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In March the daffodils in my back yard pushed through the cold ground—they seemed not to care that some mornings the temperature was below freezing. They seemed to know it was their time to come up. And now that it is April, many of the trees are sprouting tiny leaves. The crocuses, bloodroots, corydalis – so many more beautiful things – are pushing through the ground, along with everything else that wants to burst into life. All of nature seems to trust its process of being, of becoming.
We humans are not so confident or relaxed about bringing forth life. But we should be and we can be: A woman’s body knows how to give birth. It is as natural and automatic as breathing, hearing, or digesting. Unless there is some physical impediment that interferes with an autonomic function, our bodies can be trusted to do the right thing. It is our minds and our emotions – the reactive mental constructs we confuse with true feelings – that interfere with our bodies operating as smoothly and surely as the sun crosses the sky.
There is SO much that takes us out of our bodies: digital life, office life, and urban life, to name a few. Worry, fear, stress can do it also. Yet there is only an expanding set of reasons to get back INTO our bodies. This is true for all of us – life is lived in the body, and life gets blessedly longer for those of us who have the knowledge, skill, willingness – and sometimes, the money – to take good care of ourselves.
The name of the game is to get, and stay as much as possible, IN your body – trusting that Nature knows what it’s doing, trusting that our own native, creative intelligence can deliver the goods – a good pregnancy, low-pain labor, and a sweet birth process for your becoming-baby. The paradox is that the more relaxed your body becomes, the more easily pregnancy proceeds, the less pain there is, and the quicker labor progresses.
I have participated as a doula in hundreds of pregnancies and births. Each one is unique, just as each mother and each baby is unique. But as humans, these childbirth journeys have a lot in common. One faces real anxiety as well as hyped anxiety – the concern that labor is always excruciating and childbirth is always a crapshoot. But is it is not, or not fully that. So, what do we do to get back into our bodies and stay in our bodies during the birthing process of conception, pregnancy, and childbirth?
We get back into our bodies by fully inhabiting our bodies, perhaps most keenly by inhabiting our dreams and imagery. In my experience, dreams and imagery are a universal language of the body, not the mind.
As a result, they can reveal to us – if we listen and see them as they are, not as we interpret them – the vast, creative intelligence within us that can be profoundly trusted. The body does not lie. We may lie to it, denying our pain or fear – but it will always reveal its truth and what we can do to live that truth.
In the hundreds of births I have been part of, it is crystal clear to me that our Imagery, as the language of the body, is a tool par-excellence to keep us in our bodies, to become relaxed, calm, and in that awake dream state that allows us to go with the process and allows the birth to happen as easily as possible. Sometimes getting into our bodies is as simple as being made to laugh out loud. In the case of a very worried mother whose birth I attended, singing a childhood song, over and over was the key. As she sang, her body physically relaxed, and as she did her labor progressed and she opened fully.
There is a teaching in Jewish tradition that every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, “Grow, grow.” And I would add, “Look how beautifully you are developing.” It is easier, in that flavor of energy, for the mother, the baby, the bodies they share and will soon enough inhabit separately – to be given every tool, chance and angelic whisper to inhabit the safest space they have to experience birth – our own bodies.
I paraphrase Einstein where he suggested creativity is intelligence having fun. I take this a step further: creation is our native intelligence – the intelligence of our bodies – having fun. When we can trust that our bodies always tell the truth and that we can create and bring life from within our bodies, we can start to have a lot more fun in the childbirth journey.
by Claudia Rosenhouse Raiken
Claudia Rosenhouse Raiken is the Director and Master Practitioner of DreamBirth®, an approach to the childbirth process that uses dreams, imagery and imaginal exercises to bring about relaxed, healthy and positive birth experiences for mothers, babies, and all who surround them in this process.
She is leading a course on Easing into Labor starting April 30, 2023.