Time and time again, I have expecting mothers say to me, “I want to try to have a natural birth, but I’m a little scared of what it will be like. When I try talking to my friends and family about it, they don’t understand why I don’t want an epidural, why I would want to feel it all.”
When I ask the expecting mother why they want to try to have a natural birth, 9 times out of 10 their response is always the same. “I don’t really know; I just want the experience of it. You know, to really feel it all.”
I’ve often pondered this myself having personally had a wide range of birth experiences. My first was an induction with all the pain medication and interventions possible, my second born via an unexpected but necessary cesarean birth, my third a “failed” attempt at “going natural” but a successful VBAC nonetheless, and lastly, I had a quick and seemly effortless natural childbirth.
But with each pregnancy, I would be energized with the same charged desire to “go natural” and I too would experience the same underlying worry these women face.
"Can I do this?"
At times, it would feel so conflicting within me, a polarization of beliefs. I had such a deep urge to feel all of this and at the exact same time, I would become overwhelmingly terrified of what feeling “all of this” would be like. I would often ask myself things like, “Can I handle this? How am I going to cope?”
Haven given birth to my own four children, it wasn’t until I became a doula and spent nearly a decade deeply immersed in the world of birth that I began to truly understand the fear we experience around giving birth and how to dissolve it.
Why is it that birth is the most feared natural bodily function? Is it that we’re born with this fear already inside of us, or is it something we become programmed with socially through society? How is it that one person can experience a 100% pain-free childbirth and another not?
We could analyze peer-reviewed studies, the effectiveness of certain coping methods, or create info graphs full of statistics, but that’s not what I’m here to do today. In the age of information, I feel as though we’ve all had enough consumption, and to no real avail either.
As a birth worker, I’ve come to interpret fear around childbirth as one thing and one thing alone.
A Separation from Wisdom.
It’s not in the knowing but in the unknowing that we become most afraid. It’s when we feel primally called to follow our urges but continue to hear messages that say otherwise. It’s the stark contrast between being ever so fascinatingly drawn to exploring natural birth and seemingly paralyzed with uncontrollable worry when we think of our own impending birth.
These contradicting streams of thought have created our separation from wisdom. It’s when you sense an ancient, deeper truth pulsing through your veins that “this wasn’t designed to be hard”, yet as social creatures, we allow other people’s perceptions, ideas, and fears to determine how we think, feel, and behave.
It’s when we’re pulled in opposite directions that our energy becomes split, and we feel unable to fully commit to a path. We become lost, separated from our inner selves, separated from our wisdom.
If our bodies are meant to carry out all other bodily functions with little to no effort, aren’t we designed for childbirth to be experienced the same?
When I try to envision the first woman to have ever given birth on this planet, I can’t even begin to imagine her struggling. I imagine a radiant glow, energy flowing through her, a wise woman. I see her surrounded by the beauty of nature, mother to all.
Humanity, proving to be significantly older than all known religions and spiritual practices, must have a point of origin, right? A place of beginning. All religious beliefs aside, what must birth have originally been created to feel like? Before it was stained with stories, theories, or indoctrination?
"What must birth have originally been intended to feel like?"
I think about the many natural bodily functions we all experience every second of every day, some requiring more of our attention than others.
They have a level of simplicity and ease to their design, with most of us experiencing them as seemingly uneventful moments of our day.
When observing fellow primates, there is no anxiety or fear in them leading up to their birth. They do not sit in a stew of “what ifs”. There is an innate level of trust, a pearl of wisdom, lying just beneath their serene demeanor, a deep level of relaxation and calm.
It is this very wisdom, a distinct presence of stillness, that helps us to bridge the gap between our fears around childbirth and believing in an easier, gentler way. It’s in the tranquility of our minds that experiencing a more peaceful birthing experience is found, not in another book about natural childbirth or by adding more affirmation cards to our hospital bag.
It can’t be found outside of ourselves, for the wisdom to give birth is already inside of us, passed down for millennia from our ancestors.
From the way our pelvis expands, becoming movable in the last weeks of pregnancy to how our birth canal is designed like an accordion, unfolding layers of rugae, to how our cervix begins to open on its own when it hears its own timing, like a cosmic yawning mouth stretching wide for only a brief moment in time compared to how long humanity has been giving birth.
Wisdom doesn’t exist outside of ourselves.
It’s found in our bones and in our blood. It’s in things like our body’s ability to heal itself after a cut, an innate wisdom and birthright that I cannot imagine being afraid of.
Wisdom is the innate design, the cosmic knowing, the universal order of it all. It is a feeling, a pull toward a quiet knowing that already exists within us all. This is why so many of us feel called to birth naturally, even when we don’t fully understand how it’s possible.
We must set aside all the stories we’ve been told about birth to hear the quiet and gentle guidance of our wisdom. Fear-based stories have created a static within the fabric of our nervous system that has muffled our ability to remember just how effortless childbirth can be. It has muddied the waters of our courage, our wisdom, and our path for long enough.
As a birth doula, I’ve beared-witness to hundreds of women as they navigate their own way, and I can’t bring myself to believe that birth was originally designed to be anything short of magical, like how the first glance of an orange-painted sunrise takes your breath away or how hugging a long-lost friend again feels.
I walk alongside women as they step forth, one by one, to embark on their own unique journey into wisdom, each time trekking into a jungle of unlimited possibilities and experiences. A wilderness of unknown where the only tools that truly help them along the way are intangible.
It's things like courage, trust, intention, and wisdom that carve the clearest paths for them. Whether that’s in giving birth naturally, finding their way through motherhood, or in their later years rediscovering themselves as the crone, an archetypal figure and embodiment of the Wise woman.
It is in our own becoming that we find ourselves.