Pregnant and worried about hearing other people’s birth stories?
There are ways to hear and honour other’s experiences whilst staying focussed on your own and also useful to understand the nature of birth stories when we are hearing other people’s.
Birth narrative is a tricky space to navigate, particularly when you’re pregnant and wanting to release fear and prepare for a birth experience that feels empowering for you. If you have taken a Hypnobirthing course you are probably very conscious of the messages you are receiving from outside and the impact these may be having on your mind and body during your pregnancy.
During pregnancy women are more susceptible to hypnosis which literally means you are more impacted by suggestion; affirming and challenging.
We also know that the brain has a negative bias and is more likely to remember areas it feels it needs to keep us safe and trigger our survival stress response; the flight-flight-fear response in the body that impacts the hormonal and physiological processes in the body, especially during birth. This is why we say we it takes a ratio of five positive comments to balance out a negative one, we are designed neurologically to look for signs of danger.
So when we put this into a birth context in can mean that when pregnant and looking to reduce fears around birth, hearing challenging or difficult birth experiences can have an impact, even when we are preparing with tools that help support our feelings of confidence.
So what do we do?
Rather than telling people not to share their ‘negative birth stories’, finding the space between ‘positive and negative’ birth stories and allowing the voices of women, all of which deserve to be heard, can be more beneficial for all.
It feels more useful to empower ourselves with an understanding of why women are sharing their challenges and have to have tools to be able to respectfully navigate these conversations for ourselves and them.
Why do women who have had difficult birth experiences share this to pregnant women?
This is something I have heard asked a lot, even on TV interviews and in media, as well as classes and in conversation.
Perhaps the answer is to do with the nature of trauma which unfortunately and deeply sadly, childbirth has left some women in. The nature of unprocessed trauma means that we walk around with our survival stress response of high alert at all times, looking for signs that remind us not to revisit situations that have questioned our safety. Seeing a pregnant woman can be a trigger to traumatic experience which have been unprocessed and then re-activated.
Women who have had trauma are not consciously seeking to destroy birth experiences for others or even scare them, simply they are reliving and actually often wanting other to avoid the same dilemmas and emotional pains they have experienced. Their stories are often unprocessed because often awareness of birth trauma is low and many women may not realise this is what is happening for them and are triggered by pregnancy.
Often there is a repetition of the same events of narrative and this is often very emotive, which is why it is doubly difficult to hear and also why we remember it; emotion is a language of the subconscious mind and is stored as an experience.
What their stories have are actually amazing nuggets of wisdom on how we can handle birth situations and how birth can be much better, we just need to know how to extract that without the emotion that is very personal to them and deserves to be heard in a safe space.
Hearing birth stories without emotion – gaining birth wisdom without birth bias
Gaining wisdom from all birth experiences is vital as we seek to create more conversations around birth and improve the experience of birth for all and facilitate community amongst women.
So in order to empower ourselves and others we can respectfully ask all those who may have previously birthed before some simple questions, that encourage information rather than emotion in their response.
My top three questions are:
- What’s your top tip that you would share with me?
- What was your favourite part of the whole experience from pregnancy to now?
- If you could do one thing differently what would it be?
Without asking why or needing to know any more information from these questions we gain the main areas of wisdom that women, all women, can share to support others.
The next step is to take that information and consider how it could be relevant or useful for you as you prepare for your own birth. If you feel something has stuck, share it with a journal, a partner, a friend or a practitioner. Listen to a relaxation and see if you can peacefully let it go, appreciating it is someone else’s experience..
This also applies to our idea of ‘perfect’ birth experiences, it is important to remember that birth is unique to each of us as individuals, we cannot replicate someone else’s journey but can take inspiration from it to find the experience that feels right and connected to us; there is no ‘right way’ just what feels right for us, our body, our family, our baby and our birth.
How do you find this process? Come over to the Tranquil Birth Community and let me know your thoughts and gain support.
If you’ve been affected by a difficult birth previously do get in touch for support either with 121 Birth Trauma Resolution Therapy or for an informal chat and signposting.
Beautiful title image is by Birth photographer Sarah Stirk and details of her work and sessions can be found here www.sarahstirkpregnancyphotography.com
Sakina Ballard is a KGH trained Hypnobirthing Teacher and a Birth Trauma Resolution Practitioner based in South Norwood, London
Tranquil Birth classes run in Crystal Palace, Addiscombe, South Norwood, Croydon, Beckenham, Dulwich and the surrounds, as well as online.