How to Prepare Holistically for Birth

Preparing for birth in the modern day can be quite a challenge. I’m sure like most women, you have been bombarded with ideas about birth, watched dramatic scenes on television of women giving birth, and heard friends and family re-count their own experiences of giving birth. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to hear some more positive accounts of birth too, or maybe you have been researching all you can find out on the topic. As you approach this time it’s normal to feel some excitement as well as anxiety and apprehension about giving birth, whether it’s your first time or not. Some women feel just as anxious about becoming a parent. There are many ways to prepare for this important time.

Perhaps you have even heard of women who did something in particular to prepare for birth and you have thought “maybe if I do that too, I’ll get the same result/outcome. If I take that class, or have a midwife or birth in the same place, then I can achieve that too”. Birth is a very complex thing, and can be influenced by a great many factors, however it isn’t simply black and white as much as we would like it to be. Holistic preparation means preparing on all levels for birth (and ideally parenting as well). Gathering knowledge and information can be a huge factor and can be an enlightening process, but just taking on this step isn’t always enough, and although preparing you mentally or intellectually, it isn’t preparing yourself on all levels.

On a physical level there are various things that you are probably already doing to prepare for birth. At the core is your diet and lifestyle and these can impact on having a healthy pregnancy and birth. Learning ways to cope with labour pain and having tools to call on are important, these can make a world of difference. Understanding about foetal positioning, positions for labour and birthing, massage and other pain relief options including a warm shower or bath and aromatherapy are all helpful things too.

Last but not least, one of the vital parts of holistic preparation is that of the emotional and psychological level. This is not something that is covered in depth in most birth preparation classes, in fact often it isn’t covered at all. I have come to realise after almost 10 years of teaching and mentoring over 400 couples in birth education, that this often ends up being the most important part of the preparation. Having insights into your beliefs, ideas and assumptions can be extremely helpful, as well as exploring your own inner knowing and wisdom.

Here are 5 ways to prepare yourself holistically for birth.

1. Choose your birth support team wisely

There are always at least a few options to choose when it comes to selecting a care provider for your pregnancy and birth. You may not realise the importance of who you choose and how this could impact on your birth. Maybe you have private health insurance and want to make sure you can use it, so your choice is based around this. Perhaps your friend had a certain Doctor or Midwife and you just choose based on this. The most important thing to consider when choosing, is to ensure that your birth team (Midwife, Doctor, Doula, Support People) are all on the same page with what your birth preferences are. If you are ideally wanting a natural, drug free birth but choose a Doctor with a really high caesarean and induction rate, your chances are automatically reduced. You may not realise that your ideas aren’t the same until it’s too late if you don’t ask the right questions in the beginning. So when deciding who to have on your birth team the best approach is to interview them and find out if they are on the same page.

This isn’t always a straightforward process though, and requires you to ask the right kinds of questions. Often care providers can appear to be open to whatever you want to have happen, and you may not find out until when you’re almost due or in labour that this isn’t the case. You need to ask lots of questions of the care provider as well as others you know who have used their services. The kinds of questions you can ask could be :

    • What is your rate of caesarean, induction, forceps, ventouse and episiotomy? If you are aiming for a natural birth then it makes sense to choose someone whose rates of these are low. The national caesarean rate is just over 30%, so someone with a 10-15% rate is ideal if you want a natural birth, and someone with an over 40% rate is best to steer clear of obviously.
    • You could ask what are the most common reasons for the interventions mentioned above. That way you can get a feel for their thinking and see if it matches your ideas.
    • If a care provider says that they only use these things when necessary, you need to ask when do they usually find it “necessary”, as each provider will have a different idea about this.
    • You can also enquire about what percentage of women they see who use no pain relief and gauge their ideas about natural birth and whether they seem aligned to this idea (if that’s what your preference is).
    • Be wary of care providers who do not want to give you these details or say things like “oh you let me worry about that”. You want to choose someone who is open in providing any details you wish to know in order to make an informed decision.

