By Gemma Stone

Our minds are programmed to keep us away from dangerous things – like tigers. This can be a good thing in some situations, but when it comes to giving birth, this instinct can really complicate matters, especially if you’re not giving birth in the jungle.

There are basically two kinds of mistakes we can make when it comes to the tiger. The first mistake is to think that there’s a tiger in the bush when there really isn’t. This causes unnecessary anxiety. The second mistake is to think that there isn’t a tiger in the bush when there really is. This causes death.

Because of the severity of the consequences of each of these mistakes, your mind would prefer that you always make the first mistake in order to avoid the nasty, life-ending consequence of making the second mistake.

In order to keep us alive, our brains trick us into avoiding tigers by making three mistakes:

1. Overestimating threats

2. Underestimating opportunities

3. Underestimating resources

When you think about it, this is a great way to make sure that our species keeps avoiding the dangerous tigers, but it’s a lousy way for us to give birth. It leads to an increased risk of complications, increased perception of pain, increased labour time, and a few other things that we should avoid during birth.

Here’s what I want for you and all moms-to-be. I want you to be able to see the real tigers clearly and deal with them effectively. I want you to have the courage, knowledge, and strength to recognize when there’s really a tiger in the bush and when there isn’t.

I want you to be able to determine whether the fears that you have about birth are real or whether your brain is tricking you.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Is your mind focusing on scary birth stories and fearful thoughts about birth? (overestimating threats)

2. Is positive information about birth being downplayed? (underestimating opportunities)

3. Is your brain causing you to doubt your strength, your body’s ability to give birth, and your baby’s ability to be born? (underestimating resources)

Remember that your mind is wired to pay attention to the bad news and to tune out the good news.

Our contemporary birth culture (which is fear-based) and the inner workings of your mind may be teaming up to trick you into fearing your upcoming birth experience. The first step is knowledge; as you increase knowledge, you decrease fear. Now that you have more knowledge about how your mind works, you can use it to your advantage.

Gemma Stone is a mom, psychologist, speaker, and writer who is passionate about birth. She lives in Calgary and focuses on empowering pregnant women to have peaceful and positive birth experiences (no matter how the birth process unfolds).