In today's fifth post in my series on birth and fear, I am going to cover the next two common fears that women have in childbirth. The first is the fear that the baby could die during childbirth and the second is the concern that the baby might be born with genetic birth defects.
The fears listed above were cited by several people that I polled about their fears in birth. Death of the baby is more common a fear than people like to talk about. I think every mom/couple has had these concerns roll around in the back of their minds at least once during pregnancy. It's a very real fear, especially to those who know someone personally that this has happened to or who have experienced it themselves. It's a terrifying reality for far too many, and my heart truly goes out to those whose lives this kind of loss has touched. Nothing can or will ever prepare a parent to endure this kind of loss. And no parent should ever have to walk such a difficult road. I am so thankful that there are organizations out there whose sole purpose is to work with bereaved parents. Some great ones that I have learned about are Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and Share Pregnancy and Infancy Loss Support, Inc., Sufficient Grace Ministries, and a Facebook support group called Pregnancy After Loss. For those who find themselves plagued with fears about losing a baby, I would encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider about "counting kicks" as is described here. Sometimes, just counting the kicks of baby can provide an enormous amount of reassurance when those fears seem to be overwhelming. ***Please note: It is very important to remember that babies DO NOT move less in the final trimester. Many people believe the myth that as baby "runs out of space" they move less. This is not true. This is why counting kicks and being vigilant about staying aware of baby's most active periods of the day during pregnancy is very important. In addition to counting kicks, I have also known some expectant couples that purchased their own fetal monitors as a way to provide added reassurance so that they didn't have to wait for the doctor's appointment to hear baby's heartbeat (but not before 10 weeks as it is very hard to detect!). Again, this is something important to discuss with your provider. Just know this: It's okay to take those kinds of measures for you and your spouse/partner if you need to! You are not crazy and you are carrying precious cargo. It's perfectly normal to worry about the well-being of your baby!
Concerns about birth defects are also very common among expectant moms and couples. For this discussion, I am referring mostly to those who chose not to have any genetic screening prior to the birth of the baby. Some parents opt out of the screening/testing because they would not choose to do anything differently if there were something abnormal. They would not terminate the pregnancy and would continue to carry the baby until the time came to deliver. Some people choose not to do any testing because they fear it's invasive and would rather not take the chance. In either case, the fear that something could be wrong with baby is a very real one. And the choice not to have testing done is very personal and should be respected by all providers.
The only words of wisdom I can offer to help ease the fear of something being "wrong" with baby are these: The word "surrender" is extremely important when talking about issues relating to pregnancy and birth. It's a word I use with my clients in birth when transition comes or the pain seems to be too much to bear. I think the same parallels can be drawn here. As we surrender, we relinquish control. We give in to a greater Power than what we have within ourselves. And we trust that things will work out for the greater good of ourselves and those we love.
Also, trust is the opposite of fear. My mom often says that much of what we fear never comes to pass, yet we can often spend endless energy worrying about things of which we have no control. And fear adds stress which isn't good for mom or baby. So if you have decided not to have the testing done, can I encourage you? Your baby is going to be born in perfect form and fashion according to how he or she has been made in the womb. As you carry your baby to completion, until the designated time has come for him or her to be born, trust that all is well until or unless there is reason to be concerned.
I hope you've found these blog posts helpful. Please stay tuned for the next edition in this series on birth and fear, and as always...
Thanks for reading!
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.