Birth Fears: What If My Luck Runs Out?

It wasn’t until my pregnancy with my fourth baby that I had a nagging worry that my luck having successful, healthy, vaginal births might run out.

It was pretty unnerving.

My first three births were what I considered to be safe, healthy, amazing homebirths. Sure, we had to make a few compromises along the way – I hadn’t planned on having an IV, a catheter or a few stitches for repairs with my first. I certainly didn’t count on having to be hospitalized for a couple of days several days after my second was born, but I feel that was separate from the birth event itself. My third went very smoothly. I was thrilled with all three! So why did I now have this worry that I was pushing my luck? I know that you want to go into labor with a good balance of physical, mental and emotional relaxation so what could I do to shake it off?

For me, there was no single identifiable moment that finally helped erase my fears. It took time and I think it was a combination of thoughts.

First, I tried to identify why I was having these feelings when I really hadn’t had them much before beyond the usual hopes or concerns that everything is OK with the baby. I chalked that up to several more years of teaching natural childbirth classes and serving doula clients and therefore more exposure to things that could possibly go wrong, the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger (advanced maternal age and all that), had miscarried before,  etc.

So once I identified that, how could I shake the fear?

Mainly, I tried to recognize that there was no reason everything shouldn’t go right! I know what it takes to have a healthy pregnancy. I know people who have had 4 or more children who had healthy babies and positive births every time, so that was comforting. If they could do it, why couldn’t I? I had done it before, after all. I had birthed an 11-pound posterior baby, for crying out loud, this should be fine! I tried to remind myself of the strengths of my previous labors.

I tried to follow my own advice – which is easier said than done sometimes! I often tell people in classes not to take on the baggage of others. You know how people like to tell birth horror stories to pregnant women? Well, that’s their baggage, not mine, and I didn’t want to carry the weight of those stories and worries. It took a little more conscious effort to clear those from my head.

I tried to really embrace gratitude for the fact that this was even my concern when, really, a good number of the women I teach or serve as a doula had what I felt was a much greater burden – having had a negative experience before and hoping that everything would go right this time. That, I felt, would be much more difficult – if you felt that your body or your care providers or lack of preparedness or whatever set of circumstances had ‘failed’ you in some way before and now you were trying to achieve a ‘normal’ (whatever that means for you) birth for the first time. So I figured that thanks to good genes or serendipity or a combination of both, I was fortunate and shouldn’t blow that streak of good fortune by worrying about it so much. I had to stop over-thinking what I knew would come naturally and intuitively.

I had to trust my body and my baby.

Finally, I had every confidence in my birth team. And I shared my thoughts with my midwife, Christina. I remember telling her I had concerns about postpartum hemorrhaging (I believe I dramatically referred to it as “bleeding to death”) and she assured me they had drugs to deal with that. I knew that, of course – as a birthing woman, I’d received injections of pitocin for that myself and as a birth assistant, I’d administered injections of pit for that myself, but the point was that it was still reassuring on some level to vocalize those feelings and to know my care provider heard my concerns.

You know, I sometimes think from talking with pregnant women at 40+ weeks (myself included) who are anxious for labor to start that it seems they almost have to ‘give up’ for labor to start. As in, give up trying so hard to make it happen and just accept the idea that they will be ‘pregnant forever’ and they cannot convince baby to come any sooner than baby is ready. It often seems once they do this, labor starts and baby arrives. It’s a little similar, at least to my mind: once I gave up worrying about it, I was able to just go and do it.

I don’t know what it was exactly, but one day I was just over worrying about it. Done. It was a release. I felt lighter. I was ready to move forward and had that feeling deep inside that everything would be OK. Maybe that knowledge had been there all along and I had covered it with superficial worries thrust on me from outside. Maybe I’d finished some normal subconscious pregnant-brain processing through all my concerns, or maybe all those nagging fears were just an exercise in diverting me from truer concerns, such as how the heck was I going to cope with having 4 kids?

I don’t know the answer but for anyone experiencing these same worries weighing heavily on her heart and mind, I wish you the same release from worries that I eventually found.

If you experienced these worries, what helped you to get through it?

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