The first time I ever had to take one of my children to the dentist for a cavity I was kind of freaking out. As she sat there I used all of my Doula skills to keep her (and myself) calm and distracted. Just before the dentist put the needle into her gums she said to my daughter "I'm going to use this to make your gums really really cold, let me know if it's too cold." She proceeded to give her the shot, and to my surprise my daughter didn't even wince! When the dentist pulled the needle out of my daughter's mouth she looked at the dentist and said "Boy that WAS really cold!" She wasn't afraid, no one told her to be.
Uhhhhm.....What in the world does this have to do with birth?!
When I say the word “birth” what's one word that comes to mind? I start all of my childbirth education classes by asking that question. As you can imagine, most of the answers are negative.
This is not to say that I don't get some answers that put birth in a positive light.
In general women don't look forward to their labor and delivery they just look forward to the baby. A lot of women are downright terrified! I've even heard "I wish I could just be knocked out like in the 50s and wake up to my baby lying next to me."
Why are we so afraid? We say things like "It can't be that bad, women have been doing it for thousands of years!" Yet we're still scared. It's our birth culture. It's the way we talk about birth. It's the way birth is portrayed in the media and talked about among women. Think about it...
Were you told scary stories during pregnancy by your friends and family? Women loooove to do this other women! In the words of Ina May Gaskin on the topic, it's just "bad manners".
Why does our culture do this to women?!
Why do women with easy, fast, simple, or beautiful births feel like they are bragging if they share their birth story?
Why do we shame a woman that says she wants a natural birth or a woman who says she enjoyed labor or is looking forward to her birth experience!?
So back to the dentist, what did that story have to do with birth? I wholeheartedly believe that if we didn't tell women horror stories going into birth that they could go into it with an open mind and an open heart. They could experience the sensations for themselves and call them what they would like. Much like the dentist referred to the needle as cold instead of as painful or pinching, maybe mothers would refer to childbirth as miraculous, beautiful, and exciting instead of painful. What if you weren't afraid of birth! What if no one told you to be?
You can make a change for yourself and for all women! Let's change our birth culture!
Seek out positive birth stories! Shut out the bad ones! Share your beautiful experiences without fear of making someone else "feel bad"!
We invite you to join us at Mother Rising for our birth story circle. Even if you don't have a birth story to share, please come and listen. Holding the space for women to tell birth stories is an important job.
We meet the fourth Tuesday of the month at 7 PM.
Shauna Rich, BS, LCCE
Co-Founder of Mother Rising Women's Studio