Posted on January 20, 2016
The experience of childbirth is often the first transformative experience that we as a species endure. Whether the experience is positive or negative, the effects are lifelong. In fact, the experience of giving birth is so significant that people often leave their dream jobs to advocate for better outcomes, happier families, and healthier babies. Considering this, one would be wise to assume that the journey of pregnancy, labor, and parenting ought to be a trip well researched.
Contemplate the kind of effort required to plan a trip to a foreign country. The language will be different, the currency will be different, the food will be different, and of course, the hospitality will be different. In the quest to give birth, parents who exercise an effort similar to the planning required for travel quickly discover the many modalities available to help with the process. The plethora of choices do not exist without reason. There are many different kinds of people who become parents, each with whole histories that shaped them before pregnancy was ever on their mind. So it stands to reason that we need different routes for childbirth because what works for one culture will not work for another. For some women, pushing the baby out is quite rewarding, even empowering. For others, they report it is the worst part. How then can a parent know what will work for them before they have had the opportunity to experience birth? It isn't possible. What is possible is preparing, thinking, exploring, and imagining. The following is a suggested checklist to help you approach your birth experience with mindfulness:
The hardest thing to teach someone else about childbirth is what it will feel like. As a Childbirth Educator, I certainly can't tell you exactly. As a doula, even as a mother, I still can't tell you. We each have different bodies, and different histories and associations with not only physical feelings, but also with words. Some of us move through life focusing intimately on our body and every feeling that it communicates to us. Others need to disassociate and find engaging distraction to overcome the sensations of childbirth. Although I don’t know what childbirth will be or feel like to you, what I do know is that you can handle it. Of course you can. And I can tell you that no matter how your baby comes out, you can feel satisfied.
Satisfied. It doesn't sound all that exciting as a word, but I choose it with care. Thoughtfully, I have ascribed this word to be my modality in childbirth education. Satisfaction is the wisdom I impart to the parents that attend my classes. Birth satisfaction ensures that no matter the experience, you can have your baby, reflect positively on the journey to bring your child into the world, and move forward absorbing the lessons your child has yet to teach you about patience, humor, humility, bliss, and sovereignty. It can be detrimental to a child’s well-being if a parent is so bogged down by trauma or stress from a labor that was disappointing. The authors of Everyday Blessings, Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, write that as parents it is our responsibility to give our children the space to figure out who they are to be, where they fit in this world, and how they will manage their own behaviors. If we are able to move forward from birth with ease and acceptance, we will have afforded ourselves the compassion required to make space for this child’s self-knowing.
As we approach the brand new experience of childbirth, we are welcome to try for anything: hypnosis, meditation, partner-coaching, orgasm even. As parents, we can work for as natural a birth as possible, try to focus our mind only on pleasure, hire a midwife, arrange for a Doula, call in our spirituality, and still we might end up with an entirely unplanned procedural birth. How then do we move on from the experience able to reflect positively even if it doesn’t go as we had hoped? Our due diligence is required. Diane Korte, author of The VBAC Companion, says that if you don’t know your options, you don’t have any. When you become pregnant, you are already a parent, no matter how long the pregnancy lasts, you are already blessed with the responsibility of the self-compassion modeling that goes into parenting your new child. Take the reins, learn your options, make plans for when labor (and certainly parenting!) strays from your intentions and you will be able to move forward in peace.