When I talk with clients, or visit a childbirth education class one word comes up over and over: FEAR.
What if I can't handle the labor pain?
What if my pelvis is too small?
What if I can't have the birth I want?
The "what ifs" seem to paralyze.
So how can fear be overcome?
1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.
3. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.
Courage permits one to face extreme dangers and difficulties without fear. - So says Dictionary.com.
Without a doubt, the process of birthing a baby has been described as difficult. The unique structure of a woman and her baby work together to twist, turn, and ease out a human from an area of the female body that needs to go through several changes before it is ready to do so.
That process of change is helped through relaxation and support. Encouragement. Faith in the process. And yes, courage.
I love the quote above by Lao Tzu, a philosopher and poet, and respected founder of Taoism. When I work with a couple that has love for each other and have shared hopes for the birthing experience, it is incredible to see how they work together through labor.
A partner is there physically but also emotionally, and it is almost possible to see the strength a woman pulls from that support. I agree, and have seen, that being loved gives strength.
The free flow of love into and out of a laboring woman, is an ideal situation for childbirth. Giving it to her, so she can give it both to herself and her baby.
Vaginal or Caesarian: All births require courage
Again referring to the quote above, "Loving someone deeply gives you courage."
There are many things women do for their children that they would never consider for anyone else. You've heard stories of lifting cars, chasing down attackers, sacrificing themselves. The strong bond that is built in the months leading up to birth has the ability to do incredible things. Enduing the process of birth is only one of them.
The love mother's feel for their unborn babies aids in the rising tide of courage
And let me be clear - this isn't just about vaginal birth. ALL birth is difficult. All birth is painful. All birth has a series of decisions that need to be made. Caesarian deliveries are courageous births.
Preparing for A Successful Birth
Your birth will be an experience you think back on for years. Your perception of that event will stay with you. Your feelings from your birth will stay with you. A phenomenal experience like birth is not a moment that happens and is then forgotten. Birth gives the woman a marked moment where she defines her experience.
Women are able to show courage through many points of the birthing process:
It starts with standing up for what you feel is important, and finding a care provider that supports your preferences.
It continues by selecting the people on your support team that you know will offer you encouragement and non-judgmental care.
Being courageous in birth means taking an active role in what is happening, instead of being a passive recipient of others decisions.
Taking part in the decision making means you are taking responsibility for your birth. Taking responsibility can be a scary and hard thing for some women, but finding the courage to make the best decision for yourself, and what you feel is the best decision for your baby, is a courageous thing to do.
Living a Courageous Life
Living a courageous life is not a goal of every woman. But there are moments where one cannot help but be courageous.
Brene Brown talks about courage in conjunction with vulnerability. She talks about the bravery of empathy. She talks about the necessity of emotion and being authentic. When I talk about courage, these are the words that come to me.
The relationship between being authentic, and brave, and courageous. I don't thing we are all slated to filling up headlines and landing major endorsements for our actions. But as a mother, I know I try to embody courageous traits so my daughter has a real life example to learn from.
It was courageous of me to stand and accept my postpartum body when my daughter points at scars and asks what happened. It was courageous of to not give in to the desires others had for my birth. It was courageous for me to quit my job and then become a doula.
Not everything happens with an audience. But being courageous doesn't always require one.
Courage, to me, is a lifestyle of reaching past how far others think I should go.
Doulas on Courage
I am honored to have a group of remarkable women surrounding me. When thinking about this post, I reached out to them and wanted to know what they thought about courage, as they are present with countless women who embody courage in their work. They are doulas from across the country.
Perhaps their words can give you inspiration:
"Courage is staring down the challenge before you and making the choice to move fully into the challenge, allowing the process to break you down into the sum of your parts and put you back together as a changed yet more powerful individual for having endured the process." Angela Horn, Co-Owner of Tuscon Doulas
"Courage is being scared and going ahead anyway." Margaret Mason Tate McIntyre, Owner of Intown Doula
"Courage is looking fear in the face and telling it to take a seat because you're not backing down." Kaylee Proctor, Owner of Little Apple Doulas
"Courage is the thing that moves you forward when you have the overwhelming feeling of giving up." Jenn Leonard, Owner of Colorado Mountain Doulas
"Courage is every day taking that one step forward, even when you are afraid to fall, and learning that you can soar." Sarah Durham Coffin, Owner of Tulsa Family Doulas
"Courage is admitting your mistakes and learning from them." Gwendolyn Mccomsey, Co-Owner of Lancaster Doulas
"Courage is the strength to move forward even when you are unsure of the outcome." Holly Haas Yeager, Co-Owner of Lancaster Doulas
"Courage is being willing to be completely vulnerable." Elisabeth Lightly, Co-Owner of Indianapolis Doulas
Authored by A Swift Doula.