If asking a friend about their experience with a care provider ask them things like what they most liked about their midwife/doctor, was there anything they didn’t like, did they feel supported in all of their wishes, did they feel they could ask them anything, did they ever feel fobbed off etc. ?

When thinking about who else to have at the birth you need to consider if they can support you and hold the space for you and trust in the process. For birth to unfold well, a woman needs to have the right environment and only have people in her space that she feels totally comfortable with, that she can be naked in front of and be totally vulnerable, swear and do absolutely anything and it be okay. Having someone else there who can’t cope with the intensity of birth and seeing you in your raw and primal state, is not a good idea. Many couples like the idea of it just being the two of them there, and this can work well. Its good though to consider having a back up person just in case. Sometimes in a long or difficult labour, your partner may also need support and to eat and rest in order to be able to support you. Some couples hire a Doula for this (and much more) or you could have a friend or family member lined up.

2. Go with Independent Birth Education

It’s almost like a rite of passage for couples having a first baby to do hospital ante-natal classes. Hospitals classes can be good to familarise yourself with hospital routines and have a tour of the birth suite, but they can be limited in terms of information and most importantly they only give the information they want you to have. Independent classes can give you a range of information and usually with these kinds of classes, the person offering them, is a specialist in childbirth education. With some independent classes you can get the same info you’d get at the hospital plus so much more. Most of my clients have said that they could have just done my classes, some like to do both and I also have many that only do my classes. Here is a great article on why taking independent classes is beneficial http://www.bellybelly.com.au/pregnancy/independent-birth-education/

3. Know yourself-not just information

With the amount of information that’s available in the modern techno era, you can find a plethora of articles, blogs, books and videos about birth, pregnancy and babies so easily. Are you the kind of woman who loves researching? Can you just not get enough info about birth and babies? Do you feel like if you can just read or know enough then you’ll somehow be prepared? It can be easy to think that we can prepare for birth and parenting like we are studying for an exam, but sometimes no matter how well we prepare on this level, it just doesn’t go deep enough, it doesn’t prepare us for the unexpected or every scenario that could arise. This is one of the things that makes Birthing From Within such a unique and holistic preparation. As well as learning about birth and parenting, the classes I offer focus on couples learning more about themselves and tapping into their own wisdom and resources, finding their own insights and ultimately knowing them self. This kind of preparation along with pain coping and mindfulness practices are the most helpful ways you can prepare and prepare in a way that almost no other birth classes do.

4. Be prepared to do what it takes to birth that baby

There seems to be a trend of women believing that there is a right or preferred way to give birth, and society in general reinforces this. In fact I admit to being responsible for this too in my years of being a HypnoBirthing Instructor, perpetuating the myth that it’s better or ideal to be calm, in control, quiet, confident and composed while giving birth. There are really good reasons to learn how to relax and manage pain especially in early labour, to lessen the release of stress hormones so that oxytocin and endorphins can do their thing, but this idea can go too far and set many women up to feel that they missed the mark in some way. One of my favourite quotes from Birthing From Within is along the lines of “On the day you give birth, 300,000 of your sisters from around the world will also be birthing with you”. It makes sense that with so many different women birthing on each day that they are all going to do it differently. Although being calm and in control may seem like an appealing idea, it doesn’t always end up having the desired effect. I have seen many women trying so hard to control their labour and behave a certain way that it appears to slow things down and inhibit the process all together. Often because a woman believes that behaving wildly, making lots of noise and “losing it” is not okay, instead of just going with it and being prepared to just do what it takes in the moment to birth her baby, she may believe that she isn’t coping and this can impact on her labour as well as how she feels about it and herself afterwards.

Exploring your own ideas about birth is helpful to understand what beliefs are there and how this might impact you in both positive and negative ways. Being open to many possibilities during labour can be more helpful, and by that I mean that you can still having a really positive intention for your birth, prepare and plan for that, and totally give it everything you have. The key is to learn how to be okay with doing whatever you need to do to birth your baby, even if this means doing something you would prefer not to. Are you prepared to do whatever it takes? Are you prepared to let go of ideas about the birth having to go a certain way, or you having to birth in a certain way? Are prepared to love and accept yourself whatever happens?

