How I’m overcoming my fear of childbirthJanuary 24, 2017
I wouldn’t say I’m a sceptic – I have a few too many Pollyanna moments for that – but I’m definitely prone to the odd eye-roll, side eye and eyebrow raise. There are just some things that just aren’t for me. Simple as that. I’m sure you’re the same.
Over two years ago, when I was pregnant with Phoebe, I coerced my husband into attending a two-hour workshop on yoga breathing and hypnobirthing. About 12 couples sat in a circle, trying different pain relief techniques, from visualisation (“Imagine your uterus rising up like a hot air balloon”) to massage (which involved the women getting on all-fours while the husbands kneeled behind them, as the bloke next to us said “That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.”). At one point my husband had a nap on a yoga mat.
We then had a truly mortifying discussion about perineum massage, where one keen couple massively overshared about what oil they were using and told us about a gadget they’d bought on Amazon to help re-train the wife’s pelvic floor after delivery.
The instructor asked us to raise our hands if we were hoping for a drug-free birth, and everyone in the room dutifully (smugly, I felt) put their hands up. I didn’t. She looked at me quizzically, head tilted. “I haven’t decided yet, and don’t want to set myself up for disappointment” I explained. “If I need drugs, I’ll take drugs”.
We left the studio, both rather pale, eye muscles strained from rolling.
Not for us. These are not our people.
Since then some good friends who have had amazing experiences with hypnobirthing, but it has always felt very ‘other’ to me. A bit ‘knit your own yoghurt’. I’ve also been added to pregnancy Facebook groups where judging about having multiple scans and taking pain relief drugs is rife, bordering on shaming expectant mothers. I swiftly left them.
Phoebe’s birth (you can read about it here) was pretty awesome, by my standards. I was induced when my body was ready, had an epidural, read my Kindle, then pushed for half an hour and it was drama – and trauma – free. I felt contractions but no real pain.
I’m now 35 weeks pregnant, and am full of doubt. It hasn’t helped that my doctor has told me that I’m having a “very big baby”. Rational or not, I feel like I got off easy last time, and that my luck won’t last – basically, that I’m owed a shocker. And right or wrong, I’m not giving myself or my body credit for Phoebe’s birth because I didn’t really ‘suffer’. Don’t get me wrong, I feel no (ZERO) guilt about the lovely, lovely drugs, but part of me doesn’t really believe that I did it.
The other fear factor is going into labour naturally, and the subsequent pain. Because I was induced and quickly had an epidural, the unknown factor of waters breaking, contractions starting at home and so on, scares me. The control freak in me is on high alert.
The last week I had a coffee with the team at Malaak, including the woman, the legend, Cecile de Scally, who joined the baby care and pregnancy education experts last year. I’ve had countless friends sing the praises of midwife Cecile, who has been by their side for everything from tragic miscarriage to colicky babies, seemingly impossible breastfeeding to sleepless nights.
Warm, straightforward and full of sensible, good advice that really resonated with me, I left the café feeling like I’d met someone who could help me with my fears.
We had talked briefly about hypnobirthing, and Cecile explained that lots of women felt the same as me; this was something for other people. The name puts them off. Expectant mothers don’t like the idea of not being in control. It’s much better, therefore, to think of the techniques as part of an active, intuitive birth that your body and baby are capable of. No-one is going to get a pocket watch out and dangle it in front of your face, before demanding you cluck like a chicken and sign away your life savings. So forget about the phrase hypnobirthing. Think about the word ‘intuitive’ instead.
A few days later I revisited a book that I used before and after our daughter’s birth. I thought it was just about routines – which worked brilliantly for us – but reading it from the beginning I remembered all of the other advice, from swaddling to sleep training. I remembered just how much was involved in the care of a newborn, and I got overwhelmed, having a bit of a cry. “And I have to go through the birth before I even get to this bit!” I wailed at my husband, flinging the book down.
I needed a bit of help.
Earlier this week Cecile was able to come over to our house for a private session (pizza was ordered, we lounged on the sofa, and there was no stranger danger of a group class) where she promised to give me a bit of a confidence boost. To instil in me that I could do this. I’d done it before. I could do it again.
Over the next few hours we talked about my fears, how my husband could help during labour and she gave me some relatable tools to cope. Nothing felt abstract or alien. These are things I can do, things that will work. And even by acknowledging what I’m afraid of, saying my concerns out loud, they seemed less scary.
She taught me some breathing techniques, did some guided meditations with us, and read out some affirmations to use (some were worthy of an eye-roll, but there’s a whole page so at least four or five will fit your outlook – the ones that sat well with me included ‘I put all fear aside as I prepare for the birth of my baby’ and ‘I relax as we move quickly and easily through each stage of birth’). There was even an exercise to encourage labour to come on – which I’ll be saving for use in a few weeks.
Cecile is lovely. I want her to move in and take care of all of us. Because it was just us I didn’t feel self-conscious at any time, and was totally comfortable asking questions that have given me anxiety, or brought a lump to my throat.
Now it’s over to us. To familiarise ourselves with the breathing and exercises. To accept that this birth is going to happen, and it probably won’t be like the last time, and that’s okay, but it’s time to take some control and make informed decisions (which will likely include an epidural, in my case) and start looking forward to meeting our baby.
Malaak is a leading maternity nurse and babysitting agency offering pre/post natal support and education for families in the UAE. They are regulated by the Dubai Health Authority, and have a team of licensed DHA nurses, qualified babysitters and experienced midwives offering prenatal and hypno birthing classes, breastfeeding and sleep support, baby massage and stimulation classes as well as 24/7 maternity nurse and babysitting care for your little ones. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.malaak.me.