Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letting Go of the Fear of Birth: Three Writing Activities to Let Go of Your Fear and Pain

Currently, I am 34 weeks pregnant. Although I had already thoroughly researched my VBAC vs repeat C-section options, had already researched providers and had even made the decision to choose a midwife practice covered by my insurance, but with the nearest office located 45 minutes away and a birth center located over an hour away, about six weeks ago, I sat down to write my birth plan, and freaked out. I found myself looking at my first birth plan (the one that had actually ended in a c-section with my son three and a half years ago) and I found I could not stop crying. Panicked, I called my doula. "I need help with my birth plan! I said I'd discuss my birth preferences with my midwife at our next appointment and I can't seem to stop crying!"

After a few moments of questions, my doula gently pointed out that she didn't think I was quite ready to be writing out a birth perferences list yet because it sounded like I still had some fear left from my birth experience. I was shocked. I knew my body was strong. I was no longer afraid of the pain of labor (having already experienced that for over 24 hours in my last birth). I knew I could trust my midwife practice because I had thoroughly researched them. I thought I was ready, but what I didn't realize is that while I knew I could birth this baby with my head and my heart, I still felt the fear and the pain I hadn't fully dealt with yet from my first birth and, like it or not, it was bubbling up as soon as I even thought about my next birth. I may have read all the books. I may have thought and planned circles around myself, but labor is not an intellectual acitivy and I was not able to intellectualize my way out of my feelings. They would have to be "felt" through. My wise doula pointed out that the good part was that this was coming up long before I was in actual labor and so I had time to deal with my feelings. She suggested some fear release activities and, even though some of the ideas seemed a little kooky, I decided to do them. Figuring it was better to work on this now rather than when I was in the midst of labor, I decided it would be worth it to try them. That decision has made all the difference! Six weeks later, I feel like I am in a much more peaceful and stronger place to face labor in three to six more weeks. I have finally come to a place where I am giving myself permission to do anything I feel I need to do to make this birth happen and then when I am full term, I will let go and let God and this baby show me the birth I'm supposed to have. This is huge for me. I am a bit of a control freak. This is especially true when it comes to my babies, but letting go is probably the most important thing I can do when the time comes and that is what I'm working to do. I know that by letting go of my fear and my pain, I have paved the way to let go in labor. So, take some time alone for yourself and try some of these activities for yourself and see if they help.

Activity 1: Writing Letters

The first assignment my doula gave me was to write a letter in pencil to myself really letting myself express everything I felt I had been repsonsible for that had gone wrong in my first birth. She also suggested I write a letter to anyone else I felt I needed to talk to about my first birth or anything else that was coming up before my labor (any issues with men, authority, family, etc.). She then said that I should read each letter three times aloud to myself and then burn them. I know, I know, it sounds a little crazy, but she said the smell of the carbon in the pencil burning and the act of hearing my own voice say my fears would give my body permission to let go of those feelings. I have to say, there was definitely some satisfaction in watching those hurtful, painful thoughts burn. Afterwards, it just doesn't seem like those old painful thoughts and memories have the same power over me and whenever I think of this new birth now, I just don't see it as connected to those old feelings of regret from my first birth.

Activity 2: Mind Shifting
This is another kind of strange activity that seems a little kooky, but can yield some surprising things about what you really believe about yourself, about birth, and about life in general. The key is to pick an aphorism that you want to believe or that you think you should believe, but aren't sure you do, yet, and to write it multiple times until you hear your mind either arguing or agreeing with it and then quickly write those thoughts down, too, switching back to writing the aphroisms whenever you feel yourself running out of things to say. So, for example, you could write "I believe that birth is natural and safe and doesn't require thought," "I believe that birth can be successful in any environment," "I belive that I am strong enough to birth my child any way my baby needs to be birthed," or any other aphroism that appeals to you. This was actually very powerful to me because I did it awhile after I did the first activity and after I'd already done some serious soul searching, so I felt empowered by the lack of new things that came up for me. It made me realize just how far I had come and how much more mentally prepared I was to make this a new birth.

Activity 3: Birth Visualization (Two Variations)
This last activity took the most time and was probably the strangest one for me. Because I had taken a hypnobirthing class during my first pregnancy and had already started listening to some of my old hypnobirthing tracts to prepare for this birth, she suggested I get in contact with a local hypnobirthing practitioner about coming up with a special, individualized tract for this birth. I got in contact with the practitioner and she suggested that what would be most effective would be for me to write a tract for myself, record it, and then to try to relax and listen to that tract everyday. She also sent me some of her class materials (she is not offering any classes right now, but I really wish she was because her class seems amazing) and in her class materials, she talked about writing a letter to a close friend post dated about a year after the baby's birth detailing all the positive things I wanted to happen during the birth, after the birth, and in my family over that year. The letter is to be read daily until the baby is born and can be written very early in the pregnancy and can help set your mind to focus on the positive over the next year and to commit yourself to making those things happen. So, I did that immediately and it was actually very fun to imagine the relationship my children would have with one another a year from now and how I could feel about this birth a year afterward. I even wrote about how awesome I hoped my relationship with my husband would be at that time! She had told me that my birth visualization tract would probably be most effective if I listened to it in the last four weeks or so before birth, so I found this script online and I changed it into first person and added personalized details and things I really thought it was important for me to hear and I recorded it. I'm not going to lie. It was really surreal to record it and it felt a little weird saying some of that stuff aloud, but ultimately I feel the more times I allow myself to envision my body giving birth naturally, the more I give my body permission to give birth when the time comes. It couldn't hurt anyway!

Ultimately, I have no way of knowing exactly what shape this birth will take, but at least when it is all said and done, I can tell myself I did everything I could to make the birth I felt I, my baby, and my family deserved and if I end up with another outcome, I will give myself permission to say, "I did everything I could. This was just what was meant to be." That seems like a much more healthy place to be than where I was before!

Thanks for reading!


Francesca said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you SO MUCH for this post. I am in the exact same boat as you (but only in my first trimester) and it's nice to know I'm not alone. I'm going to try these suggestions!

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

Good to know I could help! My plan for this birth has been to try to clear out EVERYTHING I can ahead of time and then I will be better able to let the birth unfold.

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