First Step: Understanding Our Attitudes About Pregnancy and Birth

This is the first in a series of blogs that will help you prepare for and navigate through early pregnancy.

First, let’s look at what could influences our ideas about pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. Are we influenced by the stories that are told to us by the women of our family? Are our thoughts moulded by what we see in movies and read in books? Or, are our opinions formed when we hear from our friends about what they have experienced when they have their children? Is this how we learn about common maternity care practices in the area of the country where we live?  I’m sure that the answer is a combination of all of these factors.

The mind-body connection is very strong. Ingrained into our subconscious is the information that we’ve gathered about maternity care throughout our life. These stories can influence how we approach our own childbirth experience. Are we making our  childbirth choices  and decisions out of an emotional reaction instead of on solid evidence based facts?

Let’s say that our grandmother, mother, or aunts report that they had difficulty giving birth. This information may contribute to our feeling like we inherited being in a high-risk category for our pregnancy. This state of mind may influence the belief that birth is a disorder or an illness that sometimes goes well.

If we hear stories that birth went smoothly and that the moment was treated with reverence and celebration, we may come away with the correct notion that birth is an intense but joyful experience that sometimes require help from a care provider to return the process to the path of normal.

We may understand that childbirth is an experience worthy of being exciting about, looking forward to, and celebrating.

My family’s birth story is that Grandma delivered all of her 6 children, including a set of twin girls, on the kitchen table. I understand that this information my ruin dinner for some but in the 1920’s, in rural North Carolina, having your babies at home was the normal practice. The local family doctor attended to Grandma Nettie Mae. I am sure that preparing the space that had the best lighting and because the table was at a comfortable height for the doctor was why the kitchen was chosen as the “delivery room.” Grandma may have preferred to be in her own bed.

Jump to the time span of 1940 – 1950’s, Washington DC, at the Washington Hospital Center. My Mother labored by herself and was administered a medicated gas to inhale by facemask at the end of the 2nd stage of labor. The second stage is when she had  pushed her baby down low into her pelvis and right before my head was born. The medication put her to sleep. Mom reports that she remembers and felt all of the intensity of labor while alone in a maternity ward lined up in single beds with other laboring women. She doesn’t remember the blissful feeling of relief at the moment that I was born. She remembers being scared and alone. When Mom woke up a nurse handed her daughter to her. I had been born many hours before, had been given a bath and cleaned of all natural scents, dressed and wrapped in a blanket, with a belly full of formula.

Because I heard  my mother tell her story over and over,  I would play house with my sisters and I would pretend to wake up, after giving birth, and ask, “Where is my baby? Did I have a girl or a boy?”

The birth of my first child was more like my Mother’s experience than my Grandmothers. I would say that my birth was a much kinder experience than my Mother had. My first daughter was born in 1974. After her birth I contemplated the experience and I knew that there must be a better way to bring my kids into the world.

I did find a way that worked for me. My personal goal was to have the least amount of intervention necessary for each delivery while staying open to whatever my baby or me needed medically.

When we research and examine our belief system about childbirth we can determine what we automatically view as normal. Understanding  what we perceive as normal allows us to compare our pre-programmed views to what current research and experience now knows about the true nature of birth. We can then move forward and make informed decisions when choosing our maternity care providers and for creating the type of birth that is right for us.

I suggest that you watch the documentary  The Business of Being Born and research where to receive preconception counseling  and early pregnancy care in your area.

Sending my best to you,

Debra Day

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