Why is this? Why do we question our bodies' abilities to give birth, when millions of other women have gone before us and have done just fine?
There are lots of reasons, I think. There are the notorious and unhelpful horror stories told to us as pregnant women, about how unbearably painful labor is. There is the media. The countless pictures of "perfect" bodies we encounter every day certainly do not serve to help our self-images or to boost our confidence in our bodies. There are our doctors, who treat us as if we were a problem to be managed medically, and not as the powerful and truly capable women we are. And the list goes on...
But here's the good news--what no one tells you and what they don't want you to know:
YOU CAN TOTALLY DO IT!!!
If you're educated about the process, well prepared, and have a good support system (doula!), it's not nearly as scary as they say it is. Labor is totally manageable.
I was talking to our local Bradley Method instructor, Susan Booker, about it after observing one of her classes. During the class, she walked us through an average labor--how long your contractions are compared to the amount of resting in-between. I learned that in the typical labor, your uterus is contracting only 11% of the time. ELEVEN PERCENT! So when you hear one of those horror stories about the 20-hour-long labor, she was actually only having contractions for a little over two hours. The early ones don't even hurt! And by the time your labor is really getting going, you have hopefully gotten yourself into a good rhythm and wonderful endorphins are pumping through your veins. You've had a chance in early labor to experiment with what feels good and what makes it worse. And your loving and supportive partners are surrounding you, helping you get through every second.
And contractions aren't normal pain. As many natural childbirth advocates say--it's "pain with a purpose." Labor pain is not sudden or severe, like getting your hand smashed with a hammer or stubbing your toe. It is intense, and in the heat of labor it's honestly quite crazy. But your contractions ebb and flow like a wave. They start soft, build up and then peak, and once you've made it over the top, you sort of float back down to several more minutes of rest and relaxation as you prepare for the next one. As your labor progesses, the contractions get "longer, stronger, and closer together" (as my childbirth ed teacher, Beth, always said), and you get less time to rest. It gets so, sooo hard. But that means it's almost over :) As soon as a laboring mom feels like she doesn't know how much longer she can go on, she's usually minutes away from pushing her baby into the world.
I remember when I was pregnant, worrying about whether or not I would be able to give birth without an epidural or other interventions, talking with my good friend, Lauren (seasoned momma of 4). I told her that Greg and I were going through the Bradley book together, and had been practicing relaxation every night before bed. She said casually, "Oh, you're gonna be fine." I was so surprised at her surety! Her almost nonchalant confidence completely went against all the doubt that had been instilled in me, and gave me that much more belief in my body's truly awesome design.
And I did it. I totally did it! And it was AMAZING!! I have never experienced a higher high than what I felt after going through labor and giving birth to our beautiful daughter.
So don't listen to the doubters and the nay-sayers. Our bodies are powerful and beautiful and totally capable.
You can do it!