Unassisted Birth – Part 3

You can read Part One and Part Two first if you want ūüôā

This post and the next post will be about the semi-crazy and tomorrow will be a continuance of this post, summing up belief, and the final post will be the one after that.


As most women who have given birth at home can attest, simply removing oneself from the medical environment does not ensure that a woman will have a painless easy birth.  This is because unnecessary medical intervention is only one of the reasons why most Western women have painful, difficult labors. -Shanley, 55

Even if you have the greatest midwife in attendance who never touches you, you still have a medical professional in attendance.  Even if you love them and feel comfortable around them, they are still strangers and can subconsciously or consciously change the course of your labor.

The birth we attended in August, the mother was having steady contractions, but because the midwife and I were there, it put her on a timer. ¬†Having us there made her worried we were called to early, or it wasn’t really labor, or she needed to do something specific so we didn’t waste our time. ¬†Even if they don’t feel this, their body does.

When animals birth, even domestic animals, when others are around their bodies stop their labor.  Even if they are pushing their babies out.  They do not like to be watched.  They want seclusion.

Your body may not know it, but that is what it wants too.  To be able to do its own thing without feeling watched.  If you have a midwife at your homebirth, and she is as excellent as mine, you still might feel watched.  Kind of like a lab rat.

Even in these amazing labors, what truly matters are your beliefs about birth. ¬†We are taught basically from birth (well the majority of us, some have awesome “hippy” parents haha) that childbirth is painful. ¬†That you need to be in the hospital because so many things can go wrong and because the pain medication is one of the greatest gifts of the hospital. ¬†All it comes down to basically is pain and hardship. ¬†This all sticks with you, whether you have different views or not. ¬†It stays in your subconscious.

You take your beliefs about reality as truth and often do not question them.  They seem self-explanatory.  They appear in your mind as statements of fact, far too obvious for examination.  Therefore they are accepted without question too often.  They are not recognized as beliefs about reality but are instead considered as characteristics of reality itself.  Frequently such ideas appear indisputable, so a part of you that it does not occur to you to speculate about their validity.  They become invisible assumptions but they nevertheless color and form your personal experience. РJane Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 20

Growing up, I had this idea about birth that ended up being so far from fact.  Over the last eighteen months, my views have changed with all the research I had done, and I have learned that what I believed was so ingrained it took a lot of work to fix it.  And some of it still surfaces.  I believe so many things, and yet sometimes, the old fears and the fears of others sometimes break down the wall.  The beliefs from your life are hard to change.  Even when you find out information to the contrary.

“Childbirth is painful” is a good example of a belief that most people unquestioningly accept as a fact. ¬†It is so thoroughly ingrained in the minds of most Westerners that, in almost all cases, it is indeed painful. ¬†Women expect it to be painful, prepare themselves for the pain, and consequently experience it as painful. – Shanley, 58

Again, we are told basically from birth that our births were painful. ¬†We hear stories as women and when we are pregnant that other women’s labors were so painful they wanted to be knocked out. ¬†You rarely hear of women that didn’t have pain in labor, and even more rarely do you hear of women that had orgasms during labor.

Suggestion of pain is conveyed by the atmosphere of the labor room; it emanates from doctors, nurses, and relatives.  They believe in pain; subconsciously or consciously they suggest, expect and even presume pain.  Upon the sensitive mind of a woman in labor such authoritative (suggestions are) a powerful adjuvant to painful sensations. -Grantley Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear, 56

I also think perpetuating this in childbirth classes, in childbirth books, and through other women makes us expect pain.  It makes us prepare for the pain of labor.  Rarely do women believe that labor can be painless.  Rarely do women imagine their labor as painless.  And the majority of leaders in the birth world always discuss the pain in labor, and never have I heard one say, besides those in the Unassisted community, that labor is supposed to be painless.  Never.

The idea of pain is perpetuated even by the most natural birthers.  Sure, they say that some women can experience a painless labor, but it has nothing to do with beliefs, they just have a higher pain tolerance than the women that do feel pain.

I had not noticed her having any contractions – no change of expression, movement or sound. ¬†I listened to the baby’s heartbeat while the doctor sat on the bed and did the vaginal exam. ¬†“Well, now, you’re eight, Ariel. ¬†How soon are you going to have this baby? ¬†Five minutes? ¬†Ten? ¬†Fifteen?” ¬†We all laughed, and Ariel continued to smile, reclining in bed with her legs spread. ¬†I kept my hand on her belly and, sure enough, it tightened. ¬†I timed the tightenings while we talked – they were every two minutes, lasting a minute. ¬†This woman was having contractions. ¬†“Can you feel that?” ¬†I asked her as her belly rose up, contracting firmly. ¬†“Not a thing,” she said.

Three contractions later her waters broke, clear fluid pouring out of her vagina and puddling on the bed. ¬†“Here comes the baby!” she said. ¬†Without so much as a moan or a groan, she spread her legs further apart, and I saw the bulge at her perineum. ¬†She smiled and reached down to touch the head as it began to show. ¬†The doctor supported her perineum, Ariel gave a big sigh, and the baby slipped out. ¬†She reached down for the baby – a boy – as the doctor lifted him into her arms. – Jane Dwinell, Birth Stories: Mystery, Power, and Creation, 88

Not only is a painless labor possible, I believe it is achievable by every woman if they let go of all their previous beliefs and fears attached to birth. ¬†And the very first way to start that is to let go of the idea that providers are necessary for low risk birth. ¬†If you feel a provider is necessary, even if you believe they don’t need to ever do anything but have a presence, you are scared of what may happen.

