The Good Enough Birth

This great guest blog is by the gorgeous Emma Svanberg (@mumologist and co founder of @birthbetter) I’m a huge fan, thanks so much for sharing.


When I first learned about hypnobirthing about eight years ago, one of the key goals was to challenge negative birth stories. We’re brought up hearing horror stories about birth, seeing birth depicted in dramatic ways in film and TV and have little exposure to birth in our daily lives. These negative attitudes to birth do, of course, still exist. But I’m finding more recently that there’s another expectation that we need to challenge if we’re to go into birth confidently and with excited anticipation – the expectation of the perfect birth.


This is the birth which is either at home or in a birth centre, there will be no discomfort experienced so the question of pressure relief will not even come up, music will be playing in the background, it will be dark, dim and peaceful and the baby will magically emerge into your waiting arms. Probably it will also be relatively short.


The idea is that, as long as we believe in it hard enough, birth will be magical and pain free. So if it turns out to NOT be magical and pain free – if, in fact, it is even slightly arduous or intense, our experience becomes a failure. No, it becomes OUR failure.


It’s a bit like that bit in Peter Pan where saying ‘I don’t believe in fairies’ makes a fairy die. By acknowledging our natural anxieties and concerns about birth, we worry that our chances of a perfect birth will die too.


So we prepare, we plan, we revise… We elevate birth to a heightened status, and spend months planning and preparing for it, idealising it further until it takes on the status of the Biggest Exam Ever.


But what if birth isn’t perfect or magical or precious? What if birth is just a pretty bog standard physical task that happens every day around the world, and more often than not it’s actually pretty boring? When you watch natural birth videos, the women in them are focused, concentrated and calm – as well as sweaty, joking around and probably wondering if they turned the oven off.


Accepting that, while there might be magical moments, birth may also be surprising and, at times, even mundane, we can begin to have a more realistic view of what is ahead of us. In fact, it’s pretty good practice for parenthood! Having some plans in mind but accepting that there will be much we can’t control sets us up brilliantly for our mothering journeys too.


Of course there are things that we can do to help us prepare – being well informed means we can make real choices and feel more in control of events as they unfold. By all means write a detailed birth plan, but include plans b, c and d. Having thought about different eventualities can help you take each step as it comes even if it is unexpected.


Yes, birth can be transformative, but  - like the humans who are giving birth – it can also be complicated, and far from perfect. But by accepting it in all of its complexity, and acknowledging that whatever happens, we can do it – then it can become magical.


Emma is a clinical psychologist living and working in North London. She began specialising in working with parents after witnessing how the parent-child relationship could be vastly improved by helping parents work through their own difficulties. She has a special interest in birth, and teaches personalised hypnobirthing to couples. Emma also has two children of her own who have taught her far more than all her training combined!