The influence of negative birth stories

As a fitness teacher, doula, and woman I have noticed the when people share negative birth stories they inject fear into their listeners. The rise of induction rates and cesareans definitely has a lot to do with hospital practices, however, the sharing of negative birth stories also influences women’s decision to welcome and in some cases choose inductions and cesareans.

I was a doula for a women in November and I remember when we first met she did not know much about birth except for all of her friends’ horror stories. It appeared that the women she knew only shared negative experiences. No one had shared anything positive or fulfilling about birth with her. She and her partner were leaning towards a natural vaginal birth but started to question the possibility because they had not met anyone who had a successful natural birth.

During our meetings, I tried to reassure the couple that they can definitely achieve a natural birth. I also had to be clear with them and that most hospitals do not achieve many so they are have to be prepared to stay committed to their choices. My client’s water broke at 4am and was asked to immediately check into the hospital so that they could keep an eye on her worried about possible infection. She was on a 24hour clock. I arrived around 2pm and she was 4cm dilated. The nurses and doctor kept coming in to the room to tell her that she wasn’t in active labor and if she didn’t progress soon they would administer Pitocin.  At that point, I pulled out some doula tricks to try and help get her labor going. By the grace of God and the doula angels she went into active labor shortly thereafter and delivered a healthy baby girl around 7pm that evening without any medicine!

When we discussed the birth I congratulated her on her focus and her strength. The first two things she mentioned were; one, they kept shoving medicine at me any time I had nausea or discomfort. Why couldn’t they support me in another way? Two, She said, “It wasn’t that bad. I thought it was going to be way worse after everything that people told me about birth.”
About two months ago, I ran into an old student of mine as I was heading to teach a fitness class and I saw she was expecting. So exciting!  I congratulated her on the birth and asked her how she was feeling. The second she started to answer everything that came out of her mouth was full of fear and negativity. She said, “Oh my God Rachel, I feel fat, it takes me forever to walk to work, I just feel slow. I am getting a C-Section because I can’t do it. I can’t. I just heard it hurts and its hard so I’m just gonna get a C-section. I already told my doctor. I’m scared. Yeah, I scheduled a C-section.” I felt my heart start to hurt as I listened to her. I did my best to reassure her and instill confidence in her.  I told her to call me so that I could be there to support her. She never called. I believe that the influences of negative birth stories robbed her of her power as a woman to not only attempt to have a natural birth but they stole her opportunity to enjoy her pregnancy.

It is devastating that so many women are not being supported during their pregnancy and encouraged to have a natural birth.  Women have been having babies for centuries and it confuses me that we now have a whole generation of women who think birth is gross, impossible without medicine, or that C-sections are or should be common practice. The lesson I learned after speaking to so many expecting moms and postpartum women is to always be careful of what you share about birth and to always emphasize that each and every woman and birth are unique.

Words are extremely powerful.