I recently presented to a group of middle schoolers about birth work. Before I presented, I asked many moms what they hoped someone had told them about birth when they were young. The resounding response was that they wished someone had planted the seed then that birth isn't like it is in the movies; it can be peaceful, beautiful, and pleasant.
I had the students act out what they saw on television as an accurate depiction of birth. There was much wailing, "husband" slapping, and laughter at the dramatic antics of usually the pre-teen boy who volunteered to be my "pregnant" women. After a long discussion and some video clips of some peaceful laboring of some of my previous clients, I can say that the students were convinced and baffled at how birth really is different from what they thought.
I overheard a student in the hallway exclaim to another that birth is "not what you think!" That made my heart soar.
When we think about talking birth with young people, we think that we have to talk about sex. Even though sex could use a little discourse as well, the two topics don't have to be one and the same. The goal of talking about birth is not to make it "safer" or more "responsible" like the goal of talking about sex often is. Birth discussion doesn't have to be cautionary.
Here are three reasons we, as a culture, should encourage more discussion about birth with young people.
1. To Normalize
You see a ton out there about breastfeeding in public right now in order to "normalize" breastfeeding. The goal of advocating breastfeeding in public is for it to not only become more acceptable to nourish your child without hiding out in the bathroom or car, but also so that it becomes culturally normal to breastfeed. It should be culturally normal to think of birth in terms of few medical interventions, peaceful laboring, and loving environments. But it's NOT. Birth as a natural part of life is not yet normalized. We are getting there, as we are with breastfeeding, but we have lots of room to grow. Talking about birth, seeing birth, and learning about birth at a young age is a great step in the direction of normalizing birth. Imagine encouraging positive views of birth before the media has time to solidify it's dramatized version.
2. To Reprogram
I recently went through Hypno-Doula training with Hypnobabies. One of the pillars of childbirth hypnosis is reprogramming your subconscious so that instead of the cultural and media-formed impression of pregnancy and birth, you perceive pregnancy and birth as biologically normal, peaceful, comfortable, and easy.
Let me illustrate. When parents see their child fall, most do not run to his or her side with an exclamation of worry and exaggerated concern. In fact, a lot of parents wait silently or go so far as cheer when their children fall. Why? Children mirror those around them. If they think it's a big deal, man, are they going to milk it!
If children are brought up with an understanding of birth that is without fear, then their perception becomes a reality. It's as simple as that.
3. To Inspire
In my previous blog article, I mentioned that I first wanted to be a doula because a midwife came to speak to my 9th grade class. Think of the next generation of doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, childbirth educators, etc. Even if a child does not grow up to have a career in birth work, they will grow up knowing that birth doesn't have to be filled with fear, anxiety, anger, and pain. They can advocate for their own care and the care of their loved ones to be incredible, supportive, and beautiful. Through open discussion about birth, we can inspire the next generation to question the media's perspective, and perhaps, eventually, change the media's depiction.
I challenge my fellow birth workers to find an avenue for connecting with young people about the beauty of their work. I challenge mothers, fathers, and educators to find teachable moments and to initiate healthy discussions of birth. I challenge the youth to question, listen, and learn. It will one day be your job to make sure the world sees birth for what it is, normal, but no less miraculous.