When I was pregnant with my first daughter I wanted to learn everything I could about being pregnant. I wanted to be sure that I was doing all of the right things to nurture my baby. I wanted to know about my baby’s growth and development. I wanted to prepare for bringing my baby home. However, there was one part of the books, websites, and magazines that I would always skip. The section on labour and delivery.
I was seriously afraid of giving birth. I had seen all of the TV shows and movies where the lovely pregnant woman turns into a complete lunatic once her labour begins. She is not only in the worst pain imaginable, but she is angry and she wants to kill her husband for 'doing this to her'. On the other hand I was also terrified of having an epidural and medical interventions. I knew that I wanted to have a drug-free birth but I wasn’t sure how that was going to work. I honestly just wanted to avoid the topic altogether.
As my baby grew it was clear that I was going to eventually have to come up with a plan for her birth. One day, as I was reading “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” I saw a tiny paragraph about 'hypnobirthing'. It said that hypnosis could be used as a pain relief technique during labor and birth. That option really appealed to me. I started to research hypnobirthing. I read stories from women who had used hypnobirthing, and found out more about what the course had to offer. I was lucky to find out that there was an instructor that taught classes about five minutes away from my office. My husband and I took the hypnobirthing course and I was surprised to see that not only did the course teach us the actual technique, it taught me the cultural and historical reasons why I associated pain with birth, how fear during birth causes increased pain, and the importance of 'self-talk' and the language we use around birth.
My fear of birth and my fear of epidurals and medical interventions led me to look for a way to birth that made me feel empowered. For that I am grateful, and I look at my fear of giving birth as a gift. After the classes I felt very prepared both mentally and physically. I was no longer afraid of birthing my baby. I believed in myself and my ability to birth my baby. And when the time came, I was excited rather than fearful. One of the hypnobirthing affirmations I used was “I am so excited that my baby is finally coming to me”. And I was. I was more excited than fearful.
Pregnancy fears are common and I trust that there is a reason for them. You are now responsible for another life. Your life is changing dramatically whether it’s your first baby or your fifth! You may have fears about your body, your baby’s wellbeing, your mental health, how your life will change once the baby is born, finances, relationships, or birthing to name a few.
But keep in mind that the fear response was developed to help us. In the early days of humanity, we needed to have a very extreme fear response because we were facing a very dangerous world. And although we aren’t running away from predators anymore, fears are still here to tell us that something isn’t right. But we need to take the time to figure out what that something is, and what we can do about it. If we don’t do that we can get caught up in a cycle of chronic stress and our bodies suffer from the impact of the continual activation of the fight or flight response.
We cannot avoid stress completely, but it’s best to learn to manage our stress and fears. When we are pregnant, it’s especially important to assure that our stress response isn’t thrown into continual overdrive. There are many ways to decrease stress such as gentle exercise, meditation, rest, massage, reading, writing, affirmations… the list goes on.
But when you are dealing with fear, one thing that I have found helpful is to reframe your fear as a gift or a lesson. You can say to yourself “I know that life is always working for me. As such, I choose to see this fear as a gift. I am open to understanding what this fear is trying to teach me.” That alone may help you take the next step. You may realise that your fear is trying to tell you to take a break, or take a birthing course, or see your health care provider.
The important thing is that you do not allow yourself to get caught up in the cycle of fear. By reframing fear as a gift or a lesson you are setting yourself up to take control over your emotional response.
Have you had fears during your pregnancy? Can you reframe any of those pregnancy fears as a gift?