Embracing the Journey of Childbirth: Navigating the Wild and Mysterious Path
By Danna Nassau
Childbirth is a profound and transformative experience, one that can be simultaneously empowering and challenging. As a therapist with a passion for supporting women through this unique journey, I’ve observed that the way modern women approach birth often leaves them unprepared to approach the true nature of childbirth. Whether you’re one who makes meticulous preparations and has an extensive list of birth preferences or you feel more comfortable going with the flow, I’d like to help you create emotional space in your expectations so that you can feel successful and proud of how you navigate your birth, even if you have to make unexpected choices that are outside of the birth you envisioned.
First, I believe a powerful dynamic occurs by reframing childbirth as a rite of passage. Every right of passage involves some challenge or obstacle that the initiate must navigate to develop the tools they need on the other side. Reframing childbirth in this way highlights the transformational element of the process and provides the expectation that we will be stretched in unexpected ways by the wild and mysterious nature of childbirth. It is a season in a woman’s life where she must come to terms with her limitations and is confronted with a true lack of control. The realization of lack of control is challenging, but it is also an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. It causes the mother to reach for and employ tools she’s not accustomed to wielding and stretches her in ways she might not have imagined. Mothers are forged through this beautiful and arduous process.
Second, in my years working as a birth doula and childbirth educator, I noticed that many women approached childbirth like they were preparing for an exam. They would take all the right classes and read all the books to learn the ins and outs of childbirth, how to navigate common interventions, and stay healthy by eating right and exercising. In the end, they would judge themselves and the quality of their birth on a pass/fail basis, celebrating a “good” birth as a reward for their hard effort and a “bad” birth as a personal failure. This is not only an incredibly painful point of view, but can be quite damaging as well. While knowledge and preparations will empower a woman to make choices during childbirth, all of this effort does not guarantee preferred birth outcomes. There are many circumstances that can impact a birth and a woman’s preparations or lack of preparations have frustratingly little correspondence with the path a birth takes.
Instead of viewing childbirth as a pass/fail event, I encourage women to reimagine it as a journey—an adventure filled with moments of strength and doubt, uphill climbs, and serendipitous surprises. When we plan for a trip, we learn about our destination, make preparations, gather supplies, and then eventually depart. We have an understanding of the basic itinerary, and hopefully a firmer handle on the start date, but as with any trip, we open ourselves up to the unexpected. On any trail, like in most births, there will be times of confidence and moments of doubt. Throughout the journey, there will likely be moments when we feel inadequate, regardless of how carefully we prepared, and we find ourselves improvising.
With this new view of birth as a rite of passage, we should expect to be confronted with unplanned choices or circumstances during childbirth. This may look like an extremely long birth, an unsettling fast birth, a care provider that’s on vacation, a baby that’s sunny-side up, or a medical situation that necessitates intervention. The list of possibilities is endless. These surprises force women to awaken to their inner knowing in a transformative way that prepares them for the work of motherhood. In these moments the knowledge and skills gained during your preparations become invaluable as you reflect on what you know and feel about the situation and ask questions of your care providers to help you understand the situation better. When you have the information you need, it is then vital to tune in to your gut instinct or inner knowing. While preparation equips us with knowledge, it is our inner voice that helps us make decisions aligned with our values and needs. Your intuition cannot change your circumstances, but it will help guide you to feel more confident in your decisions. Like childbirth, parenting will open your life to numerous unclear and uncontrollable circumstances that require you to rely on your sense of inner knowing. The wild and unpredictable nature of childbirth can awaken this powerful part of ourselves that is needed to navigate the care and protection of our children throughout their development.
Childbirth is a wild and mysterious journey, a transformative rite of passage that offers us an opportunity to embrace the unknown and awaken our inner strength and intuition. As a therapist, it is my goal to help other mothers release the notion of pass or fail, and instead, honor their unique experiences, celebrating the resilience and courage that childbirth demands. Embracing the journey, with all its challenges and surprises, can lead to a profound sense of empowerment and pride, regardless of how the birth unfolds.
While many women successfully navigate the common challenges of childbirth, it is important to recognize that some experience traumatic events during this process. Trauma arises when one’s autonomy is violated and sense of safety and/or connection is compromised. If you are struggling with negative feelings about yourself after a difficult birth or have experienced trauma during your birth, I encourage you to seek professional help and support. Trauma can have long-lasting effects. Finding assistance can be a crucial step in the healing process that will enable you to return to yourself and enjoy your family.
Village Birth offers doula services, childbirth classes, newborn care classes, lactation and pregnancy support for Los Angeles. Our space is in Sparrow’s Nest in Pasadena (bordering Eagle Rock) where we hold classes, support groups, workshops, and meetups. Interested in learning more about the birth process and options available in your birth setting? Check out Village Birth’s prenatal classes.