curtains of lies and expose the truth.
It is imperative for people to hear positive stories about birth. It seems as if, as soon as a woman becomes pregnant, everyone, including strangers, feels the need to share birth horror stories with her. Women don't need to hear those; they need to hear good stories. They need to hear the story about their neighbor who had the home water birth in her jacuzzi tub. Or about the woman at the deli counter who gave birth, with the presence of a midwife, next to the tree on Christmas morning. People who know these empowering, uplifting stories need to speak up and tell them. No one can tell a positive birth story too many times and hearing these stories can be so encouraging. They should also be warned away from childbirth education classes that teach women how to “deal” with birth in a hospital. Instead, they need to hear that they instinctively know how to birth their baby with or without whomever they choose to attend them. Attending local birth story circles at free standing birth centers or midwifery offices is a good way to hear these positive stories.
Women also need to read good material. They shouldn't read books about how to “survive” pregnancy and birth, but rather, how to embrace and be transformed by these events. Books, stories, articles, and websites about normal birth need to be recommended and shared. We've all heard that information is power and it's the truth. Women need to be fully and completely informed about their ability to give birth without any interventions. They need to read material that reminds them of what their bodies were made for and that they and their baby form a very successful team. Sharing websites, blogging, publishing articles in the local paper, or making brochures with reliable information are good ways to share the truth about birth with people.
Being able to visualize what normal birth looks like is also a key factor in dispelling birth fear. Watching positive birth videos and documentaries that depict birth in its unaltered, untainted glory can be very affirming. Women have so many visuals from movies, television shows, and other media that show birth as being a horrifying, dangerous experience. Very few women have seen what a birth looks like when it is left alone. Thanks to video-sharing websites, there are a lot of beautiful births too be seen if someone takes the time to search them out. Making a play-list or posting them on social networking sites or blogs is a great way remind people of birth truth. Someone could also host a birth video movie night (complete with popcorn) and share some inspiration.
Getting information about birth truth is crucial to dispelling the fears surrounding our society's view of birth. Making positive birth stories the norm and sharing videos of normal birth will help restore confidence in birth. Inundating the public with important, reliable information will ensure that pregnant mothers will make decisions about their births based on facts and not fiction. Social networking sites and blogs are making it easier than ever to share birth truth with people from all over the globe. Lies cannot stand up to the truths about birth and when a birthing woman is armed with birth truth, she is unstoppable.

Friday, July 9, 2010


There were light feet
Curious uncertainty
Cautious what if
Maybe, maybe not
What if I am?
There's your answer
Crimson Messenger
Sickening pain
Cold sheets, lights
You were, but you're not
We're sorry
Crackers, pills
On your way
Long drive home
Tears fall in silence
Guess we wanted
after all
Rocks hit water
Screaming, anger
Never the same again
Doesn't make sense.

More expectation
Just know this time
A welcome sickness
Full feeling
As soon as it was
it's gone
Familiar pain
Curled on couch
Not much said
What's to say?
Still doesn't make sense.

Total surprise
Jumping for joy
Skipping on the beach
More light feet
Time passes
Full, round belly
Hopes are high
Dressing toy lambs
in ribbons
It's a Sunday
Crimson Messenger
Hit the floor
Can't get up
No one to catch me
He's here and
he just knows
Cold sheets
No heartbeat
We're sorry
We don't know why
Just bad luck
Bottles of pills
On your way
Long drive home
Feeling lost
Wake me up
from this nightmare
Perfect devastation
Waves of pain
Crash over me
Labor with no reward

They are loved
and remembered
But it will never
make sense.

In memory of my lost little ones
October 22, 2005
April 19, 2007
July 8, 2007