Antenatal Focus: Fear
You are working hard to make a difference to birth – sharing resources with your clients, telling the truth about birth. Yet sometimes, despite all you do, it just isn’t enough. Clients who seem to listen to what you are saying go off to an antenatal appointment and the seed of fear bears fruit – the seed planted long before in stories they’ve heard or their own past experiences. Maybe the scan or the measurements say baby is too big. Or too small. Maybe there won’t be a midwife available for their birth, or no midwife wants to take them on, or the consultant wants to speak with them about their birth plans. Maybe they are close to their due date when the pressure is on to change plans. Your clients go from joyful anticipation when talking about the arrival of their baby, to something quite different.
Or maybe it doesn’t even get that far. Maybe they are already caught in the web of fear before they even hire you. Whether it’s from personal experience or stories they’ve heard, they crave safety in any place they can find it. No matter how much information you share with them, no matter how much they agree with what you say, they are still making choices that seem totally counter intuitive.
Normal healthy pregnancy becomes fraught with fear and danger, and medical intervention dangles the lure of a totally ‘safe’, ‘risk-free’ birth. An untruth, for sure, but perhaps deep down your clients feel at least someone else will be responsible. Somehow an induction is booked and the chain of intervention begins. Suddenly, you are a doula doing damage control witnessing the train wreck unfolding. Okay, sometimes you can save it – stop the train before it reaches the end of the line – but you know there is a better way, why can’t your clients see it too?
Witnessing your clients, who you have come to really care about over the course of your work together, go through birth fear and birth trauma is one of the hardest parts of being a doula. You are probably the only one who sees the full impact, the only one who feels alongside the mother and family the pain of a mother and baby disrespected, a birth interrupted.
You know the truth about birth. You’re a birth junkie – soaking up every bit of information you can find about birth, about supporting families through birth. You know all about oxytocin and andrenaline in birth, you know what women need to give birth safely and normally.
You also know how to listen to your clients and respect their wishes. You only want them to do what is right for them. You want them to come through birth happy and whole.
You may have tried sharing what you know with clients many times over. Sometimes, it works beautifully. Sometimes, it’s just not enough.
It’s not your fault. Sometimes, information just isn’t enough to overcome the fear. And the more we tell women not to worry, not to be afraid (and maybe she’s telling herself this as well), the more fear grows.
Just think about it – how many times have you decided to go on a diet, and suddenly all you can think about are the forbidden foods in the cupboard. The more you resist, the bigger they grow in your mind until you are fighting a full-on battle.
It’s human nature to give up at that stage, to take the easy way out. Sometimes support or sheer will-power get you through of course, and this why sometimes that information and support will work and some women will succeed despite their fear. But let’s face it most of us will just eat that chocolate bar.
And for many women, they get so worn down by their suppressed fear and fighting the system, that they step onto that ‘easier’ path. And so it begins.
Imagine that you could avert the train wreck before it even began. Imagine that when your client says how afraid she is you had something more to offer her than reassurance.
Imagine that you could see your client’s fear in pregnancy as a gift, as a pathway opening to her own unimagined strength and power, if she chooses to accept it.
Imagine that you have the tools and the capacity to set her on this path to self-discovery and personal power.
When I was new to doulaing, a few happy home births under my belt – all of them amazing, victorious undisturbed births following previously traumatic experiences, a client came to me. She had had a previously traumatic birth and was caught in fear of the same happening again. I really loved her, I wanted to help. We spent loads of time together talking. She seemed to soak up the information I shared. She was ready for a different kind of birth.
Then she went past her due date. I was reassuring, but her fear was growing. One night she rang me to say that she was in hospital, she had decided to go in two days before her induction because she was so afraid. She stayed in, and the induction began on schedule. We were in communication, but she was insisting she didn’t want me to come. I felt awful about this, that I had let her down in some way. I finally had to accept she wasn’t going to call me for the birth.
But then suddenly she did call me. And I went in to support the birth that changed everything for me. I watched the cascade of intervention unfold. I witnessed my first birth trauma.
Following this experience, I began to question what was needed, why what I had done hadn’t worked. After all it had for three other women! But in this case the information I had shared had not made for a better outcome. It had likely led to a worse one as it meant my client decided not to call me earlier on in the induction.
I made it my mission to learn everything I could alternative approaches to dealing with fear, going beyond information-based reasoning, learning about techniques that engage mind and body: birth art, body-centred hypnosis, communication skills, intuitive healing.
More recently, I have come to see fear in a new light – as a gift, which, when accepted with compassion, can lead to an opening of new pathways. I see our job as doulas is very much about connection and helping our clients connect with their own strength and power within.
It is not about guaranteeing anyone a perfect, risk-free or natural birth. This is not something that anyone can guarantee. It is about connecting women with their own power so they can feel at peace making the choices that are right for them in any given moment.
What people have said about past study days…
I loved how Rebecca facilitated the day. She knows her stuff! She is more than happy to share, and will also take from what others in the group were saying and expand on that and give others the time they need. She made us all feel very welcome
I really enjoyed the day it was beautifully presented I loved the energy in the room…listening and sharing and really hearing
Brilliant! Rebecca has such a calming spirit about her. Full of knowledge and a joy to listen too. I could have listened to her all day. I think Rebecca has a great knowledge and the understanding. The day flowed well thanks to Rebecca and the atmosphere felt very safe and relaxed.
Excellent, informative and good at making sure everyone got to contribute to the discussions
Are you ready to think about fear in a new way? To acquire new skills for working with parents so that you can help them make that connection to their own inner guidance and sense of personal power before the point of crisis?
Join me and other fabulous, committed women for the next Childbirth International Study Day ‘Antenatal Focus: Fear’. The day is intensive and interactive. You will leave with a new understanding of fear, and a toolbox of effective skills for working with clients.
Dates and locations:
Sunday 12 August 2012, Quenington, Gloucestershire, 10am-5pm completed
Saturday 15 September 2012, Durham, 10am-5pm completed
Sunday 25 November 2012, London, 10am-5pm
NEW!! Saturday 1 December 2012, Birmingham, 10am-5pm
Book your place now:
(1) simply complete the booking form
(2) send payment (in full or £30 deposit to hold your space) by clicking the link below.
Cost: £80 (CBI students & grads £60)