pregnancy

"I wish women were told the truth about birth."

“The ins and outs of labour – Why the outward physical journey is just as important as the inward emotional journey when it comes to mapping your birth story.” By Melbourne doula and birth photographer, Angela Gallo.

In the last few years I have been privy to some deep conversations with a wide array of perinatal professionals. I have read more inspiring (and educational!) birth books than I can count and joined groups where I have been able to tap into the knowledge of 1000 of the best doulas & midwives I have ever come across. My journey has only just begun and I am particularly grateful because they cumulatively continue to gift me with fresh perspective and a ton of relevant information or resources that I can then take back to my own business.

And seeing as I am in the business of being the best doula I can possibly be, I take my learning experiences very seriously. Especially the kind that come directly from working with different kinds of people from different walks of life, from all corners of this globe.

I have got to be honest though.

Sometimes what I see and feel first hand conflicts with the information I am given by the most brilliant birth educators on this planet.

Sometimes I walk away from my reading material thinking, ‘This is all good in theory but…’

"I see it over and over again – women with the best intentions, preparing for all of the inward stuff like nourishing your body & soul, only to become a victim of the system they did not take time to understand." Image: Angela Gallo

More recently I had a conversation with a midwife I am obsessed with, Alison Bastien. Super intelligent and insightful, she has had (and continues to have) a long and meaningful career supporting women in birth. I read one of her works and we got to talking about birth workers in general, and how she feared that although many birth support people have the right intentions, they also had the potential to completely derail women from the major milestones of their inward journey. (The inward journey being the emotional, spiritual and physical landmarks that a pregnant or labouring woman makes as she journeys into motherhood.)

She discusses how in modern birth culture, we don’t put nearly as much emphasis on the inward journey, even though ‘the new territory a new being must navigate to come into the world is you, via your body‘. And gosh, it makes sense. Especially considering how disconnected many women are from their own bodies & souls as they navigate their birth journey exclusively using outer journey landmarks (like what pram to buy, what nappies to use, epidurals or inductions, water birth, vaginal or Cesarean).

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I get it, I do. But here is the problem, the same problem I find in about every single ‘This is all good in theory…’ advice I have ever come across in the birth world (No matter how good it is!).

You can do ALL the soul searching you want…

You can do all the best yoga, practice all the best meditation and mindfulness…

You can nail the best coping techniques…

You can take all of the best childbirth education classes…

You can connect to your body, harness all the powers of every single birthing goddess who came before you and tune into that amazing instinct…

You can be the best & most positive version of yourself...

But if you are choosing a care model or care provider who’s values are not aligned with yours; if you aren’t asking questions; if you aren’t able to confidently communicate your desires or needs; if you aren’t prepared to negotiate the best care for you and your baby; if you aren’t in the loop with your hospital’s protocols, policies and statistics; if you don’t understand the procedures; if you aren’t aware of the risks & benefits of every single level of induction, intervention & form of pain relief; and if you don’t understand that ultimately the people on staff, the day that you birth, their personalities, their beliefs, their baggage, will undoubtedly affect YOUR experience, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed, mama.

This is not about being paranoid, being cynical or being a diva – it is about knowing that the inward & outward journey, the emotional and the physical journey, are just as important as the other. And that planning around the physical milestones is a crucial part of the process because failure to do so can truly derail you in some dramatic ways. I believe preparing accordingly pays off big time in creating a birth experience that feels most fulfilling to YOU.

Every single woman and every single family will be living and entirely different set of emotions and circumstances – that I am aware. For some the inward journey will prove more important, while more others the outward does. Ultimately, for anyone it is about the balance of both worlds. I see it over and over again – women with the best intentions, preparing for all of the inward stuff like nourishing your body & soul, only to become a victim of the system they did not take time to understand.

We need to be telling women the truth. An understanding that attaining the birth you want is hard work, and that modern birth culture demands that all milestones of both the inward and outward birth journey be proactively addressed.

This post originally appeared on Angela Gallo's site. For more from Angela, you can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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