by Elise Bowerman
This temporary time in a woman’s life is often referred to as a ‘rite of passage.’ The amount of effort it takes to move through this ‘passage’ into motherhood is remarkable. Emotionally and physically the birthing woman is never who she once was.
She shifts into a mother bear caring for her baby cubs. Wisdom behind her eyes shines as her perspective on life deepens to a level she never knew existed. Her body forever changed as she miraculously carried and birthed her child(ren).
Now, she will likely feel many emotions pouring over her from the birthing process. This experience creates an imprint in her mind of how she views herself as a woman and a mother. How a woman births or baby arrives is irrelevant to the concept of how a woman feels about what happened. Her mind will play a constant reel of her view the birth. No one fails at childbirth; nevertheless, sometimes women feel like they failed.
However a Mother Feels is True
The following questions are examples of how the birth may affect her mental state of mind:
Did she feel empowered and elated in her birthing experience?
Was she attended to, cared for and given feedback she needed to feel capable when birthing?
Did she feel dismissed or violated in the labor and/or delivery process?
Did she feel like a failure at birthing?
Birth is about trusting the self along with the process to get through to holding baby. Each time a woman births some fear does exist, but trusting will over-power fear. The challenge of birth is what shifts women through the ‘rite of passage’ into motherhood.
It’s a shame in our modern culture we still see barbaric treatment1 to birthing women. It is not a humdrum procedure where every woman experiences the same thing; yet, it can be conducted in a process-oriented manner where there is pressure on women to have a predictable birth. When that happens there is complete disregard to the woman’s emotional health – and how it ties into her birthing ability.
A mother-to-be and her birthing partner(s) must be well informed of childbirth. This is the only way to birth from a place of acceptance, trust and confidence. When a mother feels confident and liberated during birth she will embrace those feelings as she cares for herself, her growing family and the community at large will even benefit.
Sadly many women do not feel liberated and confident during birth. Perhaps they are afraid of the unknown, the what-if’s and lack of simple evidence-based childbirth education. When fear leads the way it leaves little room for acceptance, trust and confidence.
Remember, an imprint has been created and it takes a conscious mind to re-write that imprint. If the mother feels any disapproval about herself or the process of the birth she will likely hold on to those feelings for a long time which may contribute to postpartum depression or anxiety2. If she receives support from friends, family or a mental health professional to help her sort out the birthing experience the negativity will begin to dissolve.
The Partner’s Role
The partner’s responsibility is to carve out time to time to figure out how to support the birthing woman. If they don’t, then the partner’s fear(s) can effortlessly be projected onto the birthing woman. Once witnessing the discomfort a birthing woman goes through they may go into the “fight or flight” mode. The partner may feel scared because the woman is their lover, best friend, daughter, or sister, etc. We’re humans – and when we have a special connection with someone we will do anything to not see our loved one uncomfortable.
This fearful approach is not helpful, nor warranted. We all know birth is uncomfortable. It’s not new science. But the discomfort in birth is different than any type of outside pain3.
Discomfort in Childbirth is Normal
Using the word “pain” to describe childbirth is really a disservice to birthing women who endure it, or even experience orgasmic births. In our English language we use “pain” indicating something is wrong. However, in childbirth – the contractions are normal and wanted. The uterus pulsating while baby travels downward are healthy responses to pregnancy!
Since those healthy responses are intense they do require the mother to tune-in to her breathing and body awareness. That way she can birth from a place of acceptance, trust and confidence.
Labor is called labor; not a “walk in the park” for a reason. The birthing woman will mentally focus and physically challenge herself to remain calm while her body and baby shift and move. This is the hardest she will ever “work” (AKA labor) in her life.
Fitness levels are of little importance for the marathon of childbirth. Not one of my Prenatal Yoga students (including me with my own births) share birth stories about how being perfectly fit helped in childbirth. The number one way women are able to have acceptance, trust and confidence is through the breath. Understanding how to breathe deeply with awareness literally helps to bring baby into the outside world4.
Childbirth is about being aware of the mental body – to understand how thoughts come into the mind, and to focus attention inward. The physical exertion is learning to release tension in various labor/birthing positions while breathing calmly and moving to keep baby moving.
No One Fails at Childbirth
As mentioned earlier, no matter how a woman births - she does not fail. Mother’s can do everything “right” to prepare for birth. Sometimes babies have other plans. It’s for the benefit of everyone involved that the baby arrives the way they do.
Increasing evidence suggests how we are born into the world sets a pattern or tone for our life. This is called a limbic imprint5,6. Honoring your own limbic imprint and your child’s will help release expectations that may have been placed on yourself as the birthing woman or parent.
If you haven’t birthed before, or witnessed a birth, you may be thinking these concepts are far-fetched. I promise they are not. These are the deepest feelings people can have; not the surface emotions we generally share.
In cultures throughout the world expecting women, birthing women and mothers are cared for with enthusiastic love and protection. The community works together to show their respect for the critical role the women play in contributing to the group’s growth of bringing new life in with acceptance, trust and confidence.
By creating a medical/predictable birth model women are not encouraged to understand birth takes patience. Our modern culture has removed the primitive and transformative process birth offers to women and the community.
Gratitude in Pregnancy, Birthing and Motherhood
Not all women are graced with the ability to carry their own child(ren.) If you have been chosen to birth your own child(ren) understand this is a privilege. For your growth as a human and mother you need to experience pregnancy and birth. Search within yourself to explore feelings you have regarding this pregnancy and childbirth. What are you hopeful for? What are you resistant to? How will you prepare for pregnancy, birthing and caring for your newborn?
By actively participating in this transformative time you are being present with life as it happens. When we are present then we can see ourselves clearly with no expectations and gather information as it comes in.
A special note to all the birthing women:
Know you are surrounded by the energy of the millions of women who’ve birthed before you. Call on them to give you strength and trust. You are not the first - nor the last - to birth your baby with love.
Reach out to family, friends, co-workers or neighbors about what they did to prepare for this time in their lives. What helped? What groups or activities did they join? What is their one piece of hind-sight advice?
You will find varying answers. Trust your instincts to do what is best for you and your growing family. Take what resonates most with you, let go of what sounds overwhelming or not your style at this moment. Your intuition is always right. There is no cookie-cutter solution or path. It’s about the experience. Yours is unique to you.
You’re doing everything perfectly imperfect. Keep it up sweet momma.