One of the first things many people think about when the word birth is mentioned is the word pain.
Pain is a word that, for many people, is synonymous with the word suffering. I think we can all agree that suffering is to be avoided at all costs in birth. Suffering crosses the threshold of what is acceptable in childbirth. But pain does not have to equal suffering. In an earlier Birthwhisperer post, Penny Simkin does a beautiful job describing the differences.
But pain is a unique experience for each of us. Women in labor express pain in different ways and have unique needs. Some like to be touched and talked to, others close themselves down, going inward to cope in their own ways, and both are normal.
How we perceive pain depends largely upon out attitudes about it. Do we see the work that our bodies are doing as a normal physiological process or do we see it as something to be feared and numbed from?
Birth, and the laborious process that brings forth a baby is an opportunity to gain insight into our strengths, and our faith in God. I am a Christian and I believe that God's marvelous and miraculous design is designed for our good and not our ruin.
Ask almost any woman about her birth and you will find that it can be one of the most empowering, wonderful events of a woman's life or one of the most devastating and disappointing. But rarely is it just another day.
Education, support and preparation are keys to a positive experience. Trusting God's design for our bodies and instincts will start us on the path to healthy and safe birth.
Pain is magnified by fear. When we feel fear, our bodies produce chemicals and hormones that work against the processes that help us birth safely. It can cause our muscles to tense up and it can cause our labors to slow down or stop. This is a vicious cycle that occurs when women enter a birth environment that feels threatening or unfamiliar. Anything that causes the mother's stress level to rise should be avoided in order to reduce the amount of suffering she experiences in birth. It is very important for her to be able to feel uninhibited, relaxed and at peace with what is happening and also who is present.
Pain can be greatly lessened by psychologically and spiritually preparing for the birth. For the woman who doesn't realize her options and that she has the right to be informed and make her own choices, birth can be a horrific ordeal. On the other hand, by asking questions and discussing her options and concerns a woman will feel like she is in control. In one study, this was the most important thing that women said made their birth experience more satisfactory. Interestingly, this was more important to women than the amount of pain they experienced, which may illustrate that women who feel in control are also less focused on pain.
Childbirth classes with a Lamaze certified childbirth educator can also help women avoid suffering by showing them how to work with the sensations of labor by using comfort measures that facilitate the birth rather than work against it, as some medical interventions do. Learning how to move, breathe and help your baby descend and move through your her pelvis can be a way that women work with their bodies, not against them. Many times, in hospitals, women are asked to assume positions and restrict their movement so that labor can become very painful. For example, when a woman is hooked up to an electronic fetal monitor, especially if it is an internal one, she may not be able to sit upright or walk around because the monitor might become displaced. If she is having "back labor" this could hamper her ability to get relief by getting on her hands and knees and rocking her pelvis.
The way that birth has become so technologically and medically managed may be why so many American women view pregnancy as a nuisance and birth as a painfully frightening ordeal. In addition, our attitudes about birth may reflect our unspoken feelings about our bodies and our sexuality. Think about the negative messages American society sends women about our bodies, pregnancy and birth.
Think about the ways that pregnancy and birth are often portrayed in the media.
What values have been passed down from our mothers and grandmothers about pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding?
Many of our mothers and grandmothers were victims of a terrifying ordeal in which they were not adequately prepared, were made to endure alone, were completely anesthetized, were without the loving support of husbands or doulas, and then were told that artificial baby milk was superior to their own. They were robbed, just like many women are today.
Think about the many lies that women have been, and are still being told.
"Once a cesarean, always a cesarean."
"Your baby is too big for you to push it out."
"You can't make enough milk."
"You must not gain more than 20lbs."
How can this legacy of fear and suffering be reversed?
Expectant mothers can take the time to explore their values and ask themselves "What do I need to happen in order to feel safe and cared for?" "How do I best deal with stress and how will I cope when things become challenging?"
The truth is that every birth, whether at home or in the hospital poses it's own set of risks. A woman should weight them all carefully and decide which environment is best suited to meet her unique needs. Many complications f pregnancy and birth can be prevented by good nutrition and a model of care that focuses on the woman's physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Midwives are the gold standard for this type of care.
Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee…..blessing of the breasts and of the womb.
Duet. 7:13 And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb…
Psalms 22:9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mothers breasts.
Psalms 22:10 I was cast upon thee form the womb: thou art my God from my mothers belly.
Psalms 27:14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thin heart: wait I say, on the LORD
Psalms 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Psalms 55:16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me.
55:22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Psalms 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Psalms 27:3 Lo children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Psalms 139:13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mothers womb.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Isaiah 44:2 Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee;…
Isaiah 66:9 Shall I bring to the birth and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,
Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according the power that worketh in us,
Isa 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
Psa 22:19 But be not thou far from me, O LORD: O my strength, haste thee to help me.
Psa 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.
Psa 29:11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.
Psa 118:14 The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.
Romans 12 :2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.