At all times, we have two mindsets, two voices, arguing in our heads. These voices weigh up the pros and cons of decision making - in cartoons they are usually portrayed as a little angel and a little devil - a good voice and a bad voice.
But instead I want you to think of these voices as two bears fighting.
These two bears fighting are locked in a battle, an eternal, internal struggle.
One Bear is full of hope, love, courage, generosity, truth, empathy, positivity, faith and so on.
The other Bear is full of regret, doubt, fear, insecurities, anger, arrogance, negativity and sorrow.
So which Bear wins the fight?
The answer is simple - the one that you feed.
In preparing for your birth, are you feeding the negative bear or the positive one? Which mindset is driving your decision making for birth? Is it a mindset based on fear and doubt, or one of courage, positivity and hope?
If you have been feeding the negative bear, don't worry. You are not alone. When it comes to birth, we spend most of our life feeding the negative bear. And it is not entirely our fault. We are told scary birth stories and we hang onto every detail - our brains remember as part of a survival mechanism. A bit like being told that fires are bad and dangerous, we remember so as not to hurt ourselves. We also end up thinking after a while that birth is bad and dangerous.
In fact, birth is no more risky than any other thing in life.
"Birth is as safe as life gets" - Harriette Hartigan.
If we think about it driving a car is risky, as it going for a swim in the sea, or climbing a hill. There is a chance we could get hurt or die in a worst case scenario - and unfortunately birth is the same - it is a fact of life that nothing is risk free.
But birth is actually very safe. The still birth rate for Scotland for the last 50 years has been 0.5%, and in 2022 was 0.4% so to reverse that, there is a 99.6% chance that wont happen! Taking into account other complications: early neonatal death, neonatal encephalopathy, meconium aspiration syndrome, and specified birth related injuries including brachial plexus injury the numbers are still low: 4.3 per 1000 births or 0.43%. (And it is worth noting here, that risk usually increases when we enter a hospital environment. Studies show the safest place to birth a baby is a midwife led unit or at home!)
What I am trying to argue, is by constantly feeding the negative bear, birth has become completely blown out of proportion in our minds. We don't worry about our car crashing every time we get into it, or of a shark attack or drowning every time we go for a swim in the sea. So why is there such a big worry, fear and anxiety when it comes to birth?
The reason is because when it comes to driving your car, most of the time it is a safe and enjoyable experience. As is going for a dip in the sea or climbing a hill. We might experience a bit of pain climbing the hill, maybe a muscle cramp, blister, or have to stop to catch our breath, but we remember the sense of achievement at reaching the top. In these examples we have fed the positive bear a lot so the negative bear doesn't win.
When it comes to birth, we really haven't fed the positive bear at ALL. We have heard hardly any positive birth stories. We haven't watched positive birth videos. We don't see positive births portrayed on reality shows or films - as they are not dramatic enough to get viewings. We don't read about them in the news. And this is where the problem lies.
If you were going on holiday to somewhere lovely and hot - would you watch videos of plane crashes to prepare?
If you really want to start feeling good about birth - you have to stop feeding the negative bear and start feeding the positive one to balance them out. Here are my main tips below on how to do that:
Watch positive birth video's on Youtube. Here is a link to one of my favourite ones. It is deliberately different to what you might have seen on a film or reality show. No pain relief. Birth partner very involved. Such a gentle birth for the baby.
Read positive birth stories. There are lots available online. The Little Birth Company has a bank of them here for your to read.
Listen to positive birth podcasts. Again there are so many - both informative ones which will give you a better understanding of your choices in birth, and birth story ones. This is my favourite for a bit of both.
Follow positive birth advocates on instagram and fill your feed with it. This will help you get a daily dose of positivity every time you are scrolling. Start with The Stirling Birth School and you will find lots of others.
An affirmation a day, keeps the negativity away! Stick positive birth affirmations on the back of your toilet door. Every time you sit down you will read reminders that you can do it! Examples of affirmations could be "Birth is safe, I am just as strong and capable as all the women I am descended from."
Give each a try and see if you start feeling a bit better about birth! Having the positive bear in your head during your birth, rather than the negative one, gives you a much better chance at enjoying your birth experience.
Remember - there is nothing fiercer, stronger and more capable than a mama bear! You just have to become one first!