A fellow Hypnobabies instructor recently brought this article to my attention. I read what this woman wrote about her birth experience and then a lot of the comments and it really made me sad.
I'm sad because instead of feeling empowered after her birth she felt like she failed (even though she had a natural birth... what??) I'm also sad to see how many other women felt this way. Clearly she struck a chord with many, many others.
I don't think any woman should feel like a failure after giving birth, whether they are induced, have an epidural, birth their baby by Cesarean-section, have an all-natural birth or any other variation. The important thing is that women (and their partners) feel like THEY are the ones who made the important decisions and did what was right and best for themselves and their babies.
I teach Hypnobabies. (I wrote here about whether it's "realistic". I think that post complements what I have to say here today.) Many women find Hypnobabies because they are scared of the PAIN that almost everyone talks about in our culture (and I do mean everyone - because whether people are all about natural child birth or the epidural they generally agree on one thing - there will be pain! We Hypnobabies folk are a bit rebellious in this regard. We are like the minority of the minority.) But most of these women who find Hypnobabies still want to have a natural child birth for various reasons. When they find stories of empowered births, comfortable births, and even PAIN-FREE births, they want that for themselves - who wouldn't?
Our minds are very powerful. We teach our students that our minds work to create our reality based on our expectations and belief systems. Well guess what? The overriding belief system in our culture is that birth is scary and painful. So Hypnobabies works hard to change these expectations for our couples. There are affirmations EVERY DAY that expectant mamas listen to. We change the language because words like "contractions" and "labor" don't typically have positive connotations in our culture.
But it is a difficult line that we walk. Because although birth can be beautiful, comfortable, and empowering it can also be the opposite. This is not a battle of "right" or "wrong". The truth is that birth is unpredictable and each woman's experience will be unique.
But it is also true that birth does NOT *HAVE TO* be a painful, traumatizing experience (the proof is in every powerful, positive, joyful story of birth that is shared). And it IS WRONG to keep telling women that it WILL BE so for them. No one can tell you what your birth will bring.
The woman in the article felt like a failure. She felt that she had been misled. She thought that she was "prepared". Clearly she wasn't prepared. I'm not saying that is her fault, it is just obvious that is is true. She mentions sexual trauma at the end, almost as an afterthought. I cannot pretend to know what her circumstances were or what she did to overcome whatever her experience was. But I do know that birth is more than a physical experience - it is profoundly emotional and spiritual too. If there are fears or experiences we are holding onto they can have a huge impact on our births.
Being prepared in our culture is difficult. Birth happens behind closed doors. Most girls grow up into women without any direct experience with birth - they haven't seen it, heard it, smelled it, or touched it. We don't know what to expect. And so that hole gets filled with lots of things. Television shows and scary stories from family and friends can fill it up with a lot of negativity and fear. OR we can choose to fill our experiential void with positive, empowered, uplifting stories. We CAN choose.
I'm more convinced all the time that there are two important factors that impact our birth experiences. Preparation is important: to eat well, to be as physically fit as possible, to be knowledgeable about our bodies and the birth process, and also about our present culture and how it impacts birth, and finally but perhaps most importantly to prepare our minds, hearts, and spirits with positive expectations.
But the second factor is equally important. And that is this: once we are in the midst of birthing our babies we must LET. GO. We have prepared. We have done all we can do. And so by letting go of any expectations we have of our completely unique birth, we can embrace what it actually brings us. This is my hope for all mothers everywhere.
In Hypnobabies our students learn to create and use a "Bubble of Peace" (BOP), to let only positive words, ideas, thoughts, and feelings in about birth - and to keep the negative away.
One (of many) things that I adore about teaching Hypnobabies is that most of what I teach applies to everyday life - not just pregnancy and birth. After last week's madness in Boston, we could all use our Bubbles of Peace reinforced.
My bubble is pretty big and beautiful. Unschooling creates another large, strong bubble around me and my family. Peaceful parenting adds another iridescent layer. Sometimes our bubbles get little pinholes (or large gashes) in them though and they start to deflate and let more rubbish in. Last night I read some really disturbing things that animals do to each other. Then right before bed I read some stories of humans doing unimaginable, hurtful things to one another (who am I kidding - we are animals too, we just like to put ourselves in a different category.) I thought about linking these stories here, but I don't want to spread those ugly vibes this morning when so many people are still reeling.
Somehow I went to sleep last night - I attribute it to "Peace breathing" (yep, more Hypnobabies' awesomeness), deep breaths with some mantras to still my mind, and, oh yeah, it was really late by the time my kiddos fell asleep so I was tired! But this morning Marisol sat up in bed and said she had a bad dream, and the first thing I thought of were those sad stories. And I wondered if I had given off bad energy that affected her. I literally woke up feeling sick to my stomach. So I worked (again) on shifting my thoughts to the positive.
