What are you hoping to learn when you sign up for a childbirth education class? My guess is, you’re probably hoping to learn more about the process of labor, the kinds of interventions that you might encounter, techniques for coping with contractions, and other similar topics. This is great and most classes cover this information, through to different degrees. Some people find comfort in approaching their birth with an understanding of what kinds of things they can expect and with tools to work with the intense physical experience of labor and birth.
Beyond these topics, what I usually call “the ins and outs of birth,” each class takes a different turn. One of the main reasons I mentor Birthing from Within® classes is that I believe that if you choose to focus on specific medical outcomes during your childbirth preparation, you risk setting yourself up for birth trauma and disappointment. For example, if you spend your whole pregnancy focused on not getting an epidural and definitely never having a Cesarean, what happens if those things become a part of your birth?
If you are taught over and over again that if you just relax enough your birth will be pain-free, what does it mean if your birth comes with its fair share of pain? It’s my belief that the result can often be that you feel like a failure, that you didn’t do enough, that you didn’t practice your relaxation techniques enough, or that you just “couldn’t do it.” These are all beliefs that can lead to mental birth trauma.
The Birthing from Within Model of Childbirth Education
This is why, in Birthing from Within, we explore all the options and work on being compassionate with ourselves. Is it okay to have ideas and goals? Of course! Everyone goes in to birth with some hopes and ideals. But isn’t it wise to also approach birth with an understanding that we can’t possibly anticipate exactly how it will go ahead of time? I think so.
We can’t possibly say, “I will never have a Cesarean,” or “I will never want an epidural,” or “I am determined to not feel any pain.” You know what we can say? “I will make loving and mindful choices.” Let me repeat that. “I will make loving and mindful choices.” Now there’s something you can promise yourself.
Pam England, founder of Birthing from Within, explains it this way: “As a mother-to-be, your critical task is to prepare for a birth that has no script. This requires great courage, flexibility, and a
capacity for inner-awareness” (Birthing from Within, 64). Later on in the book, she continues: “If you envision giving birth in only one way and one place, your chance of being thrown off balance by the unexpected increases dramatically. The more ways you can envision yourself giving birth, the more power you bring to your birth” (82). Because when we are honest about birth, we admit that we can’t plan everything, we can’t make promises about what will or will not happen.
So, what now? Well, we work on that inner-awareness. We review the ins and outs of birth, but we don’t stop there. We talk about when an epidural might be a compassionate choice and we discuss ways that we can bring love and mindfulness into the operating room during a Cesarean birth. We explore our ideas about what birth “should” look like and how we “should” behave during labor. Where do these beliefs come from? Do they serve us? And what will I be telling myself if my birth or my behavior fall outside of those lines? We prepare to meet birth with resilience and courage.
Welcome to Birthing from Within.