The Five Stages of Being are a great way to see where we are as a society in our approach to birth, and why it is so rare to hear of birth as a celebration.
When it comes to birth, fears and beliefs play a huge role in our decision making. Autonomy in childbirth assumes we are fearless, but our society approaches birthing from Fear and Tolerance, at best there is an Acceptance (though usually of a less than satisfying experience). Women are cultured to either fear, tolerate or accept the state of birthing and mothering, as an oppressive and unpleasant experience. Those women who have experienced an Understanding or Celebration of childbirth and mothering are often ridiculed or belittled.
FEAR: In this Stage of Being, we experience a physical reaction (rapid rate rate, for example), feel anxious and wary, possibly even angry. In order to avoid the experience, we will choice ‘avoidance’ options in an attempt to numb or ‘void’ this response. It is also easier to hand the responsibility of this over to an authority. This usually means a high intervention birth, with a belief of being saved.
TOLERANCE: In this stage there is a level of knowing that birth is a part of life, but still preferring to avoid fully experiencing it…there is a holding back and a reluctance to compromise. There is still a feeling of avoidance, which tends to led to a ‘managed’ experience. Birth is processed, but not experienced.
ACCEPTANCE: This is the stage where women start to feel more open to the experience, and will seek to compromise – to make some decisions more actively and look at the options more openly. Less likely to avoid the experience more more likely to have a ‘plan’ that states “I will have a natural birth, unless medically warranted’ (see here for why this is a problem).
UNDERSTANDING: This is a stage where the power shifts back to the individual. This is where agreed differences, without judgement, can exist in harmony. This is where open communication and enjoyment come into play. The individual becomes assertive, and able to explain their needs, whilst understanding the full context. They may seek support, and do not which to avoid the experience. They are more likely to have a map (rather than a plan).
CELEBRATION: This is a Stage of Being where the individual takes full responsibility and immerses themselves in the experience. They acknowledge the importance of this important life event, and seek to engage in the experience completely. They bring joy and confidence, choosing care providers and supporters that fully embrace the celebration.