The Problem With Birth: E1 Anxiety & Fear
This is the script for episode one of our podcast; The Problem With Birth. If you would prefer to hear the audio you can check it out here https://anchor.fm/theproblemwithbirth or you can listen on your favorite podcast platform like Spotify or Apple Podcast. This episode contains brief profanity.
Hey everyone, welcome to The Problem With Birth. My name is Holly Clayburn and I'm your host. This is a podcast presented by East Texas Birth Co. It is a place where you can get evidenced based information, ask questions, submit topics, and listen to me talk my way through parenthood, pregnancy, postpartum, doula-ing and everything in between. Today I want to talk about what inspired this whole podcast, fear and anxiety in pregnancy and childbirth. Why is it that we always try to scare women about labor and giving birth? It's true that the pain of childbirth is unlike any other, but it's not so horrific that we need to blatantly and intentionally scare the daylights out of expectant moms. In a world where we are so determined to build women up... Why not start with birth?
If you know anything about me, my blog, or my business outside of this podcast then you'll know that I feel very strongly about educating people about birth and removing fear from the equation. If you don't know anything about me outside of this podcast, then you're gonna learn pretty quickly that I base a lot of my business philosophy on educating and empowering my clients and basically anyone who will listen to or read what I have to say. Anxiety surrounding birth is hands down one of the most common things that people come to me for, and why my first episode is intended to be the audible version of a weighted blanket.
Even if anxiety isn't something that you struggle with outside of pregnancy, it is pretty common during. You often have a lot of questions, and then end up with more opinions than answers. Anxiety in pregnancy isn't reserved for your first time, you can experience it any time, every time, and you're likely to experience some form of it, especially the closer you get to your due date. This is largely due to the fact that it's societies main goal to scare you when it comes to childbirth. Pretty much anywhere you turn, birth is portrayed as this absolutely horrific, and terrifying expereience when in reality FEAR is the biggest issue. When I first started training as a doula I learned of an amazing obstetrician, and his radical ideas and theory about childbirth. His name was Dr. Grantly Dick-Read and he theorized that childbirth isn't inherently painful, but that fear intensifies the pain. Now, I know what youre thinking... NOT PAINFUL? what the hell is he talking about... Just bear with me. Obviously no one is saying that birth is completely pain free, but his theory has been proven time and time again, and something I personally take as the gospel because it makes so much sense. According to him the fear or anxiety that a woman feels while in labor causes her body to react in a way that intensifies labor. When you are scared your 'flight or fight' response is triggered which in turn pumps your blood to your major organs first ( think heart, lungs, brain) therefor decreasing blood flow to your uterus and making that minor contraction feel as if its ripping through your body. He hypothesized that the pain women experience in labor is largely due to the fear of labor that is so rampant in our culture. To combat this fear he recommended preparing for labor through education, birth planning, and mental/emotional coaching. (Like maybe hiring a doula?)
I've talked about this theory a lot, I wrote an article on it (which if you've read then you might realize that this episode is largely based on that article) and I've talked at length about the crazy shit that people say to you when you're expecting, because there is so much merit in this theory, and I've experienced it first hand... Not only with myself but with my clients too. There has been this culture of fear created around childbirth , and it hasn't benefitted anybody. I'm really not sure how or why we got to this place, but I'm personally ready to burn that culture to the ground, normalize birth, and say fuck the fear mongering.
Your support circle and the things that people say to you really does effect your mental state surrounding birth. People absolutely lose their minds around pregnant women. It's like all manners go out the window when they see your belly and even if they are a total stranger, they JUST HAVE to ask you 900 personal questions, tell you their opinion, their horror story, or how you're absolutely insane for doing anything different than them. What a lot of people don't realize though is that so much of labor and birth is mental. You need have a good and positive mind set going into birth. Whatever choices you make, epidural, home birth, induction, VBAC, SOMEONE is going to have something negative to say about it and you know what that creates? DOUBT. And doubt drop kicks the door wide open for fear, and birth shouldn't ever be about fear. When you're about to give birth you need to be confident in the goals you set, and really believe in yourself, that is why a great support system is so crucial, and why so many women benefit from hiring a doula. Birth can be unpredictable, but it doesn't have to be scary. Knowledge, positivity, and support are your greatest assets for birth. Whether plans change because of the situation, or you just flat out change your mind about what you wanted for your birth, it's always helpful to know what to expect next. What choices lead to what outcome, and what options you have.
Now... There is a point in labor called transition that is the hardest, even with an epidural. This is typically when you dilate from around a 7 or 8 to a 10, when the pressure becomes more intense, and the point where most people get scared. Contractions are coming closer and closer together, you may feel nauseous or even vomit, you may have uncontrollable shakes as a side effect from the epidural around this point, and this may be the part where that doubt comes crashing through like the Kool Aid man. I've actually heard quite a lot of women have said that they truly felt like they were going to die during this stage because they didn't know what was going on. They didn't know it was coming, they didn't know what to expect, they didn't know how to cope, and they didn't have anyone to tell them that they were safe. If you replace that fear with knowledge and support then you can avoid spiraling, and instead feel comforted and grounded. This is the part where the team you constructed really matters. Who you let into your birthing space is sacred. You should only bring in those will will support your choices, and make you feel totally safe and at ease. Because It doesn't have to be scary, no matter what anyone tells you.
