Why Overcome Childbirth Fears?

I’ve been noticing this theme of wanting people not to fear childbirth on your feed lately and I’m a bit puzzled by it. I hated pregnancy and childbirth. I had all the information and choices and what not a person could have and it was still a completely, totally miserable experience. I see it as having been a necessary evil I had to get through to achieve the goal of having a baby to love and raise. Why should people not fear it? Having been through it once, if I were ever to do it again (not in my plans at all, never was) I would be freaking TERRIFIED. I wasn’t that afraid going into it, frankly. I thought it would be tough but temporary and as a fit and healthy person, I thought I could handle it. I did, but was scarred, both physically and emotionally, by it. I probably should have been afraid. Why do you say people shouldn’t be?

 

She poses a good question: “Why do you say people shouldn’t be afraid of childbirth?”

I am going to break this down into a few different posts; this being the first one. I also think it is important to understand the lens in which I view childbirth. There are two: 1) instinctive  physiological birth and 2) birth as a peak performance event. As someone who was immersed in sport psychology and peak performance, I have come to view ‘preparing for childbirth’ as that of an athlete preparing for a ‘big game’. So my focus on overcoming, or rather working with, childbirth fears is supported by both birth physiology and, sport psychology.

To put it in plain terms: Fear gets in the way of any human peak performance whether it be a sporting event or birth. 

I want to preface this post by saying that by no means do I think every women ‘should’ get rid of their fears.  I recognize that for some women this idea is not a fit. I encourage and support women to be true to themselves, first and foremost. For example, there is nothing wrong in my opinion with choosing to have an elective c-section because dealing with the layers of fears surrounding birth, just feels like way too much work for some women.  I see compassion in that choice, and a gentle acknowledgment of what is true in that moment, for that woman.

The reality is: a) some women want to engage their psyche and face their fears so they can know that they did everything they could leading up to their births;  they want to fully experience their birth and b) other women want to get through the process as quickly as possible and with as little pain as possible, so they can get on with the life long task of motherhood, without having to do much preparatory work, and pick up where they left off.

The first group values the notion that birth is a ‘rite of passage’ and they want to be as prepared as possible.  The second group values motherhood as the end goal, and not so much the birthing process. Both groups want to offer love to their baby’s in which ever way they know best; furthermore, my guess is that they want to feel a sense of safety.  One is not better than the other. I do however have to draw the line when women in either group, are mistreated, disrespected, violated, or injured by the experience. I have zero tolerance for this kind of ‘care’ and cannot support mismanagement or mistreatment of women in labor. 

However, if a woman wants to have a physiological birth then addressing fear is necessary. Furthermore, if a woman wants to feel empowered throughout pregnancy and birth, wants to be a part of the decision making process along the way, and wants to feel respected and have her dignity left intact; than dealing with childbirth fears is also a necessary preparatory phase regardless of her birth outcome (i.e. medicated, cesarean, or natural).

So the question posed is why should women not fear birth?

I want to rephrase this to say: Why might a women want to address her fears about childbirth?

  • Because she wants to feel like she has some skill to handle her fears as they arise during labor and birth
  • Because she wants to feel empowered throughout the process
  • Because she wants to feel less anxiety
  • Because she wants her hormones to function optimally, decreasing physiological pain and suffering
  • Because she wants to understand her physiology better and not feel dumbfounded by the ‘chaos’ of birth
  • Because she wants to learn tools to be able to voice her needs prenatally and during labor and birth
  • Because she wants to gain knowledge about ‘what she fears mostly’ and what she can do to prevent that fear from happening
  • Because she wants to know that she was in charge of her birthing experience and no one else
  • Because she doesn’t want an unwanted c-section
  • Because she wants to know her strength and feel amazed by her body
  • Because she really wants a better birth outcome than her last birth
  • Because she views birth as a healing rite of passage and wants to experience that
  • Because she is tired of her mind tricker her into believing that ‘something might go wrong’ or ‘that she won’t be able to handle the pain’
  • Because she wants to learn how to best prepare her environment to support instinctive physiological birth with little to no intervention
  • Because she wants to take her birth into her own hands and claim her experience as her own
  • Because she felt violated and victimized by her last birth and she wants to regain her power and confidence

Of course there are physiological reasons why we want to address fear. I will attempt to provide insight into these reasons in a future post, along with other questions: How do you overcome fears? What about the ‘What If’s’? What are the best environments to reduce anxiety and fear? What does a high performance athlete do to prepare for a big game and how does she overcome her fears?

