Friday, August 31, 2012

Childbirth Without Fear

I read the most amazing book. I heard several people who I have talked to, or whose blogs I have read, say that this was such a monumental book to them. I am starting to understand why. Forget about the typical ”What To Expect” books! THIS is the book I wish I had read when I first got pregnant, or even before. "Childbirth Without Fear" has helped me to completely rethink my attitude about my pregnancy, symptoms and suffering. Not to mention my baby's birth.

I really wish this book was more widely available. It is an old book, originally written in the 1940's, and revised and re-released in the 1950's. I was unable to find it at any of the libraries in Utah county (I checked with three). So, it's been on my amazon to buy list since I first got pregnant, but I continued to postpone shelling out $20 for it.

I just so happened upon a copy at my first Hypnobabies class last week (more on that in another post!). Thrilled, I checked it out of the ”library” and brought it home.

I devoured this book.

It is a little thick though. Grantly Dick Read was a British obstetrician in the early 1900's. Thus, there is some thick, old-fashioned wording involved, and some doctor-speak, if you will. But if you can slug through the slow parts, you will find the gems within.

The basic idea is that childbirth is a natural thing. Women have been successfully bearing children for ages. And if you look back in history, or even travel outside of our modern western civilization, childbirth is viewed as something other than what our society treats it as today - a disease. People here are afraid of giving birth. There are negative connotations to the processes of being pregnant and bringing a child into the world. This is continually reinforced by our society.

The problem with that is, it actually causes a lot more problems! Dr. Read discusses in his book the "Fear-Tension-Pain" cycle, which is what the body and mind of the average modern-day woman goes through when preparing for, and giving birth. When you are afraid - in general - what does your body do? Tense up. All those muscles, which are ready to spring into action, whether it be fight-or-flight. This is a normal physical response, and it saved many lives when our ancestors faced predators and mortal danger. But what happens to a woman who is in labor, who is anticipating all the horrible things she was raised to believe she is going to experience, and whose muscles are trying to do two separate things (push a baby out, and tense up every muscle in her body so that she can fight or run away)? It causes pain. It can also slow down the birth process. Ever watched an animal giving birth? We had horses and cats growing up. They always waited until they were able to retreat to a safe, secure place before their bodies would allow their offspring to be born. We humans aren't all that different, biologically speaking.

The main theory Dr. Read has is that if you eliminate the fear of what you are going to be going through, your muscles will be relaxed, and given a normal birth setting without complications, they will pretty much just do their thing...push out a baby. It doesn't have to be scary. It doesn't even have to be painful. And it certainly doesn't have to require medical intervention, drugs, or other modern-day "tools," which can actually cause more problems or harm to mom or baby.

And that's what I like about this whole concept. I am a wimp. I seriously dislike pain. And signing up for pushing a baby out of this body was something I was raised by society to believe was going to be a terrible ordeal. But I've learned so much. I am no longer afraid. My body was designed to do this...without all the medical intervention people nowadays seem to believe is necessary for EVERY birth. I agree that there is a time and a place for the amazing, life-saving technology we have at our fingertips today. This stuff can save lives! What incredible tools we have at our disposal that our ancestors would have coveted dearly! But at the same time, a pregnant woman is not sick. Why must she be treated as such? 5% of low-risk mothers experience complications in birth. 2% of low-risk babies experience complications in birth. The chances of something going wrong when all the cards are lined up is pretty slim.

Nonetheless. I am not toting this as THE way to have a baby. Only as a way to look at the whole picture. To educate oneself. To understand what options are available. To rely on medical intervention when medically necessary. And to otherwise trust the body to do what it was designed to do smoothly and painlessly.

My husband laughs at me when I say this, but I say it sincerely. I am excited to give birth! Truly excited to be able to experience the miraculous event of bringing my baby into this world.

I owe so much of that to this fantastic book! I wish every girl and woman in the world could read this book, to help change the way our society views the beautiful process of childbirth.

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