Life Jacket

Imagine you are a competitive swimmer. You were born to swim. You’ve worked hard for all of your teenage years to become the best swimmer. It’s finally time for the Olympics. It’s right before you jump into the pool when your coach ties a life jacket around your waist. Wait? Why? You’re a professional swimmer. But he says, “Just in case”. You trust your coach, so off you go…swimming, slower, but still swimming.

A few laps go by and he pulls you out of the water. He’s worried the life jacket isn’t protecting you enough, so he adds a helmet over your swim cap. He mumbles something about it being safer. “Safer than what?”, you ask. He tells you that he read a study online that said helmets have been known to help save cliff divers from trauma when they hit the water. But…wait?! WHAT?! You aren’t cliff diving, you’re only swimming. You’re a natural. You were meant to do this all your life. You’ve trained hard for this moment. He insists. He’s only trying to help you. The study shows it’s better. He clips on the helmet and pushed you back in to the water. Everyone is cheering for you, but you can feel how slow you’re moving. It’s becoming so exhausting.

Just as you reach your breaking point, he pulls you out again…this time, he wants to poke holes in your suit because he hear that sometimes it can speed things up. Sometimes. Other times, though, it backfires and you end up having to be pulled from the race and rushed off to get your stomach pumped because you’ve swallowed so much water. It’s a risk your coach is willing to take though just to see you win the race. He offers you some steroids to give you a boost of energy to finish the race.

By this point in the race, you’re beyond tired, can’t catch your breath, your lap stats are starting to go way down. Everyone is staring at you. Watching and waiting for your epic comeback.

You start to resent the coach. Why did he have to fuss over the helmet? Why didn’t you say no to the life jacket?! So, you take the steroids. You see the look of disappointment in your family’s eyes. It’s not YOU they are disappointed in, it’s the coach’s rules. But you don’t see that. In the moment, all you feel is complete defeat. Not only did you lose the race, but now you’ve opted for a path you wouldn’t have chosen if the coach hadn’t weighed you down in the first place.

Now, imagine you’re not a swimmer but a birther. Your doctor is offering a sweep/induction. That induction seems beneficial for reasons 1-10. Doctor is genuinely doing this based on research (which way or may not still be valid). The induction is just too much to handle, so next comes pain meds, maybe the epidural you didn’t want. That ties you to a bed and creates even more issues.

See how one well-intended intervention can spiral to another? How one study or research paper might seem valid, but if you dig deep it’s not actually? There’s always a time and place for medical interventions. It’s like antibiotics or visiting the ER. When it’s needed, it’s needed. But when it’s not, it’s worth questioning. Know what’s happening. Ask the questions. Make sure you have given informed consent. Not just consent. Never say yes (or no) to appease someone.

The benefits of an induction should outweigh the risk of staying pregnant.

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Stress Ball

I spend quite a bit of social media time fielding questions of pure panic and anxiety.

My mother said this, my sister said that, my doctor is telling me I have to do this but I really want to do that…I think part of the stress of birth is attributed to the vast amount of pressure we all put on ourselves to compete with each other. It’s not always in-your-face but it’s there. If you’re honest with yourself…it’s there.

Imagine birth before Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest? Pregnant people did not know they needed to out do each other when announcing the pregnancy. There was no expectation of announcing the sex (it’s literally a penis or a vagina). They didn’t throw elaborate baby showers and then complain about all the horrible gifts they received (and how stressed out they are, and how they didn’t even really want Aunt Sheila there in the first place and how much their MIL took over the show). There was zero mention of a birth plan, especially not one wordy enough to make their doctor’s head explode. The birth plan was just to have the baby.

They also didn’t know that they had to research all about vaccines, eye goop, inductions, and certainly not whether or not to hire a birth doula and a birth photographer or just a doula who maybe takes photos. They didn’t freak out about how much they would be judged by their decisions…all the while posting their decisions on the world wide web for all the crazies to jump on.

They also didn’t have such high rates of induction or cesareans either. Sit with that for a moment…do you think maybe all of this is somehow connected?

Before social media, they just carried on with their pregnancy and birth as if it wasn’t anything extraordinary. We can all agree it is definitely an awe inspiring event, but honestly….half the population does it. Literally every single second, of every single day someone is birthing. Minus the panic, minus the Facebook updates, minus the milk bath photos…and they are birthing quite admirably.

I’m not sure when the rise of the birth panic started. Maybe somewhere in the 2000s? But, oh boy, did it ever come in full-swing. Long gone are the days of just trusting birth and your body. We are consumed by our “due dates”. We count down the days to 40 weeks as if we are carrying a ticking time bomb in our belly. We are instantly overdue at 40 weeks, 1 day.

We start hyper-focusing on how to ‘naturally’ induce labour. So we eat the gross dates we don’t even like, we have uncomfortable and often unenthusiastic sex, we say yes to cervical sweeps (and then panic when they cause bleeding, cramps and false hopes), we chase all the magically solutions to a problem that doesn’t even exist. We’ve created our own monstrous birth woes. What if my baby never drops? What if the baby flips breech? What if my doctor say I have to induce? What if my photographer can’t make it in time? What happens if I don’t know I’m in labour and the baby falls out on the floor while I’m shopping at Costco?

The irony is how much the added stress and anxiety can actually hinder labour. Stress can stop a spontaneous labour. Add that to the list of things to worry about…while you contemplate what you can and cannot eat based on more panic from stories you’ve read online. DON’T EAT THE MEAT!!! For the love of god, you will all die if you don’t follow every single rule on the internet. Also, for shits and giggles, add in some breast feeding horror stories, everyone freaking out when you mention encapsulating your placenta, and the looming threat of a cesarean section. PANIC CITY.

The craziest part about all of this…nothing you are freaking out about right now is unique. Find another pregnant person and ask what they are panicking about and I can guarantee it’s along the same lines.

It’s like we can’t even be chill anymore. Life must be at full stress, full-time or we can’t possibly be doing it right. How can I be over here with my calm, quiet pregnancy if you’re over there setting off fireworks every time your app tells the size of your baby in comparison to a fruit?

My point here is…what’s the actual point of freaking out? What are you accomplishing by worrying so much? Can you change it? Can you guarantee a birth that goes 1…2…3….nope. You can plan for it but you can’t control it. You can educate yourself, you can weed out the fact from the bullshit drama, but you cannot guarantee an outcome. Will your day being ruined if you forget to upload a pregnancy photo? Better yet, will your pregnancy be a complete waste of time if you don’t have all the fancy birth photos or if you can’t come up with the most clever birth announcements?

Will those 9 months be wasted if you don’t win the stress ball contest?

This week, take a break from the anxiety and stress. Find one thing to just let go of. Remove yourself from a Facebook birth group that drives you nuts. Go take a prenatal yoga class…and don’t freak out about what you’re wearing. Cancel that last order of baby stuff that you really don’t need.

Trust me, the stress ball contest is not worth winning.