Lessons learned from my past births - and amazing card decks for birth below!
A favorite joke in our family, sure to always get a laugh, is to recite - complete with Aussie accent - the most memorable line from the hypnobirthing audio I repeatedly listened to before having our first child, “my baby is the perfect size for my body.”
In preparation for that first birth I had read Ina May Gaskin and watched The Business of Being Born plus every bonus episode. I also kept The Birth Partner as my bible, but since I was so sure I was going to be a powerhouse and have some transformational, all natural experience I had planned at a birth center - I skipped all of the chapters on hospitals, epidurals and c-sections.
In my mind, I had positioned western obstetrics to be some evil field of female disempowerment, and had completely discredited the concept of having a medicated or assisted birth. I was ready to face the pain and even thought I would find pleasure through it all.
Then I ended up with a large, sunny side up baby who ultimately required an epidural and a c-section.
Following my baby’s birth I was flooded with the typical highs and lows that come at the onset of the fourth trimester. Along with the hormonal fluctuations, I was steeped in shame, remorse, disappointment, feelings of failure, blame and anger.
I had set my expectations so firmly, creating such a solidified idea in my head of what was the ‘right’ way to give birth, that I could barely appreciate the experience that resulted in me becoming a mother.
While it took me several years and a successful VBAC to fully reach this point, I finally came to several realizations about how my birth had in fact been transformational - and could see the lessons that helped to define my new approach to life.
What I came to see first was that the good vs. bad / right vs. wrong way that I had pitted western medicine and midwifery against each other contributed immensely to the suffering I inflicted upon myself after having my baby by cesarean rather than at the birth center I had chosen.
In time I realized that they could both contribute to the birth of a healthy child and mother. It was making this shift to a both / and paradigm that led me to my hospital VBAC, assisted by midwives.
It is not a matter of good vs. evil or even right vs. wrong when it comes to methods, choices and circumstances regarding birth, but more it is a matter of mindset and the meaning we as mothers apply to our own experiences.
Now as I prepare for my third birth, I come to the experience not with a plan, but a set of preferences.
I finally understand that as much as I would like to be, I am not in control of my birth and ultimately I do not get to plan out how things will unfold.
What is in my power is having a list of wishes, and by releasing any attachment to a certain course of events I can fully surrender to this journey of bringing my baby into the world.
When we can let go of our desires for things to happen in a specific way, we open ourselves to experiencing things as they are - without judgement. We can stop grasping and simply be mindful of the moment.
Non grasping is not about giving away our power and allowing the professionals to make every single decision. Birth is not the time to go with the flow, it is a time to be an active participant.
What non grasping allows us to do is to be ok with the choices that get made when they were not the preferences we had predetermined. It is about being able to tell the story of what really happened without being stuck holding on to what could or “should” have.
Despite having birthed at a birth center, unmedicated until my baby got stuck pushing, to having a c-section and ultimately a vbac - I am coming to this next birth knowing that I don’t know.
I am not an expert on birth, and I certainly am not an expert on this birth or this baby. I have no idea how things will go. The more I can embody this place of not knowing, the easier it becomes to surrender to what unfolds and accept the eventual story that is written.
I am open to all possibilities and understand that my past experiences will not determine what transpires for this baby’s birth. Anything can happen and I am at peace with that.
Having a beginner’s mind is not about being naive or ignorant to the choices to be made or the possible situations that could take place - it is about not having rigid ideas about the experience I am going to have before I have it.
Giving birth is no small matter. For those of us lucky enough to experience it, it is a transformational process by which your entire life is changed. Not only will there be another life to care for on the other side (although sadly this is not always the case), the mother is also changed in irreversible ways.
It is my hope that as mothers we can fully experience the transformational powers of birth - not by being in control or following some specifically outlined plan, but by rightfully assuming our role as the life portal and surrendering to the process of childbirth rather than to those facilitating it.
Birth Affirmations + Mantras
To help YOU as you prepare for your birth, whether it is your first or your last, I have rounded up these beautiful and inspiring card decks of birth affirmations.
This is a great little item to lean on towards the end of pregnancy and a perfect addition to any hospital bag. You could even place them up in your birthing space!
You can find these decks through the links below and a larger collection of my favorites here.
Wishing you a wonderful birth!