Is the Perfect Birth a Myth?

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As mother of three, birth photographer and mentor I have seen pretty much all kinds of births – hospital and home births, water births and induced births, natural births and c-sections – and whilst I understand why a natural birth with minimal interventions are viewed by most as the ‘trophy birth’ (I wished it for myself), I do often wonder if the perfect birth might be a myth. Beautiful? Absolutely!  Empowering? Definitely!  But perfect? Mmmmmm.

I’m sorry if I’m bursting your bubble, but trust me, you might thank me later. Before you burn me at the stake however, let me clarify by saying that whilst I do not believe in promoting a perfect birth (who gets to define what perfect means?), I absolutely believe in the importance of a positive, optimized and compassionate birth experience.

You see, whilst a gift and privilege, becoming a parent in itself is challenging and I see how promoting the idea of a ‘perfect birth’ (however you want to define that) just puts unnecessary stress on already overwhelmed parents and more often than not ends in disappointment. Becoming a parent is more important than how you become one – that is a fact. That being said, this truth is often unfortunately abused by medical experts to coerce women into choices driven by fear and ignoring the importance of the birth journey would be irresponsible in itself. I’ve experienced this first hand when I suffered severe post-natal depression after a traumatic birth experience. Your birth experience may not be perfect, but it matters. Very much so.  It may not be as important as becoming a parent, but it is nevertheless important. It feeds into your emotional wellbeing in birth and (as we all know) your physical wellbeing is heavily intertwined with that of your emotional.

The truth is that, contrary to biased information often given to mothers, Mother Nature is, for the most part, on the side of the labouring mother – that is until she is not. And here lies the heart of the problem for me – a mother’s birth experience should not become less important because she ‘deviates’ from what is viewed as ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’. Stigmas, pressure and choice-bashing do little in terms of promoting the importance of the birth experience and the making of empowered choices and instead creates an illusion that leads to disappointment, shamefulness, uncertainty and resentment. Instead of telling mothers what perfection or disappointment in birth looks like society should inform, empower, support and promote birth ownership and the notion of choices with compassion. Because becoming a parent requires courage in different forms and shapes.

I’ve come to know birth as this perfect miracle that happens in an imperfect world with imperfect systems. You can and must put serious thought and planning into your birth experience, but your ultimate goal should be to find and own the beauty of your birth, no matter the small imperfections. To feel proud of yourself for ‘surviving’ another soul splintering off yours, no matter how that happened. Yes natural births are beautiful, but I have experienced and captured beautiful c-sections as well. Like parenthood, the only kind of perfect birth for you must be your own – and for that to be true you need to own your birth, make empowered choices, be respected for those choices and ultimately find the beauty in your unique experience no matter the small imperfections. Finding the beauty does, however, not mean not grieving the disappointments.   Disappointments in birth are, like in life, unavoidable and feelings of sadness about this should always be validated.  This is where a compassionate birth team should also play a big role in helping a mother come to terms through compassionate de-briefing, counselling and other initiatives.  Finding the beauty does however mean not getting lost in disappointment.

I want to end by offering you a compromise – it’s the least I can do after bashing your dreams of a perfect birth *wink*: Instead of aiming for the perfect birth, why not work towards an optimized, empowered, compassionate and positive birth experience ? One that you will love regardless.

I define a positive birth experience as follows:

  1. One where nature is respected for her power to both heal & hurt in birth and her energy channeled for the greater good in birth by you and your birth team (much like using wind to generate power) – even when it comes to births where interventions are needed
  2. One where you get to make empowered choices that are respected by your birth team 
  3. One where you are treated with compassion – where you feel heard and loved when you are at your most vulnerable, before during and after birth
  4. One where you minimise disappointments and are allowed to grieve the ones that do happen without losing the ability to find the beauty amongst the small imperfections
  5. One where you and your birth team celebrate you becoming a parent through the perfect miracle that is birth

To love something does not always mean that it is perfect.  We can often love ‘in spite’ of. So I would like to encourage you today to love your birth, no matter what. To feel like the brave, powerful mama bear that you are and to wear your birth stripes (or scars) with pride!

If you found this helpful, why don’t you help me to empower others by sharing this post?  You can also leave a comment below and tell me how you would define ‘a perfect birth’.

PS: As mother of three and birth professional I want to help you work towards a positive, optimised birth for you and your baby. So join me for my free ante-natal video series, At the Heart of Birth by registering at www.aldasmith.com/freecourse.

 

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This is the story of how Huxley, with eyes as fierce blue as his mommy’s, came into Daniela’s life. I knew Daniela was going to be an exceptional mother when I met her again at her maternity shoot. Dressed in the most ‘vogue’ maternity dress I have ever seen, we spent an entire afternoon capturing the most beautiful maternity memories for her.

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It’s Your Birth. Plan for it – and then be Flexible

I didn’t have a birth plan with the birth of my first child.  I just assumed things would happen more or less like I wanted them to.  There were two problems with this approach: 1) birth is unpredictable 2) I only realized what I could have had and wanted, after the fact.

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Birth is one of the most important events in a parent’s life and yet very few of us prepare for the experience itself. Why is it that so many mothers put all their time into obtaining information for once baby is here, but very little into learning about and preparing for the actual birth? I blame ignorance and a blind trust in systems & processes many parents know very little about. The importance of the birth experience itself, is something many first time parents only realise after the fact. That is probably why birth plans are more common when it comes to second or third time parents.

