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Belief structures affecting childbirth

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hey, I was just thinking about this (again!). I have a book called "Birthing from Within" that I initially thought was a great book but now...

In it there is something eye catching that says birth/labour is HARD work but everyone can do it.. well I had this going around in my head for my first pregnancy like a broken record. It would spring up at some weird time then disappear before I could really question it or think about it.

Now, I didn't subscribe to the "birth is painful" 'fact' that seems to be going around civilised societies in my first pregnancy and I did not find my birth to be painful... BUT I did find it to be HARD WORK!

So now I'm thinking huh.. birth can be what I want it to be. Birth is easy, pleasurable and fun! But then that got me thinking. I don't want it to be TOO easy! I want to experience it too! So I'm kind of stuck on this one. I'm not sure what to believe - meaning, I'm not sure what I want to believe! Did that make sense? I want to feel the contractions, I want to need to move around and change positions? Why? I don't know hehe I guess I want to 'labour'. But I don't want it to be hard work. Writing this has given me some ideas so I'm just going to go think for a bit now!

Has anyone noticed thoughts in pregnancy affecting their births? What do you want your next birth to be?
post #2 of 22
I haven't given birth yet, but I think I see your point...

Not long ago, I thought of myself as a runner. I sucked and was really slow, but I enjoyed running immensely because of the satisfaction I got out of going a bit farther, a bit faster, pushing myself just a bit more when I wanted to, or slacking off and enjoying a nice slow easy pace. During my runs, I would often lose track of how far I had gone, or sometimes even where I was, but I would always be aware of the sensation each time as my foot hit the ground, the muscles in my legs tightening with each step, the feeling of my lungs expanding and the sound of the wind in my ears.

Was running hard work? Well, yes because it made my body WORK, but no, because I ENJOYED the work. When I was in training for a race, I really liked the feeling of working towards that goal, knowing that at some point, I would have a reward for all of this "work" besides just the joy that my body felt when I ran.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I sort of plan to approach birth as though I'm in a race. I know that my body will go through quite a physical ordeal and it will be hard work, but just like when I was running, I will focus on my body, on every sensation as it happens, and just enjoy every minute of the marathon, knowing that at the end I will have a huge reward that I can't really get any other way.
post #3 of 22
Yeah, Birthing From Within is a great book in some ways, but there is this attitude that birth is ideally a certain way from everyone, you know, everyone needs a doula, everyone has to work hard to get the baby out, blah blah.

Anyway... yes, I agree with you that our belief systems significantly affect how things happen, but I cannot elaborate right now because the baby is fussing. Just wanted to get in that dig about Birthing From Within.
post #4 of 22
reading Birthing From Within introduced me to the concept of facing fears about birthing to deal with them and get them out of the way. Which is ultimately responsible for me discovering and embracing UC. So I definitely think it is a valuble book to me even though I don't subscribe to the authors opinions now like I did when I first read the book.

I also haven't given birth yet.

There are so many ways in which what and how we think affects our health, our bodies and our wellbeing. It would be impossible to pretend that our preconceived notions would have no effect on our labor and birth experiences. But with the information we have absorbed, and with previous experiences we have, how can we not form preconceived notions? Can all of those thoughts be undone?
post #5 of 22
quickening, i'm glad you brought this up, b/c it's something i've thought of too. and not having given birth before makes it such an unknown to try and find what my beliefs about it is and why i carry them. i realized early on in this pg that i believed that i needed to experience pain, difficulty and struggle during labor and birth and i was sooo grateful to have realized it early enough to address it. i thought i deserved those sensations and it would be less of a *birth* if i didn't have that...that having all that would make it more *real*. so now, well, i'm just not sure. i still think about it. i listen to my intuition that tells me what birth may be like for me and i listen when my friends and dh tell me that their intuition shows them that everything will go smoothly and without a hitch and they have every faith in me. but the pain or intensity thing is an interesting one for me. even though as a child, i wasn't sexually abused, i carry my sense of victimhood/childishness from an emotionally/physically abusive brother in my pelvis and being pregnant and the physical opening that is demanded to grow a babe seems to have allowed me to access these feelings. so i'm still in the process of actively processing feelings that i've tried to access for my adult life. i'm loving moving through it and lightening my load. this seems to be altering what i feel i deserve and why.

i'm really interested in hearing others thoughts on this. i think it would feed my process and help it continue to develop over the next couple months.

