The way in which a baby is received into the world affects the way in which he or she operates in the world for the rest of his or her life. The way in which a mother feels when she births this baby becomes the blueprint for her interaction with her baby and her community as a new mother. As a woman, this is her biggest rite of passage.
In ancient cultures, childbirth was a chance to celebrate the creation of life. A pregnant woman was revered as a goddess. She was fully capable, and usually gave birth with little discomfort. She was supported and empowered by her community, and typically surrounded by wise women during this very important transition.
What happens when a woman feels supported and empowered in this passage? She relaxes. She opens. She surrenders. Nature takes over. She feels the essence of the universe. She feels the power that creates worlds. This power courses through her and she realizes: she is this power: the ultimate truth. Birth is a chance for a woman to travel to the deepest level of her being. After all, it is said that giving birth consciously is equivalent to 7 years of meditation. When respected as the rite of passage that it truly is, giving birth can be an opportunity for a woman to enter into states that enlightened masters speak of.
So why aren’t we hearing more stories of women merging with the power of the universe, totally surrendering, and discovering their true essence during childbirth? And why instead are we hearing of pain, trauma, and countless interventions? I believe that it all boils down to a four-letter word: FEAR.
In the majority of places in the modern world, childbirth is an event to be terrified of. It is viewed to be inevitably painful, dangerous, and in many situations, a medical emergency. Cesarean section, once reserved for life threatening cases only, has now become the most common operation in America. Think of the messages we grow up with as children around childbirth. Think of the television shows and the movies we’ve watched. What do they depict? In almost every instance, the scene goes like this: The woman’s water suddenly breaks, she is driven frantically to the hospital and within minutes of arriving, she is screaming for an epidural to relieve her pain.
No wonder so many women are terrified of giving birth. But could it be this fear that is causing all of our suffering? A 1920’s English obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, noticed that no other animal species experienced pain, or agony during birth and hypothesized that fear and tension were the cause of pain. He soon introduced the “Fear-Tension-Pain” cycle. When afraid, the body enters into a state of “fight or flight.” All of the blood is moved away from the “non essential” organs needed for survival. Unfortunately, for a birthing woman, this means her uterus.
However, the great force behind childbirth continues to work wonders, but the woman, unable to open, experiences excruciating pain. This creates more fear, and the cycle begins to loop. It is as if she is stuck in a labyrinth with no way out. She suddenly feels helpless and instinctively knows that something has gone terribly wrong. Enter: the modern symbols of our ancient rite of passage: pain relief in many forms, artificial hormones, and possibly even surgery. Without the understanding of the cycle, rather than the root cause, fear, pain is addressed. Interventions become the norm and the woman grieves silently as she feels that something has been taken away from her.
Author of Hypnobirthing, Marie Mongan writes, “Birth has been broken. The spirit of women with respect to their innate birthing power has been broken. By seriously looking at the effect of fear-the powerful emotion that causes the birthing body to break down -perhaps we can keep the finely tuned, precision bodies of women whole for future generations”
Fear is not to be taken lightly, as it blocks us from our greatest gifts awaiting us in childbirth. When a woman understands the fear-tension-pain cycle, she can find a supportive birth team to help her work through her fears as early as the first few months in pregnancy. This is essential to her having a comfortable, empowering and safe birthing journey. There are many women working with doulas, midwives, hypnobirthing therapists, and others to have natural births free of interventions. Some of these women are experiencing painless births. Some, even orgasmic.
One woman describes her experience, “My growls all of a sudden became soft roaring noises,and the roars only got louder through my contractions. It felt so perfectly instinctual to let go and just be, just feel, and let my body and mind and soul focus on birthing. There were no distractions. There was no pain, just good, strong, intense stretching.” Another woman writes, “The sensation is ecstatic. I am building up to the birth climax after nine months of pleasurable foreplay. With one push the babe is in the canal. THE NEXT PUSH BRINGS HIM DOWN INTO THAT SPACE JUST BEFORE ORGASM WHEN WE WOMEN KNOW HOW GOD MUST HAVE FELT CREATING THIS PLANET”
Most of us have never heard stories like these, but what if they became the norm? You see, birth is a collective story that affects every one of us. We were all a baby at one point in time and since that first experience has become our blueprint for how we operate in this world, we are certainly affected deeply every day by this fundamental event. It may be time to start telling the birth story differently. We live in a unique time where we can work together with the sisterhood of midwives and birth companions to make informed choices, while still feeling supported by the expertise of the medical field if truly a life threatening situation were to arise. We can re weave the fabric of community for our mothers so they feel empowered and supported in their precious rite of passage. We can become aware of our language, especially around our daughters, and instead of dumping our fears onto them, we can work to trust women again and their capable bodies.
Imagine what this world would be like if every birthing mother were respected and gently guided to open, trust and surrender to the ultimate creative force that is the essence and truth of this life. Can we begin to tell a birthing story of love and connection instead of fear and separation? This is my deepest wish, hope and prayer for humanity, and I hope you’ll join me.
Photo Credit: Kelly Jordan Photography (www.kellyjordanphotography.