A positive image of birth is the cornerstone of a safe, happy birth experience.  If you believe your body is meant to give birth efficiently, naturally, and without complications and that birth is a joyful event, you are more than halfway to a safe, natural birth.  Positive beliefs and attitudes contribute to a happy birth experience, enabling the mother to labor more efficiently and to open for her baby with less effort. -Carl Jones, Mind of Labor, 32

Even if you can only get as far as this, just having a positive image for birth, you are a lot farther than most women. ¬†And by positive, I don’t mean positive by just having a healthy baby. ¬†As the quote said, if you believe your body is meant to give birth, most times it will. ¬†Blocking out the fear in the beginning is one of the very first steps to having a great natural delivery.

One physician told me that 95 percent of all labors are normal and require no intervention. ¬†However, he said, because we can’t predict which women will fall into the 5 percent of births that aren’t normal, all babies should be born in hospitals. ¬†By that rationale, suppose 5 percent of all men were rapists. ¬†Does that mean we should lock up all men because we don’t know which ones might be dangerous? – Shanley 66

Yes, things happen, but giving birth with an attendant just in case in happens to you just adds fear and uncertainty of your labor and delivery.  Your mind picks up on this.  It adds to your pain because you tighten, even if just for a moment, and it can throw off the groove of your entire labor.

I have spoken to women who have given birth at home, visualized a painless birth, and still had painful labors. ¬†“This proves,” said one of them, “that childbirth is inherently painful!” ¬†In reality this proves that, although the woman imagined a painless birth, she still clung to opposing beliefs. – Shanley, 67

When we believe that labor is painful, we are essentially making it so.

An orgasm and a contraction are the same thing.  They both use the uterus and muscles and nerves in the same area, and yet one is painful and one is extremely pleasurable.  What makes them different?

Is it truly our inherent belief about birth that makes it painful, or is it just a painful natural process?


3 Responses

  1. What inspired my own post today about waterbirth positions was a post of pictures of a midwife-attended homebirth. The mom was sitting reclined in the tub and her 10 pounder’s shoulders were a little stuck, so the midwife when in and unhooked the shoulder. As I was reading that, I wondered, “Why didn’t you suggest she change positions? Then you wouldn’t have needed your hands up her vagina!” I wonder how much the people around us affect our thoughts in labor. I learned that having someone- even just a friend who was UC-friendly- irritated me. McKay was ok, but I have daydreamed about how nice I totally autonomous birth would be.

    • My thoughts exactly!! I always wonder what having them there mentally does to you. Even if they aren’t even near you, what your subconscious does to affect your beliefs about your birth and labor.

      Having read this book, autonomous birth sounds so beautiful. So, how it was supposed to be. So perfect.

  2. This is probably the most like what is going through my head now (end of 29 weeks).
    It has been instilled in our heads so much that ‘something could happen’ and you HAVE to go to a doctor/hospital/midwife, whatever, for birth, JUST IN CASE.
    I’m getting towards the end of this pregnancy, unassisted, and the ‘what ifs’ are finally getting into my head. I think most of this stems from feeling alone, that I’m a weirdo for wanting an actual NATURAL birth. Sure there are forums, groups, women ONLINE that I can talk to, who are with me and my ideals of having a completely natural physiological birth. That our bodies are prepared to give birth, its what we were made for. But there’s a nagging of wanting someone to talk to in real life. Wanting someone with the same views. And the only people around think you’re nuts. So these people try to psyche you out and cause unnecessary fear.
    It gets into your soul, the fear, like you said, no matter what your beliefs for birth are, in the back of your mind there are still the things you were taught from people throughout your life. That birth is dangerous and painful.. BLAH.

    My first was born in a hospital and besides the contractions not painful until I made it into the hospital and had to fight for the short list of things that my doctor approved. (My birth plan) you can have an awesome doctor like I did last time, but once you get to the hospital, there are other people who are really in charge of the way you birth. (Nurses). They don’t care about you, or what your doctor said. They stuck an iv in my arm, sat me on a bed after stripping me down, checked my vagina a million times, and eventually stole my placenta after all was done with.
    If I didn’t like my doctor so much I would have gone unassisted with my first. And I should have anyways.
    My biggest accomplishment in my birth was staying on my side and delivering my son instead of listening to those godforsaken nurses to lie on my back and stop pushing.

    I KNOW unassisted is the right thing for me. I wish people would stop their nay saying and stop trying to instill fear into me because they are the ones afraid, not me. Because they are the ones who have let themselves be duped by the medical system into believing they ‘had’ to have a caesarean because of something so simple as a cord around the neck, or lack of progression due to the interferences they allowed to be done via drugs and inducement.
    Leave my birth alone!

    All I can hope is that my children will understand that birth is natural, not a medical conundrum or sickness. That they will fight for the,selves and for their partners. That they will not be made victims just for choosing to have a family.

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