Updated: Mar 30, 2021
How many of us have asked ourselves or heard another woman say:
Is my body unable to go into labor?
Will I need help giving birth?
How bad is labor pain?
What if I can't breastfeed my baby after the birth?
I feel like my body failed me.
How can I come up with a birth plan?
How painful is childbirth?
Can I produce milk?
Most women can't breastfeed.
What if I can't do a natural childbirth?
I don't know what to expect from pregnancy/childbirth.
What if I have trouble giving birth?
My body wasn't able to give birth.
Birth seems scary, and we've lost so much confidence in our ability to birth. Some of us leave the hospital or birthing center feeling utterly defeated, as if our own bodies failed us and our bodies have lost their ability to birth. Long labor seems abnormal; a frequent nursing baby suggests that something is wrong; a baby that sleeps for short periods is considered a bad baby, and holding your baby a lot means it is in danger of being spoiled. Modern pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting have changed significantly and rapidly in the last century and have been considered more challenging than even fifty years ago. Let's explore some of the reasons why.
Motherhood is less of a group effort
Before modern times daughters learned about childbirth and breastfeeding with first-hand experience. Seeing their mothers, aunts and older sisters give birth. Families were close together and often experienced birthing a baby all together with the mother. The mother was cared for during and after childbirth and postpartum by her sisters, female cousins, and female friends. They knew what to expect from birth long before they had children. Most of the mothers they knew were breastfeeding and probably went nursing and tandem nursing. Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and mothering were all group efforts. They knew what to expect after years of learning from other moms.
Unfortunately, new mothers fear the unknown when it comes to childbirth, and with good reason. Many have had little exposure to early parenting or have never witnessed a woman giving birth. A lot of mothers have only experienced childbirth/labor through Hollywood TV or maybe a random Instagram post. It wasn't through years of exposure to bringing a baby into this world. So pregnancy and childbirth are very much unknown to most modern women.
The battle of trust: Natural birth vs Medicalized birth
Somehow in the last two centuries, we've lost our ability to birth without medical intervention, and most of us can't breastfeed, and being too close to our babies might damage them. We've been told we can't birth without technology or modern medicine.
Is that all true, though?
This is not to say that modern medicine hasn't come to the rescue and saved millions of lives, but as the wise Olaf told his group of friends, "Technology is both our savior and our doom." It's often the early interventions that cause doctors to "save both mom and baby," even though both were initially doing well. They do it with the good intentions of "just in case" or to avoid a potentially scary scenario. Even still, we have to be careful with interfering with the natural birth process. Our bodies seem to do well to adjust to naturally occurring problem scenarios.
In the early 20th century, mothers had a horrible experience with twilight labor. They were strapped down and traumatized by their experiences or utterly unaware of how delivery went. It's been a fight in the last fifty years to bring back natural birth, but it's a long, hard-fought battle, and that is its own post and story.
Early parenting is a lonely endeavor
During this pandemic, threats of separation of mom and baby and some moms delivering alone without a woman around her. Sometimes she will have no one but the medical team. Covid-19 has exacerbated this lonely endeavor into motherhood. Many women keep their families at bay during this pandemic when they really need their families' support the most.
Here's the thing:
Pregnancy is not to be done alone.
Childbirth is not to be done alone.
Breastfeeding is not to be done alone.
Motherhood is not to be done alone.
The value of a village has not lost its importance. The difference is that moms have to find and create their village. Seeing a mom group, whether virtually or in-person, and surround yourselves with other mothers is one way to start building that village. While you're pregnant, ask about centering pregnancy programs in your local hospital! Centering pregnancy is a program designed to bring other pregnant women together to experience their pregnancy and learn more about their pregnancy with others. If you are worried about what to expect, there is education and peer support. I have found that taking these classes even in subsequent pregnancies can heal past traumatic births or help you take on any new challenge or surprise you come to face in a new pregnancy.
Let's also share this information with our daughters.
Let your daughters watch you breastfeed.
Let your daughters attend a birth or two.
Teaching your daughters how to mother is not against our femininity. Even if later on they choose not to have children of their own, they can still help a friend or their sister or cousin decide to have children of their own. If we allow this, maybe motherhood's future won't look so bleak, scary, and lonely. Let it be done in confidence, and let that confidence be passed on from generation to generation.
Need a mothering support village and you live in Ohio? Join my group: A Mother's Village
Want to eliminate some of the unknowns? Take a look at our classes and support services: