The Birthing Journey is all about sharing information and positive, incredible birth stories in the hope that others may experience the same joy and empowerment as I did. I have always found that, whenever I have had the privilege of speaking with an expectant mum one-on-one about how they’re feeling, and shared my experiences, they have been only too keen to know more. I have literally seen the fear and apprehension fade away in front of my eyes, replaced with excitement and empowerment.
When I first dared air this dream though, I was met on a number of occasions by comments from well-meaning friends indicating that I shouldn’t get women’s hopes up… i.e. what if it all doesn’t go to plan?
An old school friend, now a wonderful, passionate midwife, messaged me upon launching The Birthing Journey with words of encouragement but also, to be completely transparent with you, the following:
“I think it’s great to share positive experiences and I tell women in classes all the time to avoid horror stories. My only concern is that birth is a tricky situation that is more than attitude or planning. It’s biology and gene mix and I have seen women who think they are prepared for a calm birth not have one, for one reason or another, and their plan is shattered and it can lead down paths of post-natal depression etc.
I think it’s important to be happy with the care provider and have a basic plan in mind but be prepared to be flexible. And at the end of the day, be happy that you and your delicious newborn are safe and well.
It’s an incredible thing to be able to desire children, conceive and give birth. I learnt we don’t get pregnant to have a natural vaginal birth, we get pregnant to have a child and I hope whatever road gets us to our destination brings satisfaction.
I wish more women felt empowered and excited and confident in birth. Women are incredible! I have 4 gorgeous children all via natural vaginal birth and I loved every minute!”
I was so appreciative of her comments and am not naive enough to think that every single woman who reads my stories or follows my ‘tips’ will have an incredible birthing experience. It is absolutely my hope though. Sometimes it will be her own mind that prevents her from having the experience she so desires, sometimes her body. It may be circumstances and situations completely outside of her control. But I will say this. I will never support telling expectant women horror birth stories. And I 100% believe it is better to go into labour positive, excited, empowered and confident with clear intentions than it is to go in feeling fearful, anxious, worried, naive… even if things don’t end up going the way they were hoping. Is the ‘gap’ potentially larger, hence there is further to ‘fall’ and more disappointment to experience? Perhaps. But what about all of those who do experience incredible birth stories because of what they learned and applied, because of the peace and calm they allowed to guide them, because they drew upon their inner resources they never knew they possessed? The information I gained in my own research, and the experiences I had, are too great not to share.
Let me just share though that from within my own circle of friends I have known women to: tear from front to back, experience pre-eclampsia, have to fight for their own lives during and after birth, simply not dilate sufficiently for a natural birth, be left with a uterus paper-thin, go into premature labour… just to name a few. These women come from all different walks of life, some even themselves midwives/nurses. I know many women who have had traumatic birthing experiences and that’s one of the reasons I was so concerned myself before I took a proactive approach to learning about labour and made a decision to set myself up as best I could (again, I am so glad you’re here!). One of my closest friends even checked into hospital suspecting labour/contractions and it turned out that she had appendicitis… so out came both the appendix and her firstborn whilst she was under a general anesthetic… do you think that lined up with her ‘birth plan’? I mean, who could have even scripted that! Was she disappointed? Of course. But both her and her bub were safe and well.
I certainly don’t want you going into birth fearful but it is important to be open-minded enough to know that things can happen. Circumstances can change. “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This saying is adapted from a line in “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns and means that no matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. It is impossible to prepare for every scenario. Reality is that we can prepare and plan so much, but we still never know what life might throw at us. We can only control so much.
In my post titled Interventions – Are they Helpful or Hindering? I talk about the BRAN Method and how we are empowered to ask our medical professionals the following, when faced with an intervention:
Benefits – what are they?
Risk – what is it?
Alternatives – are there any?
No or not now – what if I said?
I’ll never forget my Calmbirth facilitator telling our class though that if it truly is an emergency, you’ll have no say anyway. They will do what needs to be done to keep both you and bub safe. We must always remember that they are the professionals, and as such, do deserve our trust and respect. Even when things don’t go the way we’d hoped.
I can’t stress this enough: Always, always, of the utmost importance is the health and wellbeing of both mum and bub. In the end, it doesn’t ‘matter’ how bub is born. If both you and your baby are safe, then that is a successful birth. Allow yourself to experience all the joy and ecstasy that new baby can bring you. What a miracle! (regardless of the style of birth). If it all doesn’t go according to your plan, please, I beg you: be kind to yourself. Focus on that gorgeous new bub of yours and the blessing and miracle they are. You are safe. Your bub is safe. Even in this day and age, I think many people forget or quite simply don’t realise how incredibly risky both pregnancy and labour still are.
If your birth experience was less than desirable, traumatic even, I’m so sorry. Allow yourself time to grieve. Acknowledge it and accept it. Like anything, of course it takes time. But try to focus on your bub, helping them to flourish, whilst being kind to and looking after yourself. Try not to dwell on what you didn’t get, but rather, what you did.
Seek professional support. Please don’t say everything’s fine if it’s not. There are people who will listen, walk through it with you, know what steps to help you take to move on successfully etc.
Never, ever compare. I couldn’t believe it when stepping into my first mother’s group, a room filled with 40 new mums and their bubs, and all anyone was talking about was their labour stories. Most of them competing about whose was worse than whose. For myself, given my birthing story, it was embarrassing and I largely kept quiet because a) it didn’t feel ‘grand’ enough but b) more importantly, I didn’t want anyone to feel less than or upset because they didn’t have the same experience as me. On the contrary though, if your experience wasn’t pleasant, the last thing you need is to be re-hashing it or having people say theirs was worse.
Perhaps there will be another opportunity for you to potentially have the birthing experience you so hoped for. That can be incredibly healing. But also, perhaps not (e.g. medically you may only be permitted C-sections for future births… but please note this is certainly not always a requirement just because your firstborn came via caesarean… more and more women are requesting a V-bac, vaginal birth after caesarean, and if this is safe for you then by all means go for it, working with your medical team). And as mentioned earlier, some of my friends just quite simply didn’t seem to be capable of dilating the necessary amount, even though they tried their hardest multiple times, and for this I have no explanation. We certainly won’t always have all the answers. Life is all about how we handle what it throws at us. Not always fair, but life nonetheless.