5. Understand the reality of birth, the unknown and be willing to look at your worries

Its easy with an event like giving birth to put a lot of emphasis on the outcome. After all its something you’ll probably only do a couple of times in your life. If you have researched a lot as well this can often serve to make you more determined that the outcome and what does and doesn’t happen is important. Every woman (and man) wants a healthy baby and that goes without saying. When I’m talking of “outcome” here I mean a certain kind of birth, or way of giving birth. As much as we can all direct and have some control over our births, mentioned earlier in this piece, there are still things that we can’t control. Like the rest of life, birth can sometimes go close to how we want it, sometimes it’s the complete opposite, sometimes things can show up in both positive and more challenging ways that are unexpected. For most women, giving birth is intense, it’s really hard work and isn’t easy. No matter what preparation a woman has done it’s less likely to be easy, effortless and calm. Although I know that it can be this way, in reality it just isn’t for the vast majority of women, and while it’s great for that small percentage who do, I don’t think its being honest about the reality of birth to tell women this is how it should be. When we focus on the outcome and achieving a certain thing, we can of course feel deflated, let down and upset when it doesn’t go this way. When it does go the way we imagined we can often become super proud and believe that if every other women just did what we did, she would of course get the same result- but this is not always true.

Birth and life aren’t always predictable even when we try really hard, plan and do all the “right” things. We cant control birth any better than any other part of our life, so learning how to be okay with the unknown of birth (and life) is an essential part of birth preparation, and no class does this quite like Birthing From Within. Parenthood too is a big unknown experience and also comes with excitement and anxiety, so find a class that covers this important time too.

(C) Copyright all rights reserved Your Birth Support 2015.

The Birth Class You WANT and the Birth Class You NEED aren’t always the same one

Some of us have really clear ideas about how we’d like to give birth. Some of us are motivated by our fear of birth, seeking out anything to ease our minds. We might be hoping for a natural birth, a drug free birth, anything but a caesarean, or might hope that we can be in control and calm, or not ‘freak out’. Sometimes we are trying not to think about birth at all. Whether we are scared, determined or unsure, the way we choose to prepare for our birth experience can impact on how we come out the other side.

Comfort and high expectations-not always a healthy recipe for birth

When we are seeking birth preparation it’s quite common for us to look for the class that most resonates with us. Maybe it’s saying all that we are longing to hear, that makes us feel hopeful? Perhaps there’s an implication on the website or flyer that by taking the class we can achieve the things we want- ‘calm’, ‘positive’, ‘in control’, ‘blissful’, ‘empowering’, ‘pain free’ and so-on?  Let’s face it, we tend to choose a class based on what we want to hear (whether or not it’s realistic or truthful for most), and what makes us feel most comfortable. Perhaps though when approaching such a major life transition as becoming a parent, that commonly turns our world a little (or a lot) upside down,  being ‘comfortable’ and ‘idealistic’ is not always the healthiest approach or the best way for us to prepare?

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Appealing ideas can be a formula for disappointment

As an experienced childbirth educator who taught the ‘positive, calm, empowering’ birth class for 6 years, I agree that the appeal is obvious- I too was drawn in by the promises implied. After some time though, I came to see that although these classes can increase our confidence and trust in the birth process, they can do so in an unrealistic way, and set up many of us to feel like we missed the mark, to feel let down, unprepared, overly confident and even like we failed in some way. These classes can be quite outcome focused, and this can be problematic in birth preparation. When I say ‘outcome’ I’m not even taking about such things as achieving a vaginal birth or drug free birth.

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Outcomes in disguise

When there’s an idea that we can stay calm and in control no matter what turn our birth takes, or that we can have a positive or empowering birth because we choose to- these are outcomes that can’t always be achieved no matter what choices we make, what we know, or how well we prepare. Ideas like this though they might seem well intentioned and harmless, can actually set many of us up for disappointment and trauma. Many women who do these classes can only stay calm to a point, and then often find themselves with few coping skills left.