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I’m not particularly fond of the term ‘birth plan’ as how you become a parent is not nearly as important as becoming a parent in itself and one needs to flexible, but I am a firm believer in understanding the options and outlining your birth preferences. I have seen one too many times how an unplanned birth procedure or experience can leave emotional scars for years to come if the parents are ill informed. Taking ownership of your birth experience can be hugely rewarding and empowering – whether natural or C-Section. That does not mean that you do not seek professional advice, guidance & skill in making and implementing your choices.  It also does not mean you can plan and control everything about your birth – it would be ignorant to think or suggest that.  It simply means you participate in your own birth and decisions by understanding what the options are and knowing your own preferences. It is deciding what is important to you and your partner and what are the small things you’re not going to sweat. [Read more…]

Forever Ours | Bejamin’s Birth | Mediclinic Durbanville

I will forever remember Benjamin’s birth as the one where they lifted a pixie with the most amazing crown of hair out of his mama!  And the one where his grandmother sobbed with bursting joy at his arrival.  Benjamin’s birth was truly celebrated by his mom, dad and many, many more!

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Our Love Song | Mari’s Birth Story | Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt, Cape Town

Mari, with her ivory skin and dainty features reminds me of a porcelain doll. She is a strong little baby though – I noticed that from the moment her grandfather (the assisting OBG) helped her into this world and she so wholeheartedly told the everyone around her that she was there. This is her birth story. It’s real. It’s honest. It’s filled with love. And it’s beautiful.

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Timeless ties to your Birth | Birth Story Photo Books

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My mom made a birth & newborn book for me when I was born.  I love that book.  Though there are no photo’s of my birth itself (I was born in a nunnery and even my father had to wait outside) there are some faded newborn pictures of my parents and me in it, some letters and cards of friends and family and my hospital wrist band.  It contains small pieces of my birth story – my beginning.

I would have loved to see an image of my father sipping communion wine given to him by the nuns to celebrate my birth.  Or my mother’s relief when she finally got to hold me after a rough labour.  I have to fill in the blanks, but somewhere between the pages of the tatty old book lies the story and memories of life and love at my birth.

Give your child the gift of his or her birth story one day (the entire one!)  Custom-designed birth story photo books can be ordered with all Love Alda Birth Packages.  Contact me at [email protected] to book your timeless ties to your babies birth.  Birth is a gift.  Celebrate it!

Our Big Little Miracle | Alice’s Birth Story | Kingsbury Life

Once there was a family of four. A beautiful mommy. A loving daddy and two blond boys. They were a happy family but still needed a little girl made of butterfly wings. And then she arrived. She was in a hurry to meet her new family and arrived a too early, but the family of four (now five) did not care. They loved her with all their hearts. This is Alice’s birth story and how she was nursed on the outside with love until she could go home. The moment when her big brother finally gets to hold her and meet her will melt your heart. And then there is cheeky Christopher – already pulling faces in the family photo like all good younger brothers should!

 

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Our Love Story | Malan’s Birth | Mediclinic Panorama, Cape Town

The birth of Rohan & Carmen Kitshoff’s son was beautiful.

Love takes on many forms: a supporting, loving husband trying to absorb his wife’s pain, a mother braving her fears, a family waiting in anticipation for a first-born. Love is tears of joy – an instant recognition between parent and child. Love is a celebration of life. It touches everyone in close proximity to it.

Malan your birth is a testimony to the love between your parents, as well as the love they share for you. May you grow up to recognise it, feel it and to pass it on to others.

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Love Builds a Family | Anke’s Birth | Mediclinic Panorama, Cape Town

There are so many beautiful details to Anke’s birth and I hope that one day she will be able to share in them when she watches this. Her mama’s delight at hearing she is a girl (her gender was a surprise to all including her grandparents) and her daddy’s stoic pride is something to behold. Then there is the fact that the same doctor (Dr. La Grange on the left) who helped Anke’s mama (one of twins) into this world, were there to assist Dr. Venter with the birth of Anke. And the moment Anke’s mama is reunited with her after being in post-op – her joy and awe is contagious!

Watch their videographic story here:

 

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All Love Alda Birth clients receive a VIP client starter kit which includes beautiful tags for your birth bags and suitcases.  I’m always super thrilled to see clients use these little gifts!

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Our Beautiful Life | Lucie’s Birth | Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt, Cape Town

I met Christelle, Tron and their two lively boys at Elandsbaai for their maternity shoot. We (my three kids, hubby and I) were at a family wedding at Muisbosskerm the day before and made a small detour to the sleepy seaside village on our way back where we met the Van Wyks.

Although the the weather was not playing along, I had so much fun with this vibrant and energetic family of four (soon to be five) on the quiet beach. No one took themselves too seriously and the boys were so excited about their new baby sister’s eminent arrival.  They were delighted that they could share her name (a secret at that stage) with me by writing it with chalk on the road! And so capturing their journey to meeting Lucie, the first princess to the family, began!

Please note:  All content shared with family’s permission, but copyright protected.  So feel free to share the love but note that you are not allowed to reproduce or publish without the photographer and parents’ permission.

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