I know some people think that living in a "bubble" is unrealistic or even wrong. I disagree. Because choosing to focus on the good in the world doesn't mean that we are denying the bad. We already know that bad things happen. But focusing on sad, horrible, awful events does not make us or the world better. And more importantly the good IS REAL too! I've written before about whether Hypnobabies is realistic - and I think that this same message applies to life in general. We will not make the world a more beautiful, loving, peaceful place by dwelling on things that are not. It's up to us to choose differently. Because you know what? The majority of the "bad things" that happen are created BY US. Yes, there are the inexplicable accidents and illnesses, but most of our suffering is self-made. So please, reinforce your bubbles today! See the good so you can be the good.
The mug I had my coffee in this morning - an active reminder, "Life is Good!" Also reminds me of the amazing friend who gave it to me. And the band-aid reminds me of my sweet daughter. I woke up NEEDING to write this morning. Now the only things I plan on doing are cleaning and connecting with my family. Sounds like a good Saturday and way to mend my bubble.
I'll end with one of my favorite quotes that is making the rounds lately - spread by hopeful people all over the world:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard.
Do not let the pain make you hate.
Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree,
you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
- Kurt Vonnegut
Sending you all so much love and peace today.
Parenting is hard. It's the most difficult job you'll ever do. Parenting is challenging but rewarding.
The message is everywhere and it is beat into our heads almost constantly. PARENTING IS HARD. Not only that, we reinforce it to one another often.
But what if parenting *isn't* intrinsically difficult, we are just making it so? How many times have you seen a mama cat complain about motherhood - all those kittens suckling! And later she has to teach them to hunt - and they never even say thank you! Or a bird - does she ever complain that the babies are hungry *again*? Why do we as humans seem to believe that we have such a hard gig? Is it because we're smarter or more aware?
I was mulling over this question a few months ago after reading some comments on one of my favorite blogs. Everyone was chiming in with their own stories and feelings about how difficult motherhood is. Some women admitted that they didn't even like babies; others said they couldn't wait until their kids were out of the house.
And it just got my wheels turning. One thing that I've learned from teaching Hypnobabies is how powerful our minds are and that we create what we dwell upon. If the constant refrain in our lives is how difficult things are then we are likely to get a lot more choruses of... hard, Hard, HARD!
I'm not saying that I can't relate to the stories all these mamas share. I can. I know sleepless nights and crying for almost no reason other then exhaustion. I know losing my patience and feeling guilty for it later. I know feeling extreme anxiety as my child gets more upset about something seemingly insignificant. I know feeling uncomfortable as I worry about what others think. I get all that.
But that doesn't mean that these things become my focal point. And it doesn't mean that I accept that this is just the way things are and there is nothing I can do about it. Not at all. I know now that it's possible to shift almost all of those things into a more positive state.
A very common theme in our culture is that the teenage years are often years of rebellion, less connection between children and parents, emotional, and just generally trying. But I've found a small subset in our culture who says that it doesn't have to be that way. (Just like birth doesn't *have to* be an excruciating experience that a woman just has to get through.) Maybe this is true of many accepted ("difficult") aspects of parenting.
Anyways, back to my churning mind. I wondered if all of this "positive thinking" wasn't just a little too much. I mean parenting can be hard, right?! Even I, Sunshine Susie, admit to having difficult days. I wrote to my Tribe and asked them what they thought. I got some amazing, inspiring responses. Here is a line from one of my favorites, "Forging awesome, respectful, nurturing relationships takes time and effort and intention." Yes! There's a perspective shift that resonates with me. Don't we put effort into our adult relationships? Why shouldn't we expect to with our children?
But still not satisfied, I examined the problem from another angle. One of my favorites - The Evolutionary perspective. Did parents of the Hunting and Gathering era get together and grumble around the campfire (did they even have a campfire??)
I went to the most direct source I have, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Old Way, who was kind enough to let me interview her on the phone last spring.
Here is what I wrote to her:
It's amazing to read the comments and just how HARD parenting/mothering is for so many women. And I'm not disagreeing with them exactly - I mean I've had plenty of challenges and less than proud moments with my kids. But overall I just LOVE my life and them so it kind of makes me sad how many mom's are actually saying, "I don't like babies" or "I can't wait till they are out of the house" or any number of other things. And always the refrain, "it's hard, Hard, HARD!"
And here is what this incredible, generous woman wrote back to me:
I think you’re right by saying that the Ju/wasi just took parenting in stride—they wanted children, enjoyed children, and anyway, they didn’t have a choice about having children. Then too, all the people in an encampment looked after children in general—if an adult or an older kid saw a little kid in some kind of trouble that person would help immediately as a matter of course. Also, the Ju/wa kids could self-amuse. They played all the time, the boys playing hunting games or some rather formal games with rules, and the girls making patterns with their footprints or dancing. I don’t think I ever saw a kid wheedling at an adult about anything. Good social behavior was simply expected of children.
