Birth and Fear

As I listen with exhilaration and with horror to the events that are happening in Egypt, I am reminded of what takes place so often in our hospitals when women give birth.
When I suggest that the masses in Tahrir Square may be a new force - a mass of people dedicated to peace and prosperity, some people look at me with pity, like
I am a naive fool. Who would think that people are generally good and peaceful creatures? Who would think that a woman could give birth to a huge baby without help?
Whoever is interfering in this generally peaceful process is working from a place of fear. Fear is always real, but it does not need to have the power we give to it. Birth can be frightening as well, but we do not have to act out of fear.
A few years ago, I was called to the hospital to accompany a lady who had already birthed a few babies naturally, so I wondered why she needed me there. It turned out that her family doc had bumped her up to OB care because of the suspected size of the baby - huge!
The woman was a tall, statuesque lady but not heavy. Her husband was also well over six feet. She was young and in good health.I will call her Helen. She labored for a while on her own and then called me to the hospital. When I arrived she was in good labor and progressing well. The OB on call was in and out of the room, feeling Helen's abdomen and shaking her head. They did an ultrasound which did show a large and active baby.
After about an hour, the Obstetrics resident came into the room and sat on the bed to chat. He suggested to Helen that the best route of delivery would be a Cesarian section. Helen laughed at his suggestion but became serious when he implied that the baby could die if she tried to give birth vaginally.
I decided to join in the conversation and I asked the resident, "What is the biggest baby you have ever seen delivered vaginally?"
"Around 8 1/2 pounds" was the answer.
He continued to say that if we just "let things go", we don't know what could happen - it was very frightening - we just don't know. I suggested that he never saw a vaginal birth of a bigger baby because he always intervened. And after all, eight pounders are the norm these days. Here was a resident who was embarking on a career of Surgical obstetrics! He was clear with us that it was the feeling of not knowing that was frightening for him. To his credit, he agreed to let things go for a while and see how the scary future unfolded.

Soon Helen was ready to push and she pushed her twelve pound, seven ounce baby into the world without a scratch.

We need to be aware and alert to possible dangers but we cannot let our own fears create monsters that do not exist. Let us be midwives of change - sit on our hands, watch, encourage, and assist only when needed.


  1. You could change the topic of birth and fear to just about any aspect of societal life and fear: fear of raising our children, fear of disease, fear of living, fear of death...what if something goes wrong? What if I make the wrong choice? So we give our power away so that we are not to blame. We do not seem to trust our own instincts anymore. We simply do not want to feel uncomfortable in any way - or sadly perhaps we do not want to feel at all anymore. Fear is healthy...when it is rational...when it is overcome. :)

  2. And of course, when you are giving birth, even if it the most exhilarating sensation, there may be a fleeting moment or two of intense fear. The important thing is not to let it rule over you.


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