Okay, so the first thing we want to do is question that thought "You can be in control of your birth experience." Don't know why we are questioning this thought? See the page "This Shouldn't Have Happened to Me."
Perhaps you had a birth that previously went wrong. Perhaps you had a lot of pain with a previous birth and you don't want to experience that again. Perhaps you experienced the disempowerment of having caregivers telling you what to do or trying to medically manage your birth. Perhaps you just long for the peaceful comfort of home when trying to accomplish what amounts to running a marathon. You have the right to make those choices. You should make the choices that will make you feel most comfortable and facilitate the birth you really want.
However, we also have to realize that 99% of the thoughts we think in our minds are not true. They are thought projections and not reality. And when we argue with reality, we cause ourselves pain and suffering. Because when we argue with reality, we are believing our thoughts. We must question every thought.
So let's choose a thought. A thought that is troubling to you. This may not be exactly what happened to you, but I'm sure you can relate to it.
Let's say you had a lot of pain with your last birth, and you'd like to avoid that at your next birth. Of course, pain in childbirth is deemed by some to be women's "lot in life" for spiritual reasons. Some believe it's caused by fear which causes the fight-or-flight response during birth. Some believe there's no way to avoid it, and some have had success with reducing their pain through many different techniques. My question is, why do we try to avoid it? Well, you say, because it's uncomfortable, unpleasant, and we'd enjoy our birth so much more if we didn't have it. Also because it's frightening. When you feel pain, you don't know if it's just normal pain of childbirth, or if there's something really wrong.
So first let's question the thought "Pain is bad." Is it true?
No, it's not bad because it's something our bodies are capable of. If our bodies were created, or evolved, to feel pain, there's a purpose for it. Deadening the pain with painkillers is not a good idea because then we can't learn from it. It's one of the ways our bodies communicate with us. It's a scientific principle that if a trait has persisted throughout many generations, it must have an evolutionary advantage for that species, or else the trait wouldn't continue to be passed on. Pain is something our bodies evolved to feel, so we shouldn't dismiss it as something we can live without.
Pain tells us that there's something we need to change.
This goes for both physical pain and emotional pain. When doing The Work I often ask you to identify a troubling thought. That's because if a thought is causing you pain or suffering, that's where you should focus your Work. That's where you need change.
In childbirth, pain might mean that you need to change positions, eat or drink, walk around, find a quiet place away from noise and the hustle and bustle of the household, ask people to leave the room, or any number of things. It could mean you need to reduce fear so as to avoid the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle or to avoid the fight-or-flight response. The best way to reduce fear is to do The Work on whatever it is you fear.
So right now we are questioning the thought "Pain is bad." Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it's true that pain is bad?
You might say, "Well, I don't know if it's bad but I know I don't like it."
So let's visualize you during birth. You are in a safe warm place. Whatever place you feel most comfortable giving birth. Let's say you are at home. You have the people around you that you want to be there. There is no imminent danger or threat. You are safe and comfortable. Then you start having contractions. At first the contractions are fine, but then they get more difficult and you start breathing through them. Then you start to experience some pain. Now, thinking back to the time when you felt that pain, what do you feel now? Fear? Confusion? Frustration? Name whatever you are feeling.
Now, let's say the thought "Pain is bad" is not a thought that is available to you. Who would you be, in this moment, without that thought?
Without the thought "Pain is bad" you would simply notice the pain, and go on. You wouldn't have the thought "I should get rid of this pain" or "I can't tolerate this pain" or "My body is malfunctioning or I wouldn't have this pain." Or "This pain means I'm in danger." You would just breathe in and out and wait for the pain to stop. You would just calmly notice it, and go on. No judgments about it. Just reality.
You can certainly try to change positions, walk, etc. to make your body more comfortable. But your expectations about the process can have a drastic effect on how you feel. And the fact is that much of our pain in childbirth is caused by our own fears. Adrenaline is released during the fear response which causes certain muscles to be drained of their blood supply, making them less able to contract comfortably. This is the origin of much of childbirth's pain.
You may be one of those people who expects to have no pain during childbirth. Or you may be one of those people who expects to have horrendous pain during childbirth. You may or you may not. But no matter which one you get, if you expected the opposite, it's your expectations that are troubling you, not the actual experience.
When you enter into a situation, do not have any expectations about how it should turn out. Know what you want to accomplish, but be fluid in the way that you respond to the situation. Realize that there is no certain way that the situation must turn out in order for it to be "right". Change the way you are dealing with the situation as the situation changes. Don't expect things to be convenient, don't expect things to be comfortable. Expect that you are going to have to alter your beliefs and actions as the situation changes.
You may say "It doesn't matter what I think. Pain still hurts."
Yes, but knowing that your thoughts can make it worse is motivation to change your thinking.
You may be one that believes that pain in childbirth is women's lot in life because Eve brought sin into the world. Let's question that thought. Is it true? Can you absolutely know that this is true?
I would offer this fact as proof that this thought is not true. Many women have no pain in childbirth. Yes that's right, and I'm one of them. The contractions were very intense, but they were not painful at all. There are many women who do not experience pain, or experience very little. If pain is women's lot in life, then how do you explain women who have none?
I might also offer this bit of information. I do not believe in a god or deity of any kind. There are some who say, "The amount of pain you have in childbirth has to do with how good a Christian you are, how strong your faith is, or whether you believe in God." Yet, I espouse none of those beliefs and still had no pain. How do you explain that?
For more information about painless and pleasurable childbirth, see my friend Laura Shanley's site "Unassisted Childbirth.com"
How do you react, what do you feel when you think the thought "Pain in childbirth is about how strong your faith is?" Well, if you experienced pain in your last birth, then that statement might make you feel sad, outraged, worried, disappointed in yourself because you are equating physical pain with your spiritual status. But we've already proved that is not the case at all. If it was, then atheists would have the most pain in childbirth. But they don't.
Pain happens to everyone at one time or another. It is not a measure of your spiritual status. It is not a measure of your personal worth. It does not mean you're doing something wrong. It just happens. It might mean you need to change positions, eat or drink, rest or sleep, walk, get a change of scene, ask people to leave the room, breathe deeply or meditate. But it is no reason for panic, and no reason to beat yourself up. It might mean that you just need to reduce your fear by doing The Work on whatever is troubling you. That is why we say, question every thought.
I would suggest that you take every troubling thought about childbirth and fill out a Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet on each one. Then apply the four questions and realize that you don't have to believe your thoughts. 99% of our thoughts aren't true. So question them, and drop the ones that are making you feel stressed.
For more information about The Work, visit The Work of Byron Katie
If you need help with this, send us email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Unhindered Childbirth involves giving birth at the time, place and in the manner you choose, without interference from anyone. This means choosing to give birth at home, in a hospital, in a birthing center, or in a natural setting. This includes having a doctor or midwife present, family and friends present, or no caregivers present at all (unassisted birth). This means choosing to have medical prenatal care or do your own prenatal care at home. No matter what you choose, you are in control of your birth experience.