A doula friend of mine and I were sitting at my dining room table the other day talking about birth. Among the myriad aspects of birth practices, cultural norms and personal experiences we were sharing about, we marveled at how in birth, there is no place to go; in birth
we shine as a great mirror, reflecting ourselves on many levels. Most memorable that day, my friend – she has attended many many births – said, “I can say, tell me about your birth and I’ll tell you how you live your life.” Well, it was something like that, anyway. Interesting insight, no?
This doula friend and I were visiting after she checked in on my sister-in-law who lives very nearby and who gave birth at home to a beautiful son a few days before (a birth which I was blessed to attend). This sister is relatively quiet, relaxed and soft-mannered woman, with a sparky spirit that shines brightly through her eyes and through the occasional wise-crack. I would characterize her as steady and strong, and this is also how she birthed. Her labor progressed quickly, relatively easily with little pain, and she birthed in a peaceful and quiet setting, herself peaceful, steady and strong. Basically, her birth was straightforward and marked by quiet strength – just like her.
The birth of my daughter last year was markedly different. I also had a homebirth and my experience, while joyful and filled with peace and gratitude, was one of struggle and pain. I labored hard and fast, with unwavering confidence in my ability to deliver through the hardship, and made a LOT of noise about the pain all the while singing songs of opening and earthy magic! And ladies and gentlemen, that pretty much sums up the tone of my life.
Looking back at my birth over the last year (we’ll soon celebrate my daughter’s first birthday), I’ve contemplated the pain of the labor; the power that rocked me to my knees, and have from time-to-time felt regretful that I didn’t lean more on my doula. Wanting an intervention-free birth (no checks, no direction even), I felt so resolved to go through it alone, and hadn’t realized all my preparation for a peaceful (read: quiet) birth couldn’t possibly un-do a lifetime of habits (I react strongly to pain, and I’m generally the Type A “just let me deal with it!” sorta girl). Those habits of steadfastness, confidence and independence inform so much of what I do, of course they were powerful blessings and curses while birthing.
I recently attended a doula training with Michel Odent and Liliana Lammers. I’ll get around to writing more about that in another post soon, but one of the things Liliana (Odent’s life partner and course co-trainer) impressed upon us was that the less of a plan you have for birth, the better, and what the mother needs more than any techniques or accouterments is the ability to and/or help with relaxing. More on all that in another post, too, but the reason I bring this up is two-fold (sort-of).
1. If our birth will mimic our life, the process playing out much like the processes of our life and how we live it, then maybe we don’t need to “cram” for the test with a bunch of study, training and methods for “dealing” with birth. Maybe we can just relax knowing that we need only surrender to the flow of it. (Easy-said, right?)
2. Perhaps more practical, though seemingly contrary to the above, if our experience of birth will most likely follow the tendencies of how we experience our life, maybe we use this insight to better empower ourselves in our birth preparations. Where the norm seems to be acquiring ideas, strategies and techniques to manage our births, namely the anticipated pain – a process which seems to often add to our anxiety and stress, increase our expectations and set us up for “good birth/bad birth” comparisons – we could instead spend that time learning how better to relax and be okay with what is as it arises.
I offer up these two ideas, the two main ideas about birth rattling around in my head right now, because there seems to be a sweet-n-sour dichotomy present in the theory that we birth as we live – that (1) we both cannot change our deeply entrenched beliefs and habits of relating to our life events, and therefore cannot change how we will react to the pain and pressure of birthing a baby, and (2) that we can (nonetheless) affect how we relate to these tendencies when the big day (for some of us days
) comes such that we can still steer ourselves towards more peace and relaxation, helping us to progress more easily, and give birth with less complications and strife – it’s the way we steer that seems to need a shift.
In hindsight, and to be a little less obtuse about these ideas, I’ll say that I wish I had spent less time defining a birth philosophy, making sure everyone was on board with it, and preparing all sorts of things (I actually made up little boxes for each “stage” of labor with oils, and herbs and such to help ease the pain and any possible problems which I never even touched once during labor), and more time just relaxing and enjoying my pregnancy. Knowing what I know now, I would have spent more time relaxing my mind and body to help build up my skills of relaxation alongside a lifetime of clenching up in response to pain (I dare say I’m not alone in this tendency) so that the pain and surprise of a very hard, fast labor might not have gotten so much the better of me. I bet there would have been a little less screaming in agony.
All this aside, the birth of my daughter was a magnificent event! It transpired in love, joy and gratitude. It was blessed. Birth is a blessing no matter which habits “take over”, no matter how much it reflects our cherished or otherwise bemoaned tendencies (and no matter our plan, or it’s success, too I might add). So, in a way, you could chalk this blog post up to another one in the mix about what you might do to make your birth “better” in some way, and so rightly just disregard it. I sort of hope so. Because the point of writing this at all is that I hope for other moms and mothers-to-be as I hope for myself – to just relax, enjoy and move through life and birth and raising and on and on with the simple knowing that we have all we need to “do things right”, whether it looks like what we think it should or not, whether it hurts like hell or not.
But still, I’ll leave you with a link to another blog post on the topic that is inspiring to me and which you might find interesting, too:
As we live, so we birth…