The Reality Of Birth
Pregnancy and birth is an awe-inspiring experience. It’s one of those crucial life passages that we never forget.
Nature seems to take over, as the woman succumbs to the incredible changes of pregnancy and the demands of birth itself. It certainly is one of the most natural and instinctive events in a woman’s life, and often women feel as if they are simply carried along, with little control over what happens next. To some extent this is true: Nature and your body will know what to do, and it would be wise to surrender to the process and trust in life itself.
On the other hand, Mother Nature has also provided us with a brain, giving us some control over how we approach life’s challenges. We can’t control our lives completely, but we can affect events with some knowledge and preparation, in the hope that our experience is improved. Take hunger, for example. It’s a natural occurrence, and our desire to eat is instinctive, but we can learn how to eat well. We could eat anything and satisfy our hunger, but a knowledge of food and cooking definitely enhances that satisfaction. Sex too, is natural and instinctive, and we can get by without learning anything about it, but those who practice the “art” of lovemaking invariably experience more pleasure. In both cases, knowledge and practice has givenpeople more control over the experience, and ultimately more enjoyment.
Eating and the sex act are often connected with pleasure, and each lasts for a relatively short time. Childbirth, however, can be painful, and can proceed for many hours. Which is all the more reason to learn what you can to improve the experience. You won’t have the number of opportunities to practice birthing that you do with eating and sex, but you can learn and practice certain things before the birth that will help you when the big day arrives.
Over the years, we have spoken to thousands of women who felt that if they had only known more, they might have enjoyed a better birth. Some felt good about their births, but still wanted to improve the experience. Others felt so removed from their instincts that they had lost the ability to surrender to this natural process. Most wondered why they felt so powerless and confused.
Through talking with these women, their partners, and their care providers, we discovered that women all over the world—especially those living in a modern society—seem to have lost touch with their traditional knowledge and wisdom, of both birth and their own bodies.
Traditional culture is so dispersed these days that few women can draw upon the wealth of knowledge previously passed on through families. Most modern women have never attended a birth, or have any real experience until they actually find themselves pregnant and about to birth themselves. Additionally (and perhaps consequently), women have come to rely more and more on the medical profession to decide what is best for their own body and baby in birth. That is, until now.
In recent years, there has been a steady upsurge in non-hospital births, midwifery, and the emergence of childbirth education classes, as well as more choices in hospitals and birthing centers. There seems to be a general desire worldwide to bring birth back to the people most involved—pregnant women and their partners. Partners, in particular, have become more interested in knowing what they can do to help, and many now attend their children’s birth.
Most birthing women and supportive men who have shared their experiences and hopes for the future expressed an interest in knowing what they could do to improve the quality of their own birthing experience. Many “systems” of birthing have now been developed, and are taught to interested women and their partners all over the world. Unfortunately, these systems don’t always work for everyone. People have told us, “I tried everything I learned and it didn’t work,” or “In labor, everything I learned went out the window.”
It became apparent to us that these people needed more than just a system or philosophy to follow. What they really needed were practical, simple, and effective tools that could be adapted to suit their individual circumstances and needs in their own, unique labor.
Additionally, we saw the need for women to develop a confident awareness of their own bodies, so that in labor they could decide for themselves when and how to use these tools. Both the tools and the body awareness are important, as is shown by the experience of a woman who had a cesarean birth after feeling that her hips were “locked up,” but didn’t know how to unlock them. She and her attending midwives were relying on her body instincts to show her what to do, and later, after a cesarean, she felt like a failure. Actually, her instincts hadn’t failed her—she had enough body awareness to know that her hips were locked up. If only she had had some useful tools to unlock them!
Incidentally, birth skills are not about discussing the pros and cons of the application of modern medicine, nor where or how women choose to birth. We recognize, through working with people from many diverse backgrounds, that local practices and policies differ greatly throughout the world. Some women have many choices in their local area; others have very little say as to how their birth is handled by others. Our sole purpose has been in finding meaningful skills for the birthing woman, regardless of her individual circumstances.
Birth skills are intended to complement all prenatal education, care, and birthing conditions. We feel confident that no matter what your personal circumstances, birth skills can help you. That is certainly our intention.
Birthing Better birth skills are the culmination of many years of work with women from all over the world. Some people have asked, “Why develop birth skills?” Well, the initial impetus came from women who had had problems in birth. They wanted to know what “went wrong”— sometimes to reconcile their disappointment, but more often in order to improve their experience the next time around. Women without birthing problems also wanted to learn more, to further refine and improve their births. We wanted to help everyone achieve this, and so we set about gathering information from innumerable sources to find answers. Contributions usually came from the women themselves, but care providers and partners often noticed something valuable that the birthing mother herself had not.
By this careful observation and enquiry, we were ultimately able to identify causes and find solutions— solutions that actually worked. Some women who had had a previous c-section now found themselves able to deliver vaginally. Even women who had not had serious problems before experienced “better” births, with greater awareness, more help from their partners, more effective contractions, and a general feeling of knowing what they were doing. The results were less pain, faster or easier labors, and less medical intervention, which made them feel better about themselves.
The vast majority of women were so excited by our discoveries together that they wanted to share them, and let other women know that there was something they could do to improve their labor.
We can never guarantee anything to anyone. Every birth is a unique event, and cannot be redone. However, we strongly believe that informing yourself about birth, familiarizing yourself with the birthing body, and preparing in meaningful ways can only improve your chances of having a more fulfilling and satisfying experience.
Ultimately, it’s up to you, and we like to encourage this self-responsibility in birth. Our experience has shown that people do feel better about the experience when they can accept responsibility and use their own judgement, rather than relying entirely on outside influences. There is certainly a place for advice and assistance, but we strongly recommend you also use your own feelings and judgement at this momentous time. That is your right, with or without birth skills. If you don’t like something, stop, and assess whether it suits you or not. Can it be adapted to better suit your needs? Follow your instincts. Take what you want, leave the rest, and pass on what you like.
Our hearts and minds are with you. Enjoy!