When I was pregnant with my son nine years ago, I remember being a little nervous about the process of actually giving birth. Hahahahaha, just kidding, I was petrified. While all the other pregnant women from my “new mums group” were gushing about the “natural, med-free birth” they dreamt of, I was like, “Holy hell, guys, this is gonna suck.”
Let’s talk about why it’s scary, shall we?
First of all, there’s the pain. We know it’s bad. We’ve seen the movies. The woman in labour is always screaming and cursing and sweating and crying. But if it’s our first pregnancy, we have no way of knowing how bad is bad. Is it like... recovering-from-wisdom-teeth-being-pulled bad? Because I had that done and it was no picnic.
Or maybe it’s like... broken toe bad? That also hurts. Part of the problem may have been that I hadn’t experienced a ton of really bad pain in my life. I thought I had a pretty high tolerance, but had it ever really been tested?
Also, how long will the pain last? A couple of hours? A full day? Will you end up with a C-section after all that useless laboring? Will all of the important parts of your body bounce back into position?
Plus, bad outcomes do happen. I’m not going to list all the unwanted outcomes because you’ve already visualised more of those possibilities than you could ever want or need. Is everything probably going to end well? Yes, we think so! But is it guaranteed? Well, no, it isn’t. And that’s not fair because there really should not be so many uncertainties with something so important.
The point is, it’s normal to feel this way
You are not a subpar parent-to-be if you can’t get into the “childbirth is natural and beautiful and our bodies are built for this” mindset. I mean, if you can, that’s amazing and you should definitely Go. With. That. But if you can’t, that just makes you like the rest of us — totally terrified and questioning one’s life decisions, whether we admit it out loud or try to bury it all deep down.
However you feel is very much ok. Erica Chidi Cohen, who is a doula and co-founder of Loom, writes for A Cup of Jo that it’s not only normal but also natural and healthy to have some solid childbirth fears. Luckily, she’s also got a few suggestions for alleviating them:
List your fears. Hey, we’ve already started doing this! Grab a pen and paper and starting adding your specific anxieties to the delightful list we’ve started right here (a doctor who doesn’t listen to your wishes, a premature birth, a 5kg baby, whatever).
Talk about it. This is the part we really suck at. Maybe we’re afraid to admit we’re scared because putting a voice to it might make it more real. Or maybe we want to appear stronger and we think our fears make us weak. But talking about it out loud can actually help to put things in perspective. And you need — and deserve — support.
Try meditation. If you already meditate, awesome. If you’ve always been curious but never got around to it, now is a great time to give it a shot. It can’t hurt.
Arm yourself with resources. You’ve already told a friend (good job!), but you still need more information and support. You may not want to take a childbirth class or read a bunch of books because you’re afraid it will make you more fearful, but if you go at your own pace to avoid becoming overwhelmed, it will help you prepare. Depending on your comfort level and preferences, you can take a class at your local hospital, meet with a childbirth educator one-on-one or take an online class.
Learn about pain management options. It is “natural” to birth a baby however you do it and regardless of whatever pain management techniques or medications you use. Know your options so you can be confident in choosing what’s best for you.
Consider hiring a doula. If you can afford to do so, a doula — which Cohen describes as “birth normalisers” — can be a wonderful support system and advocate for you throughout pregnancy, labour and delivery.
Read this book. Cohen suggests reading What No One Tells You: A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood, which addresses less of the “here’s how baby is developing” stuff and more of the “here’s what’s going on in your own head” stuff, which seems way more valuable during pregnancy.
If, after all that, you’re still pretty damn freaked out, it’s ok. It’s a big, beautiful, intense, amazing, terrifying thing you’re doing. And you’re not alone in feeling that way.