Have you ever heard someone quip that showing a birth video to teens in health class is “a good method of birth control”? Like… to scare them away from ever wanting to experience something so terrible? I can see their logic, sort of.
Most of us don’t want our teens having babies at this stage in their lives. We hope they will use this time to learn, grow, get an education, and invest in their futures. (Futures that we do hope will include some grandchildren for us, am I wrong?)
But do the possible short-term benefits of this fearful outlook outweigh the long-term consequences of such conditioning? I’m sure, like me, you have heard girls and women express that they never want to give birth because it’s so scary and painful. The fear they experienced while watching that birth scene in the movie stuck with them.
So this begs the question…
How do we undo the negative conditioning?
How do we reverse the cycle? What does the next generation of birthers need from us to have more positive birthing experiences that they will look forward to, and not dread?
First, we need to point out to our daughters that media portrayals of birth are not the norm and are extra dramatic to add to the plot of the movie.
I know my children have heard it a hundred times, but still I speak up and set the record straight whenever we see a media portrayal of birth that is sensationalized.
Second, we need to educate ourselves about the natural process of birth.
It is natural to fear things we don’t understand, so gaining a personal understanding of birth is key to helping the next generation understand it.
Yes, labor is work! But it doesn’t have to be torture. There are pains in this life that are healthy to fear, and that we should avoid: falling off a ladder, getting burned, or hitting your thumb with a hammer. We need to teach our daughters to differentiate between danger and discomfort. But childbirth is a healthy, natural function of the body. It is not something we need to fear and tense up about. The discomforts of childbirth are different than getting burned, or injured in some way. The pains and surges are the body’s way of working hard, aiding the baby’s descent, and telling you how to move to find and facilitate the easiest exit path for your baby.
Understanding the normalcy of birth, and learning ways to work with our bodies, can make a noticeable difference in how we regard the sensations we experience during the process of birth. This understanding also makes labor less frightening to the young woman who has never given birth before, and empowers her to view birth in a healthy, confident manner.
Next, we need to share positive stories with the younger generation so they know the wonderful possibilities of childbirth.
If all they hear is negative, they will assume that negative experiences are the only possibility for them.
My first four births were good experiences, but I believe could have been much better if I hadn’t been so tense and fearful of the pain. I hadn’t studied yet about different labor positions or healthy pain management techniques. I’m sure I told others how painful and difficult those births and recoveries were! ~Thus perpetuating the fear!
I remember going to a baby shower for a friend who had just had a peaceful water birth. While all the other women shared more of the horror type birth stories, she talked about how she labored privately, in the dark, on her hands and knees and the baby slipped out without too much pain. I wondered…
How could anyone experience childbirth, without fear and excruciating pain?
I continued to meet with this friend and absorb her trust in the birth process. She helped me so much! I wanted to have what she had! I studied every natural birth book I could get my hands on. I knew birth could be so different than what I’d previously experienced. I went on to have three natural births with trust and relaxation.
Wanting to empower my own family members with a healthy view of childbirth, I invited my children to attend the water birth of their little sister.
After this experience my oldest daughter has had many opportunities to tell her friends that she doesn’t fear birth, and that she looks forward to that special time in her future! Also, when relatives came to town to see my new baby, I let my niece watch my birth video, and afterward she exclaimed, “I’m so glad I saw that! Now I’m not so afraid to give birth.”
Lastly, we need to help young women appreciate and understand their divinely designed bodies and trust their innate capability to give birth.
In an age where our bodies are critiqued and objectified at every turn, we must fortify ourselves and our daughters with truth! We are wonderfully made! We must stop criticizing our reflections in the mirror, and learn to speak kindly about ourselves- and others. We need to tune-in to our bodies and understand how we function. When those around us complain about their periods or post-partum bodies, we can listen, and then add how grateful we are for the ability to conceive and carry a child and bring them into the world. We can talk openly about the rewards and marvelous blessings of giving birth, and not just focus on the challenges. We can breastfeed and nurture our babies confidently, knowing that young women around us are watching and learning. These fundamental changes will help the next generation to have a healthier view of their bodies and their capacity to give birth.
Questions to Ponder
* What do you think would have helped you to have more positive views of birth growing up?
* Who was most influential to you in your beliefs about birth?
Resources I Recommend
A great resource I recommend for helping you with the four items I discuss in my article is the book The Sacred Gift of Childbirth.
Written by Rhonda Cazier, birth doula and mother of 7
Serving women in the Boise, ID area.