by the way, laura shanley also talks in her book about beliefs affecting outcomes if anyone is interested.
post #6 of 22
I personally love Birthing from Within much more than say, Ina May, for instance, who has a whole chapter on orgasmic birth. I think that talking too much about how wonderful and orgasmic birth can be can set women up for a rude awakening when they find that it is in fact painful and in fact hard work, and that doing XYZ isn't going to change that. Some women do have experiences that differ from what I would call the norm of a painful birth, but that is not in fact the norm and should not be another expectation that we have in our heads about what the "right" way to give birth is. For most women, pain is a fact of childbirth. And this is true all over the world, not just in western societies where women are laying on their backs in hospital beds or are terrified by their surroundings thus sinking them in a "fear-tension-pain" cycle.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quickening

So now I'm thinking huh.. birth can be what I want it to be. Birth is easy, pleasurable and fun! But then that got me thinking. I don't want it to be TOO easy! I want to experience it too! So I'm kind of stuck on this one. I'm not sure what to believe - meaning, I'm not sure what I want to believe! Did that make sense? I want to feel the contractions, I want to need to move around and change positions? Why? I don't know hehe I guess I want to 'labour'. But I don't want it to be hard work. Writing this has given me some ideas so I'm just going to go think for a bit now!

Has anyone noticed thoughts in pregnancy affecting their births? What do you want your next birth to be?
I agree that the experience itself is something I longed for with my births. I was fortunate to actually "feel" it with my second dd(uc).
I think there is a deep physiological place in a woman's mind that longs for the sensation of birth. It is a completion of the entire act of birth. I feel that the whole event begins with conception, and ends with delivery and recovery. Meaning that from the start of the pregnancy, my body and mind unconciously prepare for the end of the event. I choose to embrace this whole experience and become literally part of my body's naturally expressive self. This can make the birth intense but letting myself become aware and enjoy what is really happening, and this includes the powerfulness of it all, completes me.
Jeannine Pavarti Baker said "we have no legacy of childbirth."We have nothing to compare it to. We have no one to follow in our families, no one personal who can pass down from generation to generation the facts of life. This is a shortcoming in our society and the act of birth has become almost unlearned.
It seems it is up to us to begin again the true journey of birth.
That was one of the main reasons we chose UC.
I want my children to look at childbirth as something as simple as anything else that happens naturally in life.
My next birth will be just as my last. Simple and worth every ounce of energy I put into it.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by tsfairy
Was running hard work? Well, yes because it made my body WORK, but no, because I ENJOYED the work. When I was in training for a race, I really liked the feeling of working towards that goal, knowing that at some point, I would have a reward for all of this "work" besides just the joy that my body felt when I ran.

I think what I'm trying to say is that I sort of plan to approach birth as though I'm in a race. I know that my body will go through quite a physical ordeal and it will be hard work, but just like when I was running, I will focus on my body, on every sensation as it happens, and just enjoy every minute of the marathon, knowing that at the end I will have a huge reward that I can't really get any other way.

Heidi, I totally identify with that... even though I have given birth twice and you haven't! I always tell women that want to know 'what it's like' that its amazing and exhilirating... like running a marathon or climbing a mountain. It CAN BE very hard work.. it CAN BE very painful.. but it depends on the woman, the situation, the preparation and education that went into it.

I think this is such a fascinating subject too. I agree with Blue Violet, no one needs to be set up for disappointment or over-the-top expectations that will leave them feeling like they somehow failed even if they ended up with a beautiful baby. I think it's really important for women to hear positive birth stories because I think it opens their minds to the possibility of a better experience than.. whomever, their mother, sister, friend. And if they start thinking, maybe they'll find threads like this and really take the time to embrace another perspective on the possiblities of birth as an empowering, healing experience.

I wish more women were able to pinpoint, for others, what they felt made the difference for them in their experiences (like we do here).

It seems like to me that no matter how well my births have gone compared to my birth plan, or the births of friends (or strangers, for that matter), I'm always wanting more from the experience, and that's what led me to UC. I think it's the only way I'll be able to fully experience every aspect of it without the frustration and distraction of nurses, hospitals, visitors.. even midwives, God bless them.

