A topic that frequently arises in birth classes is about the fear of “losing control” in labor. Losing control, “losing it,” or “freaking out” are concerns expressed by women preparing to give birth. It is important to acknowledge that this is a common fear. I also like to ask parents to think about what “freaking out” or “losing it” would mean to them? I ask them to consider what benefits there may be to losing control. I also say, “What if you do freak out? Maybe, so what?! Maybe it is okay. Maybe it is good. Maybe it is helpful.” (This doesn’t come across in print quite the way it does in real life!) Surrendering to the flow and power of birthing can be of tremendous benefit. Losing it can mean letting go and letting the power BE. Letting the energy be. Letting birth carry you with it, instead of wrestling for control of it. (When discussing this topic, it is important to remain mindful that for mothers-to-be who are survivors of abuse, language about “surrender” and “letting go” can be very threatening and unhelpful.)
Thinking about “losing control” makes me think about the things that you can have over control of when it comes to your birth experience (I’ve also been reading The Big Book of Birth and it addresses this):
1. You can control who who choose as your doctor or midwife (and can choose to switch at any point in pregnancy if the match is not a good one).
2. You can control where you give birth.
3. You can control who you ask to attend your birth as support–your partner, your best friend, your mother, your sister, a doula. (Anyone who attends should be there for YOU, not because they want to “see a birth” or because you feel obligated to have them.)
4. You can control how you prepare yourself for birth and the education you seek to help you explore your options.
5. You can control the type of books you read and the information you seek about birth.
6. You can control how you care for yourself during pregnancy.
7. If you are having your baby in the hospital, you can control when you go to the hospital.
Hypnobabies rephrases the usual concept of “transition” in labor as “transformation.” This is the time in labor in which many women fear “losing control.” Women may also pass through another transformation point as they move from early labor into active labor–this is sort of a “moment of reckoning” in which it becomes clear that it is really time to DO this! Erica Lyon, who wrote The Big Book of Birth referenced above, addressed this subject really well:
“…as a mother shifts from early labor to active labor, she begins to have an awareness that the labor is getting bigger, strong, more powerful. This often translates into a feeling or idea that you are going to ‘lose it’ or ‘lose control.’ This is a temporary, transient feeling that tells you labor is progressing. It does not mean you will go running naked and screaming down the hallway of your birth facility. What is really happening is a momentary emotional state that reflects your ‘social self’ beginning to fold inward. Labor is not a rational process, it is a body function that is experienced as a gradually intensifying event. You do not think your way through it. You do it. “
Essentially, this is a point in labor when you stop fighting with the “birth power” and begin to BE it. The process of birthing becomes your entire focus. I remind and encourage people to welcome the increasing intensity of labor–and suggest taking a “make it bigger!” approach to greeting and welcoming contractions, rather than trying to avoid or minimize them.
Pam England from Birthing From Within also has a great article about “Losing It” in labor.
Other posts about fear and birth:
Fear & Birth
Fathers, Fear, and Birth
Fear-Tension-Pain or Excitement-Power-Progress?
Cesarean Birth in a Culture of Fear Handout
Worry is the Work of Pregnancy
Fear Release for Birth
What If…She’s Stronger than She Knows…