By Jean Childers Arnold CCE (BWI)
We say to our students over and over again, “Surrender to the process.” They say, “How do I do that exactly?” We say, “Trust your body’s wisdom.” Huh? They say, “How does my body know something myself (my mind) doesn’t know? How can I let my body labor and birth my baby when my mind/self doesn’t know what to expect?”
As educators it is our job not only to educate women about their options, the birth process, drugs, etc., but also what to expect emotionally. We also need to help them build trust in this body that they either like and enjoy or feel negatively about. They may see it as too fat, too thin, too lumpy, unable to eat spicy foods, slow to wake up, stiff, unattractive… Getting bigger every day with BABY. It feels like something over which they have no control as it expands in places they have never expanded in before and grows more heavy and awkward daily. How do we get them to a place of wisdom where they can make peace with their outsides and let the instinctual body do its best work?
We can nurture connection to the baby. No matter what happens in Congress or state Legislatures, we know we are one with and connected to our babies. We breathe, eat, and relax for our mutual benefit. We even practice pure thinking in order to be a pure vessel for baby; as we know our emotions and the hormones they produce in our brains and circulation affect our babies directly. In classes and relaxation/visualization we can add breath work with baby awareness, journaling conversations with baby, trying to visualize where she is inside the uterus, how she is situated, listening to her, and breathing for her. These are some ways we can foster a sense of oneness of her and her baby’s body. I am sure all of you can think of even better ways to do this.
All our talk of nutrition can show her she does have some control over her baby’s growth and development. She’ll learn that by putting in good raw materials, she’ll get out a healthy, strong baby. As she practices what she learns she’ll also feel how better food choices and exercising give her more energy. She’ll see how eating fewer empty calories will help to keep her body leaner. Then maybe she’ll feel better about the expansion of her body. Understanding too where the weight gain comes from- the placenta, increased blood volume, amniotic fluid and baby- she’ll understand that she isn’t just becoming “fat.”
Movement, Massage, Pelvic Space
We can teach movement and massage with her partner: Our pelvic anatomy work opens eyes to the fullness and three-dimensionality of our bodies. The big, “A-ha!” when she feels how much space she has in that pelvis and how big her pelvic outlet truly is can do wonders for her faith in her body. Then we show her how to rock, how to sway and dance in labor. Practicing moving in labor’s slow rhythms can make her feel graceful even as her baby makes her daily movement more awkward.
Then when her partner can lay hands on her body and massage her, he creates in her a flow of endorphins and a sense of well-being. Beyond that, his physical attention is manifestation of his love for her, and shows her she is valued no matter how her body is changing.
Mind - Reassurance of Beauty
In our “Extreme Makeover” society she needs reassurance that she is beautiful. Seeing pictures from our Birth Works books during our story writing exercises can reflect her pregnant beauty. Those women are so lovely in their naked contemplative poses, so ferocious and strong in labor- and here she sits among them, a member of the powerful mama club! Roarr!
We are not our bodies but they know lots of things we (our minds) don’t know. I love the relaxation in the manual that says, “…without your even needing to think about it…” How many things do our bodies do for us that way? Make a list with your students. Our bodies breath, digest, walk, and react to stimuli for us and on the list goes. So is it really such a stretch to believe that the body also knows how to dilate a cervix and birth a baby? And breastfeed?!
Little by little the mind will have to let go
because it will learn
that it cannot think a baby into the light.
Spirit of Surrender
Once we get to that watershed event, that moment that changes her mind about her body it is not such a long way for her to learn, surrender. We try many different ways to teach her the same idea- “Your body was meant to do this.” In labor her mind will tell her, “This hurts.” Her body will know how to move to make it feel better. Her partner will touch her and as she relaxes into his touch her mind will say, “Ok, this feels good.” As she feels herself opening and progressing she will know without doubt that, “It’s working! I can do this- my body can do this.” Little by little the mind will have to let go because it will learn that it cannot think a baby into the light. If we have led her to the place where she has faith, she will feel that that earthly body knows what it’s doing. After all, she didn’t tell the egg to ripen, he didn’t steer the sperm.
Just like that, it all happens, without our needing to think about it.