But more back on subject, as far as how much the experience is what we make of it, or what we believe it will or will not be, one midwife I had believed that mothers went through exactly as much pain as they needed to go through to help them 'become' a mother... to realize that it was not about them anymore.. it was all about the baby, and one way or the other, that baby WAS COMING OUT. To realize that she had to give in completely to what her body needed to do whether it was what she necessarily wanted or not. Bring her to the end of any remaining selfishness. In her mind, that explained the wide spectrum of experience she witnessed in her work. I don't know if I agree with that or not, though.

lizzie
post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by amyjeans
I think there is a deep physiological place in a woman's mind that longs for the sensation of birth. It is a completion of the entire act of birth. I feel that the whole event begins with conception, and ends with delivery and recovery. Meaning that from the start of the pregnancy, my body and mind unconciously prepare for the end of the event. I choose to embrace this whole experience and become literally part of my body's naturally expressive self.
Amyjean, I LOVE this! (bolding mine) What a beautiful way to view what so many women shudder in fear over.

lizzie
post #10 of 22
The birth process is almost universally ritually or clinically disturbed at least to some degree. (Michel Odent's theory is that this is because a stressful beginning to life is advantageous to aggressive societies.) And it's true that the more we disturb birth, the more painful it is likely to be. So I have a hard time with the notion that birth is inherently painful just because painful birth is the norm. And that is how it is presented in Birthing From Within -- Pam England writes, "It's important to realize that the pain and stress of normal labor are part of what keeps this natural process on track," the implication being that pain in birth is desirable and inherently a part of the normal process. I agree totally that to teach that birth can or should be orgasmic if you just do everything right is to set women up for failure. But the other extreme -- teaching women that birth not only is painful but should be painful to be biologically correct -- can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Like I said, though, I think the book is great in some ways, in fact one of the better birth books out there, and I often recommend it, especially to people who are on the fence between the technocratic and wholistic models of birth. It's such a fun and accessible book, packaged in a way that appeals to people in the stylistic mainstream as well as more alternative types. I really enjoyed reading it, myself. And there is a lot of really good information in it that's simply not available in the more mainstream books.
post #11 of 22
I love the whole "pain" concept.
Websters online dictionary defines pain as, " usually localized physical suffering associated with bodily disorder (as a disease or an injury); also : a basic bodily sensation induced by a noxious stimulus, received by naked nerve endings, characterized by physical discomfort (as pricking, throbbing, or aching), and typically leading to evasive action b : acute mental or emotional distress or suffering : GRIEF
3 plural : the throes of childbirth

Now- childbirth is neither an injury or an illness, so for the dictionary to state "the throes of childbirth" makes this a misnomer. I'm writing to Webster to correct this.

However, I digress...
The fact that pain is a result of injury or illness helped me come to terms with the fact that labor is not painful in the truest sense. Perception and preparation. I think its universal and individual, not just with childbirth.
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Yeah I think thats it - "simple".

The hard work I was referring to was in my mind, all that extra fuss with the hot towels on belly/back (it served to distract me when what I really needed was to be able to lose myself in the flow completely instead of being pulled back to the reality around me by those towels).

There was hard work too in trying to communicate with the others present at my birth actually, I had no need to communicate to them for the most part it was them that were trying to talk to me! Gah. It was hard work trying to concentrate on THEIR words.

If I had been left the f*** alone, I have the feeling that labour would be the experience that was what I am trying to get at now - an experience TO EXPERIENCE, but not hard, and not work, but simple and powerful.

I think I've got that figured out thanks to this thread : ) I'm going to add Labour is simple and powerful under my belief affirmation of Birth is easy! Birth is fun! Birth is enjoyable!

Previously I had a hard time swallowing the easy part but I did not want to put "birth is not hard" because to me that is more negative than positive. Maybe I'll change easy to simple. That should do it!
post #13 of 22
wow. thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts on this. it's helping me find myself amidst all the slivers of cultural conditioning that creep in no matter how much time has passed since i started noticing it. i'll have to read this thread the next few times i come to the computer b/c i know i'll get more out of it as i have time to digest it.

the wisdom of the uc-ers in this forum is constantly lovely to me.
post #14 of 22
Loving these thoughts!

Birth WAS painful for me, but I realized not long after that the pain I was experiencing was primarily the working-out of abuse issues as a child, my rape experience, etc.

Birth was CLEANSING for me.

I wouldn't trade that for any painless experience in the world!

I hope that my next birth (which I plan on having UC) will be how birth was meant to be.
post #15 of 22
Quickening -- thanks so much for starting this thread. This is something I've been thinking about, too. I want birth to be simple, but not SO simple that I feel like I didn't accomplish something or delve into my inner resources, I believe that birth can be without pain, but I do worry about being able to handle (or more acurrately LET GO admist) the intensity and the "power."
Here's an affirmation I've been using for months:
I believe I am fully capable and deserving of a gentle, easy, blissful, and pain-free birth.



