A positive birth does not mean an easy birth...

Written in April, 2017

There is so much positivity and love spreading in the birth world right now.  So much advocacy for rights in childbirth and women supporting women and with the launch of Milli Hill's awesome The Positive Birth Book, I wholeheartedly support it all.

As a doula and a Positive Birth Movement facilitator, I believe birth is everything basically.  It's where it all begins and the way we enter the world matters...what could matter more?  What I hope for though is that the positive movement isn't alienating those that had a tougher time in a previous birth, the Mums whose expectations were completely smashed to pieces and have heartbreakingly been left traumatised.

My first birth could definitely be described as traumatic and even though it was over 5 years ago, it's still with me and my driving force for change.  There are several studies that document how women remember their birth stories with complete clarity even in their old age.  Penny Simkin, legendary doula and birth advocate, herself did a study and realised the impact of your personal birth story on a mother.  She was recently interviewed in The Doula magazine and she said 'I discovered that their satisfaction wasn't associated with shorter, easy labour or natural birth but it was much more likely that they felt satisfied if they felt well cared for...how we care for women makes a difference in their long term feelings about their birth.'

I think it's important to note, that 'positive' is different for everyone.  We all make choices as mothers which are important to us for a variety of reasons. However a positive birth does not mean easy.  Positive birth does not mean pain free.  Positive birth does not mean you won't feel vulnerable, out of your comfort zone or scared.  It doesn't mean it's all flowers, breathing and song.  It does mean that you had choices, you were respected and you feel that whatever happened, you made the decision and you owned your birth.

As Milli Hill's vision states a positive birth means;

  • Women are where they want to be
  • Choices are informed by reality not fear
  • Women are listened to and treated with respect and dignity
  • Mothers are empowered and enriched
  • Memories are warm and proud

I know after my experience I felt like I had given all my power away, a cascade of intervention left me feeling lost, vulnerable and scared without the right support, without information and choices, without follow up.  I can only wish with my eyes tightly shut and everything crossed, to go back in time and get informed but I can't.  I also can't know if anything would have gone differently.  I can expect that it would have, I can rewrite the story in my head of how it would have been if I had asked that question or known about that, but we could do that for all aspects of life, couldn't we?  I saw a great quote recently from @my_secret_bump, 'Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it'.  I did my best, at the time, I did my very best.  I can't beat myself up forever but I can make sure I never feel like that again and so that's what I did.  I became a doula and had an amazingly healing second birth.  I'm not saying everyone should run out and train as a doula, although the experience has been life changing for me, but I would say, forgive yourself, go gently and get the right support for next time.

My second birth was pretty amazing but there were still things I couldn't forsee happening, like being alone for delivery :)  Still for me, a very positive experience because I trusted my body, I trusted the process and I knew about the fetal ejection reflex, I felt calm because I knew things, I had loving support and I knew what I wanted.  When my midwife did arrive and tried to rush the delivery of my placenta, I knew I could say, 'no thank you', I'm having a completely physiological third stage...when I had a rough internal post birth, I knew I could say, STOP (however I may not have used quite such polite language).  When we went into hospital for a stitch, I knew it was my choice to keep baby with me and no I would not be putting her down...these things would not have been in my perfect vision but they happened and through choice, I was able to accept and control them.  The power was mine to take because I KNEW stuff.

So no positive birth does not mean easy, but it does mean you'll be easier on yourself the other side.

Doula love