These days, we hear women proclaim the importance empowerment. We hear them express their need to become empowered. They help other women to become empowered. What about you? If you wanted to empower yourself, what would you do? You might not realize that for many women, giving birth is the most empowering event they’ve ever experienced.
Yet, I remember the first time I asked an expectant couple why they had decided to use epidural anesthesia as soon as labor began. They quickly responded, “Why would you have pain if you could completely avoid it?” I stood there, dumbfounded, trying to figure out what to say.
Shifting the focus
When I hear a comment like that, I want to blurt out, “So that you could be fully present in the moment! So that you could feel the power of pushing a baby out into the world! So that you could savor a few moments of feeling as though you were a goddess, suspended between heaven and earth! So that you could empower yourself!” But of course, I can’t say that.
Influence of the media
The media repeatedly tells us that labor and birth is a painful, panicky process. With that in mind, women have already entered what Dr. Grantly Dick-Read called the fear-tension-pain cycle. (Published in 1942, this obstetrician’s book, Childbirth Without Fear, is still in print!)
When did you ever hear the mainstream media suggest you view labor and birth as a way to empower yourself? A way to feel the exhilaration of bringing your baby into the world through some almost super-human power that you never knew you had?
Aloneness is disempowering
Although he advocated for natural birth, Dr. Dick-Read admonished that it is a “great crime to leave a woman alone in her agony and deny her relief from her suffering…”
I applaud partners, family members and friends who are compassion and present during a woman’s labor. However, I’ve seen many of these concerned and supportive others, and they are not as effective as having a trained doula.
Here’s an easy first step you can take to empower yourself: Listen to doulas explain how they can help. Doulas Teresa Bailey, Amber Thomas, and Kari Haravitch and Amanda Dodson all explain the role and the efficacy of the certified doula.
Medication: Is it the best way?
Having assisted hundreds if not thousands of laboring women, I completely acknowledge that there’s a time and a place for medication; I’ve seen some really rough labor/births. But more frequently, I’ve seen that healthcare providers give women relatively little information about other options.
To minimize or eliminate what they assume will be unbearable pain, many women turn to drugs (often those given as epidural analgesia).
Alternative methods to empower yourself
Pregnant women often question whether Lamaze “works.” In an outstanding article, expert Judith Lothian explains,
Lamaze that works … is about trusting one’s inner wisdom, having the freedom to work with one’s body as labor progresses, and being supported by health care providers, family, and friends …
Does that sound empowering to you? It sure does to me!
And, while these aren’t strictly categorized as a prophylactic method, don’t forget about the efficacy of meditation and hypnobirthing. The first time I saw a labor/birth during hypnosis, I was astonished at how the mother’s trace-like state created a peace in the room unlike anything I had ever seen before. I believe in hypnosis in labor, and you should too.
Was birthing an empowering event for you? Or do you wish it could be in the future?