Every woman who's holding that positive pregnancy test in her hands knows this feeling. It hides somewhere deep in your belly and slowly creeps up towards your chest, moving higher into your throat and then finds a home in your mind where it can take over more and more space: the fear of the unknown of pregnancy and birth. It makes us ask lots of 'what if' questions to which we find no certain answers and because we know little, or have never been in the situation before, we feel a little lost. Unsure where to look for 'safety', what to do to make us feel more in control. Where to start?
First things' first: Pregnancy and birth holds risks, always. (Argh, there it is again...the fear!) It is impossible to remove risk, whichever way you choose to care for yourself and your baby during pregnancy and birth. If anyone tells you different then they're not honest with you. But you know what? Feeling fear is OK, it is normal, entirely understandable and can be a great motor behind our preparation. It just depends on how we deal with it. Shut down, close our eyes, hope for the best or take it on as one of the most exciting challenges in our life?
Our preparation for the great adventure of parenthood begins as our baby grows inside our bellies, always reminding us that essentially, we're not in control of what is going to happen. Instead, our role is to trust, to hope and to do what we can to understand what is happening inside us and to learn everything we can about the process of birth. How we can work together with our baby during labour, what makes it easier for us and as safe as reasonably possible without unnecessarily intervening in the natural process that birth is. From the moment your baby is born you will be asked to make decisions for your child as parents and your pregnancy gives you the opportunity to practice making informed decisions, one's YOU feel comfortable with. Because that's what you'd like to do as a parent, right? So to do that you need to do two things and that's firstly embracing the things that make you feel scared ('I'm ready, bring it on!') and secondly informing yourself from more than one reliable source (don't just rely on your careprovider) on everything that influences your pregnancy and birth. Understand 'risk' in your own terms. Knowledge is power, knowledge puts things into perspective, knowledge is one kickass tool to send that feeling of fear right back to where it came from! It places us in the driver seat rather than being a mere passenger on this emotional rollercoaster that pregnancy and birth can be. Own it, woman!
Remember, it is ok to feel a degree of fear, especially as we approach birth. You don't know how things are going to unfold or when, or what it will feel like if it's your first baby so being completely free of fear would be unnatural and possibly also complacent. Because birth is always going to take us to new limits, heights, places we've not been before and wants to be respected. By being honest with yourself, equipping yourself with knowledge (also about interventions, things that scare you!!) birth coping techniques, surrounding yourself with positive support and embracing how the unknown of pregnancy and birth as an OPPORTUNITY to grow you are giving yourself the best chance of a positive experience. It's true! There is of course another option, you could call it in fact an emotional 'safety net', which is to hire a doula who will help you (and your partner) to work with any feelings of fear and get you to that 'sweet spot' of emotional readiness as you approach birth...so if you are a pregnant Coastie woman and have that niggly feeling of fear in your belly we should chat. I'm always offering an obligation free Meet & Greet so there's nothing to loose, only to learn!
Julia MacLeod is an experienced birth & postnatal doula who supports families across the Central Coast during their pregnancy and birth journeys. She is passionate about women and their partners feeling supported, prepared and cared for during one of the biggest transitions in life that birth is.