One of the most important aspects of preparing to give birth is preparing yourself mentally for the challenge of labor. Unfortunately, it’s very common for women to already feel discouraged and afraid of birth before they even become pregnant. It’s no wonder that women are fearful of labor when childbirth is portrayed as a painful medical emergency in TV shows and movies. Unfortunately, this culture of fear and distrust of childbirth can be exacerbated by well-meaning friends and relatives who eagerly share stories of their own negative birth experiences. Hearing and seeing negative birth stories over and over again can create a mental block and discourage women from imagining and manifesting a positive birth experience for themselves.
As a doula, I frequently work with clients who have never heard a positive birth story. Their friends and relatives have terrorized them with stories of 72-hour labors or emergency cesareans. Some women don’t have a friend or sister who can confidently tell them “I had a great birth experience. I felt safe, calm, and joyful bringing my baby into the world” or “I can’t wait to have my next baby! I rocked my first labor”. These women exist! There are millions of women in the world who have had beautiful, positive, and even orgasmic births.
Spending time throughout pregnancy listening to and reading positive birth stories can be an excellent activity that will allow you to approach your due date feeling prepared and confident in your ability to bring your baby into the world. Positive birth stories from real women are a resource that should be taken as seriously as any resources handed out by your midwife or OB/GYN. There is a real power in hearing positive birth stories from women who birthed before you.
Sometimes, drawing a boundary with overbearing friends and family during pregnancy can be an excellent choice. It’s okay to say: “Thank you for being willing to share your experience with me, but I’d like to hold off on hearing any more birth stories until after I’m able to experience birth on my own.” Preparing yourself mentally for labor and the postpartum period is just as important as preparing yourself physically, and there are times when drawing a boundary is necessary in order to preserve your mental health.
There are tons of resources out there for moms-to-be who are looking for positive birth stories. There are books, podcasts, and online resources. I’ve listed a few of my favorite positive birth story resources here:
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
Tree of Life: Stories of Birth by Diane Gregg
Natural Birth Stories: The Real Mom's Guide to an Empowering Natural Birth by Shannon Brown
The Birth Hour- A Birth Story Podcast
Birth Stories in Color