I think I'm actually starting to believe it!
post #16 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hehe KateSt, your problem with too "simple" was my problem with too "easy". I think switching to the word simple helped get my head around it. Funny how we interpret language differently in our heads!
post #17 of 22
Yes, belief structure does affect birth.
When i birthed my ds 15 yrs. ago, I didn't trust my body. I had been abused thru my body with molestations and 'spankings' as a kid. The whole 23 hr. labor I was frozen in fear. (good girls don't wiggle!) I had a terrific painful waterbirth at home. It HURT! I recovered quickly. My body taught me all kinds of ways to trust it. I got to see the wisdom of this wonderful creation!

13 yrs. later-plus a couple different lifetimes (belief structures)...I birth at home underwater my dd. I undulate, rocking with the powerful contractions moaning. I send everyone away so I can focus and I completely concentrate and want to make no sound. I am amazed at my composure in such a frantic feeling, high energy, exciting time! I orgasm and it sends me into transition where I am amazed at the sensation. All the time, breathing deeply and forcefully through each contraction. The baby is already coming and dh is in the kitchen making gazpacho and the midwife is in the driveway. Dh comes to my call to catch and there she is. I will never forget the fullness and the slippery slide of her emergence! It was glorious!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by amyjeans
I think there is a deep physiological place in a woman's mind that longs for the sensation of birth. It is a completion of the entire act of birth. I feel that the whole event begins with conception, and ends with delivery and recovery.
I LOVE this!!!!!!
I would add that it's the completion of the act of procreation/sex and that it 'ends' with breastfeeding!
Bravo!
ENCORE!
post #18 of 22
I'm sure that our beliefs about birth can affect our experiences and perceptions, but I think it's probably somewhat naive to imply that that our preconcieved notions of birth will be primarily responsible for what we actually experience.

My mother and sister both had remarkably easy births, darn near painless (in some cases, utterly painless) and very fast. I grew up hearing about my mother's births, I was around for my sister's and I really had the impression that giving birth was work, but that it was not all that difficult and it was rather pleasant. I was sure that my birth would be the same way, that I'd have a few toning contractions in my ninth month and then I'd just push once or twice and out would come my baby boy. The reality was markedly different.

I think that if I had taken seriously the idea that it could be horrific, I may still not have believed it could happen to me but I would have been a lot more compassionate towards people who had had rotten birth experiences.
post #19 of 22
In relation to the OP... my birth experience for my UC was relatively painless. I just had to change position *slightly* to change the rushes from semi-uncomfortable, to less uncomfortable. But, I do think it was hard work, even though it wasn't painful. I wasn't tired at any point, really, but after a day or two, my whole body ACHED, and I take that as a sign that I did a lot of work.



elionwy~ sorry that you had a bad birth experience
post #20 of 22
This is a great thread. I have just started reading Birthing from Within so the comments are very relevant. While I also don't believe the whole "painful" myth, I suppose there are lots of things which can cause pain or make labor difficult, work, or something similar.

All those relatively recent childbirth reformers have really brought up lots of good issues too. Knowing what should happen physiologically so it doesn't scare or surprise you can be very helpful. You don't fight what you understand. Learning to relax the way childbirth prep classes often teach can also be helpful if you aren't doing some yoga or other practice which teaches relaxation so that you can listen to what your body says. Of course, like all the other UCers, I much prefer to do my own thing, listen to my own body, and not worry about what other people think, want, etc. during that time.

I also found that when I took Lamaze classes they didn't prepare me for the 2nd stage (pushing) because it was assumed that instinct would kick in and take care of it. That, of course, was the one place I had difficulty and had received no preparation (typical). Now that I know that may happen, I can learn and prepare in advance and then work with it by listening to my body. And I DID have one of those (nearly) painless births. Stage 1 was a breeze and actually felt good.

If I were you, I would not worry about it being painful or hard work. The reason that childbirth is so special (in my mind at least) is that it is such an incredibly beautiful event–giving life to another person. It is also intense in ways that can't be compromised by ease. Think about getting married. Yes, all the planning and even the wedding itself can be stressful and hard work. But it's not the ceremony which is hard work–the ceremony usually goes by within a few minutes and is quite simple. It remains indelible in our memories because of its importance in our lives and the tremendous meaning that we attach to it. Childbirth is the same way. There is no way that the EMOTIONAL intensity can be compromised and so ease might simply allow you to revel in the moment more. Of course, having to work hard won't compromise labor or delivery either. But definitely don't plan on pain. It may occur, but certainly doesn't have to and doesn't need to be on the level which our culture tells us it is.
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