Every mother-to-be worries about giving birth. Common fears range from excruciating contractions to pooping during delivery, the pain from vaginal tearing or being “cut” down there (aka getting an episiotomy), the baby being “stuck” or dying, getting an emergency C-section or being in labor forever… The list goes on.
My husband and I took a Lamaze class to prepare for the big day. We practiced the techniques at home. But no amount of patterned “hee-hee-hoo” breathing could calm my anxiety about something going wrong.
Every horror story came to mind. My boss’s son had come out blue because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. I recalled my primary school teacher saying that it took 30 hours to deliver her baby. 30 hours! I was sure I’d be half-dead by then.
“Just get an epidural and you won’t feel anything. After I got one, I played games on my phone and felt totally relaxed. Bored, even,” a friend said airily.
That all sounded dandy, only she neglected to mention the monstrously long needle involved. I had a pretty high pain threshold but I was terrified of that giant, menacing needle going into my back. Between that and searing, painful contractions, I was tempted to just stay pregnant forever. But of course, that wasn’t a choice I could make.
Perhaps that’s why childbirth feels so scary. It’s one of the most pivotal moments of our lives, yet we don’t have total control. We could receive as much reassurance and information from our doctors as possible, but no amount of planning could make the labor and delivery process truly foolproof.
Plus, I was afraid of my husband being traumatized in the delivery room when he saw me all stretched and mangled and bloody down there. And what if I pooped mid-push? How mortifying it’d be if he saw that. He maintained that he wouldn’t be turned off or find me less desirable, but I insisted that he only look at my face and waist-above during the entire delivery process. It was silly, but I felt better after he promised.
As far as plans went, my birth story wasn’t anything like I had expected. Labor lasted merely two hours and as soon as I arrived at the hospital, I was fully dilated and rushed straight to the delivery room. My husband and I never even used any of the Lamaze techniques. There was no chance for an epidural. My doctor barely arrived in time.
Less than an hour later, I said hello to my baby girl for the first time – and all those previous fears couldn’t have been further from my mind.
Here are some tips to deal with any worries about childbirth:
1. You can’t foresee the future, but you can alter how you perceive childbirth by understanding it as something your body knows how to do. Contractions are painful, but that pain isn’t damaging your body. It’s the natural, necessary process of your muscles stretching for your baby to be born.
2. Think about who you want in the delivery room. Surround yourself with people—maybe just one—who are loving and calm, whose presence will make you feel more at ease. You love your mum but if she gets overwrought way too easily, having her there could add to your stress. The environment should be as comfortable and soothing as possible to help you better cope with pain.
3. Be informed, but prepare yourself for things not going according to plan. For example, even if you’re dead set on delivering naturally, an emergency C-section is always a possibility so you should still ask your doctor how C-sections work in case you need to have one. Don’t dwell on it, but just know that if it happens it’s not the end of the world.
4. If you’re scared of vaginal tearing, practice perineal massage at home with natural oils, such as vitamin E or olive oil. Do kegal exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for other suggestions.
5. If you’re afraid of not getting to the hospital in time, prepare the hospital/diaper bag way ahead of your expected due date, and decide how you’ll get to the hospital or who will take you. If you have an older child or a pet at home, arrange for people to look after them. But chances are, you’ll make it in time. Those in-taxi births are extremely rare.
6. Trust your doctor, care providers, and husband. Communicate your worries and wishes to them. They are there to help and support you. Everyone wants a healthy baby out of the deal.
By Jenny Tai