Let’s talk about birth preparation.
And you’re wondering exactly what you need to do to prepare?
What do you need to know? How should you spend your time preparing?
If you asked me this question a few years ago, before I actually had given birth, my answer probably would have been quite different.
Here’s my thoughts on this topic.
Refer to the 80/20 guideline for how you dedicate your attention.
First, the 20%!
20% (approximate) of what you’re doing can be learning, acquiring knowledge and knowing your options. This could be learning about the stages of labour, the biology and physiology of labour – the hormones of birth and the postnatal period for example, what your birth choices are as far as care providers are concerned (read my post here about why choosing the right care provider for you is so critical) and any other decisions you’ll need to make about tests, ultrasounds, etc. This type of learning is educational, informative, structured and logical and involves using your neocortex (the part of your brain that ironically, actually needs to be switched off during birth).
You’ll probably find this type of preparation easy, and natural because it’s how we are programmed. Our modern society is very information based, linear and masculine in approach and this is how I describe this type of birth preparation.
And then what? Approximately 80%, or the vast majority of your time should be invested in YOU, in two parts – a. getting to know yourself (at a deep level), and b. being in your body.
Birth is a body based event. You cannot birth from your head or your mind, so purely focusing on learning the things referred to above in the 20% category just won’t cut the mustard.
Most of us will have a general inclination to live above the shoulders and in our heads, some more than others. Our entire society is predicated on this disconnection of body and mind. If you want to read more about that from a philosophical and historical perspective read the book New Self, New World, by Phillip Shepherd.
Knowing yourself and examining your beliefs – both conscious and unconscious, your programming and conditioning, your story, your history, your past traumas, your personality, your challenges, your wounds, your relationships, your relationship to patriarchy and medicine are some of the things that you might explore in this self enquiry work. Unraveling all these aspects and dynamics so that you have insight and awareness as to how you think and behave.
In getting to know yourself from a place of deep self enquiry you are doing the transformational work of pregnancy which will give you greater awareness about yourself and enhanced confidence when it comes to birth and mothering.
There’s plenty of modalities that work with the subconscious to support you in knowing you, and in finding a deeper level of awareness and unraveling of any unhelpful or limiting beliefs and patterns – such as, family constellation therapy (listen to a podcast on this here), kinesiology, matrix imprinting, art therapy, hypnotherapy/hypnobirthing, primal therapy, rebirthing, transpersonal astrology, the list is endless!
The other part is embodiment. Actually being in your body, present with it, like really present. Being in your body requires stillness and quietness so that you’re able to listen and feel what is happening in your body.
Finding ways that you can reconnect your body and mind. To really be attuned to what it is you’re feeling. Knowing that your mind is powerful yes, but equally, your body holds innate intelligence and wisdom and if you ignore her communication you do yourself a disservice. Your body is always speaking, but are you listening?
Your gut instinct is an example of this. The gut is akin to our second brain with more neurotransmitters than the brain has. There is constant feedback between the brain and your gut, and when you get a “gut feeling” about something or a sense about something not being quite right from your middle section – there’s a reason for it.
Instead of constantly making decisions from your mind, next time, practice dropping your awareness down into your body – to your gut, your heart, or your womb and see what comes up. How does your body respond? Keep practising this.
Join a yoga class, dance class, or anything else that encourages your awareness away from your mind and cultivates body awareness.
Body based therapies like acupuncture, bowen therapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, ortho-bionomy, pelvic mapping and somatic experiencing therapy are just a few examples of modalities to compliment your embodiment practice.
Making this self-enquiry and embodiment work the central part of your preparation journey, with a healthy side serve of the educational stuff, will help you to know yourself, be connected to your body, and therefore feel more prepared for birth and the epic rebirthing of yourself as a mother.
Birth is like a mirror that can illuminate anything you haven’t resolved or healed within yourself that is ready to come to the surface. It’s a rite of passage that challenges your psyche and forces you to meet yourself. Meeting yourself before birth in a way that is bearing witness and constantly questioning with curiousity, towards awareness and insight can help you to clear the path of any unhelpful psycho-emotional debris.
Artwork image above by Anika Nixdorf.