And it was so wonderful to hear from her and her perspective. And it definitely affirmed for me many ideas I have about parenting, our modern culture, children, and whether it necessarily needs to be so HARD. You may recall that Elizabeth also told me that children were not punished in the Ju/wa culture.
Some of you may be thinking but she says the children "self-amused - my kid doesn't do that!" This is another area where I think the tribal culture is very difficult to compare to our isolated, modern culture. Yes, they "self-amused" -- with all the other children in the tribe. And with plenty of adults around too. Not the same as expecting a kid to play alone or with one (or even a few) other sibling(s).
Really it's quite ironic. Back in the day when we had to travel miles and miles to dig up roots, then carry back heavy loads (again miles and miles), and hunt animals down - all just to survive - then we weren't complaining about raising our young. Now, we have refrigerators full of food (and a grocery store just down the road), we have dishwashers and washing machines, we have TVs and computers, we have light with the flick of a switch, we have roofs to keep the rain off of us, and heat to warm the chilly nights... but now parenting is so hard. What if the culture we've created is actually really difficult for our children? If we could shift our perspective then our parenting difficulties might diminish greatly, or even disappear.
I'd love to hear thoughts on this from other parents. What feels better - thinking that parenting is terribly difficult, or thinking that we are made to parent and can rise to the challenges, forming beautiful relationships with our kids as we go? The last thing I want to do is make more people feel guilty. This is not about feeling bad for finding parenting difficult. This is about creating a new paradigm (and from that a new culture!) so more of us can see that it doesn't have to be difficult.
I've been reflecting on this year and what meant the most to me - what accomplishments, what new habits, what fun times and treasured memories. Here's what I came up with.
Meditation: I started the practice of meditating. Before this year I had never tried meditation. I participated in three free 21-day meditations from the Chopra Center and LOVED them. I'm working now to keep up the practice, if not daily then at least several times per week.
I also started using affirmations and mantras with deep breathing regularly.
Hypnobabies: I taught 5 series and 17 couples this year.
Writing: I took an e-course from Jess Morrow of Invincible Summer, started writing my book, had my blog's first Blogiversary and celebrated by giving away 6 books!
Cooking and Food
Mike bought me a Vitamix for my birthday - I love to make green smoothies several times per week now.
I made Winter squash soup a couple of times when my mom gave me squash from their garden.
Gerry and I mastered Zucchini bread, making it almost every week for the last few months.
I made avocado fudgsicles over the summer and they were pretty yummy!
Foods Already in the Repetoire but still steadies in the rotation:
I had so much fun going through pictures from this whole year and making a few collages. I stayed up way too late, but it was worth it!
Adventures near and far
Loads of family time - two trips to Florida (February-March and December), Ohio in April, two visits to NY (June and July-August), and Thanksgiving in Minneapolis, as well as family visits to our home.
First family beach vacation in the Outer Banks - and first time inviting friends to join us.
First Family Nascar Race!
Hosted 3 Parties - Memorial Day Weekend/Treasure Hunt, Marisol's 6th Birthday, and a Holiday/Halloween party (Well 4 parties if you count last year New Year's eve!)
Time with Friends
Finally... some favorites, just because I'm having fun!
Whew! What a year. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't change a little thing, even if I could. It was so much fun to look back and see all that we did. Even more important is what can't be seen in pictures - how much we all grew and changed, and how we overcame challenges.
I'm feeling more Clear, Confident and most importantly, Comfortable than I ever have before. I began 2012 with the word Embrace as my guidepost for the year. Looking back I can see now how I did just that. Now I'm ready to dive into 2013!
I was in the same room as Ina May!
There is an event this weekend in the DC area called, "Heads Up! Breech Conference". Although it didn't work out for me to attend the whole thing, it came to my attention that there was a panel tonight open to the public - and it included Ina May Gaskin!
Well, since my mom flew in this afternoon I figured this was a great opportunity for me to take advantage of! So off I drove in heavy traffic, through the heart of DC, north to Maryland. The drive took just about an hour and included several horns honks (possibly one - or two - directed towards me!), one slamming of the breaks, deep, calming breaths, good music and loud singing.
I arrived with 10 minutes to spare - only to wait half an hour for the event to start. I didn't mind though, the energy of the room was life affirming - chatting women and quite a few cute babies.
It was definitely worth the drive and the $15. In addition to Ina May, Ibu Robin Lim, Betty-Ann Daviss, and Jane Evans all spoke about their experiences with breech births. They were funny, touching, and of course oh-so-wise. I laughed a lot and cried real tears when Ibu Robin Lim read one of her own poems about losing a baby.
