What's Worse Than the Pain of Birth

How many times in your life have you heard that childbirth is painful?  Most of us have grown up in a culture that primarily portrays childbirth in one light and one light only—as the most painful, terrible experience of one’s life.  How many times have you watched a scene on TV where a pregnant woman’s water breaks and it’s a full on emergency?  In fact, many aspects of being a woman are portrayed in a negative light in our society.  Were you ever told that sex would be painful? Or that sex is certainly not for female pleasure.  Or that having your period is horrible?  Our female body parts are so taboo that many women do not know what their reproductive system is or how it works.  Many of us grew up not being told about our female body, or using proper labels for our body parts.  It isn’t surprising, then, that many women are terrified of giving birth.  This fear often is hidden away behind the smiles and glow from the extra attention our culture gives to pregnant moms.  Pregnant women politely nod their head listening to all the negative birth stories and horrors of childbirth that perfect strangers feel perfectly comfortable sharing.  Pregnant moms don’t know how to react.  We all have a story of another woman over-sharing about a terrible birth experience.  Why?  Why don’t women talk about the positive aspects of birth, or their period, or any of the myriad unique aspects about being a woman?  Our male dominated society has affected how we think about what it is to be a woman.  We live in a culture where the very things that make us uniquely powerful and amazing have been disempowered and disrespected.  This saddens me and makes me scared for how my daughter will think of being a woman.  How many more generations of women can go through this? 

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Fear about childbirth is a symptom of a system that takes away the truth about birth.  The truth is that childbirth is, or can be, one of the most amazing, most powerful experiences of a woman’s life.  It is the moment of exhilaration, ecstasy, and ultimate empowerment.  Women deserve to be free from the negative illusions and propaganda about birth.  Women deserve the right to own their birth, to take it back, to see their birth in it’s full glory. 

Yes, this is a soapbox for sure.  But, it’s a worthy one.  I often find myself softening what I truly feel about birth and this negative system that we live in.   It’s scary when a woman speaks up.  I do consider myself a “birth activist.”  I spread the word to women that birth is special, and it’s worth fighting for.  Birth matters for women and for our future generations.  But, we live in a culture that isn’t set up to uplift birth as truly special for a woman, and we certainly don’t have a medical system that even understands birth.  Our hospitals are anti-birth centered.  There is nothing about the hospital experience that is in alignment with how women physiologically give birth.  Our hospitals are set up for doctors, not for women.  So yes, childbirth is painful, especially when faced with the many interventions and interruptions from the hospital system.  Childbirth barely has a chance to be positive and empowering unless a woman sets herself up with a care provider and birth team that is woman-centered, a team that listens to her wishes, understands her needs, and respects her and her body.  It is difficult to find this, but it is possible. 

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As females, we grow up with these negative stories and messaging that birth is painful.  We hold this within our bodies as we grow.  We lose innate trust in our bodies.  We lose connection with our bodies.  So, yes, childbirth is painful.  We have so much to undo, to unravel, to discover, and release.  If we taught our little girls that their bodies are important, that they matter, that they are special, and powerful, they wouldn’t need to overcome all the inner fear of birth—they wouldn’t even need to  take classes on childbirth!  Our children will already know all they need to know for their birth—that they are made for this. 

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On Feb 10, I will host my Labor Prep workshop.  During these workshops, I always ask expecting couples to think about their birth influences and where they come from?  Are they negative?  Positive?  What were the stories they heard growing up?  What was their own birth story?  This is the process of uncovering the layers of conditioning we’ve all gone through.  Once this has been brought to light, expecting couples can better understand how they’ve been influenced, and how to break free from the past negativity.  Fear lives in illusion.  The opposite of fear is trust.  Once trust of childbirth and the woman’s body is established, then a couple can truly tune into Love.  Love flows throughout an uninterrupted, protected birth.  A birthing woman will experience oxytocin, the love hormone, rushing through her body more than any other time in her life.  Fear holds us back and keeps us disconnected from our true nature.  With fear, birth hurts … really bad.  With trust, birth is a portal to another world.  Birth symbolizes a woman’s transcendence into Motherhood.  When we honor our female bodies, we honor birth.  When we open ourselves to trusting our bodies, we will feel the full realm of sensations—pain and pleasure of all levels. 

My deepest hope is that all women know the power of their bodies, that they are beautiful, unique, and special.  They deserve to be respected.  As a doula, and birth activist, I work to help pregnant women to shed their fears, to surround them with positive support, and to create a loving birth team, guiding them through this rite of passage.  It’s not about epidural vs. un-medicated.  This is about a woman releasing fears harbored since childhood about her body and birth, to allow her to know and trust her body and to birth without fear.