 

 

Because I care very deeply about the couples I work with, and could see the downsides of this approach, I could no longer go on teaching that kind of class. I got to the point where I felt like I was lying to couples in my class (and essentially I was), so I had to find an approach that while confidence building, did this is a realistic, helpful and meaningful way.

Optimism bias gives a false sense of confidence

In my work as a birth story healer I have a unique perspective that most childbirth educators don’t. Having worked with over 500 couples and two different childbirth preparation methods, as well as working with people after birth who have experienced let down, disappointment and trauma, I deeply understand how different approaches can both help and potentially harm us. Sometimes we Birth Warriorwant to believe that we will be the one who will get our ideal birth outcome, or the birth that is portrayed in the ‘positive, calm’ birth class. We can tend to overestimate the likelihood that we will be the one who does- this is know as ‘cognitive optimism bias’. 80% of us overestimate how well things will go for us, but not for others. In my experience from teaching that class and seeing the follow up birth evaluations, only 15-20% of women seem to really have the kind of birth these classes portray. Others might find the tools helpful-but these women would most likely find any coping tools helpful, and these women could be far better prepared overall, especially when things don’t go smoothly. I have come to see clearly that we need to be over prepared and realistic, not overly confident that we will achieve our perfect birth.

rather than trust your body trust that you can cope

Power of the mind- Only part the picture

Many classes over emphasise the ‘mind over matter’ approach. It’s true that our mind can be a powerful tool in birth, but when this is over emphasised and it’s implied that achieving a certain outcome is greatly under our conscious control, many of us will be let down and unprepared when we don’t achieve what we hope for. When we are offered reassurances to just ‘trust our bodies’ and ‘trust birth’, or recite idealistic affirmations, when we fail to explore the many factors that influence our births, and fail to address fears and concerns head on, we may find ourselves wondering what we did wrong in hindsight, and feeling rather betrayed by such ideas. I’m aware that some women really love these kinds of classes. I thought they were the ‘bee’s knees’ myself before I knew about more holistic ways to prepare, and before I knew the potential downsides. In my experience the majority of women would be better served with a more realistic and open minded kind of class, that focuses on emotional and psychological preparation as much as the mental/intellectual and physical preparation and is not outcome focused.

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Even classes that say they address fears, rarely do this in a deep and helpful way. In fact often they avoid talking about worries all together for fear it will ‘attract’ them. Ideas like this only serve to make women feel that they must have done something wrong, didn’t believe or trust enough when their birth doesn’t go to plan. The class I used to teach used ‘fear release’ exercises. From my experience, these can lull people into a false sense that they have dealt with their fears, which isn’t then apparent until things haven’t gone to plan. What is often missing here is a conscious awareness of how particular scenarios might be a problem for us, and understanding the meaning we might take from the unexpected. This approach can go far deeper and be far more effective.

 

 

 

Prepare to be uncomfortable and face worries head onbirth does not ask u to be fearless

Think about it- if birth is the entry way into parenthood, it makes sense that it might come with some intensity, challenges, doubt, uncertainty, releasing control, and a fair amount of discomfort. Parenting can be a complex mix of delight, joy and immense love, as well as frustration, hard work, exhaustion, and being pushed to our absolute limits- why would we expect birth to be so different then? Instead of seeking the class that makes us feel comfortable and sounds the most appealing, consider whether the class that is keeping it real, inviting us to be more self aware, exploring our beliefs, approaching fears head on and learning how to cope with ‘not knowing’ might actually be what we need. A class that helps cultivate self compassion in a personal, mindful and deep way can help to take us to places that can be a little uncomfortable, yet is often where we need to go to be prepared for a range of possibilities, not just our ideal birth scenario- which doesn’t happen much of the time.

Sometimes a part of us is loving the appeal of the ‘positive, calm, What if birth is not a goal to accomplishempowering’ class, yet another part of us wonders if it’s too good to be true, or can worry about the pressure of trying to achieve a certain outcome or stay calm and focused.