Dr. Nancy Salgueiro was the facilitator - the same woman who gave birth live just over a year ago - streaming on the internet! I stayed up late watching her in her birthing time this time last year then when I woke up the next day watched the video - amazing.
I'm still not certain what role birth is going to take in my future. I love teaching Hypnobabies and I know that being a doula is something that might work really well for our family too. These midwives are so inspiring to me because they are living out their ideals, even the face of massive resistance, ignorance, and even hostility. Regardless of my future path, I know that their messages are crucial to moms and babies everywhere - and by extension, the whole-wide world. I felt a powerful synchronicity today, as I finish up my last Hypnobabies series of the year tomorrow, and just published Gerry's birth story this week.
Magic. Birth. Life. Babies. Miracles.
ps don't forget to comment on my post here if you'd like to win a book FULL of inspirational birth stories!
The Birth Of Gerard Walker May
For those of you wondering, "who's that?!" Gerard Walker is Gerry's full name. As I did with Marisol's birth story last spring, I'm using my journal to write his birth story now - over 3 years after he was born! I'm sure glad I took the time after his birth to write some things down. I've also added a couple of "Hypnobabies notes" to give you my perspective now as an instructor.
Make sure you scroll ALL the way down to the end of this post, past all the cute pictures, to see what this week's give-away book is!
Here is some "stream of consciousness" about Gerry's birth - things I want to remember - in no particular order:
Thunder + lightning - here at home - more storms there (birth center) - a rainbow over the birth center (I didn't see it, but my parents got it on camera) - made me think that Gerry's birth was like the storm, and he was my rainbow at the end :)
The cable guy coming to our apartment that morning! I spent that hour or so in the shower while he did his thing... I remember Marisol poking her cute little 3 year old head into the room to reassure me, "he's almost done mama!"
Holly's (my doula) bike having a flat tire - she was still here within an hour and a half... Also I only knew Holly for less then 1 week before giving birth!
My water breaking in the tub - crazy feeling! Like something shooting out of me! And then it got CRAZY... I think he came out within 15 minutes or so after that. It was so intense.
Marisol in the room with Mike while I pushed Gerry out! Pushing him out on all fours - Gerry being passed to me through my legs and me getting to see him and proclaim, "It's a boy!"
More random thoughts:
"TIMING IS EVERYTHING"
I said this in the car on the way to the birth center... in between intense waves - in reference to Marisol sleeping - she had a solid 2 hour nap in the car - First Mike and she went to get my parents a parking pass, while Hollly was with me at home and she fell asleep. (Hypnobabies note: One of my anxieties/fears during the pregnancy was how Marisol would be taken care of during my birthing time. Two things were very helpful - the Visualization script - I imagined the time of day my birthing would start, how long it would last, who would be there, the help of my doula, and my parents arriving - it all happened almost exactly as I visualized! The second is the Fear Clearing track - it is an amazing way to let go of any worries and embrace whatever your birthing time brings.)
While they were gone Holly and I talked - I listened to the Hypnobabies a little - walked the hall with my phone tucked into my gym shorts waist band (My hypnosis tracks were on my phone)... I also lay on my side while Holly pushed/massaged my back. She did my upper legs a little too while I sat on the birth ball. I didn't use the birth ball nearly as much this time - I actually did lie down on my side a lot this time. Maybe because it was faster, maybe because of all my practice relaxing with Hypnobabies while I went to sleep.
While Holly and I worked together... this was when there was a storm... Holly mentioned that it made her think of good luck and I said I liked it too...
Holly thought we should call the midwives again to check in. I talked to Ebony... she said, "sounds like those contractions are kickin' your butt" or something like that (Hypnobabies Note: This is the kind of thing that we hope care providers avoid saying to mamas! The more your careprovider knows about hypnosis, expectations, the power of our minds etc. the better! Inform them so they know suggesting what a mother is experiencing is very powerful - so make sure to make those suggestions POSITIVE! But for the record, I LOVED Ebony and the other midwives, just noting this probably wasn't the best thing for me to hear at that moment!)
I replied something to the extent that, "nah, I'm tough..." I still wasn't sure if we should go in yet - it didn't seem like the waves were getting longer - they had been ~ 3 minutes apart for a while - but I still felt like I was "doing ok" through them.
This was key - Ebony asked if I felt any rectal pressure and I said no. She said if I was still working through them ok we could/should stay home a little longer/as long as possible.
I'm not sure how much longer it was, but it didn't seem like much longer... I told Holly I thought we should get the car packed up. I asked if they were closer or longer - and she didn't think so. I told her they felt different and she said I seemed more focused and they "sounded" different (I was feeling rectal pressure! I just decided not to tell Holly or Mike right then. I trusted my instincts, and as you will see it's a good thing we left when we did!)
