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Talking About the Hard Stuff

February 25, 2021

By Nikki Shaheed

As an expecting parent, it may feel tempting to avoid talking about the hard stuff that can come up in birth and postpartum. A part of you may feel overwhelmed talking about topics like induction, cesarean birth, or struggles with nursing. Another part of you may know that exploring how to cope with different scenarios could help you feel more prepared, and less shocked if your birth were to unfold in an unexpected way. Together we’ll take a look at how to talk about hard topics that are based on compassion and reality, not horror stories.

  1. I invite you to notice the sensations that come up in your body as you think about hard topics in birth and postpartum. Do you feel a tightness in your throat? A sinking feeling in your stomach? As you bring your awareness to your body’s response, resist the temptation to avoid these feelings, or label them as “good” or “bad.” Just notice the sensation, and track how it changes, or how it stays the same over a few breaths. You might even put on hand over that part of your body and breathe into the space where your hand touches your body. This can help to settle your nervous system and approach these topics from a less emotionally charged state of mind.
  2. Focus on what you can do. With interventions or unwished-for events, it’s common for people to focus on what birthing people can’t do. For example, you can’t get out of bed with an epidural. Instead, focus on how you can cope, and how you can stay connected to the baby, the birth process, your partner, and yourself.Can you send love and prayers to the baby while receiving epidural medication? Can your partner stroke your hair and help you rest with an epidural? Can your support team help you switch sides every 30 minutes to help the baby move through the pelvis? Taking a solution-focused look at interventions can help you to feel empowered to do the next best thing instead of feeling like everything went out the window.
  3. Remember to pack your self-compassion in your birth bag. While there is a great deal of information available in books and on the internet on all things birth, learning facts and data won’t necessarily help you prepare for the emotional journey through birth.

Feeling uncertainty, excitement, worry, connection, overwhelm, and everything in between is normal. Remember that there is nothing you need to do or be in order to be worthy of love and support in labor. Get informed about birth, and be sure to complete your preparation with a healthy and continuous dose of self-acceptance.


Nikki Shaheed is a Birthing From Within Trainer who has worked as a doula and childbirth educator in San Antonio since 2012. Her book, Heart Centered Pregnancy Journal helps parents prepare for the personal transformation of birth, regardless of how that birth unfolds.


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