Facing your birth fears

Guest post by Therese Charvet
Birth Affirmation by whoiscece
Q. We are planning our first homebirth with our 2nd child due in February in a state that has laws preventing homebirth. I am so excited to not be in a hospital setting….but I am becoming consumed with fear. Fear that something is going to go wrong, that we’ll have to transport to the hospital for a c-section.

Fear of the baby being breech, fear of something…anything going wrong. I have a feeling that these fears may manifest into reality since I’m so worried about them. How do I get past these fears so I can have and enjoy and not worry about the ‘what if’s’? -Amber

Firstly, I want to honor you for your courage in choosing a homebirth despite the state laws and lack of support. Already you are showing your courage.

I also appreciate that you so openly disclosed the fears you are wrestling. Acknowledging your fears means they have less power over you than if they were unconscious and repressed.

Fear is a totally normal response to an impending birth anywhere you choose to have your baby. Truth is — babies sometimes die, mothers sometimes die. In the face of those possibilities, fear is to be expected. To choose to have a homebirth, especially in a state where midwives and homebirth are not legal, is doubly frightening for obvious reasons. But even in hospitals with highly trained medical professionals and all the fancy equipment, things can go wrong.

That is why giving birth is truly an “initiation rite.” It does indeed bring us face to face with our vulnerability and mortality. How you deal with the experience will either empower you or turn you into a victim. And it really IS your choice. So choose to be empowered, no matter what happens!

Pregnancy and birth are mysterious and there are many aspects of the process that are out of our control. However, there are a few things you do have control of as far as a good outcome, so it is important to take care of this basic business:

  • Take good care of your body, mind, emotions — good nutrition, avoiding things you should avoid (like cigarettes, drugs), make sure each day you are getting fresh air, exercise, healthful food and drink, activities that soothe and strengthen you (listening to music, spiritual centering practices, etc). Surround yourself with people that support your choices.
  • Find a practitioner (midwife, doctor) that you feel confident in, that you believe is competent, and you feel a good connection and sympatico with. Choose a birth setting where you feel comfortable, safe, empowered. If something happens and you lose confidence in the decision you initially made, don’t be afraid to change your mind.
  • Prepare yourself mentally, emotionally, and on the practical level for unexpected challenges (i.e. if something happens and you need to get to a hospital.) It’s important to talk this over with your midwife, find out what the ‘back up plan’ is, think it through, hold the possibility and how you might deal with it. Talk to other women who have had unexpected results and have made the best of it.

Once you’ve got these pieces in place, the challenge is to let go and trust, cultivating a positive attitude that no matter what happens, you will learn from it.

Fears are fantasies that may or may not happen. Choose not to live in fearful fantasy. Choose to live in the moment of each day.

Truth is, fears are fantasies that may or may not happen. Choose not to live in fearful fantasy. Choose to live in the moment of each day, in touch with how you feel, what’s happening with your body and your baby, the beauty of this Mother Earth where we live, the love you feel around you.

Meet the fearful fantasy with a positive fantasy of giving birth in a beautiful way. Write out some affirmations of trust and belief in yourself, in life, in the long history of the human race where women have given birth naturally throughout the ages. Post them around the house to remind you. Cultivate your inner-knowing so if you DO have a premonition that something is going awry, you will recognize and act on it.

Differentiate between your fears and this inner knowing by checking in with your body and baby every day, “feeling” how everything is A-OK. Then you will be able to tell when its not, and decide to change your plan if that’s what your gut says.

Don’t be too attached to a particular outcome. Trust that your back-up plan, if implemented, will be good enough if there are problems.

Here’s a book recommendation that might be helpful too: Birthing from Within by Pam England. She has a wonderful approach to dealing with fears and preparing for childbirth in a holistic way. I highly recommend it.

If you’ve got a non-medical question to Ask the Midwife, you can click here to email Therese. She’ll select a question every couple weeks to answer on the site. Remember, if you’ve got medical questions, you need to contact your care provider!

Comments on Facing your birth fears

  1. Great response, Therese. It helped me, too. I am also planning a homebirth. And the first thing I thought of when I read the question was to suggest Birthing from Within! It helped me tremendously with the birth of my first child. I find that if I am able to visualize and see in my mind's eye what I want, then it makes me feel like I CAN DO IT.