I called Mike and he brought the car to the neighbor's driveway... He and Holly packed up and kept snoozin' Marisol company. Mike put Holly's bike on the car and we gathered some last minute things - we were prepared in every way except food, but grabbed some small snacks and O.J. that got us through until my parents arrived.
I knelt in the back next to Marisol - she stirred so I thought we should put a movie in. Mike wisely said she didn't need one. She proceeded to sleep the whole way to the birth center while I moaned through many waves next to her - not quietly I might add! Holly continued to massage my back as best as she could from the front seat - she was awesome (it was a packed car - we had a Prius then!)
I remember when we were almost there - on H st. - peeking out the window from my kneeling position. It was an interesting perspective - the world at an angle, the sidewalk and storefronts at eye-level and seeing lots of lights in the gray day. The images have stayed with me very clearly as part of my birthing time memories.
I shuffled into the birth center with the help of Holly, I think Mike carried Marisol. You could tell that people were happy and excited to see us... Ebony and Kandace took me to an exam room. Kandace was finishing her midwifery training and she did everything pretty much - she was great - calm and reassuring. She checked me and said she thought I was 7 cm, fully effaced (100%) and the baby was at zero station. I said something like "Thank the Lordy!" I was so happy.
I also mentioned that it doesn't necessarily "mean anything" because I was 7 cm when I arrived at the hospital with Marisol and still had hours before she came. Ebony said she didn't think so this time and I agreed. (Hypnobabies note: My two births demonstrate very well that WE DON'T GIVE BIRTH BY NUMBERS! In other words, the numbers/measurements never tell us exactly when baby will make their appearance. Also, I really did look forward to giving birth a second time because Marisol's birth was so beautiful and empowering. That being said, I did focus a lot on the affirmation that I deserved a fast, easy, comfortable birth - and it really was a lot faster the second time around! I'm sure there were many reasons for this - baby position and being my second-time too. But I know my relaxation and use of Hypnosis were also very helpful!)
Oh, also before they checked me I had a wave in the hall near the family room - I remember bending my legs a little - Ebony watched me closely and asked me after, "Are you pushing?" I answered with a definitive "No." but still hadn't mentioned the rectal pressure (I think it was more a subconscious thing at this point, I hadn't really recognized it consciously).
The time in the birth center went quickly - we were hardly there 45 minutes and Gerry was born (so I'm told!) They started a bath for me almost immediately... The bath took a while to fill up. Then it was too hot - so I sat by it naked for a few waves. Mike and Marisol were in the next room. I got in the tub and it did feel good at first. They even turned on the jets and Kandace and Ebony left.
Next thing I know my water broke during a wave - it was wild! And one of the most memorable moments. I heard it and it felt like a shot gun coming out of me... I was so surprised and told Holly right away and she went to tell Kandace and Ebony.
Within moments I was I was pushing and the midwives were there. "Can I stay in the tub? I'm pushing! Do you need to check me??" I think they laughed a little - No, if you're pushing it's ok! So I just realized, I only got "checked" one time!
Pushing Gerry out was fast and intense - completely opposite of my experience with Marisol. "Urge to push" does not even describe it - my body just took over. And the noises coming out of me - wow! I couldn't replicate it if I wanted to (although I try to in my Hypnobabies classes! haha) Marisol and Mike had to leave for a few minutes because it was too loud for her little 3 year old ears (I remember hearing her say, "it's too loud!") but they were back in the room to see Gerry make his grand entrance. I wanted to get out of the tub (I would have had him in the water if I wanted), so I made it to the bed and flopped on my side - pushed that way until the midwives suggested going on all fours - I also remember putting my hand down to feel Gerry's head.
Once on all fours I was pushing so hard they all were like, "whoa, slow down!" a couple of times and I was able to pant and slow down (afterwards they remarked how in control I was. It was a nice compliment, but I wouldn't say "in control" was exactly how I felt! I was just riding the birth super speed highway!) I could feel his head coming out but at one point asked, "What's going on?!" and Ebony was like, "you're delivering your baby!:
When he came out they passed him through my legs to me - "Take your baby!" - and I was the one who got to exclaim, "It's a boy!"
My parents arrived within an hour or so of Gerry being born which was good because we didn't have much to eat and I was STARVING. One of my favorite memories is eating a very soggy sub - they had left the sunroof on their van open during the storm (remember the rainbow?) Well, that was the best sandwich I ever had, rainwater and all!
We stayed at the birth center just about exactly four hours. Enough time for me to get cleaned up, for Gerry to get looked over, and to start nursing. We were in our own bed (ha! that's right, family of four - ONE bed!) that night by 9 pm.
