Guest blog by Hillary Talbott Rolan, Diplomat Oriental Medicine NCAAOM, Fellow American Board Oriental Reproductive Medicine, Acupuncture Physician, Clinical Herbalist, Certified Masters of Wisdom Meditation Teacher, and Certified Life Coach
Obstetricians have the enormous task of caring for the health of a soon-to-be mother and child through 40 weeks of gestation that culminates in the labor and delivery experience. The imprint of a prenatal provider can have much deeper implications than just the health of the mother and child during gestation. Birth can be the fractal, or the seed, that grows into the style of parenting a mother will adopt based on her thoughts and feelings about how she was able to bring her child earth-side. Therefore, the birth process itself can have far-reaching implications on the way in which a woman is initiated into mothering via labor and delivery.
I don’t have to tell you; all births do not go as planned. Thankfully, we live in an era where pharmaceutical and surgical intervention has evolved to the point of saving countless lives. As a provider, we may accidentally get stuck seeing the victorious side of birth that needed intervention. From the patient perspective, though, a new mother may find herself lost in thoughts and negative feelings about failing her newborn if she was not able to deliver vaginally or unmedicated as planned.
It’s important to check in with new moms often, to inquire about their thoughts and feelings around their recent birth experience, and to answer any questions about the necessity of the intervention. The entire experience may seem like a blur in the patient’s mind as they struggle to put the pieces together. How a mother feels about her birth sets the trajectory for how she shows up as a mother. Helping a new mom to work through her thoughts about her labor and delivery experience can make a huge difference not only in her life but the life of her newborn and any other children she already parents. I’ll explain how.
In a psychological causation model, all circumstances are neutral until we have thoughts about them. Those thoughts then generate vibrations in the body also known as feelings. Feelings direct our actions (or non-actions) because all humans are driven to act based on how we feel. Like it or not, humans by nature are creatures driven by emotion. The exception to override this emotion-action response is to implement willpower and premeditated decision making by the use of our prefrontal cortex. Unfortunately, our supply of willpower is finite in a day and is depleted with every decision we have to make. It’s easy to see how most of us run out of willpower by noon and go back to reactive patterns of our reptilian portions of our brains, allowing our emotions to dictate which actions we will take or not take. This model also helps us to see the power of mind management and positive thinking when it comes to creating a better life experience and the ability to invoke better choices that serve our health instead of hindering it.
The simple act of inquiring about what our new moms are thinking and how they are feeling can help them to feel seen, heard, and less alone. Initiating those conversations can often help to normalize their thoughts about any necessary intervention. And a little thought reframing of how putting aside her birth plan in the face of emergency actually makes her a selfless hero and not a failure could just be the catalyst that helps her to be a super mom regardless of what her birth experience was or was not.
The Interconnected Mind, Body, and Spirit:
A Maternal and Child Health Infographic
A healthy pregnancy is impacted by more than just physical well-being. Research shows that supporting the physical, emotional, and mental health of pregnant women has a positive impact on their prenatal and postpartum experiences.