If there’s one thing that I’ve learned through attending births as a doula in Edmonton, it’s that our mindset going into labour is one of the most, if not the MOST important factor in both getting your labour to progress and having an overall satisfying birth experience. The state that your mind is in when you get pregnant, go into labour and become a new parent is influenced by the level of confidence and trust you have in your body. I’m sure you’ve all heard a doula, and specifically an Edmonton doula, say the words “trust your body” or “you body knows what to do”, etc. Let’s elaborate on this a little more though, as this may seem like a small statement but means more than you might think!
The language we use with pregnant and labouring people plays a role in how we perceive our bodies and bodily functions. Unfortunately, this language is commonly not so positive. I’m sure we can all name a tv show or movie that scared the crap out of you for when you were to give birth, and we’ve all had at least one friend or family member tell us a horror story from their birth. This is all so troublesome as both of these sources of information are notorious inaccurate. But believe it or not, even trained professionals – doctors, nurses, even (as much as I hate to admit this) some midwives and doulas – have been known to instil fear or discouragement into the minds of expectant parents. Sometimes prenatally, sometimes even during a birth! And, understandably, this is detrimental to birth culture for many reasons. One, there is a certain level of trust put in place for one’s birth team so saying incorrect things that could impact a birth person’s confidence goes quite a long way. Two, nothing spreads quicker then overly dramatic or negative information (whether it is true or not). You better believe that if someone hears that they will never be able to have a vaginal birth because their baby is too big, this is going to be told to friends and families who have babies in the future and taken seriously.
Our current birth culture has come a loooong way from what it used to be, but boy-oh-boy do we still have work to do. As Edmonton doulas, we need to be educating everyone about the importance of language used with birthing people – little things like “you’re only 5cm dilated” instead of “you’re 5cm dilated!” makes a humongous impact on someone’s trust during the process. This simple adjustment might just save the birth person from going into a state of worry, panic and overall disappointed state and in turn, “save” the birth (keep it more pleasent). For now, as us doulas in Edmonton continue to spread the “good word”, we can use our own clients as a starting point and really hone in on making sure you all trust your body.
So trust your body – what does this really mean? Well for starters, this trust stems from confidence, and for some of us confidence doesn’t come so easily. Confidence is more than skin-deep though, it’s truly trusting you body’s natural processes. So things like chronic illness and pain, pregnancy loss (hey ps, check out my post on miscarriage here) and body esteem issues will make it difficult to truly trust your body as it may have “failed” you before. Working through these past experiences with a counsellor or your Edmonton doula or midwife could help smooth the process of developing trust. Another thing I want you all to do is put on your rose-coloured glasses when watching any media-depicted birth scenes or listening to friends stories. Media is known to over-dramatize and straight up falsify what birth really looks like… your birth won’t be exactly or even remotely close to what you see on tv. Friends may have had an awful experience but look at the factors at play at their births – did they take a good Edmonton prenatal class (usually one that is out-of-hospital) and learn what informed choices and options they had? Did they have 24 hour birth support from a doula? Was their care provider’s goal in line with theirs for the birth? Most importantly, your body is not the same as theirs, therefore your experience won’t be either. So when you see birth on TV or hear about it from your friends, take that information purely from an amusement standpoint.
My final point is that I really want everyone to know that your body IS CAPABLE. No matter what anyone says, mother nature has hard-wired you to have babies, regardless of what that outcome might look like. No one knows your body better than you – not your doctor, not your nurses, not your midwife and not your doula. You need to get to a place where you are in-tune with what your body is telling you to do, and listen to it! If something doesn’t feel right, don’t consent to it and if you feel compelled to take a certain step in your birth, as long as you are comfortable with the risks associated, do it. Trust your body’s individual process to bring your baby to you and have faith in your capability of handling the most intense experience of your life with grace and dignity.