The next day two midwives came to check up on Gerry and me at home. What a luxury!
And from there on out it was just us - settling into life as a family of four! Life is good.
There you have it! The birth of our little man, Gerry.
This week I'm giving away the book Journey Into Motherhood. It is an awesome book filled with inspirational stories of natural child birth. This was on our required reading list for becoming a Hypnobabies instructor, and is also on the recommended reading list that we give to our students. I highly recommend it to ALL expecting mamas (and papas!) whether you are planning a natural birth or not, because the stories are so beautiful and powerful. If you've never read or seen natural, empowered birth this can totally re-frame your perspective on birth. Changing your ideas and the images in your mind about birth is a huge first step towards having your *own* beautiful, empowered birth.
So please, leave a comment below if you'd like your name put in the drawing for my copy of this book! Also if you want to increase your odds - like my Facebook Page, share the link on Facebook, and share on your blog and I will put your name in 1 more time for each way you share (just make sure you let me know in the comment)! I will pick a winner in one week when I put my next give-away up!
Hypnobabies - Is it Realistic?
As a Hypnobabies instructor I have had to learn how to walk a very fine line. A basic premise of the class and of hypnosis is that our minds are very powerful and will work to create that which we dwell upon. So OF COURSE we want to feed the mind ONLY positive messages about childbirth. Hypnobabies does this really well - through affirmations, hypnosis tracks and scripts, and videos of beautiful, empowered births. Every mom also creates a special safe place for herself and her baby and a Bubble of Peace for times when there is negativity in their environment. This tool helps them to keep positive messages around them while keeping the negative away.
The tricky part is also embracing the fact that birth is inherently unpredictable and that every mother and baby's experience will be unique. Some birthing times (labors) are long and some are short. Some mother's stay very quiet while birthing and others ROAR their babies out. Some mama's can switch "off" (a Hypnobabies self-hypnosis tool) laying down and relaxing very deeply while experiencing pressure waves (contractions), while others prefer to be in "center" so they can stand or sit up and rock during waves. Ok, so you get the idea - each birth is DIFFERENT.
A criticism that often comes up of Hypnobabies is that by encouraging this positive mindset for women's births - that birth can in fact be peaceful, comfortable, and joyful - that we are setting women up for disappointment.
I believe that this statement underestimates women and I know that this mentality undermines both women using and NOT using Hypnobabies for childbirth.
First of all, I know that birth CAN BE all of the things listed above - because I experienced at least 2 of the 3 and I know many women who have experienced it all - some even having what they consider PAIN FREE births. So the question is, how is it helpful for us to prepare a woman by being "realistic" - which usually implies that birth has to be painful or difficult?
I did not have what I consider to be pain-free births either time. Yet they were both empowering, beautiful, enjoyable and life-changing experiences. My birthing time with Marisol lasted almost 48 hours and was very intense at the end, yet because it was such a powerful experience when I was pregnant with Gerry I looked forward to his birth with excitement. That's right - I couldn't wait to give birth again!
Gerry's birth was much faster that Marisol's. The end was very intense. Did I feel like Hypnobabies failed me because of this? No way! It was (again) one of the peak experiences of my life and I know that using the home-study course and listening to the tracks faithfully helped me have the best birth for me and Gerry that I could. (To clarify, Hypnobabies does not ever promise anyone a "pain free" birth. We do help women work towards the most comfortable birth possible for each individual and baby. Also, I only used Hypnobabies for my second birth.)
It is realistic to expect that birth can be safe and enjoyable. Most of the time birth will happen the way it is meant to for mom and baby if they are left alone. What isn't realistic is the current culture of fear that surrounds birth.
There is a line in our Hypnobabies scripts that reads, "You are comfortable with any path your birthing takes, knowing it is the best one for you and your baby". All suggestions are repeated many times so that these messages can really be absorbed by expecting mama's on a conscious and subconscious level. I love this one because it highlights that each birth is a journey for mom and baby and that in the end we have to let go and enjoy the ride.
I am proud to be a Hypnobabies instructor. I'm learning to teach my students to the best of my ability and then let go of all outcomes. I'm learning to trust that my students are getting what they need to from Hypnobabies. We cannot control birth just like we can't control life. But we can prepare ourselves and our minds, and I believe Hypnobabies is a powerful way for pregnant women to do just that.
Every week I have ideas of what I want to write about, but usually at the last minute I end up changing my plan because something going on in Life actually sparks a new direction. Balance has been on my mind a lot lately. A post titled "Balance" has patiently waited for months in my drafts folder. In fact not a day goes by that I don't think about this word. What does it mean? What does it look like and how does it feel?
