Today we will explore what it means to believe fear in childbirth is “normal.” What assumptions do we make when we believe this. How does this belief affect the way we react to women?
If we believe fear of childbirth is “normal,” we probably make the following assumptions; most women have some fear of childbirth. We may also make one or more of the following assumptions:
Fear of childbirth is healthy
Fear of childbirth is unhealthy
Fear of childbirth is beneficial
Fear of childbirth is not beneficial
Fear of childbirth is the natural consequence of understanding the process of childbirth
Fear of childbirth is the natural consequence of not understanding the process of childbirth
Why the contradictions? Because the term “normal” is a concept that is used commonly without a strong definition. If you think of “normal” as the “healthy” or “best” state of affairs, your thoughts about fear being normal will be very different from someone who thinks of “normal” as the “average” or “most common” state of affairs.
As you consider this, think about what it may be like to discuss the normality of fear of childbirth with someone who defines normal differently than you. Does this mean you think differently about the effects of fear of childbirth? Not necessarily. And yet, if you don’t define the term normal you could spend your time disagreeing about something that you actually agree on.
Four ways to read it
Now take a step back even further — how are you defining fear? In your mind is fear of childbirth something paralyzing? Or does fear equal a small thrust of motivation to prepare? When you talk about fear of childbirth, how do you know the women you talk with are defining fear in the same way as you?
So let’s go back to this philosophy, that fear of childbirth is normal. When you read that sentence, you may be reading it one of four ways:
Having a dose of concern about being ready to give birth is common for pregnant women.
Most women are panicked at the idea of giving birth.
Having a dose of concern about being ready to give birth is helpful for women.
Women should be panicked at the idea of giving birth.
To Think About
So what seemed like a simple statement that was easy to have an opinion (and discussion) about turns out to be more complex than we anticipated. Here are some questions for you to ponder (and share in the comments).
Have you had conversations about fear of childbirth where different definitions of fear or normal might have been an issue?
What difficulties might arise if a woman you are working with defines fear or normal differently than you?