“The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come ‘true’. This specious validity of the self-fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.“
Recently, a mom had said to me that, when she went into her hospital birth with her second baby, she went in with the attitude that she was “going to have to ‘fight’ the staff for what she wanted”. Lo and behold, she said she had aggressive, overly interventionist staff, who were cold, and who were “talking about her behind her back at the nurses’ station”.
Stories like this make me wonder: How much does mom’s attitude towards the hospital staff influence her treatment, birth outcome and overall rate of satisfaction? Is it sometimes a case of self-fulfilling prophecy? Here’s a good post on how self-perception influences how others perceive us – from elephant journal.
Going back briefly to last week’s blog post, I talked about the importance of the 4th “P” – Psyche. In that post, I spoke about how mom’s emotional state affects her body’s ability to give birth. What I’d like to address now is how her emotional state affects those around her during birth.
Whether this is your first birth and you go in to your experience with a set of expectations because of the books you read, friends you’ve spoken to and classes you’ve taken OR this is a second (or third, etc) birth and your experience is colored by your previous birth, you go into this birth with ideas and attitudes that affect your experience. If, like the example mom above, you go in fighting, expecting the staff not to honor your birth plan, your wishes; expecting to have to argue your way out of interventions you feel are unnecessary; expecting to have a “bad” nurse; to have an anesthesiologist show up in your room with a pre-ordered epidural, even though you didn’t want one; expecting to have the staff not ‘believe’ in you and cause you to fail… then these things can and will happen.
Looking at a hospital birth linearly, we’ll start with admittance at triage. You are evaluated to see if you can even come into the L&D unit. You are poked and prodded, given a vaginal exam, strapped to a fetal monitor and so on, by someone you’ve never met and will likely never see again. If you come into triage with the attitude that “these people won’t believe I’m in labor anyway” or “just leave me alone!” you are already setting a poor tone.
Then you get to your L&D room, and you glare at the nurse because she’s trying to insert an IV that you don’t want and strap you to a monitor. You shove a birth plan at her and demand intermittent monitoring… Ok, you get the point. This nurse is not going to be happy with you. You are not treating her like a person; you are treating her like a servant.
Much of this attitude, described above, is about control. Birth is something you cannot control, try as you may. It is a natural bodily function, a spiritual and transformative bodily function. Trying to control that which is out of your scope is futile and produces strong feelings of frustration, which leads to anger, stress and disappointment.
What you can control is your attitude, your actions and reactions. Choosing to be open and receptive to those around you, allows them to be open and receptive to you. This does not preclude you from making choices regarding your body and your baby. What it does do is give you the power to make those choices your reality. Your choices during birth involves buy-in from others (your partner, doula, OB, Midwife, nurses, etc). Although you are the one having the baby, you need the help of others to facilitate the choices you’ve made. A poor attitude kills a collaborative birth and it kills communication. A healthy, open attitude facilitates collaboration and communication.
“The Middle Path in Buddhism does not mean having a biased view or superficial understanding only… It lays great emphasis on human thought and action in dealing with the natural environment, society or individual problems. It is concerned with the relationship between thoughts and behavior, and the relationship between behavior and its consequences.”
Karma, and all that – we get what we give. If we give a bad attitude; if we are belligerent; if we are confrontational; if we are defensive then we get bad attitudes, uncaring, inhuman staff who don’t listen to our needs.
Does this mean there aren’t crappy care providers and hospital staff, regardless of our own attitudes? No, of course there are always going to be cranky folks. What matters more is how you choose to deal with them, rather than the fact that they are cranky.
So, what about that mom who just goes in to the hospital, follows all the suggestions made by the staff, takes whatever interventions are offered, and pops out a baby smoothly and without issue? Is there some magic trick she knows that those of us who want to make choices don’t?
Yes. She knows that by being relaxed, she’ll have a better birth. That’s it, that’s the magic. It’s not that she’s being a push over and ho hum about things. It is that she’s comfortable with where she’s at right now and can go with the flow.
I want to clarify what I mean by “relaxed”. I don’t mean lying in bed like a wet noodle, drooling and sighing. This isn’t physical relaxation; this is mental and emotional relaxation. Tension in your head, not tension in your body – this is what causes your resistance; your unwillingness to surrender to the process of birth; your need to control the situation and it increases your anger and frustration. That “go with the flow” mom is relaxed mentally and emotionally. That’s her magic trick.
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a Dream
Instead of focusing on your fears of what could happen, focus on what *is*. Be present in your birth, rather than be worried about what someone might say to you, or an intervention that might be offered to you. The “go with the flow” mom is being present with her birth. She is tuned in. She does ask questions. She does what is right for her birth at that moment. Being present means giving your attention to everything that is happening in the moment, not just to your thoughts, but to the others surrounding you, supporting you, your physical environment and your emotional environment.
Instead of living in your head, in your fear of “what if” be present in your birth. Be present and you will have a positive birth.