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by Trisha Lawrie CCE (BWI) I love teaching BirthWorks classes for so many reasons, but one of the most important is the opportunity to help women achieve what they initially don't think they can, which is to have both a safe and satisfying birth experience.   So many expectant mothers are under the impression that the most they can expect from giving birth is a healthy baby.  Of course, it goes without saying that a healthy mother and baby is priority one, but then I push women to imagine more for themselves and for their child.  This is uncharted territory for them, so I proceed gently and invite them to explore their deepest and most secret birthing desires....all the things they don't believe they can verbalize for fear of looking crazy or seeming selfish.   I read Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel, and loved her suggestions for guiding women through creating a birth plan, which begins with the first step called Dream It.  She stresses the importance of letting go of all the "shoulds" that so often burden birthing women, and urges readers to open their minds to all possibilities, even those we know can realistically never happen.  In my classes, I lead women and their partners through this exercise, encouraging them to unleash their imaginations and let their fantasies run free.  Afterwards, I give all participants a piece of paper and crayons, and ask them to draw what they saw.  At first, I hear protests to this part of the activity, with many "I can't draw"s resounding through the room.  When urged forward, however, I see a sweet transformation that I thoroughly enjoy every time:  everyone begins adding touches like shading and minute details to their drawings, and it fills my heart with joy.   What touches me especially is the male reaction to this exercise....they normally have a more "outrageous" fantasy than their partners, and I love hearing about their deepest desires for them.  In one class, an expectant father held up an amazing drawing of his wife giving birth in the sky on a cloud, then on the back drew all three of them wrapped in the cloud's softness, warmth and safety.  It was a truly beautiful image.   Despite this meditation encouraging women to let loose their fantasies, I still find that so many still hold back, afraid to ask for what is rightfully theirs.  Unfortunately, in our current birthing culture, women are still conditioned to be quiet, obedient patients, and to not question the authority of medical professionals.  In my class, we chip away at those deeply-held beliefs little by little, with a loving balance of research and acknowledgement and communication of feelings.   After exploring the emotions of our beliefs, we turn to the research side.  I introduce the possibility that planning for and achieving a satisfying birth (whatever that may look like for the mother) is not only unselfish, but from a Primal Health standpoint, essential for the health and bonding of mothers and babies.  This is normally where I see the "ah-ha" moment in the eyes of the mothers, because the secret desire to have a natural birth, to reduce the number of unnecessary interventions, to be close to their babies immediately after birth, and to continue that closeness into the first hours following birth, is now confirmed by years of research and diligent science.  All parents want healthy babies, and after presenting facts that confirm that indeed, a low-intervention birth followed by physical closeness and breastfeeding will increase the chances of a physically and emotionally healthy infant, I've yet to meet a parent who is not on board.   Of course, for those laboring and giving birth in a hospital, the desire for a low or even intervention-free experience many times does not come to fruition, but that doesn't mean that these women cannot still enjoy the feeling of satisfaction.  Many times it is when they go home with their babies that the real closeness, the real bonding, begins.   We must be the gentle voices who lead expectant mothers to the waters of freedom in birth, and as BirthWorks instructors, we have the unique opportunity to change the attitudes and beliefs of so many women before they give birth.  Women today have the right to this information.  They have the right to know that a safe and deeply satisfying birth is possible, and that with planning and work, they can, indeed, have it all.