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Revisiting Your Birth Experience

Birth is not a performance, but a life process. Too often, women compete, rather than support other women -- whether their birth experience was positive or negative! Perhaps it is backbiting spawned by the devaluation of much that is feminine in our society. We often do not support motherhood, so whether a woman feels hurt or elated about her birth experiences, it becomes a product, rather than a process. In this way women often rob themselves of the right to comfort and healing, for all that they have accomplished.

  • Childbirth is a huge event in a woman's life! Visualize what labor would be like if all went well. Prepare yourself to deal with the pain of labor, and work with your partner, friend and/or doula to get the support you need through this process.

  • Women should be supported in this incredible experience, whether the outcome was "positive" or "negative." Perhaps the lack of support may have something to do with the devaluation of the feminine in our society. As women, we deserve support, with honor and respect for the process of life we are embodying. Perhaps this kind of power is somewhat frightening, or unfathomable, to acknowledge consciously.

  • It is important to allow women the full range of experience, rather than insist on birth being one way. "Painless," "medicated," "uncomplicated," "natural," etc. are all viable options. We must be aware of the whole woman, in order to truly support her in the process.

  • Working through negative feelings is key to the chance for a smoother delivery. Visualizing, after anxieties are addressed, gives the body a release from any past trauma and a new, fresher approach the next time. This is not "magic" -- it is physiological.

  • Women can become empowered by getting the right kind of help. This can take a lot of effort, at a time when we are often overwhelmed with pain and heartache. Sometimes I believe it is finding the right questions to ask, rather than the answers themselves, that ends up being important in leading us toward healing.

  • Some things are out of our control -- whether nature or hospitals. Yielding to nature and meeting the intensity of labor is likely to be more about what women are really frightened of. We cannot promise they can "control" this process anymore than their unconscious development of the fetus in the womb. But we can support women to approach birth in an active, involved manner that is right for them. This is quite a balance, much more complex than it appears, but is important to look at and discuss, if we are to support, rather than "blame" women in regard to their birth outcomes.

  • Birth is an incredible experience of enormous proportions. We cannot know what growth and development awaits each one of us, not as a matter of judgement, but of true awe for all that giving birth represents! We do not know what the "perfect birth" is, or will be, for each particular woman. Childbirth methods advocate "empowerment," but this is a relative term. Childbirth is a unique and incredibly empowering experience to women. Because they grow, not because they have the perfect outcome. The perfect outcome is not within your control. You have given birth. This event, whether natural, medicated or surgically supported is an event of great magnitude! I salute you. And congratulate you. You have been an integral part of a miraculous process!


Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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