Personality and Birth

From Sheila Kitzinger’s book The Experience of Childbirth:

In a normal, straightforward labour a woman’s attitude of mind, her approach to the task that awaits her, and her preconceptions concerning the nature of the work that her body has to do, are more important than any sort of physical preparation she can make in advance. Whatever athletic exercises she may essay, however controlled her breathing, however complete her muscular relaxation, in the last resort the thing that matters most is essentially the kind of woman she is, and the sort of personality she has [emphasis mine]. That is why preparation for labour cannot rest in purely physical training and in mechanical techniques of control and release alone. Controlled muscular activity can assist her in making of her labour something she creates, rather than something she passively suffers, but her capacity for achieving this physical coordination is dependent upon her mind–upon her fearlessness and sense of security, her intelligence, her joy in the baby’s coming, her courage, her self-confidence, and the understanding she has of herself. The experience she has of childbirth is a function of her whole personality and ideally the preparation should involve increased self-knowledge and a growing towards maturity.

While there is a certain element of “blame the victim” in this quote that I find distasteful (i.e. “she had XYZ intervention, must be her bad personality…”), I recognize something here that speaks to me. I have observed in some of my clients a certain “quality” of personality (or perhaps determination) that makes me feel secure that they will be fine with or without me–they have something that comes from within that will guide them through birth. There are others who are more ambivilant, who say they want to “try” natural birth.  Sometimes they blossom into confidence as the classes proceed, sometimes nothing really changes. I do not really take responsibility for any birth outcome, because birth classes are just a piece of a much more multifaceted puzzle of a woman’s experience. However, I feel like you can see that some women just “have it in them” and in others, that “it” has to be nurtured and grown. I’m not sure exactly what this “it” is, which is why Kitzinger’s quote caught my attention.

2 thoughts on “Personality and Birth

  1. I wonder if it’s something as simple as an optimistic vs. a pessimistic attitude. I think when a person decides that “good things happen to me,” then they usually do.

  2. It seems to me that the mental quality she describes is part of the reason that hypnosis is so effective for childbirth. It not only provides suggestions for the physical requirements of birth (relaxation, etc.) but also for the mental requirements (welcoming baby’s arrival, confidence, fear release, etc.).

    In my personal experience, I can’t say that I was ambivalent about natural birth (I was thoroughly convinced that it was the healthiest thing for me and the baby), but I was concerned that I wouldn’t be “up to” the task after hearing so many birth horror stories. The hypnosis home study I took (Hypnobabies) really gave me the confidence that I could do it. Now that I am preparing for my second birth, it is much easier because I already know that it is possible for me.

    I just discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying it! Thanks! 🙂

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