Trust Birth: Time-Tested Mantra or Expression of Blind Faith?

If you’ve hung around natural childbirth circles for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the saying “trust birth.” Pregnant women, they say, should not doubt their bodies’ natural ability to labor and birth a baby. When left well enough alone, birth will go just fine. Some accompanying phrases to the “trust birth” mantra are, “your body knows what to do,” “that baby will come when he’s ready to be born,” “babies know how to get themselves out,” “the body is smarter than we are,” “women have been birthing babies for thousands of years,” and “follow your intuition.”

Has the phrase “trust birth” earned- well- our trust? Can we indeed put faith in the natural process of labor and delivery? And if not, can we conversely chant, “trust intervention?” Have interruptions to the natural process of birth shown themselves to  be foolproof?

I think an illustration might come in handy to help us understand these questions.

I trust my husband. I trust that he is faithful, that he will be kind and forgiving to me when I mess up, and that he will help me when I ask him for help. I trust that he is a caring father who will do everything possible to help raise our son lovingly and in strong character. I even trust that when he says he can make dinner, that I will end up with a tasty meal at the end of the evening.

Why is it, though, that I trust my husband? Did I meet him on the street, marry him the next day, and simply believe that all of these things would be true? Of course not! I trust him because he has proven himself over and over to me. My trust is not blind faith. Rather, it is informed from what I have seen and experienced over one year of friendship, almost three years of dating, and two and a half years of marriage. Six and a half years of spending the majority of my time in various situations with my very best friend has taught me a lot about how he functions. He has most definitely earned my trust.

On the flip side, no matter how much I trust my husband- say, that I trust he can cook me a good meal and give me a night off- there is always that slight possibility that he could mess up. He COULD burn the food. Even if he was the most experienced of chefs, he might accidentally forget the chicken in the oven, or he might cut his finger on a knife, or he could possibly start a grease fire if he wasn’t being careful.

Does this reality, that my husband is a fallible human, cause me to run around fretting the entire time he’s making dinner? Certainly not! Yes, I suppose it could happen. Yes, we do have smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher in our house, just in case something were to go awry. Yes, I do have bandages and a first aid kit, supposing he took a chunk out of his finger during prep work. And I am willing to step in and finish dinner if need be, or even to order pizza if neither of us can fix it. While I have those back-up plans in place, I expect that everything will probably turn out just fine, because I trust my husband’s ability to cook dinner.

Now, I know that birth is an event of much stronger gravity than cooking dinner. However, I think we can take some of the principles from my illustration into consideration when questioning the phrase, “trust birth.”

When we don’t interfere with the process of birth, it goes just fine 85-95% of time (depending on who you ask). Women have  indeed been giving birth for thousands of years, and I personally believe that God designed the process. Labor and delivery, for the most  part, has become a time-tested event that we can usually expect to go well. 

However, we do live in a fallen world, and there is that 5-15% of complications and frightening times in birth. Do we worry and fret the entire time that we’re in labor, thinking, “oh no, oh no, what if something goes wrong?” We cannot really afford to be fearful of the “what ifs,” as we cannot control whether or not they will happen, and sometimes the worry itself creates self-fulfilling prophecies. All that fear of the unknown does is make our labor scarier and more difficult. Likewise, we cannot blame ourselves if something does go wrong, because it can still happen even under the very best of circumstances.

While worrying about possible complications doesn’t do any good, it is ultimately wise to be prepared for complications, no matter what type of birth you’re having. As Birth Sense stated so reasonably, “My point of view is that it is not a lack of trust to prepare for the unexpected, but expect to not need those preparations.” It would be foolish and naive to think that nothing could ever go wrong at a birth, but dreadfully unhelpful to spend countless hours running the “what ifs” in your head. Prepare for the worst, but hope (and expect) for the best.

Can we trust birth? I think that in a completely natural delivery, with proper prenatal care and preparation, we can expect that things will probably be fine. It would only be blind faith to assume that it would always be just fine.

Can we trust intervention? When the benefits of the interventions outweigh the risks, we should make judicious use of them, understanding that they may or may not always fix the problem. While interventions are often effective, we cannot blindly trust them either, assuming that they will always save us.

We need to prepare for the unexpected in all situations, whether our birth is natural or managed for whatever reason. We trust that birth is a normal event, but we have plans for the unforseen. When we opt for interventions, we should know the probable and possible outcomes. We should expect for things to go well, but always be flexible and ready to face surprises.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by dac on April 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I love the phrase, “stated so reasonably. ” It is easy to become quite one-sided in many areas of our life. Being “reasonable” and being willing to gather facts and hear others out doesn’t seem to be the norm. Thank you for presenting a reasonable view of childbirth.


    • I’m glad you appreciae it! 🙂 I’ve heard so much of the extremes that it’s making me try hard to find a reasonable middle ground. Thanks for reading.


  2. This is a wonderfully written article ….Very informative with great analogies and very balanced toward each side of the coin ….You always have such good topics and I enjoy reading through your posts ….Keep up the excellent work and the world of pregnancy and mothering will gain much from your contributions !!


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