We need to know how birth works so we can make the best choices for us and our babies. If we want to challenge the epidemic of fear surrounding birth and encourage women taking control of their birthing experiences, we need to talk about it more.
Last week, I met a woman whose friend’s grandmother only found out how baby’s ‘get out’ when she was actually in labour. WTF! Seriously! No one had ever told her they get out the same way as they get in. Bless her. And it got me thinking about how little we actually know about birth and our bodies. We might know from which orifice babies exit but most of us know little more. We don’t talk about birth. Or our bodies.
I don’t know about you but growing up, my knowledge of my body was scant. I didn’t even have a word for vagina. It was ‘bottom’ in my household and if we needed to get specific, it was back bottom and front bottom. It was all very confusing! And sex ed was equally scant.
At 13, my mum came to be nervously. I could tell something was up. ‘Kati, I’d like to have a word with you’. She gulped anxiously. Whatever she was going to say, it was a big thing. Cue a drumroll…. ‘Do… you…erm… know…erm about… the birds and the bees’. She said the last five words as quickly as possible. There, she’d done it
‘Eeeeugh’, I said, squirming at the thought of discussing sex with my mother. It filled me with horror.
‘YES, of course I know all about it!’ I exclaimed incredulously.
And THAT was the extent of my sex ed, at least from my parents.
My knowledge of childbirth was equally as sparse. My mum had told me it was the worst thing ever and I vaguely remember watching a video at school of a woman giving birth on her back in a hospital bed. Perhaps this was designed to put us off having children, at least for the foreseeable future. I had no idea how birth works or what I could do to make it happen more effectively.
In 2011, I was pregnant for the first time. I was petrified. But seeing a video of a woman giving birth using self-hypnosis, changed everything for me. I was astounded. She was calm. She was focused. She was in control. And incidentally, she wasn’t on her back on a hospital bed. I was amazed. I had never seen this before. My teacher assured me I could give birth in this way too, even though it was my first baby.
I wanted to know what this woman had done to prepare for birth. Why was her birth different from the births of other women I’d seen giving birth on TV? I saw more videos of women giving birth in this way. I realised her experience wasn’t unique. These women knew something I had yet to find out.
The answer; they were birthing without fear. They were trusted to give birth by those around them. They were allowing their bodies to do what they were designed to do. They were switching off their ‘thinking brain’ and allowing their ‘mammalian brain’ to do the talking. They were allowing their bodies’ own pain relieving endorphins (much stronger than morphine) to flood the body enabling them to manage the sensations.
Mainstream education on birth is more about how we can survive it and what drugs we can use to numb the sensations rather than how we can support ourselves to have better and safer experiences.
We need to know more about childbirth and more about our bodies. We need to know how birth works, what environments are conducive to the birthing process, how we can encourage the hormones responsible for the progression of labour, how we can prevent tearing, how can our birth partners work in harmony with us to encourage the birth process to work more effectively and what mind tricks can we use to manage the sensations.
The problem is, we don’t know what we don’t know. Most people don’t know that learning how birth works will help in our quest to give birth naturally. We really do expect our ordinary mainstream antenatal classes to tell us everything we need to know and sadly, the system just isn’t set up like that.
If you’d like to know more about how you can prepare for a calm, confident birth where you are in-control, feel free to contact me. I run KG Hypnobirthing and birth empowerment classes for mums to be and your partners in Manchester, Cheshire, Stockport and worldwide via Skype.