A woman is like a tea bag- you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I find a disturbing and insightful pattern emerging from our culture. I have known about it, worked with women through it, and in every interaction, class, and workshop, attempted to dispel it... FEAR.

Fear is a huge part of our culture. We are so afraid to feel emotional or physical discomfort that we remove ourselves from it, sometimes before it even begins, medicating it or simply refusing to acknowledge, or greet, these sensations. Fear of the flu, fear of pain, fear of relationship hurt, fear of confrontation...
FEAR: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
When it comes to pregnancy and the birthing event, women of Western culture are just as fearful, if not more so. I have seen women stare in disbelief, shaking their heads, even becoming physical squeamish over the sight of a woman giving birth, and yet, they don't have the same reaction to watching a baby be surgically removed from the abdomen.

Many women even carry fear of being responsible for their own healthcare and the healths of their unborn children, so they relinquish that responsibility to doctors and hospitals, blindly trusting that those doctors have their best interests in mind. They fail to take into account, or choose to ignore, that the vast majority of obstetrical practices are not founded on infallibility, on evidence-based practices, or are without the personal ambitions, impatience, bias', and sometimes even greed of the individual hospital or care provider.
It's not what you call me, but what I answer to. ~ African proverb
Women have been taught, through our cultures unbalanced mix of over-sexualizing the female body and disempowering the event, to the point of sciolism, to not trust their bodies, the sensations that it brings, and to even fear that the event itself is routinely dangerous and life-threatening, or in the very least, horrendous and unimaginable.  
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate - our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. ~ Marianne Williamson

For women to understand that the process, that the sensations, and that the uncontrollably powerful experience is not something to be feared, we must first reconnect women with their bodies. This can be accomplished best by placing women in a right-brained, left-bodied, creative, emotional, feminine, and physical space in which women can move freely.
If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. ~ Gail Sheehy
Oftentimes, when I begin working with women, they are inhibited from moving their bodies, speaking their minds, or allowing their emotions to surface. Some women are afraid to sing, to dance, to cry, to get angry, or to make noise. The most rudimentary lessons I teach is "uninhibited woman". Ina May Gaskin calls it our "inner monkey".

To find our "uninhibited woman", we must get rid of inhibitions. Some of these are rooted in lack of use or cultural/social conditioning... these are more easily shed. 

But most of these are rooted in fear and physical conditioning. 
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~ Anais Nin
To want to face these fears, a woman must see the physical and emotional freedom that we offer. The best way to do this is to give loving encouragement and positive birth stories that show women making courageous decisions and having powerful births. This incites desire. Most women seek a doula, midwife, or childbirth educator with desire already in hand.

Once she has desire, in order to face these fears, women must find courage. 
Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. ~ Nelson Mandela
Around 1/3 of women have been so engrained into this belief that their bodies and their power, their strength and their intuition are so broken and inadequate that they have been given primary cesareans. So we, as birth educators are not only battling against powers and principalities, but misinformations that have taken on the guise of truth and flesh. 

Other women have been so engrained into this belief that their bodies and their power, their strength and their intuition are so broken and inadequate that they literally flee, either physically, emotionally, or conversationally, from situations that might challenge them to confront those fears.

And still other women will react with distain or outright anger at the possibility that their overt hostile reactions are actually secondary reactions to a deeper emotion - fear.
Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use. ~ Ruth Gordon
I employ the use of Yoga Nidra sessions with my clients. We walk through the progressive mental and physical relaxation that allows them to become aware of heartfelt desires, engrained or intuitive beliefs, and intentions of their bodies and birthing times. 
You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose. ~ Indira Ghandi
This breaks down the levels of constraints that our physical and social/communal lives put on us on a day to day basis and allows us to tap into our true emotional, physical and mental self.

I employ voice with my clients. I encourage them to write, journal, speak, yell, yop, hum, and growl. I encourage them to speak "I feel", "I want", "I fear", "I know" on a daily basis. When they can look at their words, when they can feel them in their throats and on their tongues, and when they can hear their own words outside of their heads, they can begin to strip away those things that are relative and those things which are subjective.  

I employ movement with my clients. Allowing and encouraging women to dance, with abandon, reconnects them to their bodies and their babies. Teaching women to hone in on their cores, to find those 'tight spots' in their bodies, will give them insight into what is binding them emotionally and mentally. Demonstrating to women the practice of moving and dancing with others teaches them the power that they have even in the midst of disempowering situations.
Darkness can not drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate only love can do that. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

And finally, I teach the women that I work with about their choices, and always in love. I have the choice of presenting them the information in a non-confrontational, non-judgmental way, sharing a balanced view of the benefits and risks of each option, or I can provide them with the same information in a fearful, judgmental way. The latter does  not allow for their truest, deepest self to make the choice for them, because it is tainted. 
There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures. ~ James Thurber
I choose to always give light that illuminates the dark, not the harsh light that obscures personal truths for personal journeys.
Fear grows in darkness; if you think there's a bogeyman around, turn on the light. ~ Dorothy Thompson
Loving education provides women with all of their options so that, when faced with choices, when fear rears its head during their pregnancy or birthing time, they have the tool with which to illuminate the situation: dispelling mistruths, personal ambitions, and fearful coercion.
We never know how high we are Till we are called to rise; And then, if we are true to plan, Our statures touch the skies. ~ Emily Dickinson
My deepest heartfelt desire is that every woman would not have my ideal birth, but that she would have the ideal birth for them. One which is free of fear, full of power, and helps her to positively grow into the capable mother, lover, and courageous woman that she truly is.

For more information, keep an eye out for Karen Brody's new childbirth curriculum, Fear to Freedom. This innovative program incorporates all of the educational components discussed herein and is now available in the Houston area through Sage Beginnings.


granolanspice said...

I actually drew a picture when I first became pregnant with #2, showing where I was as a woman (reserved, almost ashamed) and where I needed to let myself go to birth the way my body needed to (uninhibited, free). I think it was one of the most therapeutic things I did for myself when I was pregnant.

Julie Olson said...

Conquering fears is so important and so overlooked by most women as the prepare to give birth. Thank you for a well written article!

Mia said...

It's funny, my greatest fear as a pregnant woman was not the pain, but ending up having a c-section. I was very determined to have a natural childbirth, so I knew I was going to be in pain. Ultimately it tried to get the best of me, and I did have one shot of pain meds, fentanyl, to be exact. I hated it, and won't do it again.

Anonymous said...

I would love to take the Fear to Freedom course...is there an online seminar or something?


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