Updated on February 20, 2016
When You’re Afraid of Giving Birth
This one is for all those moms to be out there. Whether you are pregnant with your first baby or adding a sibling to the mix, I’m pretty sure this will happen to you. It’s the “fear of giving birth” stage of pregnancy. Maybe fear isn’t the right word for it. Anxiety? Apprehension? Nervousness? Whatever you want to call it, it’s normal and it’s just a phase. Despite the fact that I’d argue most, if not all, pregnant women experience this, you don’t have to let it take you over. There are things you can do to help you work through this phase of pregnancy until it passes and is taken over by the “I’m so over pregnancy I’ll do anything to get this baby out” phase. I’m going to tell you what I did to get through this phase in the hopes that it might help you (or someone you know) get through it too.
What is the fear of giving birth phase and when does it happen? In a nutshell, it’s a phase during the third trimester of pregnancy where the idea of labour and simply going into labour is scary. Not that the whole thing isn’t just a little scary to begin with, especially the first time with so many unknowns. This is not about the human being that you’ll have in your arms after the whole labour part is over, but rather about the act of labour itself. For me, it hit right around week 32 of pregnancy both times. I fully expected that it would not happen the second time around, but it did (and I knew what I had gotten myself into and knew what it was going to be like that second time). It lasted 3-4 weeks and I’d describe it as fear when I was pregnant with The Heir, and anxiety when I was pregnant with Petit Prince. With The Heir it was all about the unknown. I was terrified of labour and birth. I felt like I would be capable, but for some reason wasn’t trusting myself. How would I know I was in labour? What happens if my water breaks when I’m not at home? What if I can’t do it? What if the pain is too much? With Petit Prince, it was more of an anxiety around going into labour (rather than labour itself). I worried that my water would break while King Dad was at work and he wouldn’t make it in time. I was anxious about not knowing precisely when labour would start.
How can you help yourself through this phase? Talk about it! I told King Dad about my fears and anxiety, and we talked about all kinds of potential scenarios and back up plans. That helped a lot. I also talked to a friend who had been through it all before. This was incredibly helpful. She didn’t tell me a horror story about birth, but instead told me that I could do it. That once it all started, it wouldn’t stop until my baby arrived, but that it would, in fact, stop. (It’s incredibly comforting to remember that labour is not going to go on forever.) She also told me what her husband said to her when she was in labour. She said (as many women do) that she didn’t think she could do it while in the throes of labour. His response? You’re already doing it. I LOVE that, and it’s something I tell all my pregnant friends. Just by being in labour, you’re already getting it done.
Do some research. I found it really helpful to read some pregnancy books, particularly the chapters on the stages of labour and possible interventions. Maybe you’re thinking it’s best not to fill your head with all the “what ifs” of labour and birth. Maybe you’re planning on having a natural labour and birth, and don’t feel like you need to know anything about the other options or possible interventions. I disagree. If you want a natural labour, it is in your best interest to read a bit about, and understand what might happen in the event things don’t go exactly as you’ve planned. Birth is nothing if not unpredictable. Maybe the idea of any interventions scares you. Face your fear head on. Read about it, talk to your health care provider about it, take some time to process it, and then move forward in your pregnancy with that knowledge. Knowledge is power after all.
Read some empowering birth stories. This is where one of my favourite places on the internet comes into play. Birth Without Fear. I found Birth Without Fear after a friend recommended it to me when I was around 35 weeks pregnant with The Heir. It’s a blog primarily, but it has become so much more than that. It’s a wonderful compendium of birth stories. Each one is unique and beautiful in its own right. Each one talks about how birth is an empowering experience. Each one will give you confidence in your own ability to make it through and be present in labour and birth, no matter how that happens for you.
Remember that all birth is birth. What do I mean by that? I mean that all modes of delivering a baby into this world ‘counts” as birth. You have given birth whether you’ve had a natural delivery at home or whether you’ve had a scheduled c-section. You have given birth whether you did so in a birthing tub or in a hospital bed. If you had an epidural or you had an emergency c-section. It is birth. This is taking a page out of Birth Without Fear, but all forms of bringing another human being into the world is birth.
Rest assured that this too shall pass. Take it in, understand that it’s a normal part of pregnancy, use that time to work through your fear and anxiety, and move through it with the confidence that you can go through labour no matter how that will play out for you. You’ll know you’ve made it through this phase when you’re so sick and tired of having swollen ankles, troll feet, and sleeping with a dozen extra pillows that you’d do anything (and I mean anything) to get that baby out!