If you’re looking for a mindful, intelligent and mature approach to birth and parenting preparation then I’m sure you’ll love Birthing From Within.

Nicole is a writer!

I’ve been working hard this year on educating people about birth trauma and the sharing of birth stories. Here are my published articles.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/05/changing-the-way-we-share-our-difficult-birth-stories/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/06/when-a-positive-birth-story-is-a-problem/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/07/lets-rethink-how-we-view-childbirth-with-these-questions/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/08/what-to-do-when-our-first-childbirth-isnt-perfect-we-want-a-do-over/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/09/is-your-birth-story-really-your-own/

Busting Birth Trauma Myths

You might be surprised to know that around 30% of women describe their birth experience as traumatic, and somewhere between 1.5-9% of women end up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after giving birth. Partners, family or friends who witness a birth can also suffer from birth trauma, as can Midwives, Doctors and Doula’s. Let’s look at some common myths about birth trauma and help understand this common issue around birth in more depth.

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Birth Trauma Myth Number 1: Only women (partners, birth support people) who experience births with lots of interventions, surgery or serious complications have birth upset or trauma.

This is not true, although birth trauma is more likely in a birth like this, even women who have very straightforward births can experience birth trauma. Sometimes women (and partners) are simply not prepared for the intensity of birth, it may have been much harder, longer (or quicker) and more painful than expected, or it could be that they didn’t feel prepared for the unexpected when it arose.

Women can be left experiencing upset about feeling like they weren’t heard or listened to, if they feel like they weren’t supported in the way they expected during or after the birth, or like their body let them down. Sometimes they can even feel like they let them self down in some way. Upset can also arise from something that occurred during pregnancy or after birth as well.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 2: As long as the mother and baby come out from the birth alive that is all that matters.

This is a common thing people say when a birth hasn’t gone smoothly or as the mother hoped, ended up with complications and or surgery. As a society we need to stop saying this to mothers! It’s so invalidating and potentially damaging.

A woman’s emotional experience and how she is left feeling after birth, is extremely important. A woman who is left feeling shattered, upset or traumatised after birth, also takes these feelings into the rest of her life, into her parenting, her relationship with her partner and other people, and into her relationship with herself.

This doesn’t mean that her birth has to go perfectly well in order to be okay. When women are prepared holistically for any possibility (and by this I don’t mean that they can use their breathing or relaxation skills to stay calm when a complication occurs) they can come out the other side whole and okay, yes they may be disappointed or upset, but they have more tools to process and work through this. This is one of the amazing and unique things about preparing with Birthing From Within classes.

 

Birth Trauma Myth Number 3: In order to heal from an upsetting or traumatic birth, you need to re-live or “feel” the event all over again.

No, this is not necessary. Although some women find it helpful to write out their birth story and look over/discuss their medical notes, re-hashing or re-telling the entire birth story is not generally done in a Birth Story Healing Circle or private session. Most people attending a circle/session have already told their birth story numerous times and have found it hasn’t resolved their upset. Some may have also avoided telling their story at all.

You already know all of the intimate details of your birth story, a Birth Story Healing Circle/Session is a unique opportunity to explore your birth upset/trauma in a new way, re-frame and find a new meaning for yourself.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 4: If a woman who has experienced birth upset or trauma goes on to have an easier or more positive birth experience next time, this will heal her birth trauma.

Not in all cases. Some women do find great healing for example if they had a caesarean birth the first time and then had a vaginal birth the next time, or if they had some other complication/intervention like forceps/ventouse and then push their baby out on their own the next time etc.

For other women, experiencing a positive birth although it can feel like a great achievement, can also serve as a reminder of what they missed out on the previous time, and can even make them feel worse about the traumatic event.

Healing trauma isn’t always so black and white. When someone suffers trauma the effects are stored in the body and can effect the person in a variety of ways, this doesn’t necessarily stop even if a woman has a good experience.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 5: Midwives, Obstetricians, Doulas and Birth Support people are used to all different kinds of births and rarely experience birth trauma.

