Mastering Fear

3rd post of the night. I’m sorry, when it rains, it pours.

Since I know at least 3 people who read my blog are pregnant and planning on natural births, I thought I’d share one big piece of advice.

Something that I found very helpful about our Bradley classes (besides how they teach the husband to step up and be the one in control) were the mental strength and stability they taught. I mentioned this prior to giving birth to G– I say it again with new-found appreciation.

The biggest thing I had to combat during the whole experience was the “fight or flight” reflex. One can’t help but have it, in some respect, especially as a first time mom. What was happening– the pains, sensations, emotions– were entirely new and entirely unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

If one isn’t careful, the reflex leads to fear. Fear leads to tension– something that makes labor worse and more painful.

When people say that labor was a lot of WORK, they aren’t just talking about physically. Mentally, it’s all about squashing that inevitable fear and remaining calm and relaxed. It’s easy to stay relaxed when you’re focusing, but that focus doesn’t come easily, especially when you’re in such pain. The first few rounds of contractions are tough, but you get time to recover, both physically and mentally. As they build and get closer and closer together, however…it becomes a blur. One contraction ends, and the other begins before even a minute has passed. Whereas the pain of previous contractions partially fade by the time the next happens, the contractions near the end (transition) are so close together, the residual pain from the last adds onto the next, making them worse. It’s so out of your control that it takes a LOT of mental strength to keep from panicking.

The Bradley classes had us practicing the labor/birthing positions over and over again, not so that we would remember them (they’re pretty easy to master!), but so that we would build muscle memory. At least, that way, our body would be doing something customary, in order to free the mind to control fear.

I’m sure it’s very similar to meditation. Block out noise, focus on the task at hand. Understanding and accepting the pain, vs. panicking and resenting it…these were things that we were, in essence, brainwashed with by the time birth came about. Without these classes, I don’t think I would’ve been able to maintain the focus I needed to work through each contraction, bringing me closer and closer to meeting Gregory.

Anyone else have any thoughts about their childbirth experience and what they did to “survive” ?

Added Note from Jesse: “While every preparation involves admitting that it’s just practice, and can’t replicate the real thing, there’s something to be said for setting aside that time to bond as a couple by preparing together. It helps one come to the realization that you’ll never be fully ready, but you can at least get on the same page about it”. ;)

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One thought on “Mastering Fear

  1. now having gone through it twice, i’m hesitant to say ‘this is what birth is like’. with topher, my contractions were on top of each other from the beginning (who knows…maybe i started in transition since i was 10 days late?). with jonathan, however, they felt like they never got closer than 2 minutes…the whole time. very strange. i appreciated the break, but it did feel odd to be getting ready to push but waiting for 2 minutes for another contraction. i ended up pushing without contractions b/c waiting felt annoying at that point and i wanted him OUT! 🙂

    i do agree that the bottom line of a successful birth is managing fear. i was so anxious until michael got there. as soon as he was there, we were a team that could do anything. we actually didn’t go through a bradley class together, but in a crisis, my personality naturally leans on him for leadership, so that might help. i think it’s a great idea to look at personalities of the couple, discuss the typical fight or flight instincts in both, and do what is necessary to prepare both people for the best response…since you *know* that you’re about to face something that will bring this reaction. my 2 pennies. 🙂

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