As a birth doula, mother and a woman who has been on a long journey to find a stronger connection to my womb space and in general, self-love — I feel deeply compelled to discuss the value of positive reframing. The beliefs we hold about ourselves and especially our bodies are very powerful. The words we choose, whether we are conscious of them or not, can shape our ideas and in turn foster strength or fear within us. This applies directly to childbirth outcomes.
We live in a time where women (and their partners) are expected to think about birth as a medical condition that requires a high level of intervention; we are told that we cannot trust in the wisdom of our bodies and that refusing to consent to procedures that have not been clearly or honestly explained, will be addressed as dangerous and negligent.
The media portrays birth as painful and scary, where women are depicted as out of control and helpless; these ideas are deeply ingrained in most of us by the time we become pregnant. Even if we are aware of more natural options, it takes time to reprogram our thinking and move towards reclaiming our power.
Our bodies grow and sustain small complex human beings, our bones soften and become flexible, the placenta attached to our baby holds a large portion of their blood volume so they are smaller and can move down our birth canal more easily (why delayed cord clamping is so important!) along with overlapping plates in their skulls that will later fuse together. All these little perfectly worked details that our body knows how to bring together so that our child will arrive Earthside safely! And we still question the wisdom of our bodies, why? Because we need a shift in thinking.
It’s also important to identify the connection between fear and the release of stress hormones that impact the progression of childbirth. Fear can slow and even stop birth in its tracks. This is a defense mechanism of the body, to make sure that our child is not born into a dangerous situation.
When we accept negative ideas about our bodies and communicate with other mothers from this space, we are perpetuating fear and stereotypes about birth. Change can start with our vocabulary; by replacing negative words that imply we are not capable or that we will have a difficult birth with more empowering ones, we begin to own our experience and can connect more strongly with our inherent intuition. By choosing our words wisely and reworking our beliefs, we can also begin a more positive cycle of empowering and supporting other women.
Here are a few examples of positive reframing:
Pain __________ Intensity/pressure/tightening
Contractions __________ Rushes/surges/waves/opening
Overdue __________ Post-date/past your guess date
My doctor is “letting” me __________ My doctor “supports” my decision to
My midwife “delivered” my baby __________ My midwife “caught” my baby
In addition to positive reframing, I like to suggest my doula clients watch natural home birth videos to inspire a shift in thinking about what childbirth can look like beyond the typical mainstream powerless birth we tend to see on T.V. Here are two of my favorite birth videos:
“Imagine what might happen if women emerged from their labor beds with a renewed sense of the strength and power of their bodies, and of their capacity for ecstasy through giving birth.” — Dr. Christiane Northrup