“Whenever and however you give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.”
- Ina May Gaskin
This is so true! A woman's birth experience is a big deal, but so many people downplay it with saying: "Healthy mom & healthy baby, that's all that matters!" I disagree. Your birth experience matters too, and so does your transition after your baby arrives.
Women go through enormous changes during and after experiencing childbirth. Who you surround yourself with and how you prepare yourself is so important! All of your thoughts and feelings leading up to the arrival of your new baby will be very influential on your birth experience. Unresolved emotional issues from your past can have a detrimental impact on your labour and birth, and will also impact your ability to connect to and cope with the demands of your new baby. Walker Karraa (author of Transformed by Post Partum Depression) discusses how a woman’s birthing experience is impacted by the state of her mental health, and that complications in childbirth are often caused by untreated mental health issues.
How many women out there are experiencing unnecessary birth trauma because they have not had appropriate care and support leading up to their birth? Complications in labour seem to be more of a norm now than an anomaly. There are many things that contribute to this, and before I get into a rant about our health care system … I will come back to mental health.
“In our culture childbirth has been seen as a medical procedure, with the majority of public discussion concerned with safety and statistics, as defined by physicians, and with little room for debate and dissension – especially from those who are at the centre of the process - women themselves.” - Sarah Buckley, 2009 – Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.
How many people think that your mental health and unresolved issues from your past will impact your birthing experience and your relationship with your new baby? This isn’t something commonly spoken about, but it is an important matter to consider. And it doesn’t stop there – all of your relationships might be impacted by your birth experience and also the transitions that follow when you become a mother (and more changes with each subsequent birth & baby). If this was something that was discussed more openly, women might be more inclined to get support to prepare for each birth & new baby on a deeper level than your typical childbirth education classes (which are very important too!)
Your emotions LIVE in your body, they are felt by your body, and they are stored in your body.
“Emotions, though interpreted and named by the mind, are integrally an experience of the body…each emotion is the result of interplay between the sensory, autonomic, and somatic nervous systems interpreted within the brain’s cortex.” - Babette Rothschild, 1957 – The Body Remembers.
Even when your mind shields you from your emotional pain, your body remembers. When you are suppressing your emotions, you are disconnecting yourself from your body, and in turn, disconnecting yourself from your intuition. Both connecting to your body & connecting to your intuition are SO important – maybe even the MOST important – parts of birthing & mothering. You need to connect to and listen to your body and intuition during birth, and also to be able to respond to the needs of your children once your become a mother.
“To prevent complications during and before pregnancy, we need to work on ourselves, emotionally ridding ourselves of any negativity about our bodies, past history or childbirth itself.” (Zuki Abbott, 2007 – This Sacred Life, Transforming Our Life Through Birth
It is so important to give yourself space and time to connect to your body, your emotions and your intuition leading up to the birth of your baby. When you give yourself the opportunity to do this prior to your birth, you will be more prepared to cope with your feelings during the birth of your baby and your emotions once your baby arrives.
“Recovering from birth and caring for a newborn wreaks havoc on women physically, psychologically, and emotionally, especially when they live in a culture that does not take care of it’s new mothers.” - Walker Karraa, 2014 - Transformed by Post Partum Depression.
So not only does the saying “healthy mom, healthy baby – that’s all that matters” disregard a woman’s birthing experience, it also disregards her experience as a mother – her transition into motherhood with her first baby and also the continuation of her journey as a mother with each subsequent baby. Respected mom, respected baby – this matters too. The way that a woman is treated leading up to, during and after her birth is so significant and influential on her birth experience & her transition into the post-partum period. Women need to be heard, respected, empowered, supported, and honoured during these life changing experiences. This is arguably the most important time in a woman’s life and just being “healthy” isn’t going to cut it.
Abbott, Zuki (2007) – This Sacred Life, Transforming our Life Through Birth