“ When you give birth to a baby, you give birth to a mother as well. ”

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On Childbirth Preparation

Adapted from writings by Suzanne Arms, Sheila Kitzinger, Pam England

Authentic preparation for childbirth opens the mind and instills a hopeful attitude and a sense of proportion...imparts a dignity and a sense of awe toward the birth process, the life a woman is carrying, and the woman herself. It should enlarge a woman’s - and a couple’s - vision about the significance of what they are undertaking in bringing a baby into the world, and what the baby - and the mother - will need, emotionally and physically, in order to thrive.

Giving birth is painful, and it takes a tremendous physical effort for most women, especially a first birth. Women don’t benefit from being lied to about the reality of childbirth, but they also don’t benefit from education that reinforces abnormality, romanticizes birth technology, or supports practices that are likely to hurt women and babies and their families.

In one sense preparation for childbirth is medical, involving physiological changes which are assisted when necessary; in another sense preparation is working through feelings and adjustments to a phase of life, a different image of the self, and a different social role.

Education for childbirth must not be about something which simply happens to a woman, in which the question of how to cope with pain is paramount, but about a process of emotional awakening - an expression of herself.

Her first task is to empty her mind of expectations and judgments that narrow the possibilities for coping with pain, surprises, and the hard work of labor. Being “empty” will allow her to receive, moment-by-moment, the messages conveyed by her body, mind and heart.

We need approaches which are fluid enough to adapt to different women’s personalities and the varied choices they make....also giving a woman the best opportunity to adjust to any sort of labor.

We are only now discovering the long-term destructive effects of treating women with disrespect and violence in childbirth....This sort of experience is not easily forgotten. It can shatter a woman’s self-confidence, make her doubt her ability to mother her baby, destroy joy in the expression of her sexuality, and attack her very sense of self. It is psychologically mutilating....It is not surprising that some women withdraw from their babies. Their own needs are too great. Everything that happens after delivery is the outcome of preceding events.

Information is power. Not knowing about [these] things means that she is rendered powerless in childbirth. Without information, a woman is merely at the receiving end of whatever is done to her and whatever trivial choices they permit her to make.

Many women looking ahead to labor worry that childbirth pain will prove too much for them, and that they will somehow ‘give way’ and reveal their true selves. The implication is that our ‘real’ selves are nastier than the images we ordinarily present to the world - and that we require a sort of mask to hide the unpleasantness of our inner natures.

Women need to find support for what their instinct is telling them: labor is valuable and productive work and should not be avoided.

In the act of birth society is changed irrevocably...when a woman pushes one small, screaming baby out into the world, she is in that moment transforming her relationships with her partner, mother and father, other children, sisters and brothers and grandparents, friends, and colleagues - and her partner’s relationship with all these people, too.  

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