Many women in my generation keep an awful picture of labor and childbirth in their mind. Blame that on exaggerated movie scenes, grandmother’s anecdote, or the stressful child birth video clips presented during Biology class. Thanks to all these, the thought of another human coming out of your own body is now as disturbing as a zombie invasion.
Like most women nowadays, I feared pregnancy and everything that had to do with it. The dreaded morning sickness, the unavoidable pains of labor, the ugly stretch marks, the anaesthesia needles -- they all scared me big time! So upon learning that I was pregnant, my fears almost robbed me of the joy that a woman obtained from receiving the sweet news that she was on the family way.
The struggle of a pregnant woman was more difficult in reality than how I imagined it as a little girl. When your physical discomforts and your birthing concerns are slowly becoming heavier than your will to be a superwoman, it can really be tempting to dwell on the misery than to be excited about the arrival of your little one.
Somewhere behind my anxieties, however, was a fervent willingness to protect the little life growing inside me. I wasn’t sure if it was a budding maternal instinct, but I knew I needed to empower myself to ensure the well-being of my child. Keeping in mind that both my physical and emotional conditions would affect my little one, I vowed to raise my head up and face my fears.
Eager to learn more about the frightening reality I had to courageously face, I came across Grantly Dick-Read's fear-tension-pain concept, which states that “attitudes induce anxiety before labor and cause fear in labor”. It made me realize that I couldn't control labour and childbirth, but I had power over my attitude towards pregnancy, labour and birth.
I resolved to wear an optimistic attitude about my pregnancy and birthing experience, and sought the help of the loving mothers around me, seminars, and various reliable resources. Here are some pieces of advice I followed to help guard my heart and mind from the perils of fearing child birth.
1. Work on your health
Having a healthy lifestyle is a must for everyone, but it is extra important when one is having a baby. They say that the more fit and healthy a pregnant woman is, the less chances for her to encounter pregnancy and birthing complications.
So, I made a conscious effort to eat healthy food, drink a lot of water, get enough rest and sleep, and take my pre-natal vitamins. I also took my efforts up a notch by doing moderate physical activities like brisk walking, swimming, and pre-natal yoga. Knowing that I was at least physically prepared made me a little more confident about handling the physical stress of giving birth.
2. Equip yourself with knowledge
I feared labor and childbirth primarily because it was an unfamiliar zone to me. Putting other women's shocking labor stories aside, I did not know what to expect when my D-day came. I wanted to have an idea of what really happened during labour and child birth, so that I would know how to cope with it.
Thus, I read books and online sources about the phases of labor and the pain management options. I attended a workshop that taught breathing and relaxation techniques for labour. I listened to positive child birth stories of mommy friends. I read blogs about motherhood. Each time I fed myself with knowledge, I felt empowered to embrace the reality I was about to face.
3. Connect with positive and supportive people
An awful combination of hormones, childbirth anxiety and physical discomforts can really make any pregnant woman’s emotions go wild. I wasn’t spared from experiencing the unforeseen rollercoaster of feelings, which made me morph from being a self-pitying princess to a grumpy colleague to a clingy and sensitive wife, all in one day.
Wanting to prevent myself from going crazy, miserable and unmotivated, I surrounded myself with positive and supportive people. I spent more time with my husband, my family members, and friends who made me feel that I wasn’t alone in my pregnancy journey.
Likewise, the wonderful world of social media became very helpful to me. I reached out to other mums-to-be and expert mums through online groups. The women in these groups became my virtual friends who exchanged pregnancy and motherhood thoughts and experiences with me. Reading their stories and ideas strengthened me emotionally and inspired me to make my pregnancy experience a joyous one.
This piece of advice might be the last item in the long to-do list of an expectant mother, but I believe it helped me just as much as taking pre-natal vitamins did. While I was very conscious of keeping my physical body healthy, I realised that it is just as important to promote my mental wellbeing.
Studies show that pregnant women with high levels of stress during gestation have a higher risk of developing pregnancy and birthing complications. The anxiety of the expectant mum can have a negative effect on foetal development. These facts pushed me to allot some precious time for meditation.
Since my work schedule could not afford me a retreat in a faraway island, I did my meditation in the bedroom. Sitting on the bed with huge pillows all around me, I dedicated a few minutes of my day to quiet time, deep breathing, clearing my mind, and connecting to my inner self. I used meditation videos available online as my guide and used aromatherapy oils.
Pregnancy, labour and child birth can be overwhelming for any woman. But for the well-being of the little one, expectant mums need to overpower the negative picture of labor and childbirth in their mind.
Today, I smile every time I see my bouncing 5-month-old baby girl. Everything I did to overcome my fears was worth it. As Jane Fraser Weideman puts it, “giving birth should be your greatest achievement, not your greatest fear.”
article originally published on theAsianparent Singapore, contributed by Gwen Llana-Serrano.
READ: 43 Photos that capture the miracle and beauty of childbirth
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