12 Ways to Change Birth in Our Culture, Part 5: Changing our Attitudes Toward Fear

facing fear in childbirth education

In 2010, Pam England wrote a series of pieces about ways in which we can change birth in our culture. The Birthing From Within leadership and blog team has chosen some of these pieces as inspiration and jumping-off points to create a new 12-part series about changing birth in our culture that reflects current understandings within the birth world as well as our current approaches and offerings as an organization. We will be sharing one piece for each month of 2019, both on the blog and in our monthly newsletters. We hope you enjoy this wonderful material, both the archival treasure and the new, innovative insights!

As Birthing From Within mentors, we are not afraid of fear. In our own personal work and in our work with parents, we strive not to avoid fears and worries, but rather to invite them inside so that we can examine them with a spirit of curiosity and openness.

In the Crossing the Threshold workshop, as well as in subsequent certification-oriented training and advanced courses, we work to acknowledge our personal and collective birth-related fears and worries, as well as the strategies that we cultivate in an attempt to avoid unwished-for events for ourselves and for our clients.

We always begin within, practicing how to really tune into and embrace our own fears and powerlessness in labor and life. Then, we slowly build a framework that allows us to truly hear and validate our clients’ fears, worries, and strategies. Mentors learn how to lead parents in introspective and uplifting conversations and processes that might later prevent them from abandoning or judging themselves when unexpected or unwished-for events happen in labor, birth, or postpartum.

A fear or worry that is ignored or buried is still very alive in the nervous system; we need to see, hear, and embrace it in order for it to loosen its hold upon us.

When we gift parents with this process of self-knowledge before their journeys begin, there is no telling how it could affect their mind-body state. Perhaps they may relax and open even before labor begins — and then continue to open and be resourceful in labor! And when we as professionals gift ourselves with this self-awareness, no doubt we will begin to see, hear, and respond differently when working with parents during the childbearing year.

The more that we, as a birth culture, try to deny natural doubt and anxiety, the further we push this part of preparation into the dark collective underworld, and the more individual parents must try to deny their own individual anxieties, robbing themselves of one of the most important parts of true childbirth preparation. Parents who feel ashamed to have fears, doubts, and worries may censor themselves, isolate or ignore those parts of themselves, or try to just figure it out on their own, in secret. Shrouded in self-judgment (“I’m being so negative”; “I’m obsessing”; ”I should just trust birth/my body/my baby/my caregiver/my partner more”), they can become immobilized, waiting for someone else to reassure, guide, protect, or save them. This is obviously not the ideal state of being in which to cross the threshold into parenthood.

In contrast, if we can be brave enough to bring our fears into the light, we can begin the real work of inquiring within…

Where did this fear come from? How did I learn to worry about this? How would I cope if this situation were to actually occur? What I am really longing for? What am I trying to avoid?

Working in this way, we begin to create new stories about our fears and doubts, thus illuminating pathways for new, surprising, flexible responses. This is one of the most important tasks of prenatal preparation: When we cultivate the courage to examine and revise old stories, or to jettison them entirely in favor of new ones, we begin to truly step into parenthood.

About the Birthing from Within Team

Birthing From Within is blessed to have a team of bloggers that includes childbirth educators, doulas, and birth story listeners who, in addition to being deep thinkers and skilled writers, are dedicated to the amplification of the BFW mission and philosophy. Birthing From Within is a collective creation, always evolving to reflect the new layers of understanding and unique approaches to the childbirth experience. Our goal is to change the conversation about birth in our culture, and to uphold the possibility of growth and transformation for birth professionals and birthing people.


  1. Ana Llorente on May 22, 2019 at 2:10 am

    Hello, Birthing from Within team. It has been wonderful to find out that you exist. I truly share your views on how childbirth education is unrealistic and invites women and families to bury their fears and believe in magical paths out of the very human experience of uncertainty. I understand there is a possibility of training with you abroad. I live in the UK and would value the opportunity to learn more about your perspective. I have just finished reading your first book and would like to start incorporating some of your techniques into my work. Receiving your newsletter is always an important event in my week. Thank you.

    • Koyuki Smith on May 31, 2019 at 5:11 am

      Thank you, Ana! We are so glad that these perspectives are resonating with you. Stay tuned…maybe we can make it to the UK for a workshop! 🙂

    • admin on June 11, 2019 at 5:18 pm

      Hi Ana! Email our office at contact@birthingfromwithin.com and we can send you some information on how to join us in our online training programs! We have a special pathway for international folks!

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