The “F” Word
I have a strong belief that choosing to see things a certain way WILL change the way you see these things. Mind over matter doesn't fix everything, but it does have a significant impact. I also believe that God has called me to this passion - the pull I have towards educating others and spreading truth about birth cannot be anything less than a calling. I believe everything (good or "bad") happens for a reason and I truly try to see that reason and the connections within my life as much as possible. I never did this until I became pregnant (unplanned) and dealt with some of the most difficult emotions I've ever experienced through [what I now know to be] antenatal depression. If I can use my experiences, both empowering and humbling, to bring others to a place of strength and understanding then I must do so whenever I feel called to that duty.
Which brings me to the topic of this post. This isn't directly perinatal related, but I want to share some of my recent emotions regarding life experiences with those of you who may be having similar emotions regarding your upcoming birth. The Derecho storm that went through the eastern region of the US on June 29th hit our area pretty hard. I'll spare you the full story, but basically I was running through the woods carrying my 9mnth old while my husband and 4yr old daughter were in the woods checking out the pond when it hit. We have a small patch of sky that we can see from our house, and the clouds looked like any normal rain storm - guess we should have listened to the weather that day, but, c'est la vie. We found ourselves praying in an earthen ground blind while the wind whipped through the woods and tore down trees all around us. We didn't have power or running water for 12 days, but luckily were able to spend a few of those days with family that did. Needless to say, my daughter and I have been experiencing what some may describe as PTSD ever since.
My daughter is still in the stages of life where as long as a trusting loved one is nearby to tell her she'll be OK, then she's OK. I, however, feel like I am unable to keep my family safe and almost have a panic attack every time the wind blows hard while checking the weather every 1/2 hour. To top it off, my family is worried and escalates this fear. They call every time the wind picks up or the radar shows dark green and my heart starts racing again. Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for their concern, I just have a hard time processing the situation. Therefore, I had to explain what happens to me in this situation so they could process their own fears and not project them.
Isn't that what questions, advice, and comments are all about? Projecting someone else's fears onto you during your pregnancy because of something they believe or something they have experienced. I panic when it storms, but I have at least two other people at almost all times to consider in any given situation. I simply CAN'T freak out - it is not an option... not to mention something I want to deal with forever. Because I know this, because I choose to perceive the situation in this manner, I know that I have to find a way to work through these fears rather than project them onto someone else, i.e. my daughter mostly.
So, what do I do? I researched therapy a little, but I want to work through this myself for now, because I think I am capable of doing such. I am learning more about weather patterns to help judge storms better. I know, sounds like common sense and simplistic - but this knowledge helps me overcome my fear of no protection. I do check the weather constantly, and I hope to one day overcome this compulsion - but for now, it works for me. I pray, because I know that above all - God has a plan and I have to trust that not only will he watch over us, but that he will put us in the situation where he needs us most. Currently, he needs me to take care of my family and teach others that they can overcome their fear as well. Lastly, I tell others to not project their fear on me by telling them what I'm going through, telling them how I'm keeping us safe, and by suggesting that they may also need some type of therapy/knowledge so they may overcome their own fear. I promise, this applies to you.
How often do you make a choice, or simply become pregnant, and everyone starts throwing advice at you, telling you what choices to make, and telling you how wrong you are... and most often, it is tenfold with home birth. Let's put some things into perspective, and then you can apply this to your situation.
First of all, the "F" word can be looked at from two perspectives... another "four-letter word" or a survival mechanism. I choose to look at it in a positive manner so that I can learn and choose wisely. Fear is a response to a perceived threat. Why is it only a perceived threat? Because not everyone has the same response to this "threat." One person fears heights, another loves them while another fears birth without a hospital, and another fears birth with interventions. What is a threat is typically determined by one's experience, one's knowledge, and one's perspective on what "should" happen. Coming to a place of peace on the circle of life is challenging, but important - and knowing that you need only deal with YOUR fears, not everyone else's. Living in a technology-filled world, we mistakenly believe that everything can be fixed when some things are just meant to be - while also failing to follow a preventative lifestyle.
- When someone offers you advice in a manner that is projecting fear into your mind, remember that THEY have fear that they need to overcome as well. Educate yourself so that you can make choices that support health and safety and then educate them also. If you can both become educated at the same time, then you can see each others' thought process in the matter of making decisions - as well as their willingness to learn vs. going by (what may likely be misguided) experience. If they are going to be a part of your perinatal support system - this is crucial. If they are unwilling to learn, you may want to reassess their role in this time of your life - look at it as a safety matter. Don't choose a birth team to be nice - things probably won't go a positive route if you're doing this.
- Remind those around you that you need to hear positive stories and that you're researching your options to become fully educated so that you can make informed decisions. Say something like "Those stories scare me, raise my blood pressure, which also affects my baby. Please don't talk to me about things like this - it isn't healthy for my pregnancy and birth." When someone wants to provide you with what they believe to be the "right" information when they have not researched, this is not conducive to a positive experience. Explain "When you watch the news, how does it make you feel? You typically only hear negative stories, and in turn it makes you afraid of everything and generally a negative person. We know the news doesn't give us the whole story, or even the truth sometimes. If you listen to positive music, watch a funny movie, or have a game night - it generally makes you feel better. That is what I need right now." You can also say something like "I am intelligent enough to learn about my health and my baby's health. I can provide you with all the resources so that you may do the same. Visiting something like The Cochrane Library is a good start for scientific evidence. I highly suggest looking into these studies about the things you're afraid will happen and watching The Business of Being Born."
- Remember that you're essentially acting as a therapist - and this is not your job. Typically those that have experienced negative births in the past fall in to two categories (or a combination of borth) 1). They haven't processed their own birth experience and are suffering themselves from a type (or full blown) PTSD and/or 2). They actually believe westernized birth is just what happens and it is not "safe." In either case, they need to seek therapy for one of the most life-changing events of their lives as birth impacts every choice you'll make in your future (whether you believe it or not) and they need to realize that "safe" is a relative term. If you're hiring an obstetrician to watch over you, they won't because they aren't going to show up until you're crowning (most likely) and the nursing staff will typically be with multiple women and well, they aren't the obstetrician you hired. You both need to ask yourself what gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling that you're "safe" in whatever situation you choose and also determine what "safe" means to you. Have this conversation and you'll likely discover a lot about your choices and other's beliefs.
So, this doesn't solve all your problems - but this is a step in the right direction for overcoming that four-letter word and projecting it into a positive thing. Listen to those fears, really listen to what they're telling you - and do what you need to do to be in the environment that supports this biological experience. You have your own fear to overcome, let others do the same - and speak up about how they make you feel.