I often spoke on message boards about how much your mental state can affect your birth. I don't think I really fully comprehended how much until after my 4th baby was born. My first homebirth I was not at all afraid of anything really. I had even come to accept the possibility of losing my baby at some point during the pregnancy so I wasn't afraid of death either. I think that alone made my labor really smooth and lengthwise pretty average for a first time laborer. (his labor was about 36 hours long)
Once you go through a traumatic loss like that it changes you in so many ways. I was very conflicted in my feelings of not having fear vs. being scared to death of losing another, trusting birth vs. trusting fear. I wanted to have a peaceful birth I really did. I wanted to stay at home. I wanted many things that didn't happen in the end. What I failed to do was prepare myself mentally for a pregnancy after a loss.
I walked around 5 cm dilated with irregular contractions for weeks. It didn't hit me how scared I was to do this again until the night my midwives were there with castor oil to help get my contractions more established. I had a 4 day on and off again labor because of my own mental hang-ups. My body wanted to labor but my mind didn't. I was able to control my body with my mind. If I got caught up in thoughts of my loss my contractions dwindled. If I got distracted by anything my contractions spaced out. I was 9.5 cm dilated ready to push and was able to completely halt my labor and fall asleep because I was so scared of that aspect of the birth. That is when it all went wrong last time. Feeling my baby move, hearing his heartbeat, none of it was comforting enough for me in that vulnerable state to let go and let my body do what it was trying to do. This is what ultimately led to my hospital transfer because I knew at that point I needed to be mentally checked out of my birth. I had to separate my body from my mind and at the time the only thing I could see capable of doing that was an epidural.
Mind does matter. Your mental state during pregnancy affects your labor and it affects your birth. It is really important to address fears head on and not try to sweep them under the rug because labor will be the place they most assuredly will rear their heads. This is part of my reason for doing this blog because I need to work through some of these things I have experienced and prepare myself mentally for my upcoming birth. I don't want fear to be what drives my decisions, rather I want knowledge and faith to be the driving force.