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Finding Peace in Pregnancy

We cannot overestimate how the media, our friends, television shows, and family members impact our thoughts and expectations of childbirth. We see women on television screaming in agony during labor or hooked up to IVs while lying in hospital beds, and we are reminded of pregnancy and childbirth stories shared by our friends, our sisters, or our mothers. And while labor may not be easy (it is called “labor” after all), it need not be feared.

ina-mays-guide-to-childbirthIt is unfortunate that mothers-to-be don’t hear beautiful birth stories of women who trust their bodies and let go of fear . . . who found a place of peace during pregnancy and birth. These stories — and these women — do exist.  It is time to turn off the cable shows, put aside Belly Laughs and What to Expect and listen to women who are willing to share their positive birthing experiences. Where to begin?

During my third pregnancy, I found Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.  The first half of this book is dedicated to the sharing of birth stories that embody gentle, natural childbirth.  It is comforting to hear so many women speak positively of their deliveries; it restores hope in the strength of women and trust in our bodies. It completely changed my feelings towards labor, and the result was that I embraced my third pregnancy without fear. I felt empowered and trusted my body to do what it was meant to do: birth babies.  There are movies, such as Orgasmic Birth, which show women having blissful birthing experiences. These are real women birthing without medications! While I feel I came across great books and films a bit late in my birthing years, I am happy to have discovered so many positive messages that I received graciously.

Below are a few books I highly recommend for pregnant women:
-    Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
-    The Complete Book of Pregnancy & Childbirth by Sheila Kitzinger
-    Hypnobirthing by Marie Morgan

Here are three films that may interest those seeking a natural childbirth:
-    Orgasmic Birth
-    The Business of Being Born
-    What Babies Want

DONA has a larger selection of recommended books that are required readings for all birthing doulas.  And for women who want to increase the likelihood of having a peaceful, positive birthing experience, I recommend you consider your “birthing team” very seriously. Are you at ease with your ob/gyn or midwife? Do you feel they listen to you and respect your wishes?  Are they available to answer your questions? Have you considered a birth doula? A birth doula is a wonderful person to have on your team as she brings experience, knowledge, and peacefulness to the delivery process. She will stay with you from the beginning of active labor until your child is born – most doctors are there only for the actual birth.

It is also fair to ask people to refrain from sharing upsetting or frightening childbirth stories with you – at least while you’re pregnant. Ask friends and family members to be considerate of how sensitive you are as you prepare for the birth of your own baby. You need not be fed more fear—we all know birth doesn’t always go according to plan–instead, you need to be nurtured, supported, and reassured that you too can have a positive pregnancy and birth experience.

For more information on gentle birthing options, please visit the Rhode Island Birth Network.

Kristen Kardos, MA Ed., and Kathy McGuigan, MSW, the co-founders of RI New Moms Connection, provide affordable, accessible pregnancy and new mom groups throughout Rhode Island. In “Tips for New Moms” they share their knowledge, resources, and helpful ideas for moms just beginning their journey into parenthood or moms who may need a little refresher.

Editor’s Note: Although “Tips for New Moms” is written with the new mom in mind–to support women in their journey through motherhood–it is certainly not the authors’ intention to exclude dads. Every new parent will find their tips, resources, and insights helpful. I invite all moms and dads to share ideas on how they manage their new role as a parent with Kidoinfo in the comments below.

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  • I think the comments in this section illustrate the fallacy of the natural birth = successful birth claim that natural birth proponents espouse. While I had three natural births myself, I believe that the best birth a woman can have is one in which she decides what interventions, if any, she will have. An empowered woman is much more likely to have a happy birthing experience and isn’t this what we should want for each other?

  • i had ideas about myself as an empowered no-drug birth giver. my big sister, who had given birth once without an epidural and once with, told me: would you like to be happy and be present/appreciate the moment of birth, or would you like to feel like you are being beaten up in a torture camp?

  • Katy, thank you! I opted to give birth in a hospital setting with an epidural and had a completely wonderful, comfortable, healthy and stress-free delivery. The epidural option in childbirth should not be ignored or denigrated by ANY women.

    For all the talk about “empowering” women in regard to the childbirth process out there, it’s continually frustrating for me to come across instances where proponents of the “natural” birthing style (i.e., without the use of medical assistance) insinuate that someone who chooses to deliver with an epidural and/or in a hospital is somehow less of an “authentic” mother.

    I’m not saying that it’s something I see in this article, but I do see it, and did see it during my pg a few years back, quite often.

  • Katy – I’m definitely not anti-epidural (I had one during the birth of my first son…a labor that lasted 35 hours!). I just wish there were more empowering messages being shared with women; and I wish I had been introduced to great books (like Ina May’s Guide) when I was pregnant with my first!

  • yay for happy, fearless mothers! but let’s also acknowledge the joy of pain relief. an epidural can work wonders to make your baby’s birthday more joyful.

  • Isn’t that book the best? I’ve read it every pregnancy and give it to my good friends when they become pregnant for the first time.