Healing Hospital Fears for a Better Homebirth or Natural Birth Experience
by Nets Manela, CPM, RCST, birth doula and educator
I’ve noticed a pattern. Many families planning a homebirth or even a natural birth in the hospital are looking for a midwife or doula to help shield, protect, and save them from the specter of the hospital and its policies and practices. Some of these families actually end up being the ones to transfer from a homebirth and/or experience all of the interventions they were hoping to avoid. Sometimes, even with all of the interventions, the experience ends up being positive and healing. And always, we wonder how things could have gone differently.
I’d like to share some thoughts about how this pattern might shift, essentially by getting ahead of it.
If you’re into manifesting, law-of-attraction, or quantum mechanics, you are probably familiar with the idea that what we invest our attention in, particularly with emotional charge, grows. This statement is not to lay blame on the parents who carry trauma and fear of the hospital for ending up there and sometimes acquiring more trauma. Not at all. In fact, these fears and traumas are usually founded in actual past experience and real information. But I do want to illuminate the phenomenon that resistance itself, as well as conscious or unconscious avoidance, can magnify unconscious attention to the unwanted. Instead, our fears could lead us to an opportunity to heal. I believe one solution to address fear, trauma, and resistance around hospital birthing is to give the emotions and thoughts themselves loving attention, time for release and integration, and time for transformation into affirmations and clear choices.
So I am choosing to devote time and attention in my craniosacral, doula, and midwifery skills to supporting clients to resolve fear and trauma around hospitals. As a homebirth mother and homebirth midwife, I choose, affirm, and prefer out-of-hospital birth. However, I also choose to orient to the hospital and hospital-based providers as teammates, even when our collaboration is less than smooth and our values are not necessarily aligned. We natural-minded, individualized-care seeking folks can navigate an environment that is admittedly not set up to honor autonomy and sovereignty by knowing our rights, demanding informed consent and hiring a doula or midwife. And/but, there is no substitute for accessing an inner, felt sense of inherent sovereignty, which naturally generates the awareness and fierce but loving energy of self-determination and helps us remain present even as circumstances arise outside of our chosen path. If that sounds like way too much to do while you’re in labor, start where you are, love on yourself, and hire a doula or midwife - not to protect you from the evil outside forces, but to remind you of, resonate with, and amplify your own inherent power and life force.
A second shift of attention that can really serve clients planning a homebirth or natural hospital birth is to devote more time and energy to what they do want. What is your vision? Can you imagine and layer in each sense as you vision, while holding the feelings in your heart and body that you would like to feel? What do you know you do want? Are you aware of the incredible pleasure that is possible during labor and birth?
Once, while debriefing a birth I attended with my midwife and mentor, I was told, “You know, Nets, not everyone loves birth.” I acknowledge and accept the truth in that. And in response to and rebellion against that awareness, I am choosing to join the ecstatic birth movement. That is, I am choosing to reframe how I talk about birth and offer education to my clients that helps us orient, individually and collectively, to the possibilities for pleasure in birth. We talk about pain all the time: how to manage, avoid, and ease pain. What about pleasure? What about your visions for how your birth can be a positive experience for you? And what about empowerment and autonomy, even through the unexpected or even unwanted arising? Just as sexual experiences span from the most horrific to the most exultant, so do birth experiences. Can we spend time exploring and feeling into the pleasure available to us within our anatomy and through our senses? It’s a beautiful orientation to carry throughout each day!
So let us create time and space and seek witness and support to acknowledge all of our feelings and thoughts around birth, unwind trauma, remember birth is a sexual experience, orient to the potential of pleasure, open to new possibilities, and commit ourselves to amplifying our highest choices. I'm here to help, especially if you live in the Baltimore area!
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