“What do you think of your body?”
It’s a question that elementary school children have been asked recently, in hopes of shedding light on the body image crisis. But it’s also a question that every woman of childbearing age should ask herself – and most do, albeit unconsciously.
Medical anthropologist Robbie Davis-Floyd writes that a woman’s choices regarding her birth often reveal her deepest beliefs about the abilities of her body, and by extension, her beliefs about nature and technology. A woman who believes that nature has made her body powerful and capable will choose a birth with minimal interventions – a labor that begins spontaneously and is allowed to progress without interference. A woman who believes that technology is superior to nature and that medical knowledge is superior to natural (and often unpredictable) body processes will choose a more “controlled” birth, where the labor process is carefully monitored and perhaps managed by outside influences. Even if the type of birth is not consciously chosen in advance – in fact, it rarely is – these same belief systems are often evident in a mother’s choice of care provider (midwife or OB/GYN) as well as the location for her baby’s birth (home, birth center, or hospital).
Of course, many women begin pregnancy unsure of what they believe regarding medical technology and its relationship to nature. The attitude of today’s average expectant mother could be summed up like this: She wants to believe that a natural, low-intervention birth is safe, realistic, and worthwhile. But by the middle of her pregnancy, she has heard, read, and viewed so many birth horror stories, she is no longer confident in her body’s ability to birth without the “safeguards” of modern medicine. She likely still hopes for a normal birth, but has taken on more of a “wait and see” approach to her birth plan.
Several studies indicate that a mother’s level of satisfaction with her baby’s birth is only loosely related to the choices that were made, but very closely related to the mother knowing she played an active role in making those decisions. A mother who feels pressured to submit to an intervention she would prefer to avoid (or even a mother who feels she was denied an intervention she wanted) is often left feeling very dissatisfied with her birth experience.
Regardless of the decisions she makes, every mother deserves to give birth with confidence in her choices. Just as the physical work of pregnancy reaches its climax with labor and birth, much of the intellectual and emotional work of pregnancy is to be informed and stay confident. Pregnancy and childbirth classes are an excellent way to get information. The face-to-face interaction with childbirth professionals as well as with other parents gives both the mother and her birth partner the chance to ask questions and explore their beliefs about a natural pregnancy and birth. Most importantly, birth classes encourage dialogue between the mother and her birth partner. (This is often a more effective source of communication than handing your husband or boyfriend a copy of the latest pregnancy book and then wondering if he’ll actually read it.)
Prenatal yoga classes offer pregnant women another opportunity to increase confidence in their birth choices, no matter what they are. Yoga’s emphasis on “tuning in” to the self helps a woman build confidence in her intuition. Pregnancy hormone jokes aside, Woman’s Intuition is not cutesy sitcom fodder but in fact a powerful and valuable player during pregnancy and birth. For many women of childbearing age, the value of intuition has gone the way of body confidence: we lost it in early adolescence. Pregnancy is an opportunity to reconnect with both.
Not sure what you want for your birth? Be honest with yourself. Do research. But most importantly, practice tuning in to your deepest thoughts and feelings. With time, you will begin to discover the choices that are best for you and your baby.
Healing Hands Chiropractic offers a number of prenatal care services to help you have the healthiest pregnancy and birth. In addition to pregnancy and childbirth workshops, we offer prenatal yoga, prenatal chiropractic care (including the Webster Technique), prenatal massage, reiki, and acupuncture.