November 8, 2007

An Ode to the Amish: Childbirth Without Pain

I was just looking over my pages of notes from my trip to The Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, Tennessee, and I got caught up in my notes about the Amish births.

Near Summertown is a very large Amish community. Many of the Amish births are attended by The Farm’s midwives. The midwives shared some wonderful stories about these births. I have to admit, I really knew very little about the Amish (and there is still a lot to learn) before this experience, but I found out that many of them have HUGE families- 15, 16, 17(!) children!!! And, many of them birth at home. (No, this is not going to be another blog entry where I get on my soap box about home birth.)

So what is it about these women that birthing comes so easily to them? Well, Pamela, our main teacher, shed some light on this subject. She said at Amish women do not fear childbirth. It is as simple as that! With such large families and such a close-knit community, some one is always pregnant or in labor. Children see this natural process on a daily basis. (Well, maybe not daily, but pretty damn often with 17 children in a family!) Additionally, they also are not exposed to the American culture of fear and uncertainty around childbirth. Amish children don’’t grow up not fearing that there is something wrong with their bodies and or that they are incapable of a normal birth.

Pamela also brought up the point of feeling very safe with their position in life. These Amish women do not have to fear that they will not be supported, that their husbands will see them differently, or that someday their husbands will leave them. They know that they are protected and cared for. Knowledge of comfort and trust may make a difference.

Last week I was talking in class about the “Fear, Tension, Pain Cycle.” The natural response to fear is tension, which tightens the body and causes more discomfort. From the heightened pain, we have more fear, more tension, more pain…Do you see where I am going with this?? So the Amish don’t have the fear, ego, no tension, no pain. Pamela told us a story of one of her Amish clients leaning forward, holding on to a table and letting out a small grunt. That was her only sign of labor and the woman was not long from pushing!

There are many options for pain relief in our modernized society. I invite you to explore the option of identifying your fears and conceptions of childbirth. Just simply acknowledging and expressing your fear can be hugely empowering and may demystify the experience for you. Just last week my doula client said after her birth, “I thought it was going to be so much worse! That really wasn’t that bad.”



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