Setting yourself up for disappointment?

Author // Lucy Atkinson
Posted in // Blog

There has been a lot of media attention recently on the idea that women are ‘setting themselves up for disappointment by focussing on a positive birth’.

Let’s just stop and think about that for a minute, shall we? Women who expected a positive birth and had a rubbish time brought at least some of the emotional upset on themselves by not going into labour expecting the worst. It is partly their own fault they are upset by their birth because their expectations were too high.

Even women themselves are joining in with this insidious woman-blaming. What on earth is so wrong with society that we can’t show women who have had a negative birth experience a little more respect and empathy? How about we start respecting women and their decisions to prepare for birth in whatever way they choose, and supporting them if things don’t go to plan?

Imagine if we spoke about our Olympic athletes in the same way…

“Well, he went into that race expecting to get gold, but he didn’t make it. I’m sure he’s feeling disappointed but after all, his expectations were just too high. These athletes really need to prepare themselves for the worst as so often they just won’t win.”

It doesn’t really make that much sense does it? If you focus on all the possible negative outcomes, it actually lowers your chances of success; this is basic NLP known by sportspeople the world over. Prepare for success; learn the skills to develop your resilience if you don’t succeed in your goal.

In a race, all the competitors bar one will not win. Yet they all still focus on achieving success.

With regard to birth, 73.8% of women will not have a c-section (2013-14 figures, For women who prepare using the Wise Hippo techniques, up to 84% of them won’t have a c-section (

Those are pretty good odds. Why on earth would a woman not focus on absolutely having the best experience possible? Of course life sometimes throws you a curve ball; your circumstances might change; unexpected medical issues might arise; you might not receive the care you deserve – midwives are wonderful but we all know how much pressure they are under. You might not fully be aware of your options, or not know the right questions to ask in order to feel in control of your decisions.

Preparing for the best possible birth by learning about how birth works, and also learning those important questioning and decision-making tools along the way, allows couples to focus on a positive outcome – which they are statistically likely to achieve – as well as helping to prepare their resilience in case life does throw them a curve ball on the day. This is about empowering women to take control of their births, by teaching them the skills they need to ensure they have the right birth on the day, no matter what actually happens.

How on earth is that setting someone up for disappointment?

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