5 Ways To Overcome Tokophobia
I honestly thought I would never have a kid. Andrés and I have a 2 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn and we were planning on traveling the world. Just us two. And then one weekend, when he was out of town, I had a feeling. I took a test and two lines appeared on the stick. I was nauseous, numb and called my two best friends, immediately. We talked, talked, talked, talked and I slept. The next morning, I woke up, in shock, wondering if I should call Andrés, but I thought “everything will change the minute you tell him”, so I refrained for another day.
During the time when I was figuring out when/how to bring this up to Andrés, I was frantically googling things like “fear of pregnancy”. I immediately related to stories in this article and then I found this Stories of Tokophobia conversation and realized that I had tokophobia. Finally! A term that described my fear of childbirth.
My story is that I have had this fear since I was about 9 years old. Since then I have had night tremors about giving birth. Everything is ok and then suddenly I’m pregnant and about to give birth. Just before the baby pops out I wake up in a sweaty terror.
When I started to use the term “tokophobia” with my friends and family, no one had heard of it before (not even the doctors). This makes sense since it wasn’t introduced into medical literature until 2000. At least that’s what this Atlantic article indicates.
The good news is that I overcame it! I’m happy to share 5 things that worked for me, but please remember that every person is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone.
1. Hired a Doula
Hiring a doula was clutch for me. My doula, Nubia Jones, specializes in evidence-based birth education and helped me to unpack so many misconceptions that I had about childbirth. During our first session, she told me that I was not required to give birth laying on my back with no movement (I dreaded this). Instead, we planned to dance the baby out with a playlist. FYI, you can use Healthcare FSA dollars to pay for a doula.
2. Reproductive Health Therapist
I was extremely fortunate to have been connected to the right people in order to receive a recommendation to a reproductive health therapist. This is a burgeoning field with a high demand and not enough practitioners. The Seleni Institute in NYC specializes in reproductive health psychotherapy! Although I didn’t personally utilize their services, I have heard great things about them.
3. Birth Education Class
Leigh Kader runs these small and intimate classes in Brooklyn and a friend highly recommended them to me. A cool thing that I learned was that constant movement (hip swings, dancing) and using your voice, especially through singing provides excellent pain relief during childbirth (there is a neuro-muscular connection between your throat and pelvis). After our series, Andrés and I felt energized and prepared for the first time. FYI, you can also use Healthcare FSA dollars to pay for these classes.
If finding a similar class is difficult for you, The Birth Partner is the book the class was based on. Andrés read it cover to cover and kept surprising me with really useful tips.
4. Stayed Internal
I felt the need to decline most social events since I knew my belly would become a hot topic. But let’s be honest, I was so exhausted all the time I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend them anyways. I did let my friends, colleagues know that I was “staying internal” for the duration of my pregnancy, which turned out to be a useful phrase. Staying internal meant limiting conversations and predominantly spending time with a few people.
Despite my need to stay internal, the unsolicited (and obnoxious) comments were a constant… For example, “This should be the happiest time of your life”, “Women have been giving birth for millions of years” . . . I just responded to all of those comments with, “That is not helpful”, which proved to be very helpful.
5. I Trusted Myself
About a month and a half before I gave birth, I had a dream. When I woke up, I sat in bed, amazed. In the dream, my 3-day old baby was in a huge bed with my dad (who was sleeping). There were open windows in the background and it appeared that we were high on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (think Santorini). I anxiously walked into the room worried that my dad wouldn’t be able to take care of my 3-day old baby while I was out. My sleepy dad looked up and said his typical refrain, “Oh Faz-eee, don’t worry”. But then, my 3-day old baby SAT UP, ROLLED HIS EYES and STARTED TALKING. He said, “Mom, it’s gonna be ok, we’ll be fine, just GO”.
After that, the terror was gone. A little fear remained, but the terror was gone.
Now, I admittedly did not have an easy, pain-free childbirth by any means. It was full of complications and emergencies (the cord was wrapped around my baby’s neck and he had trouble breathing). Yet, surrounded by my partner and older sister, with others close at hand (text), I felt calm, in control, and did it... I leaned into my fear and GAVE BIRTH! I literally envisioned the placenta, blood, and guts leaving my body like an exorcism. Baby G is my favorite creation and he will never comprehend the immense way he healed me.
Did you overcome tokophobia? What worked for you?