Travelling the Labyrinth…

What surprised me about Birthing From Within…?

What surprised me most was that it provoked so may questions!  What did I learn?  Am in a labyrinth or leaving one?  Am I being called to enter or called to return?  Do I want another journey?   Will there ever not be a labyrinth to travel?

Turns out that there are myriad labyrinths in my life…I am slowly exiting the one that was the birth of my second son…I believe I have just stopped resisting the call to take the next step and journey into a new labyrinth…

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

Birthing From Within Labyrinth Art

I am about to embark on the full BFW Mentor & Doula Program…I do feel called, but I have been questioning myself…am I ready…is now the right time for my family…is this really my path…?

I do feel called…after a week surrounded by the beauty of Galstonbury, bathed in the spirit & character of the town, precious days spent amid a circle of incredible, inspiring, good hearted women, I know that I was not the only one being called, not the only one searching my soul…I know that I am ready to step on to this path, and to release the resistance, begin the letting go of some old ideas, to allow some part-known truths to crystalise…

I am called…Fresh from the 3 day introductory course…trying to make sense of it all, slowly integrating the experience, practising some of the skills I began to learn…

My Birthing From Within journey really began when I was pregnant with my second son, when I was still hurt, disappointed, frustrated by elements of my first son’s birth…and it had been a *good* birth, a *natural* birth, so I questioned my *right* to feel that way, but I acknowledged that I did…

Ina May Gaskin’s book “Spiritual Midwifery” had been my bible in my previous pregnancy, and I read it cover to cover again…her assertion that “This is not pain, this is an interesting sensations that requires all of my attention” had become my personal mantra, and it worked for me in both labours…Thanks to Finn for reminding me that this too is non-focussed awareness…I loved her attitude of putting out positive energy during labour, to love those caring for us & to feel that returned as sustaining love & strength…I loved that Ina May was resolutely positive about birth…And I knew that I had some issues to resolve before this next birth, or they may cause me to lose my way in labour or to slow down & resist as Ina May had raised…

I am not sure where I came across Birthing From Within, only that it was likely through a wise woman friend…And it felt right, so I read it, and I explored aspects of my pregnancy, labour & birth experience through creating art…but I drew the line at practising the pain coping techniques…Those I avoided, I coped in my first labour, I figured that I could cope this time…and it turns out I did, happily, luckily!  And whilst I (thought) I got what Pam England was saying about not writing a birth plan, I couldn’t shake off the need to clarify what it was about my first son’s birth that I did not want to repeat…I felt slightly indignant at the notion I was not preparing *properly* if I wrote a plan…so I wrote one…I’m not sure anyone but my husband & best-friend-come-doula ever read it…

My first son was born in hospital, after transferring in from home to the labour ward, no intervention, a forward-flesh-tear…My second son was born at home, in water, with his brother smiling at me as he watched *our* new baby arrive, no tear…It was the birth I had dreamed of, I was elated, I was passionate, I was determined to help other women to prepare so that more of them could labour & birth their babies *naturally*…

Even before Glastonbury, the BFW introductory recordings had me challenging my mindset, here are the musings that I drafted just before heading off to Glastonbury:

Childbirth Preparation is sometimes an odd phrase, since it implies that preparation is necessary and therefore can influence the outcome…

In reality, whilst we association preparation with control, *control* has little place in childbirth…

I am about to undertake the Birthing From Within training in Glastonbury and I am aware that in her book of the same name Pam England does not advocate making a birth plan.  She feels it can distract a woman from real preparation for birth…I understand this, and yet…it seems to me that for many women it is about exploring their options, becoming informed, communicating their emotions, hopes and expectations with their birth companions and care-givers…for some it may even feel a sacred ritual…

So, if women in my classes ask me about birth plans, I suggest that they keep it brief and that they start it with a request to their caregiver to help them achieve the birth they want…avoiding lists of “dos & don’ts” that may irk a tired midwife or ruffle the feathers of a proud consultant…

I suggest they communicate their preferred place of birth and to make it clear they expect to be supported in their choice; I emphasise the need to plan to birth in the place where they feel most safe, not the place where they think they should, or where a loved one would have them be, or where they have been told they are “allowed” to be because of policy or staffing levels…I aim not to be contentious but to encourage because we women need to speak with loud, clear voices so that our needs are heard and met, not sidelined in the name of saving money or easing logistics, so that we and our babies are as safe as we can be as we birth as we should and not as we are told…

And whatever their intentions,  I remind them is that there is very little that can be controlled in labour & birth, and that their breath is the one thing over which they alone can always have control, so we do a lot of work on connecting to the breath and exploring ways of breathing that may be useful, comforting, and calming in labour & birth…but which ultimately I hope will allow them to be so familiar with their breath that they will instinctively breathe in the way optimum for their stage of labour on the day…

Birthing From Within - Finger Labyrinth Glastonbury

Finger Labyrinth Magdalene Chapel Glastonbury

…Back to the present…I feel a little silly!  I had misunderstood all this time…Pam England was not telling women not to plan for birth, but to plan in a deeper, more meaningful way…a piece of paper is no more than a talisman if there is not some effort & experience behind it to strengthen & sustain the birthing woman…