There is no formula for perfect balance. Balance will look different for every person and it changes with time too. This makes sense to me intrinsically. Individuals need varying amounts of sleep, different types of foods to thrive on, and are stimulated by a unique pursuits. Yet we seem to think that there is a magic number of hours or a specific percentage of our time to spend on various aspects of our life that will lead to this magical state called, "Balance". And then we judge and compare ourselves to others when we perceive what we think is an "imbalance". I am certain that what is a good balance for me would not be a good balance for many people.
What is it exactly that we are trying to balance in our lives? Here are a few simplistic dichotomies that jump to my mind:
Work and Play
Work and Family
Activity and Rest
(and one especially near and dear to my heart...)
Thinking and Being
For all of my fellow homeschooling parents, there is the balance between home-tending (got this from my friend Shan and love it so much more than house work!), supporting our childrens' learning (however we decide to do that) and of course we can't forget, self-care. So I guess that is a "trichotomy".
I'm currently reading Deepak Chopra's book "Perfect Health" which is based largely on the ancient Indian system of healing called Ayurveda. It is fascinating. In Ayurveda there are three doshas inside each person - Vata, Pitta, and Kapha - and the amount of each one in a person makes up their "body-type". (This is a very simplistic explanation of it and I'm still just learning about it). But what is really interesting to me is the idea that for each person there is an ideal level of these 3 doshas, and that it is different for each person. When one or more of them rises or falls from the optimal level it manifests in our bodies - often in illness. I'm sure we've all noticed that during times of stress, lack of sleep, or poor diet, in other words poor balance, we are more prone to getting sick.
Speaking of illness, there is a nasty cold/virus making it's way through my family right now. Currently I have a sore throat and just really low energy. Yet, it is one o'clock in the morning and I am working on this post. Balanced? Most people would probably say, "No way!" (I can hear Mike yelling at me right now - Go to bed!) But I dozed on the couch for about an hour earlier and these ideas are buzzing in my head. I know myself, and I know that sleep wasn't happening right away. So here I am writing.
Speaking of writing - I suddenly seem to have this intense desire (need?) to write every day. (My sister thinks this is weird. I have to agree. But what can I say, it's there and I'm going with it!) Anyway, one of my challenges right now is figuring out my balance point - for myself and my family. I really want to write, but my top priority is to be present with my kids during the day. Difficult to do when you keep having these awesome ideas for blog-posts! So I usually write late at night, or right when I wake up, or sometimes even the middle of the night if I can't sleep. I also write little notes and snippets down when I can (journals and scrap paper are now easily accessible).
Speaking of my kids - how do they learn about balance? Many parents think that they have to control things for their children because they haven't developed the capacity to make decisions about "balance" on their own. Unschooling has led me in a totally different direction. As much as I can, I support them in finding their own balance. This means with food, television, computer games, going outside, social activities, reading, sleeping... really anything you can think of. This can be difficult for many parents who are attached to the idea that children couldn't possibly know what is best for them. I see my children prove this idea wrong every day. Just the other day Marisol said, "I have to listen to my body so I'm going to stop eating this cupcake now. My tummy's starting to hurt." Later she asked for more "healthy food" and chose a ham sandwich. Marisol can watch TV when she wants and every day she is itching to get outside and play with her friends. Was it always this way? Nope. When she was 3 1/2 she didn't want to get outside or see other people hardly at all. (She was also adjusting to big sisterhood). Her balance was different that winter. It was challenging for me when I got serious cabin fever, but I pushed myself and I'm glad I did. We both learned a lot about ourselves and trusting each other through that experience.
Allowing our children to learn about their own balance does not mean that they will always make the "right" choice, or the choice you would make (you know, the one you want them to make). (Side-note: Do you always make the "right" choice?) Sometimes we have to experience extremes to find out what is really right for us. I know sometimes I just need to sit around, because I'm tired or uninspired, or whatever the reason may be, until the urge just builds up in me and I can't to it anymore - I just *have* to get sh*t done! I firmly believe that allowing our children to figure out what is right for them when they are young helps them develop and believe in their own decision making abilities as they grow older. Yes, I give them input and my *opinion*, but really there is very little in life that is black and white, cut and dry. Marisol recently asked me if sugar is bad for her. Lately I have "heard" vague "whisperings" through the internet that there is "scientific evidence" that sugar is a "toxin" to our bodies (By that I mean, I've seen some headlines, but have not read deeply or paid it much attention.) So I proceeded carefully when I answered her question, not wanting to allow fear to color our conversation. I told her that some people think it isn't good for you. But that what I think is most important, is to listen to her body. She concluded that a little bit of sugar probably is ok for her. I'm sure that her relationship and understanding of food will continue to grow and evolve as she does. I feel very strongly about letting her make her own choices and learning through her own experience. I also know that I will be by her side supporting her in the best way I can. It's not always easy but I believe the benefits outweigh any fears I still have. Gerry is already pushing me out of my comfort zone even farther - that kid LOVES his sweets! I feel better by making sure he also gets fruit (strawberries and apples are a favorite now) and a carrot every day. I know that they are learning about their own limits and developing their own internal sense of what's good for them instead of relying on me to tell them what is right.
