One of the things I hear most often when I am talking to people about what I do is “Wow! I could never do that; I wouldn’t even know how to have a natural birth! It seems so painful and difficult and scary.”
Did you notice those last three words? Helping women face and understand their fears about birth is a huge part of a doula's job. I hear from many women that they are afraid it will be too painful, that it will be too hard, or that they simply can’t do it. They are scared. And you know what? That’s ok. Scared is normal. But it doesn’t need to stop you from giving birth naturally, if that is what you want to do.
Here are a few simple things you can do to improve your chances of having a successful natural birth, even if you're afraid that you can't do it.
Learn What Natural Birth Really Looks Like
The truth is that most people have never seen or experienced a natural birth before. When all you get from movies, TV, and internet memes is horror stories about screaming women threatening to kill their partners and begging for drugs, you are facing a really upsetting unknown.
But the way we describe birth in media and entertainment is not the only story out there about birth. If you’re interested in natural birth but scared that you can’t do it, my strongest recommendation to you is to spend some time checking out what real natural birth looks like!
Ten years ago this was really hard to do if you weren’t a birth worker of some kind but today, thanks to YouTube and similar sharing sites, it’s easy to find real, genuine video of normal women just like you giving birth to their babies, peacefully and joyfully.
Be Prepared: Make a Plan for Natural Birth
If you want to attempt to have a natural birth, it’s wise to plan for success. Making a birth plan is a good way for you to understand your hopes and goals for your birth experience and also to think through possible contingencies and emergencies while you have time to think, research, and process.
It’s important to remember that a birth plan is not a guarantee of a specific outcome. You may find that what sounded good on paper isn’t what you really want when active labor begins, or that the circumstances of your birth may not be exactly what you planned. However, much of the benefit of making a birth plan is the fact that it allows you to feel ready and prepared for the process of having a natural birth. Your doula can help you with your birth plan by talking through your options and answering any questions you may have.
Get a Team Together
Education and preparation are two of the most important tools to bring with you into your birthing space. We’ve left one of the most critical tools for last: a supportive birthing team.
From your medical caregivers to your partner, family, and friends, to your doula if you choose to have one -- each member of your birthing team is there to help you do what might feel like the impossible. Each one has a different job and a different role, but each one should be there with the goal of helping you succeed. This is never more important than when you are scared and not sure that you can do it.
Remember, It’s Normal to Have Some Anxiety
When you are getting ready to have a baby, being scared is part of the normal range of emotions that everyone experiences. You are facing a big, important, and life-changing unknown, even if this isn’t your first baby!
Giving yourself space to be nervous about what’s coming is an important part of self-care during your pregnancy. However, if you feel that you are anxious or frightened in a way that is interfering with your day to day life, if you have a sense of dread or impending doom about your birth, or if you have feelings of anxiety or panic that do not go away you may be experiencing symptoms of a prenatal anxiety disorder and should speak with your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.
Are you preparing for a natural birth? What are you doing to get ready? Share your best tips in the comments!