Although care providers and support people are much more familiar with birth and have usually seen a lot, this doesn’t mean they don’t get upset or traumatised when things go wrong, complications occur or when the birthing woman or her partner have a hard time, or are upset during or after birth etc. Its usually upsetting for everyone involved.

Care providers can debrief in both informal settings over a coffee with co-workers and in more formal settings. Birth Story Healing Sessions are also an ideal and unique way for care providers and support people to work through traumatic and upsetting births that they witness. When care providers are able to regularly explore and move through any residual trauma and upset, they can be free to be more present at each birth they attend and be less affected by previous birth experiences.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 6: When someone suffers birth trauma or disappointment, they will get over it with time.

Not always. Some people do find that time heals how they feel about birth upset or trauma, but this often isn’t the case. Its common to even hear women in their later years still talk about what happened during giving birth with sadness and a sense of loss. Even if the acute symptoms of trauma ease with time, there can still be a lack of completion around the event.

Trauma isn’t just an isolated part of a persons life, its usually carried with them into the rest of their life, it can change who a person is, how they cope with stress, how they relate to others and even cause physical symptoms and complaints. Unresolved trauma and more extreme trauma such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can have long term effects on a persons well being and can be associated with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and substance abuse. These issues can then also have a greater societal impact on not only the trauma sufferer but their partner, children, family, friends and workmates.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 7: Birth trauma and upset are rare.

Actually its more common than most people think. Its estimated that around 25-34% of women find their birth experience to be traumatic. Around 2-9% experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder post birth. This is a huge number of women. For example, at G.V. Health where 1200 or so women give birth each year, there could be as many as 300-400+ women each year who have suffered trauma.

This also doesn’t include partners and other family members who have witnessed birth and Midwives, Doctors and Doulas. So the number is probably much greater than this. I personally find this really alarming and clearly there is a need for good support around birth trauma.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 8: When someone suffers birth trauma, they feel upset or traumatised immediately after the birth occurs.

Not always. After giving birth, even if it has been upsetting, disappointing or traumatic in some way, the effects aren’t always immediate. New parents are usually of course swept away in the hour to hour needs of their newborn, so sometimes this can mask or delay the realisation that a trauma has even occurred. Its also very normal for couples to experience a sense of relief that everything is over and they have their baby, and they will usually feel quite grateful to anyone involved in their birth in the early time after birth. Often they haven’t had time to even process what has happened at this stage, but these feelings can change a lot as time goes on.

The reaction of others around them at this time can also play a role in whether trauma becomes an issue, or whether some healing can start to take place. If women (and their partners) have someone who can just listen in a helpful way in the early weeks and months, this can be really valuable. If women’s feelings are not validated, and they are told to feel grateful for a healthy (ie: live) baby and it’s implied that their experience of birth isn’t important, that they aren’t remembering things correctly, or misunderstood something that happened, are just too highly strung and anxious and should just get over it, this can often serve to make the problem much worse.

Some women may only realise there’s some upset when they notice their reaction to other women sharing their births, it’s common to feel upset or even jealous when someone else shares a story we feel was perfect, normal or something we wanted. Some women will have flash backs to part of their birth, thoughts re-playing over and over in their mind, or often they will totally avoid thinking or talking about their birth all together. Sleep deprivation and having a baby that is unsettled or unwell can make it harder as well.

The effects of trauma are generally stored in our body, so sometimes it isn’t until another upsetting event happens, that we even see the effects. For example, even minor car accidents, an injury, surgery, major illness, witnessing (or being subject to) something violent (even on t.v.), natural disasters, sudden loud noises, or feeling really isolated or alone can be triggers for trauma. So sometimes one of these events at some time after the birth trauma may actually re-traumatise someone if they haven’t been able to process and heal from the birth trauma. You can see how important it might be that Birth Trauma (and any trauma for that matter) is resolved, as it can cause ongoing problems for the sufferer. Stay tuned for some of the common symptoms of trauma in upcoming posts.

