Sheridan Ripley is the author of the new book The Top Three Tips to Enjoy Your Birth. She is a proud VBAC mom of 3 busy boys, a Loving Lactivist, Hypnobabies Childbirth Educator, Hypno-Doula, Birth Video Editor, Positive Birth Story Collector and Birth Blogger.
Sheridan has too many (according to her kids) websites and blogs: Enjoy Birth (online and live classes), Pregnancy Birth and Babies (birth stories), Moms Deserve Medals, Birth Videos and Enjoy Birth Blog.
Birth is a Journey: Does it have to be life changing?
Originally published October 2009
I think the answer depends.
Think about 3 different women who want to come to America.
- One woman might have to climb on an overfilled boat, risking her life and nearly dying as she escapes over the ocean to come to this land. This experience could certainly be life altering. It may very well color the rest of her life, positively or negatively. (I overcame this amazing struggle and here I am triumphant! OR Holy crap, that was SO hard I don’t know if I can go on! By the way, neither response is “right”. No one would judge the woman with the 2nd response.)
- One woman may buy an airplane ticket, sit on a comfortable 747 and fly to America with a nice smooth flight and landing. She is happy to be in America. Those welcoming her are glad she is here safe and sound. She may only travel by plane 2-4 times in her life, so it is pretty memorable. But the journey itself probably wouldn’t be life changing; it would simply be a journey.
- One woman may learn to fly an ultra-light plane to lead a flock of geese into America teaching them to migrate. This experience could certainly be empowering and life altering.
If you simplify different birth experiences I think they could fall into these 3 categories.
- a traumatic journey
- a normal journey
- a magical journey
I think hopefully most mom get at least the normal journey experience. I would love it if all moms got a magical birth. It would be awesome if no one had to experience a traumatic birth. As a Childbirth Educator and Doula that is what I hope for my moms – a magical birth or at least a normal birth. I try to help them avoid a traumatic birth.
A few key points to keep in mind when thinking about birth.
- Birth is unpredictable, no matter how much we prepare and plan, we can’t control it. There is an element of letting go and allowing that is part of the journey.
- We should still take time to prepare and plan and make CHOICES to help us have the best birth possible. That is part of the journey.
- We (birth workers, women, friends and family) need to respect the fact that birth can be life altering for some moms and babies.
- It is the MOM and baby who determine what type of birth they had. I have seen births I would label as traumatic, but mom found it to be a normal journey. I let her have that reality. I know some moms have what some would label a normal journey but mom found it to be traumatic. We need to support mom in that. Let her grieve and hopefully that will help her heal.
I am lucky and have had all 3 types of births.
Lucky because it helps me see both sides of the coin.
Lucky because it helps me better support my moms who have challenging births.Lucky because 2 of the births DID shape who I am as a person.
My first birth was traumatic and was certainly life changing and did set the tone of my mothering my oldest son. We both had a lot of emotions to deal with stemming from that birth. I can honestly say that almost 12 years later, I think we have both healed. My mothering Devon has been effected by so much more than his birth, but it really did color my mothering of him for many years.Would we have a different relationship if Devon was born vaginally at full term, rather than by emergency cesarean and a preemie? I would think yes. If nothing else, I wouldn’t have spent our first 2 years together, going from Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy. So yes it did shape my mothering, but I think the choices and experiences we have shared together since his birth have continued to shape me as a mother.
My second birth was just normal. Vaginal birth, epidural, hospital… a blissfully normal journey compared to that first birth. That birth didn’t really affect my mothering at all. However Post Partum Depression for 8 months after certainly set the tone of mothering Carson. It was a dark period of my life. I think the PPD did shape my mothering, but I think getting control of myself and pulling myself out changed me more. In the end it was a growing experience.My third birth was magical. Vaginal, Hypnobabies, un-medicated, comfortable and enjoyable hospital birth. It changed who I AM certainly. Now I teach childbirth classes, I am a doula a lactation educator a birth activist. If I hadn’t had that birth experience I would certainly not be those things. (Well, probably still a birth activist in some form)
Did it change me as a mother? It definitely empowered me as a woman. From that experience I feel stronger and more powerful. That in itself has probably changed my mothering to some extent. I think my experience raising my older boys certainly have a much larger effect on me as a mother. I am more laid back, accepting, loving, enjoying the moments with my “baby” and my 2 older boys.The Journey from Pregnancy to Motherhood certainly CAN affect both mother and child. Birth is just one part of this journey. Their experience could affect their relationship and her mothering. I think birth has the power to be life changing. Most moms experience birth as a normal journey, certainly with cause for celebration and seen as a miracle, but they don’t feel it is a life changing experience for them.
I think my job as a Childbirth Educator and Doula is to help moms have the best birth possible; sharing information, supporting them in the choices THEY make and then continue to help support them as they process the journey after their birth. I love supporting moms as they travel along their path.
Thanks to these blog posts for causing me to reflect on this topic.