The knowledge of how to give birth is already inside every woman. Women need encouragement to have more faith in, and a greater appreciation for, their bodies’ wisdom. The nonprofit organization Birth Works International provides that encouragement by utilizing a unique, innovative and experiential program integrating awareness, trust and appreciation. Here’s how this guiding philosophy can enrich your birthing experience.
Awareness of Thought
Awareness is the key to giving birth.
“Awareness of what?” you might ask. Try this little experiment with your own body. In your mind, think about the big toe on your right foot. Immediately sense that you are now aware of your big toe, although just before that, your awareness of your body was someplace else. Now focus your attention on the little finger of your left hand. Can you feel a change? Your awareness is now more in your little finger than in your toe. Now bring your awareness into your lower pelvis. Immediately, that is where the mind goes.
In labor, too many women try to run from awareness of their pelvis because of their strong contractions. (This avoidance can be exacerbated by other factors, such as sexual abuse or previous birth trauma.) Some methods of childbirth preparation teach forms of distraction as a way to cope with strong contractions. But how can one work with the body without being aware of it?
Awareness is consciousness. A woman in pregnancy, labor and delivery, who has her consciousness fully in her body—in her pelvis—welcomes the strong contractions. She works with them to make them more effective, knowing that the stronger her contractions, the sooner her baby will be born. She feels empowered and confident.
Trust in the Wisdom
Birth Works has always promoted a philosophy and belief that the knowledge of how to give birth resides within every woman. Therefore, women do not need to be taught how to give birth—after all, how can what is instinctive be taught? When women are encouraged to surrender to the process or trust their body’s wisdom, they might not know how to do it at first. “How can I let my body birth my baby,” they wonder, “when my mind doesn’t know what to expect?”
But the body does many things without our even having to think about it. Consider all that happens when we sleep at night. We fall asleep one minute, and seemingly the next minute, we’re awake again—yet six to eight hours have passed. All the while, the body carries out its functions of breathing, digesting and maintaining a steady heart rate. In the case of birthing, the uterus contracts and all intercellular exchanges take place, regardless of whether the woman understands what is happening. The body simply knows how to conceive a baby, nourish that baby through pregnancy, dilate a cervix, birth a baby and supply milk for breastfeeding.
Take a moment each day to contemplate the wonders of the human body. Allow it to fill you with wonder and awe. Be grateful. “Little by little, the mind will have to let go because it will learn that it cannot think a baby into the light,” wrote childbirth educator and prenatal yoga instructor Jean Childers-Arnold. “If we have led her to the place where she has faith, she will feel that that earthly body knows what it’s doing. After all, she didn’t tell the egg to ripen, he didn’t steer the sperm. Just like that, it all happens, without our needing to think about it.”
Appreciation of Balance
The Dalai Lama once said, “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” Living in the spirit means seeing what comes your way as a gift. It sees all of life as a teacher who gives many lessons. Many people say they want peace. Allowing the self to be pulled down when bad things happen, or raised up when good things happen, does not confer peace. It leads to imbalance, and a waste of mental and physical energy. When there is balance, there is equanimity.
What are some events in your life that you still hold on to with a negative feeling? Human perspective is usually limiting in its nature, while the spirit is broad and expansive. The next time you don’t get what you want, try asking yourself the question: “How is this serving me? Where is the gift?” This might yield some insights that can lead to peace, understanding and even appreciation for the experience you have had. Gratitude brings peace and unites us with our inner spirit. A woman birthing in gratitude connects her with the power of birth.
About the Author:
Cathy Daub, PT, CCE (BWI), CD (BWI), CD (DONA), MAM (Maya Abdominal Massage) is the founder, designer and president of Birth Works International (BWI), located online at birthworks.org. She is the author of Birthing in the Spirit: A Human Values Approach to Childbirth.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #24.
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