Birth Trauma Myth Number 9: Women who go into birth feeling “positive” about it rarely get birth trauma. Women who are fearful about birth are more likely to have problems.

Not always. Women who go into birth with overly high expectations and who are overly confident and expecting birth should and will be empowering, pain free (or low in pain), be easy and effortless and that they should be calm, “in control” and quiet, can actually be more likely to feel upset, disappointed and even traumatised if the birth doesn’t live up to their ideal. When we set certain rules or expectations about what it “should” be like, then it can be problematic when it doesn’t pan out that way. In an ideal world, yes I would like to think all women could come out of birth feeling empowered, nothing would be more wonderful. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, an ideal maternity system or in a society that trusts birth and women, or even a society where women are taught to trust their own instincts, we can’t avoid being influenced by these things to some degree. When we believe that we can control everything that happens to us whether in birth or life with just positive or “the right” thinking, this then backfires on us when it doesn’t happen, we then can blame ourselves or whoever convinced us to do that in the first place.

The key is to be positive, realistic and flexible, which isn’t always an easy balance. Being prepared for birth by learning ways to cope with labour, picking a birth team that will support your desires, learning how to cope with the unexpected (and by this I don’t mean that you can simply use your relaxation tools to stay calm and relaxed when things don’t go to plan), I mean ACTUALLY really exploring concerns and worries, talking about them, working through them, not just doing a relaxation-fear release exercise like I used to teach in class. These kinds of exercises can give women the illusion that they have dealt with their fears, but I really believe for most all they do is make them think their fears are gone, mostly they just put women into denial and avoidance as they are told if they give power or too much thought to their fears, they will come true. Actually, women who talk about their fears and are willing to explore them, learn more about themselves and how they can cope with anything that comes their way, and have broad expectations of how birth can be, are more likely to be prepared for birth, in turn less fearful and less likely to be traumatised. This is one of the prime reasons I now mentor couples through Birthing From Within classes, as one of the main goals aside from preparing couples on all levels for birth and parenting, is to prevent birth trauma.

Preparing for birth?

Preparing to have your first baby or adding another child to the family can be an exciting, confusing and overwhelming time. The day you give birth is a day you will remember forever, so why not give yourself the gift of preparing on all levels for what’s to come? Birthing From Within classes are a truly unique preparation for you and your partner, and I am here to support you to find your way in exploring what is most important and most helpful for you. Everyone is different and there is no exception when it comes to birth and parenting. Rather than being given some magic formula for having a baby, each couple will take away something individual and personal for them, while gaining confidence in being able to cope with labour pain as well as anything that may come their way. Classes are balanced with a variety of information, practical exercises, pain coping and introspective exercises, which makes Birthing From Within the most holistic birth preparation available.

I began my journey by offering HypnoBirthing classes in 2006, and I found some great aspects to the classes, but was also aware that it’s idealistic nature really isn’t right for everyone as they approach birth. After a lengthy search I found a completely unique birth preparation style in Birthing From Within and while it does share similar ideas with HypnoBirthing in it’s mind over matter approach to pain coping, there really is nothing like it! I realised that every couple needs to be prepared for birth and parenting and anything that could come their way, and understand that these things come with unpredictably and surprises, and being prepared for this is a much more holistic approach. With my experience of both methods I bring a very extensive and unique mix of tools to help you in preparing for the birth and your baby. As a Naturopath I can also offer help with nutritional, herbal, homeopathic support for pregnancy and birth as well as breastfeeding support and baby care.

mum and baby

How to choose a birthing class article

©2012. Copyright Brandy Ferner. May be reproduced with full attribution and copyright. All rights reserved.

How to Choose a Birthing Class
By Brandy Ferner
Birthing From Within Childbirth Mentor

These days, when it comes to choosing a childbirth preparation class, couples can get easily overwhelmed
by the different options and methods out there – some familiar, some not. Parents today are asking
themselves: Do I want to be hypnotized during birth? Do I want to my husband to coach me? Do I want to
birth from this place called “within”? It can be hard to know which class will be a fit until you’ve signed up
and are sitting in it.