And besides all that, I just look at human nature. If someone tells *me* what to do or what I *should* be doing I immediately dig in and don't want to do it! Why would I want that dynamic in my relationship with my children? For instance, I can't stand it when Mike "nags" me to do something. I rarely get up and do something cheerfully if I feel like he's asking in a not-so-nice manner. But as I'm making my own choices to get things done, I feel his nagging fading (also I think my response is changing, but that's another topic). And I am feeling good about what I am doing. From his point of view, the "nagging" may have worked. But I know differently. I know that I am *choosing* to do things that make me feel good and to please him too.
Personally, besides writing I'm also learning what is a good balance for me and my family in regards to teaching. I'm so happy that I found something that I really love in Teaching Hypnobabies, but I also am constantly evaluating if it's the best fit, not just for me, but my kids and husband. Right now I don't feel perfectly balanced. I'm so hyped up about a lot of things (teaching, writing, and just life in general), that I'm feeling a little lop-sided. I'm also a little sick and that is my body's way of saying, "slow down!" Also as a mom to young children I can't always take care of my own needs immediately, in the optimal way. Sometimes I have to suck it up and take care of them. But I'm learning small ways to get my own needs met at the same time. Just this week we had an amazing day, followed with two very low key days at home. Instead of looking it as a "high" followed by a "low" I know that they are just different kinds of days. We are all sick and need some down time.
I guess that sums it up for me - listening to our bodies, minds, and spirits the best we can. It's about being mindful and checking in with yourself. All of the important things in life require practice and dedication (ie inspiration and positive thinking). At first it might seem like a lot of work, but it is worth it. I am consistently asking myself now, "what do I want to do with this moment right now?" One time I am especially aware of my choices are when Gerry naps. I can do the dishes (or other home tending), I can get on the computer, I can take that time to connect with Marisol, or I can rest myself (usually while cuddling with Marisol). But I know whichever I choose I have thought about what is best in that moment - for me and my loved ones. I am not just rushing to the first thing that jumps in my line of vision and then wondering later why I didn't choose something else. Will we always make the "right" choice? Probably not - but we can get better at it. And we can always get back on course.
Stop letting others or what you "think others think" dictate what you choose. If you are tired the house can wait. A clean house with an exhausted mama is not balanced (in my opinion!) Don't worry about what others say about how much time you spend with your children - listen to the people that matter - yourself and your children. If you are working so hard that you cannot enjoy any other aspects of your life, examine why you are doing that. Is it serving you? No one except *you* can tell you what is *your* perfect balance. And your balance will change - that's why you need to be in tune to yourself. Your needs for exercise, for nourishing food, for stillness, for connection, for stimulation are your guiding posts. Of course, we have to balance our needs with our loved ones' needs too, which is where things get trickier. But we try. We listen to each other with love and problem solve when our needs seem to clash. I loved this status from a friend on Facebook, "Balance is taking care of what matters MOST at the time it matters most!" This especially rings true to me for mothers of young children. Sometimes when you have a sick child there just isn't anything else that's going to get done except caring for that baby. And that is the perfect balance for that moment.
I lay in bed tonight at 10:30 - Gerry went to bed "early". I thought, "I'm just going to go to bed in my clothes (at least they were linen pants) without brushing my teeth or anything." It felt so good. I thought of this post on "balance", and it seemed fitting. My body is tired. But habit and my bladder weren't listening and the need to release (my thoughts!) won out. My kids - if they are tired you can't convince them to brush their teeth or anything else. It's just time to sleep. Things are simpler for them. I hope that maybe they can stay that way.
Anyways here I am working almost till midnight like a kid in school with a paper due. And I love it! I feel good and I know tomorrow even if I'm tired I will be more present with my kids. Sometimes I am better at being still when I'm tired. Guess that's part of my balance.
Two more things and then I really must retire. During Lent I was randomly opening the Bible some mornings to read. A few days after I wrote in my journal about balance I opened up to Proverbs 11, which state, "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord but an accurate weigh is his delight." (it also went on to say "whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent" guess we better not knock other people's sense of balance!) Powers bigger than me continue to speak to me. I try to listen.
And finally, check out this sticky note that has been posted on my computer's desktop for months now:
I don't think I could say it any better than that. So thank you, whoever I saved that from.
What are your thoughts on balance? What are things you do to help you achieve your optimum balance? Have there been times in your life where you felt either particularly balanced or unbalanced?
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.