How To Cope With Fear In Birth

How to cope with fear in birth.

Photo by Tahnee of Lemonade Lane.

I have been reading Playing Big by Tara Mohr.  She devotes one chapter to exploring the duality of fear.
She refers to the Hebrew Bible and explains that in it, two different words were used to describe two different types of fear.

The first is Pachad.
This is the fear of projected or imagined things…what could happen, what if, all those worst case scenarios that our complex human brain considers.  Our response to pachad is fight or flight, that adrenaline driven reaction which, when in response to a real threat keeps us safe, but when in response to a perceived threat can actually lead us astray.

The second is Yirah.
This is the feeling that overcomes us when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to, it is the feeling we experience when we suddenly come into possession of considerably more energy than we had before, it is what we feel in the presence of the divine.  Our response to yirah can mimic that of pachad, except that what we are feeling isn’t exactly fear…it is awe.

Her explanation of fear inspired me to consider the fears that we grapple with during birth.
I actually think there can be up to four different types of fear all vying to insert themselves into our birth experience.

The first is Inner Fear.
This fear is driven by our limbic system.  Our limbic system holds onto experiences and emotions from our own childbirth and childhood.

The second is External Fear.
This fear is driven by society.  Hollywood, media, and well meaning friends rarely portray birth in a realistic or positive manner.  As birth is hidden from women until it is their turn to bring their baby into the world, pregnant women rely on others to share birthing wisdom.  Unfortunately these insights often stem from a system that prioritises risk management over women centred care.  We are lead to believe that birth is painful, that women need medical assistance in order to give birth, and that all that matters is a healthy baby.  Even though we might intuitively know that this cannot be the case, these thoughts implant themselves in our subconscious and enable pachad.

The third is Pachad.
There is a reason adrenaline is a part of the birth process…for most of human history, the activation of the sympathetic nervous system during birth served an important purpose.  And that was keeping mother and baby safe from very real physical threats.  While these very real physical threats no longer exist, our brain remains hardwired to be overreactive to potential threats.  Potential physical threats can include a sterile hospital birthing suite or an unfamiliar caregiver.  Women also react to perceived emotional danger.  Our emotional safety can be threatened by feeling embarrassed by our bodies or by feeling like we are going to fail.  When our fight or flight response fires to perceived physical or emotional threats, it is doing a job it wasn’t designed to do.  And this response gets in the way of the birthing women feeling safe enough to fully let go.

The fourth is Yirah.
This one isn’t exactly fear…it is awe masquerading as fear.
This is us becoming mothers, undergoing an enormous transformation, expanding our sense of self.
Growth, change, progress…we are unsure of the result and so therefore feel unsure about the process.
This is simply us feeling the awe of birth…feeling humbled by the changes in our body, hesitant about the heightened sensations, uncertain about allowing ourselves to be transported to that scared birthing space.
This is the spiritual part of birth.
And it can feel scary!

So how do you deal with these fears?

1. Feel them.
Try to sort out what you are feeling.
Tara Mohr describes pachad as the ego perceiving it will be wounded and yirah as the ego perceiving it will be transcended.
If it is pachad, shift away from it.
It it is yirah, embrace it and allow yourself to experience it more deeply.

2.  Work on your mindset.
Rid yourself of fears that have been implanted by past experiences and by society.
Nicole Moore’s Birth Into Being program can help reprogram your limbic imprint.
The Hypnobirthing Australia Fear Release can help you let go of apprehensions and reservations.
Begin to think positively about birth, begin to trust your body, begin to connect with your baby.

3.  Use your breath.
Deep breaths, in through your nose, effectively deactivate your sympathetic nervous system and place you in the calmer parasympathetic state.

4.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you and who aren’t operating from their own place of fear.
Have you considered how your partner will support you during birth?  Taking a childbirth education course that puts emphasis on not only the birth mother but the birth partner, providing them with understanding, tool, and an advocacy framework, can be a valuable experience.
You might want to consider a doula, a student midwife, or a student doula to serve as an additional caregiver.

5.  Just be in your birth.
Allow yourself to experience whatever it is you are experiencing.
Birth can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable.  And that is okay.  Acknowledge what you are feeling.
When you are truly in the present, noticing sounds, smells, sensations, your breath, then you can’t be worried about future outcomes.
In the present, you are breathing, connecting with your baby, you are birthing!
Focus on that.

If you are feeling fearful, let’s talk about how you can move past that to have a positive birth!
Contact me and we will set up a time for a FREE meeting where we will get clear on what your ideal birth looks like and feels like.

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