I was around 12 years old when I became truly aware of my fear of childbirth. Perhaps it came with the onset of puberty, but ever since I was a little girl I've been terrified of labor.
I've always had a low threshold for pain coupled with a high sensitivity to gore. I've never been able to watch a slasher film without covering my eyes. I've never been able to hear about a surgery or a medical procedure without feeling a bit faint. I'm still very much the adult who has to be treated like a child when I have blood taken as the nurses cycle through questions about the street I grew up on and my mother's maiden name.
Hospitals have always made me uncomfortable, the sight of blood makes me light-headed, and pain - any type of extreme corporal pain - makes my breath quicken. But as I got into my teen years, I found that I was shielding my eyes from child-birthing scenes with the same immediacy as those slasher films and by the time I finally had high school health class, I absolutely knew that I had not only had no desire to birth babies - but that I was afraid of it.
Scenes from films are obviously exaggerated, but the more I learned about the facts of child-birthing, the more I was certain that I indeed had a phobia. Unlike some sufferers of tocophobia, the fear of childbirth, I've never witnessed a birth that traumatized me or endured a traumatic birth myself. The fear is completely unfounded given that I'm young and childless, and yet it's something that I always remember having.
Ripping, tearing, blood, being utterly resigned to pain that no one can stop - it all just seems so overwhelming awful and traumatizing that it's puzzling to me why so many so many women to continue to go through with it. And yet given how abysmally birthing women are cared for in the United States, I can't say that my fears have been assuaged. The more I read about and investigate my fears, the more I learn about how women's birthing experiences are falling short of what they want them to be.
Doctors continue to make decisions for them, cranking up the Pitocin without asking, and shuttling them in to have c-sections regardless of what they want and how they want to deliver their babies. At present, it's a powerless place for a lot of women that doesn't appear to be improving. And although these stories and numbers absolutely feed my fear, it also relieves me to know that I'll never be in those stirrups.
Statistics aside, my phobia only seems to worsen with age. When I was kid, I always figured that my fear would subside with adulthood. But with the passage and dissolution of many irrational fears, such as being the only one in a empty house or of watching horror films alone at night, being scared of childbirth remains one of the strongest links I have to my childhood. Just hearing about someone's labor is enough to make me feel like I'm 12 years old again, covering my eyes from a scary part in a film.
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