I was drawn to this book as I have known about Grantly Dick-Read’s Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome for since before Lincoln was even conceived. It made sense. I was excited to learn more. Unfortunately, I have to admit, I wasn’t a big fan of this book.
“The most important contributory cause of pain in otherwise normal labour is fear”Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear
Firstly, if you don’t already know about Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome, let me summarise. Basically, the premise is that when you fear something, this sends us in to fight or flight mode and creates tension throughout our body such that we can fight or flee. Once we enter fight or flight, the muscles in the uterus starts working in an opposing fashion and even more tension develops in our uterus. Our bodies and minds then interpret this tension as pain. The more pain we feel, the greater our fear and the cycle continues.
Dick-Read’s chapter on “A Philosophy of Childbirth” resonated with me. Specifically:
“And so with every girl in varying degrees this power which will rule their lives begins to develop at an early age, until in due course they find themselves in love, and here in the hotchpotch of their emotional life becomes concentrated, with all its thrills, its joys and its anxieties, upon one semi-divine individual. It is the spiritual refinement of her own ideal and in the normal course of events she becomes betrothed, but unwilling to believe that there are others who are equally fortunate, and blissfully ignorant of the fact that she is but an instrument in the design of nature. Eventually she marries and if all goes well, she conceives and prepares to bear her child.
The average woman associates all that is beautiful in her life with this series of events…”
I know, these days it is unrealistic that every girl feels like this, but I did, and after having Lincoln I had this overwhelming feeling of “what now?” My life had been completely centred around this series of events and all of a sudden, at 27 years of age, I had achieved my goal. I knew that raising Lincoln was the logical next step but for whatever reason, it felt like it took a while for that transition to occur in my mind.
In the same chapter, Dick-Read writes “The natural reward of the physical achievement of pregnancy and parturition is not only a beloved possession, but an endowment of spiritual force enhancing the receptivity of divine guidance in motherhood. From this inestimable gift emerges the power of mother love, which forms the pattern of the infant’s psyche as surely as mother’s milk fashions its physique.”
I so strongly want for all women to experience their best birth because it will make such a difference in the rest of their lives. It’s not just the end of a pregnancy or a means to bring a baby into this world. The birth of a baby is sacred. It changes a woman.
And thus, I note that for his time, Dick-Read would have been revolutionary. Women experienced some incredible labours because of the education he was able to provide.
Yet, as a woman in 2021, I found that this book hard to read. A lot of outdated language is used, and it has quite a masculine energy and tone. It is flabbergasting how far women have come since 1942 when the first version of this book was penned. Yes, this has been updated since such time, but there is still a very anti-feminist view of the world present in this text. The language used paints a picture that would ruffle most women’s feathers these days! Talk of our conduct during birth, our husbands and what they think, our bodies and how there is no reason for us to be fat, talk of our pride in the way we look.
There is also some, perhaps, not so evidence-based information in regards to caring for ourselves present in this text. Since its publication, a lot of new research has been presented and we know more now. As such, I would suggest, at most, just glossing over the chapters on diet and exercise.
Dick-Read’s chapter on hypnosis is also lacking clarity. We now know that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis and as such, no-one controls an individual. If you’d like to learn more about hypnosis in hypnobirthing, you can click HERE.
My advice for expecting mothers is, take the time to understand Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome and find yourself a somewhat similar philosophy of childbirth, but your time is probably better spent reading alternative, more relatable, more recent in evidence books.
Still want to have a read yourself? You can find a copy HERE.
Want to learn more about the impact of fear on childbirth AND a whole lot more to help you prepare for your positive birth? Learn more about classes with me HERE.