pregnancy and parenthood

The one birth affirmation that is excluding women

As the countdown to my next childbirth draws near, I’ve been thinking, asking, talking, and listening on all things labor and delivery. I’m blessed to have a large support network of mothers in this community who have such varying experiences and wisdom, in addition to a well-rounded care team of midwives and my doula.

21762793_10210712521875659_3221998300564409674_oI’ve been hearing a lot of one line in particular lately as I navigate third-trimester anxieties. “Just trust in your body.” This was empowering my first time around when I feared childbirth. Can my body really do this? I think we all question this to some extent at one point or another. We absolutely do need to build trust in our strength and capabilities as women and mothers, but I feel like I put too much stock in this last time, and it ended up not fully preparing me emotionally for many of the what-ifs that can and did happen.

While I do not view myself as a failure, my body did fail me last time. There is no guilt,  shame, or feelings of loss in saying that – but medically speaking, my body just stopped working with me when I hit 8 cm, and I needed intervention from my care team. Sweet relief – thank goodness we have options to fill in where our original plans fall through.

Because of how things went last time, I’m faced with a few more difficult questions this time. I’m in a position where I have to take a few extra precautions to help ensure a safe, healthy delivery for our daughter. I’m faced with the reality of a potential induction, which then lends itself to a ripple effect of other interventions. In a well-meaning manner, I’m once again hearing versions of “Just trust in your body.” As someone who believes whole-heartedly in the compelling evidence of the natural childbirth community, I’m realizing now that this popular affirmation can be a bit exclusive.

Saying it often comes with the implication that it’s an either-or. That I either trust in my body or I don’t. That I either let things happen or things will happen to me. That I either advocate for myself or I’ll fall down a slippery-slope of medical professionals making decisions for me. For many women like myself, it’s not black and white like that. In my case, I either consider the pros and cons of the interventions being presented to me, or I risk a 30 percent chance of life-threatening complications to my baby.

Being in this situation doesn’t mean that I have lost trust in my body more than it is learning to gain trust in those who will help me deliver my baby. I can’t do this alone, nor do I want to.

Often we look at a successful birth as one where the woman gets through it with as little help as possible, and this pressure makes women in my position feel like it’s inherently a bad thing should we need certain interventions. When I’m done evaluating the pros and cons, risks and benefits to all of my options, the best route for me might look like surrendering some control with my body, and that won’t mean that I didn’t trust my body.

I think this is an important perspective to keep in mind  – please, do, trust in yourself and your body’s natural ability to bring life into this world, and pass that message on to expectant mothers. But if we only ever say this in the context of countering interventions, then we’re implying that there’s a right vs. wrong way to birth a baby, and that is misleading.

A woman who has an epidural did not fail to trust in herself. A woman who has an induction did not fail to trust in herself. A woman who has a C-section did not fail to trust in herself. If anything, they had to find even more trust to get past the parts of their births that were not deemed “normal.”

Trust your body as much as you trust in your care team, current research and the plethora of options available to you. Trust in the whole process. Trust that your birth story will be beautiful no matter what, because it will be yours. Trust your body but not to the point that you distrust the idea of help. It’s OK to need help. 

I love this birth affirmation, truthfully. I just think we need to build on it so that trust becomes a concept we extend to all births.

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