(Including Penny Simkin’s new video)
Have you thought about what you want to take with you from your birth into the rest of your life? What birth story do you want to tell your children and grandchildren? Have you wondered how you can create Pleasurable Birth Memories? How to find and hold your power?
I was recently reflecting on my life and of course that includes my births- being born, giving birth and the many births I have been blessed and honored to attend. Having a birthday and celebrating another year provides a wonderful opportunity to be grateful for all of life’s experience, connections and lessons as well as time to ponder what elements create lasting positive, pleasurable memories, especially when it comes to childbirth – my life’s passion.
I first learned about the importance of a woman’s birth memory from a special mentor to me and co-founder of DONA International, Penny Simkin. I encourage all birth workers to reach Penny’s classic article, “Just another day in a woman’s life? Women’s long-term perceptions of their first birth experience” a study which analyzed the long-term impact of the birth experience on a group of 20 women. “Women reported that their memories were vivid and deeply felt. Those with highest long-term satisfaction ratings thought that they accomplished something important, that they were in control, and that the birth experience contributed to their self-confidence and self-esteem. They had positive memories of their caregivers words and actions. These positive associations were not reported among women with lower satisfaction ratings.”
“I think because of what I experienced in the delivery room I felt powerless. I felt what I said really didn’t make an impact and didn’t make a difference.” – Mother quoted in Penny Simkin report
My grand-elder may not remember what she had for breakfast the day before but she will likely remember the words that were spoken to her and how she felt about her birth experience. This is no wonder since birth is a time when we are open, raw, exposed and vulnerable – open to possibilities. We are open to ecstatic moments between surges and also vulnerable to an edgy presence in our birthspace or the ice-cold touch of a hand on our belly. It can work both ways!
For too long we have felt birth was a day to get thru, we didn’t care how the baby came out. It’s one day in a woman’s life but as Penny Simkin, and others have shown us, our birth memory is impacted by how we were treated- if we were respected, if we received love and support, and at what level, if we had continuous companionship, if we were honored and consulted with choices and decision-making (informed consent and informed refusal). Together these factors create either a positive memory that will empower a mother, give her strength and power in all her life, or sadly, and too often today, when many of these elements are missing our maternity care system, disempowers women, leaving new mothers with an emotional scar. The emotional scar will provide a map to the deepest parts of the mother who knows that something was not right, that a day that should have been joyful, blissful and, yes, orgasmic, has turned sad, stressful and, for a growing number of women, traumatic. This is unacceptable!
“The birth probably increased my self-confidence, although it’s not something I perceived at the time. It was definitely something major that I had done. In some ways it was probably a watershed, because it was one of the big things in life, and it happened to me in a very positive manner, in a manner that made me condiment that I could do it again, that I could do it- period.” – Mother quoted in Penny Simkin report
Birth is a day that can and should be transformative, powerful and blissful- creating an orgasmic feeling full of emotion and joy. Your birth memory will last a lifetime and plays a role in how you feel about being a mother, about your relationships and we now know can alter your self esteem to bring you more power and strength in all your life, or to take away and leave you feeling less than capable at mothering and future challenges.
So what creates a lasting positive powerful birth memory? Read my Key Essentials for Creating a Powerful Birth Memory for some ideas to get you started. You deserve to give birth with love, dignity and pleasure, creating a powerful memory that you will savor all your life!
Additional Sources: Mannava P1, Durrant K2, Fisher J3, Chersich M4,5, Luchters S, Global Health. 2015 Aug 15;11(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s2992-015-0117-9., Attitudes and behaviours of maternal health care providers in interactions with clients: a systematic review.
Srivastava et al. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2015) 15:97 DOI 10.1186/s12884- Determinants of women’s satisfaction with maternal health care: a review of literature from developing countries.