I use the words “surrender” and “breathe your baby into the world” a lot…although perhaps that is shifting already…Virginia Bobro cautioned against “bumper sticker” birth…In the beginning, I resisted strongly…Harumph, arrogance…she is wrong, surrender is a powerful word…Slow dawning realisation, I am so arrogant…ask myself, have I truly offered women the opportunity to learn what surrender actually is, what it means…

I resisted…asking questions, more, deeper, what is behind the statement, the fear, the need to avoid…I resisted the shift in language I will need to fully integrate…

And I felt horribly fearful that I have been letting women down all this time…Have I unwittingly given promises of something not mine to give…have I implied that their birth choices are not valid…that their births were to be scorned…

I do hope not, and I cannot cling to those fears because they are only manifesting from a place of love in any case…they reflect my desire for every woman to feel elated at the birth of her baby…to be proud of her journey through the labyrinth…to feel she can celebrate her immense strength, her complete selflessness, her own birth as a mother…these fears provoke my own inner enquiry, demanding that I seek answers, that I move forward, that I act each moment from a place of love…

And so, I journey on, letting love guide me and opening my heart in the name of service to all women…

In Prem,

OMx

 

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Breathe your baby into your arms

Breathe.  Inhale…Exhale…find the small pauses at the end of your out breath, just before the breath returns to your body and again just before you let go of the breath.  Find the stillness of your breath, and as you notice those small pauses, those brief stillnesses, feel yourself connecting to your breath.

Birth stone created for a friend
expecting her first baby

The more you connect to your breath, the calmer you feel…

Really?  Yes.  Mindful of your inhalation, mindful of your exhalation.  Mindful of the pauses as the outward breath ends, as the inward breath is at its deepest point.  Mindful.  The breath loves to be watched, witnessed.  It luxuriates in our attention, revels in our awareness.  The breath slows down.  It rejoices in moving more deeply in our bodies, taking us on a mindful journey from the warm air in our nostrils to the expansiveness deep in our bellies.  The breath coaxes our heart into languid rhythm, slowing our heart rate as breath & heart unite in an opportunity to take life at a slower pace.  The heart rate slows.  Blood pressure follows suit, slower, less hurried, less…

Breathe.  Inhale…Exhale.  You have all the time in the world.

Connect to your breath.  Let it connect you to your body.

Warm air in your nose as you inhale, feel it travel through the back of your mouth, down through your throat, into your lungs…bring it deep into your belly, down to where your baby lies curled in your womb…feel it fill your abdomen & be aware of your diaphragm descending into your abdomen, massaging your digestive system &  your lymph tissues, gently massaging your baby…feel it expand your body, creating more room for you to breathe and move, more space for your baby to move & grow…feel your breath in your ribcage and moving up into the topmost corners of your lungs, your heart centre lifting towards the sky, your heart & chest opening, a soothing, gentle stretch across your collarbones…the space between your shoulder blades opening, widening, easing tension out of your upper spine…bring your breath up through your spine, lifting your crown to the sky, lengthening & extending upwards, creating space between the vertebrae…welcome prana, life energy, full of new strength, stamina, healing…

Feel your inward breath nourishing & nurturing you…know that you can breathe to nurture yourself, and your baby…

As you exhale, let go…release the used breath, let go of tension, release fear & anxiety, allow the outward breath to cleanse your body, remove your doubts, and send your exhalation down through your spine, to its root…and beyond into the Earth, connecting you, grouinding you, and feel surrender as you allow yourself to feel completely supported, embraced by the Earth beneath you…let the Earth absorb your negative emotions, your tensions, your fears, she will gladly do so, recycle them, reenergise them, and return them full of goodness & nurturing…

Breathe…breathe into your body, breathe to heal & nurture yourself, breathe to nurture & nourish your baby…

As you breathe mindfully, you bring more oxygen into your system, meaning that you feel more energised, more awake…you help to prevent your digestive system becoming sluggish by naturally massaging your abdominal organs, it also gently massages the spleen & other lymph tissues in your abdomen, further helping to cleanse your body of waste products & toxins…your heart rate slows and your blood pressure may lower…you slow down, noticing how your breath feels in your body, and noticing how your body feels…you are connected to your body and your baby, able to take time to connect, to breathe…

There are myriad ways to control the breath, to enhance your breathing for more energy, to cool or heat the body, to bring balance to your breath & to your mind & emotions, to release anxiety, tension and fear, to prepare for meditation…

There are myriad ways to prepare for labour, for birth, for having your babe in arms…

Cradle of Love ~ Nancy Bright

Other posts will explore those myriads, and some of them you may like, others you will leave, but the one truth in all of it, is that ultimately in mothering, all you can do is surrender… and the only way you can do so, is to trust your breath – it is the only thing over which you, and you only, always have control.  You can learn all the breathing techniques in the world, but getting to know your own breath, learning to watch your own breath, is all you ultimately need…trust your breath & it will teach you all you need to know…trust your instinct & you will know how to breathe when it is time to bring your baby Earthside…
Your breath is your best friend, get to know it.  Breathing mindfully is all you really need to know – simply watch your natural breathing rhythm & don’t even try to change or control it.  Witness your breath.  Connect to your breath, your body, your baby.  Keep coming back to your breath.

Mindful mothering can start now, with your baby in your womb, sharing your body, sharing your breath.  Mindful breathing brings mindful labour & birth, it guides you into mindful mothering.
Breathe…you have all the time in the world…

OMx