birth disappointment

When preparing for an upcoming birth, I always recommend preparing for more than one birth outcome. Two of these will inevitably include your preferred birth and your birth nightmare.

In between both of these is a HUGE space that we can label as birth disappointment.

Preparing for birth disappointment is crucial. The obvious reason is that because no-one wants their birth experience to be this thing that makes them feel crap every time they think about it. Another equally compelling reason is that birth disappointment is a risk factor for Post Natal Depression. And who wants that?

I think a great place to start with birth prep is to focus on how you want to FEEL about your birth and not what the actual birth outcome is.

My home birth was not the destination I was aiming for

Even though I was hoping for a particular birth outcome – a home birth – that wasn’t my objective. My objective was to come out the other end feeling positively about my birth. The home birth in my mind was HOW I’d go about achieving that. But, if things needed to change en-route, then I would be more than happy to throw my home birth plans out the window.

During my first birth, it was looking that it would go that way. At some point I remember my midwife saying to me that we might need to transfer. She told me that she wanted to call the ambulance so that we could have them ready just in case.

I remember her saying this to me and thinking “oh ok, no probs”. She later told me how my response surprised her, like it was no big deal. She said that usually when she says that to women that they have some sort of reaction and that fear or stress come over them. My midwife told me how she was amazed that I just took it in my stride and didn’t ‘react’ to it.

I believe that I was able to do that because I had not fixated on a home birth. I was ready to let it go. If I needed to transfer to hospital, then so be it.

Preparing for birth disappointment is more than just simply packing a hospital bag if you’re planning a home birth. It’s much more than that.

Preparing for birth disappointment

Sure the practical aspect will play a part. So having thought through the practical elements of alternative birth outcomes will be useful, for sure. But It’s the emotional preparation that will really make the difference here. The extent of this emotional preparation will depend on a few things;

Your current level of emotional resilience

Emotional resilience is what gives you your bounce-back ability. It’s what allows you to roll with the punches and still come out smiling.

How fixated you are on a particular birth outcome

If you’re obsessed to achieve a certain birth outcome, then you’re more likely to suffer emotionally when you don’t get it. You might feel let down, disappointed or that you’ve failed. You may even grieve for it. It’s your emotional resilience that will help you to let go of what isn’t going to be and accept what is now presenting itself.

How determined you are to avoid a particular birth outcome

If you want to do whatever you can to avoid a certain birth outcome – an induced birth say – then the minute it looks like it’s on the cards, you might start to stress, worry or cry. Any of these will affect the hormone mix that support labour and could take your labour in the direction you want to avoid. It’s your emotional resilience that will help you to just accept and go with it.

How much meaning you’ve lavished on any particular birth outcome

You may not realise, but you might be layering a load of meaning onto various aspects of your labour and birth

‘a vaginal birth is the ONLY way to birth; a c-section isn’t a real birth’

‘if i can’t birth vaginally, then my body has failed me’

‘’f I can’t birth my baby naturally then I’ve failed’

Take some time to consider whether you’re inadvertently adding meaning to particular birth outcomes. If you are, you might want to check in with yourself because these have the potential to come back and bite you.

I hope I’m not scaring you with all this. There is good news though.

Reduce your risk of experiencing birth trauma

If you put some time and effort into avoiding birth disappointment, you’re also doing quite a bit to help you to reduce your risk of birth trauma.

That might sound like a wild statement, but let’s just take a quick look at what the contributing factors to trauma are;

  • the event itself
  • current level of emotional resilience of the person
  • the meaning the persona associates with the event (and aspects of it)
  • a sense of lack of escapability around the event

You see? Our good friends ’emotional resilience’ and ‘emotional meaning’ are in there. Two things that we can work with in advance of the birth.

You might read ‘lack of escapability’ and think that we can’t do much about that. Birth after all is a like a train that you can’t get off until you reach the end of the journey.

But feelings of being trapped don’t just relate to a physical reality. Like being stuck in a locked toilet cubicle for example. People also feel trapped in relationships and jobs. They don’t leave because of how the FEEL; there is a huge emotional component too. So we can work with this too.

All the preparation that I did for my births was focussed on mindset. I did very little reading around pregnancy from a practical perspective.

After my second birth, I was approached by lots of women – women who I didn’t know – women who’d somehow heard about how I’d been able to overcome my tokophobia to have two wonderful birth experiences. They wanted to know how I did it.

So when I came to share how I prepared for my births, I included everything that I did.

Of course, I did lots of fear clearance. When you have tokophobia, you have a boat load of ridiculously strong fears that you’d rather not have. But my emotional preparation went further than that. I also did work around birth disappointment and birth trauma because I was determined to have a positive birth experience.

My Fearless Birthing program is where I share all of the aspects of the emotional preparation that I did. Not only do I share it with you, but I show you how to do it, step by step.

Here’s what my Fearless Birthing program helps you to do in terms of the emotional preparation around birth;

Identify and unpack your fears

Our fears are not always obvious, especially the deep-rooted ones that are more likely to crop up during birth

How to clear your birth fears quickly

I share the Head Trash Clearance Method (and 2 other emotional clearance techniques) so that you can clear your fears, stresses and anxieties quickly. There is even a quick fear clearance technique that you can use during labour in between contractions if necessary (that’s how I used it!).

How to emotionally prepare for the birth you want

Lots of birth prep programs help you with this, but my focus is on the emotional preparation. I help you to let go of your need for it. That way, if your birth goes down a different route, you can just go with it and surrender.

How to emotionally prepare for the birth you don’t want

This is what gives you your bounce-back ability. So that you can go with the flow without triggering stress or fear if things go differently on the day.

How to boost your emotional resilience

Here we focus on non-birthy aspects of your life so that you feel emotionally stronger. Feeling emotionally stronger will help you to

  • feel empowered
  • find your voice AND USE IT
  • feel more confident
  • calmly defend your boundaries and desires
  • feel in control of yourself, and therefore your birth
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Alexia Leachman

Alexia is the host of the Fear Free Childbirth podcast and the author of Fearless Birthing, Childbirth, Midwifery & the Media, and Clear Your Head Trash.

Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.

Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.
Alexia Leachman
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