When I was pregnant with our second child I had a lot of anxiety about birth, and I knew that I wanted a vastly different experience than I had the first time around. The first time I felt like I wasn't in control of anything, that my opinion didn't matter, that educating me on what was going didn't matter, and I felt like I was a side show act for people to gawk at. It made me so anxious, and paranoid for my next birth. I was working as a medical assistant at that time and even though I knew a lot about pregnancy, and birth, one thing I didn't know that I was in control. That it was my birth experience, and I had the say in what happened to me. I became obsessed with watching birth videos of all kinds and would spend hours doing so. Just watching and obsessing over what my birth would be like, but never really doing anything healthy to channel that anxiety into something productive. I mean 6 years later I probably have that obsessiveness to thank for my career, but at the time it wasn't a good thing. I could fill an East Texas sky with the things that I wish I'd have known even when I thought I knew all. All the physiological knowledge I had didn't prepare me for the fact that I was belittled by nurses and bullied by the delivering OB for making choices that weren't textbook. I still didn't have the birth I had obsessed over for months. I actually unfortunately ended up with an extremely traumatic birth that took me years to recover from. That birth effected me so much that I carried that same anxiety into my third pregnancy. This time though, I finally knew the things I wished I'd have known then. I found a provider that I loved and who supported me, I cut out any and all negativity from my pregnancy and birthing space, I made decisions that created an environment in which I felt safe, and respected, I turned to a fellow doula for support, and most of all I dealt with that previous trauma before my daughter was born and it made a huge difference.
I started this podcast and I'm telling this story because I know 100% how much fear and anxiety can effect your birth. It is so important to have a positive mental state when it comes to your birth, and to remove any negativity from your birthing space. This is your birth and YOU are in control of that. Don't be afraid to hurt feelings and put yourself first. Your birth experience matters.
I can't tell you how your birth is going to go, I can't guarantee any outcomes, but I can educate and empower you. I can give you the confidence that society is so hell bent on stealing. So if anxiety or fear is something that you are tired of struggling with, if you want to give the mainstream fear mongering bullshit the finger, then here's a few things you can do to replace that anxiety with bravery.
First, tell yourself that you can do it. Whatever goal you set for your birth, say out loud that you can do it.
Next, let's change your vocabulary. If you change your vocabulary you can change your mind set. Don't speak about your birth negatively or in a way that makes you associate it with pain. Instead focus on the warm and fuzzy, oxytocin included high that comes with taking in that fresh baby scent... yeah y'all know what i'm talking about. Hypnobirthing is a great tool that you can use to really focus on changing the vocabulary around birth and using it to positively effect you.
While you're changing the way you talk about birth, go ahead and write down some birth affirmations. A birth affirmation is something positive that you can repeat to yourself or have others say to you over and over again for encouragement. It can be anything you want it to be... like "I can do anything for one minute." "These contractions aren't stronger than me because they are me", "I'm going to be able to sleep on my stomach again soon" or even "I have great hair and a killer butt." Literally anything that works to ease your mind and that you can repeat when labor starts. Making a birth playlist is also a great way to ease any anxieties. Play something soft and slow that makes you relax, or something fun and upbeat that makes you get up and dance, hell turn on eye of the tiger, run around the room like Rocky and get pumped up. Seriously. What. Ever. Works, I'm not judging.
Take absolute control of your birth. Make a plan. Hire a doula. Make your goals clear, and don't negotiate. This is your birth and your medical team works for you. If they aren't supportive, find another team. You can make the switch anytime, it's not too late.
Bllock out any negativity surrounding your decisions. Don't let anyone make you second guess yourself, and have a zero tolerance policy for scare tactics or horror stories. Be blunt if you have to, if someone isn't supporting your birth, don't discuss it with them and don't invite them into your birthing space.
Don't buy into the lies. Your friends birth experience isn't yours. Your mothers birth experience isn't yours. Just because some scenario happened to someone you know, doesn't mean that you are destined for the same scenario. Every body, every pregnancy, and every birth is different.
Lastly, you need to deal with any trauma from previous birth experiences. Know that this birth experience ISN'T that birth experience, again... Every birth is different, even for the same person. Know that there is no right way to deal with your trauma. Every person processes things differently, so you have to find the healthy way that works for you. Inform your provider and the rest of your team so that you can make a plan to tackle it together.
You don't have to be scared to give birth. You don't have to make the same choices that anyone else made. You don't have to have anyone present at your birth. You don't have to compromise. All you have to do is believe in yourself, and the choices that you are making.
We live in a society that thrives on creating chaos, instilling fear, stealing confidence and amplifying anxiety in pregnant women. We set them up for failure right from the very start by telling them that they aren't strong enough, capable enough, or worthy enough... and that is the problem with birth.
Thanks for listening! I hope that y'all enjoyed the first episode of The Problem With Birth.
If you did please be sure to subscribe on whatever platform youre listening on, rate 5 stars on apple podcast, and share on social media with anyone who you think might enjoy listening. If you have a question you want answered, or a topic that you'd like discussed you can submit those to the website theproblemwithbirth.com
Be sure to tune in next week for an all new episode discussing, The Problem With Birth.