More on Fearless Birth

Earlier this week I posted about wanting to hear more positive stories about labor and delivery and fewer “OMG-my-cousin-Jenny-was-in-labor-for-92-hours-then-her-head-fell-off” stories.

It seems that I am very much not alone in my fear of the fear of labor. One Mom365 reader happened to post recently in our Community:

“I’m just EXTREMELY nervous/scared about the whole birthing process. Everyone has been telling me horrible things about birth (my family has a sadistic  sense of humor) For example: the epidural needle is large and very painful, (I have a phobia of needles..) I’m going to be able to hear when my doctor cuts the skin between the vagina and anus and so on. Since this is my first pregnancy, I’m completely clueless.”

Sigh. First, it’s depressing that women are still doing this to each other. Second, I am hopeful that awareness is rising up about another way to see and experience birth—it’s awesome that this reader is seeking wisdom beyond the horror stories. Her quest coincides with a raft of smart movies and books that are reminding us that women having been birthing just fine (not necessarily easily, but healthfully and happily) and without fear for millennia.

This movement is lead by natural birth hero Ina May Gaskin, about whom there’s a new documentary called Birth Story that I highly recommend you get your hands on. Her recent TEDx talk about calm birth, “Reducing Fear of Birth in U.S. Culture” is making the rounds too.

IN it, she talks about how we can overcome fear during labor, and how that actually moves labor along more quickly: “Hormones that work in birth are dependent on the emotional state of the mother.” And “It’s easy to scare women about birth, it’s even profitable. But it’s not nice, so let’s stop. It’s bad manners.” Amen!

To reduce fear in labor, she suggests things like:

–       Laugh! And no wry, witty humor—”Puns don’t work. You might have to get a bit gross.”—laugh-out-loud toilet jokes are best. “Even just a bitty smile is gonna help.”

–       Arm-wrestling—she’s found it work, especially when the mom can win!

–       Sexuality! Getting cozy with your partner—kissing, cuddling, nipple stimulation—can bring on feelings of love, which bring on oxytocin, a chemical that supports labor. (When they induce labor, you’re getting a synthetic version of this, Pitocin, in your veins.)

–       “Keep fear out of the room” by dimming the lights, barring upsetting people, etc.

–       Hire a doula. That’s a non-medical birth companion who is there just to support you and your partner. This reduces incidence of c-sections and improves birth experiences all around. Go to for more on doulas and how to find one.

Outside of the birthing room, Gaskin says we can change the vibe around birth in two ways:

–       “Don’t tell the horrible birth stories to women—that’s for a therapist.” (Hey, that’s what I said!)

–       And “let’s not judge”—everyone’s experience of birth is valid and good. Respect.

So to that reader and all of us who have watched too many laboring women hollering in movies and on TV, check out that video (embedded below), and keep on asking for the good stories. Also, check out Birth Without Fear on Facebook—getting these great stories in your feed is helping to expand my brain into the fearless possibilities.

And refuse to hear the bad stuff. This is your first step of many in parenting—taking care of your self so you can have an optimal labor and birth experience, which can lead to a happier experience for you and your babe of early mamahood and beyond!