…Or 41 years or 16 years or however long you’ve been a resident of Planet Earth. And you thought your cousin’s 24 hour long birth story was brutal! 😉
In all seriousness though…your birth is not an isolated event. It is the culmination of a lifetime full of stories, experiences, lessons, and beliefs. Have you ever heard things like…
“Women in our family have c-sections.”
“I was in labor with you for just five hours!”
“Oh, you’re going to try not to get an epidural? LOLOLOLOLOL. You’ll be screaming for it!”
“I’m not going to tell you about my birth experience because I don’t want to scare you.”
The world is our classroom. Stories are powerful. The stories we hear about life events growing up are how we make sense of the world as children, and if left unexamined, these beliefs stick around through adulthood. Common utterances we hear about birth have a profound effect on where we choose to birth, how we choose to birth, and with whom we surround ourselves.
From the quotes above a mom may assume that she can’t have a vaginal birth, or her labor is destined to be short, or that unmedicated birth is impossible, or that birth is terrifying. In fact, the longer she’s heard any of the these narratives, the more likely she is to hold it not as an assumption, but a fact.
But it’s even deeper than stories about birth! Have you ever heard things like…
“Play through the pain!”
“You have your period? You can stay home from school today.”
“You can’t count on anyone but yourself.”
“You stubbed your toe? Here, take an Advil.”
“Congratulations on coming in first place! Let me take you out for ice cream.”
You see, not only do our beliefs and assumptions about birth affect the way we birth our children, so do our ideas about how to handle pain, independence vs. dependence, the use of modern medicine, and which behaviors make us worthy and lovable.
When you peel back the various layers of what we have learned throughout our lives, you can see that the decisions you make during pregnancy and birth are one small piece of a very large puzzle.
Without awareness of the effects of old ideas, we are likely to follow a birthing path that was already laid out for us without giving it much thought, like walking in the dark toward a light in the distance. However, self examination can help moms and dads-to-be to put some distance between ingrained ideas and their self identity, giving them the freedom to hold on to that which serves them well and to release limiting beliefs. It’s like having your own flashlight you can shine around to explore for yourself, instead of only having one lit path to follow.
Knowledge is power. But I’m not talking about the kind of knowledge that tells you how many centimeters dilated a mom will be in early labor or which positions work best for pushing. Practical knowledge will serve you best when you are acquiring it through the lens of self knowledge.
Nikki Shaheed CD(DONA) Certified Birthing from Within Mentor