Many women fear dying in childbirth. Their family, spouses, partners, and friends may carry this fear for them, too. In fact, if you ask most women why they choose to go to the hospital to birth their baby, they will say, “In case something goes wrong…. you know…”, delicately skirting their fear of dying in childbirth.
Most people in my generation grew up with the theory that hospitals are a safer place to give birth. We heard stories from our parents, grandparents, and news media addressing the subject of women dying in childbirth. We heard how cesarean sections (surgical birth), forceps, medication all saved babies and mother’s lives. In fact, there are some situations where medical intervention was necessary and potentially saved a life. Many did not — but gave the illusion of safety.
However, what if women were to consciously, pro-actively, and fully acknowledge there is a part of them that will die in childbirth? Life cycles generally involve a death, or transformation in order to reach the next phase of the cycle. At conception, a sperm and egg form into what will become a baby. When we plant a seed, it grows into a plant. In the seasons, leaves die and fall to the ground, winter comes, and eventually, spring marches forth with new life. Many religions consider baptism to be a “dying” to a former way of life.
Becoming a mother through pregnancy and childbirth does involve the death of some things. Your body changes in ways it never has before. Breasts become capable of nourishing a baby. Organs are transformed and shifted around in the body for the new growing life. Bonding begins before ever lying eyes on your baby. Major emotional, hormonal, and physical changes occur.
This involves, in a sense, a dying to who you were before pregnancy and birth. A woman’s focus will be riveted towards her pregnancy and baby. The focus shifts from herself, or her work, spouse, etc., to the little person who will now hold her heart.
It is easy to transmute this fear of dying to your former life and ways into a fear of physical death through birth. Most of us have grown up in a society where good parenting is emphasized and we fear that if we acknowledge there will be changes to our personality and focus, that somehow it demonstrates a lessened or sour desire for children. We may fear we are a bad parent if there is any question, doubt, fear, anxiety about bringing a life into the world and then caring for it. Being a good parent and loving our baby does not have to eschew all acknowledgment of the changes that will take place. It can be as simple as juggling diaper bags, nursing, and a car seat in order to run an errand vs. hopping in the car by yourself. It can be as serious as caring for a child with disabilities. Acknowledging these changes and the emotions that are attached to the changes can ultimately help a woman to have a more peaceful and tranquil pregnancy and birth.
Fear of the unknown. Honor the feelings by journaling, talking to family and friends, a counselor, educating yourself, meditating, praying — they will not be as scary or consuming when you are familiar and ready for your emotions, even if it is fear.
All Rights reserved, Kimberly Sebeck, Knoxville Doula 2010