Imagine if you were taught from an early age that, as Carla Hartley puts it, “birth is a medical event, preceded by an illness called pregnancy and ending with an emergency called labor.”
How would that affect your anticipation of birth (massive fear, looking for what can go wrong) and the actual experience (lack of trust in our bodies, looking to experts and technology for reassurance and salvation)?
I believe this is what we are facing. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we get what we expect. Reflected in this attitude is the fact that the vast majority of births in the developed world are highly medicalized. Joy is our birthright and nature’s design, yet one in three mothers are left traumatized, some experiencing postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress. Many teenage girls are receiving this message subconsciously and taking it onboard. If these ideas are not questioned, they will inevitably be carried into motherhood.
The truth is, birth left to take its natural course without interference can be a beautiful, transforming experience that can make the new mother feel like she’s on top of the world. Unhindered by drugs, mother and baby are on a natural high together, bonded in a beautiful cocktail of happy birth hormones. This marks the beginning of a beautiful love story and has many positive effects. Combined with a massive sense of achievement, we have the perfect ingredients to move into motherhood with strength and confidence.
How do we build a new generation of strong, empowered women? We need to start when our beliefs around our bodies, motherhood and birth are being formed.
Our own example is the most powerful way to give our daughters confidence in the beauty and normality of birth. As mothers, we need to tell the truth about birth—that it’s nothing to be feared, but something to be embraced, and a natural part of life. That our bodies are amazing, and that women are incredibly strong.
Raising teens with a foundation of love, selfesteem, and positive body image sets the stage for strong women who stand firm in what they believe, like a tree with roots so deep in the ground that nobody can shake them. A leaf in the wind is more likely to get blown about and swayed by strong forces, such as authority figures.
Like butterflies, teenage girls are in the process of blossoming into lives full of potential. As parents, it’s up to us to provide them with the tools and support for them to discover their own power and, ultimately, their own sense of self-worth and confidence.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #44.
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