Here are some tips and things to think about when gathering information about potential birthing classes
so that you can make an informed, thoughtful decision. Be open. When most of us seek out birthing preparation,
we are usually drawn to classes that speak to what we already know and believe, what feels comfortable to us
and what backs up our fears and hopes about birth. But after we come out on the other side of birth, we may
find ourselves shocked at what we didn’t know or what we didn’t seek out. Hunting for a birthing class is the
perfect time to open yourself up to new ideas and possibilities.

Be yourself. Your family, friends and even strangers, are sure to have opinions about what you’re eating,
where you’re birthing and surely, what kind of birthing classes you’re taking. It can be tempting to choose
the same class as your friend who swears she never felt any pain or your family who may not want you
veering off the mainstream path, but at the end of the day – your labor day – is about what you need to
know to give birth, which could very well be different from your friend, your mother or the chatty checker
at Whole Foods. Listen to what you need from a birthing class.

Look for food for your right brain. A class that simply talks at you for hours may give the left brain plenty
of stats, facts and diagrams to devour, but when women give birth, they are in their right brain – that
flowy, creative, feminine place. Opting for a class that balances left brain material with right brain material
such as ritual, art, celebration or thoughtful discussion will help to flex that right brain before labor –
making it more familiar and easier to sink into during labor.

Look for variety in pain-coping methods. Nothing is one-size-fits-all. We each get through intense
moments in different ways. Some go inward, some look outward for help, some are quiet, some need to
get loud. What makes finding the right birth preparation tricky is that you won’t know if the tool you
learned will do the job until the very moment you need it. Having a variety of tools will support your
freedom in coping with what labor may throw your way, so you may want to think twice before settling on
just one methodology.

Beware of false promises. Most birthing classes talk about instilling you with the tools to have a birth
that’s “painless,” “easy,” “blissful,” “beautiful” or some other alluring word. These classes can surely help
us stack the deck in our favor to be able to handle the intensity of labor. But beware of a class that
promises or guarantees a certain alluring outcome – there is a difference between suggesting that birth can
be blissful, for example, and that it will be. This is a tough one because any pregnant woman is vulnerable
to these types of promises and wants to believe that she can just do XYZ and get the birth of her dreams.
But let’s be clear, there are no guarantees as to what your birth will look and feel like. Even Ina May
Gaskin herself didn’t receive a “painless, easy, blissful, beautiful birth” guarantee.

Dig deep to find out how you feel about birth fear. Some birthing preparation methodologies avoid
talking about your fears about birth. Before you subscribe to this theory, ask yourself this: in my life, when
I have avoided intense emotions, such as fear, has it really eradicated the fear or just put me in a state of
denial? Check in with yourself about your need to feel heard and if verbalizing, exploring and then moving
past these fears helps you to create a more prepared and peaceful mindset (hint: it does), then look for
classes that allow you to do so.

Be gentle on yourself. Just like many pregnancy and birthing decisions you have already made – and
about a million more parenting choices just around the bend – you cannot know beforehand if you’re
making the right choice. So, what’s a parent to do? Open up, get educated, get in tune with yourself and
lovingly move forward and make decisions knowing that you are doing the best you can. There’s nothing
more to be done.

Brandy Ferner wears a variety of hats – including mother – and lives in Denver, Colorado. Born from a passion for
helping moms find their own birthing and parenting style, she is a Birthing From Within Childbirth Mentor, offers
Birth Story Medicine workshops and hosts a non-judgmental and introspective group, the Mamas Circle. She can also
be found blogging for The Huffington Post on a range of subjects from birth (of course) to beards. You can reach her
at: 720-515-7545 or brandyferner@gmail.com or find her online at http://www.mothernurturedenver.com. For more
information about Birthing From Within®, please visit http://www.birthingfromwithin.com.