    I would also suggest reading positive birth stories, like the ones in Ina May Gaskin's book, or on the Mothering.com forums.

  2. The very night I wrote out my birth plan, specifying that I only wanted a c-section if absolutely necessary, my water broke and I ended up in the hospital. And, wouldn't you know, I had to have an emergency c-section. I just wanted to reassure Amber that, even if this happens, it's really not as terrible as you imagine it to be. I was scared of being in the hospital – I had never had any serious medical issues before – but the nurses and doctors made it very comfortable, and even though it didn't go as I planned, I've still got my beautiful baby.

  3. I am so sorry that the state you live in doesn't allow homebirths. To me that is so unfair and ridiculous. I wish you all the best in your birthing process. Trust in yourself, your body, your midwife and the birthing process.

  4. thanks! i've actually read birthing from within with my first child. i loaned it out and i'm in the process of getting it back. i defiantly catch myself when i start to think of the 'scary' situations, and try to turn my thinking around. i think if i were able to talk about things more openly a lot of my fears go away. Instead its like i have to spend this journey defending my choices and muffeling my fears because so many people here think "homebirth=unsafe" and if i show my fears to them then it will just confirm their skewed view. for now i'm just working on visualizing beautiful births and if preparing myself that things my not go as planned….and trying to convince myself it'll still be okay if that happens.

    • Can I ask just out of interest , why homebirthing is illegal ? Are you still able to find private midwives to help you or do you have to go it alone ? It’s not illegal where I live but also not very common in practice. Good luck with your impending arrival ! I have had 3 births all drug free ☺

  5. I actually have been keeping my mouth shut around my family about my planned home birth because they are super judgemental, etc but I heard two things recently that reinforced my desire to have an home birth (HBAC!)
    1. Supposedly, the hospital is no longer the SAFEST place to have a baby, because of the H1N1 outbreak. The article I read suggested, outside of home birth, to wait as long as possible before going to the hospital, and to check out as early as possible.
    2. A VP at my husband’s company has a good friend whose father is an OB-GYN, and this OB-GYN says the home birth is the best option for women! Never thought I’d hear an OB-GYN say that. 😮

    So, if you don’t already have it, I highly recommend reading Ina May Gaskin’s book… I think you’ll find the birth stories uplifting and empowering.

  6. I loved Birthing From Within so much that when we were choosing a childbirth education class, I chose someone trained by Pam England. I called it birth therapy, and loved the class!

  7. to Amber– if you DO change your mind and decide to have a hospital or birthing center birth, please remember that that doesn't make you any less brave or less of a person or a worse mother. it's easy in our competitive birthing culture these days to get carried away with that, but just really focus on what's right for you and the baby, and remember that you're not "giving in" if your birth doesn't go as planned. What's important is that a healthy mom and baby come out of it, so however you can go about making that happen is what matters 🙂

    Personally, I'd considered homebirth, but I didn't feel comfortable with the fact that MANA doesn't allow access to their safety (neonatal mortality rate) records, while the ACOG does. It's just who I am, I have to have seen all I possibly can in order to feel comfortable about it. Now, I'm looking forward to my water birth in the hospital and I'm at peace with my decision. Good luck finding peace with yours 🙂

  8. i'm currently studying to be a doula and i would encourage you to do research on the safety subject. many many studies have shown that when attended by a good midwife, homebirth is *as safe if not safer* then hospitals and you get the power of controlling the situation more. congrats to you! i would also recommend "gentle birth choices" (can't remember the author) and the movie "the business of being born" which is a documentary by ricki lake (with footage of her wonderful home birth and several others). if you're scared i would urge you to pick your midwife's brain as much as she lets you and see about getting a doula if at all possible. they make a BIG difference both physically and emotionally. if you can't afford one maybe ask a close female friend to read "the birth partner" a few times and promise to be with you for the whole thing. remember when researching that several published studies have lumped together ALL out-of-hospital births together, including the ones that happened in a taxi on the way. not all studies represent planned, well attended births under the supervision of midwives. i'm very proud of you and i know you'll do wonderfully. best of luck on your journey!

  9. I have fairly severe anxiety and what has helped me tremendously is Gentle Birth – they have pre-natal classes and an app you can download with meditations. It’s been a god send but my anxiety is still there – just more manageable now <3

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