 

Advertisements

A Women’s Worth: A Mother’s Struggle with Shame

Recently, I took a chance.

I submitted an article I wrote about my struggles, as a single mother, trying to re-enter the ‘workforce’ after 11 years tending to the home. To my surprise and excitement Rebelle Society (a feminist blog site) approved the submission.

I poured my heart out and unscrambled my frustrations with the modern work world. I spoke about my shame, my programmed shame, as a mother and woman who couldn’t even land an interview. 

An exert from the article:

Common among women I know is the gut-wrenching challenge of extinguishing internal shame which insidiously accumulates, due to our culturally limited and subsequently self-imposed beliefs about the notion that our work (meaning paid work) is synonymous with our worth and success.

This shame which has been forced upon us, albeit invisible, by a prevailing patriarchal belief system, differs in intensity for each individual depending on the circumstances one is born into. Unplugging from the shame requires varying levels of willpower and support, depending on ethnicity and culture, economic background, religion, sexual character, and gender orientation.

 

CLICK HERE to read more

My mentor use to say to me: “Jennifer, as you live you midwife, and as you midwife, you live” 

What a koan. A deep statement. One that took years to pull apart and truly enliven within.

More recently, it clicked and became a way of living rather than, a way of intellectualizing. My work in the ‘outside world’ is not separate from my work in my ‘inside world’. I learned that as I navigate my everyday life, I am navigating it through the lens of the midwife. I tend to my life in the ways I would tend to a woman labor.

I will unpack this concept in a later post as it speaks about embracing the archetype: ‘Midwife as Healer’. 

I pause, as I think about this statement and the article I am speaking about. I see how sometimes I forget that this archetype lives within and when followed, will guide my way.

 

 

When Something Goes ‘Wrong’: From Passion to Pain (a long one)

ImageThe wound is the place where the Light enters you. ― Rumi

Recently, I received news that an Ashville, NC ‘midwife’ was arrested for attending the birth of a still born. She is being charged for murder and tried for life in prison. This news hit home, and my heart exploded in grief. Once again I am reminded that the path of midwifery is an intensely courageous path; one that is laden with many obstacles to overcome. I am reminded that ‘safety’ is always an illusion and those that choose Midwifery, have to put faith into something beyond ‘safety’.

What I really want address is how close to my heart this story lands. As someone who has walked the unconventional path of birth and midwifery since the birth of my first child thirteen years ago, I have had to face many challenging obstacles, both internally and externally. The most heartbreaking of them all was having attended a birth that ended traumatically. I have held onto this story for almost three years now, yet now is the time to start sharing all that was learned and endured during these past years.

Where do I even begin. As I write my hands tremble and my heart flutters, and my stomach wrenches in pain. I have grieved too much. In the grief I learned much. Some of the most powerful understandings that came through all of this and questions I posed of myself and the world were:

  • What is responsibility and how does a ‘free birthing mama’ take responsibility without abdicating their power and pain onto the ‘caregiver’
  • the need to let go of positions and ideologies.
  • how ideologies are religious, and these religious viewpoints separate you from reality and the need to respond
  • how ‘word’ is powerful. how charisma can influence many and how this can be powerful and dangerous at the same time
  • how humiliation and public silent shunning is as painful as public prosecution and jail
  • how care givers are expected to be perfect and there is little room for mistakes
  • how fear of death motivates every choice in our society – even if this means performing ‘crimes against wisdom’
  • how loss of identity is painful and liberating at the same time
  • how ideology becomes an identity that binds
  • how the path of the ‘healer’ ‘midwife’ or ‘doctor’ is a difficult, challenging, courageous, bold path in which many expect perfection
  • how the unconventional pioneering path is often done in isolation, and isolation is terrifying when you need a true community to hold you during a deeply traumatizing event
  • why protocols exist and how they are used to protect
  • why there are governing bodies to stand in between those suffering from loss and those who are seen as the perpetrators of the loss
  • how healing is an internal experience and is not dependent on anyone outside of the self to make ‘healing’ happen
  • the importance of trusting intuition and red flags and regardless of fears, to speak to them immediatly
  • the need for real apprenticeships
  • the need to challenge everything you have ever been taught, until you come to your own Truths
  • That there never is one way, there are many ways, and there is room for all ways
  • how quick we are as a culture of people to want to place blame on the: medical community, the doctors, the midwives, the doulas, the ‘care givers’
  • how we are need of true restorative justice, conflict resolution and a system that works outside of the punitive so called justice system
  • how dedicating twelve years of my life, heart and soul, to something that I believed was so important and necessary to change the way women experience birth was not actually worth: losing my marriage, losing myself, losing my connection with my children, and risking prosecution and jail for maybe 5000$ total during all those years!
  • How when you work outside of a ‘system’ that has checks and balances and a governing body, you are left without any guarding parameters or protecting services.
  • how the new age spiritual, love and light, mindset is filled with contradiction, wounds, dissociative tendencies and narcissistic expectations which at times, makes for a very distrusting environment to work within; need alone heal within
  • how it is impossible to come to terms with the magnitude of such an experience, without the outside support of: counseling, psychologists, mediators, and legal support
  • how to this day, I am still at a loss, in regards to how to best navigate this treacherous terrain. Is it valid for the ‘caregiver’ to share their story without being defensive or slandering of the choices that were made?

I was naive in my younger years, attending births because women wanted someone to support their radical choices. I trusted in these women, I trusted that they were truly taking responsibility and accountability for their choices. They were educated. They had access to healthy food. They were connecting to their babies within their womb. They believed in the power of the birth and the rite of passage, and they wanted someone to love them and witness them during this process. This is exactly what I offered and did.

I was passionate about birth as a powerful peak experience during a woman’s life. I was angry that much information about birth was withheld from me during my upbringing. That all I knew was the medical paradigm, and that few women had access to something ‘different’. The more I read (almost every book on pregnancy and birth and politics) the more passionate I became. The more I understood physiology and the female birthing body, the more determined I was to inform the public of our lack of true information. And the more I informed, the inspired women became.

These women (and men supporting them) made choices that often challenged their caregiver; whether doctor or midwife. Soon, I was seen as someone who was ‘feeding women dangerous information’. Yet, this dangerous information was backed by current science and was logical. There was nothing dangerous about the information. What was and is ‘dangerous’ is that few women can access care that supports the paradigm of ‘physiological instinctive birth’.

Voila, the ‘FreeBirth’ paradigm was born out of a backlash movement against modern midwifery and obstetrics. Women wanted something different. They wanted to feel powerful, empowered, and in charge of their decisions. They wanted to know that they were going to be respected. They wanted to know that no one would touch them without their consent. They wanted to know that whom ever attended their birth, was attending in trust and love. These women wanted to give birth uninterrupted, with their hormones intact, and receive their newborn without the interruption of outsiders intervening due to protocol.

What these women wanted (and i was one of them) was to ‘seen’, valued, respected, and honored for her courageous and powerful work in giving birth. They wanted the ‘birth room’ to be treated like a sanctuary, something holy. They saw that birth was an extension of love making, and that, they needed the same private intimate space to unleash the powers of giving birth.

I was sought out as someone who supported and trusted in this paradigm of birth. I was regarded as an ‘expert’ in the realms of ‘undisturbed birth’. I knew this paradigm and I was graced with many opportunities to witness the power of ‘leaving birth alone’. I knew and understood natural instinctive labor and birth.

The constant challenge I was faced with was blending the two different paradigms. The mainstream midwifery with this undisturbed ‘radical’ paradigm. I wanted them blended because I saw a need to understand and include everything.

I began my training to embrace modern mainstream midwifery. I wanted to be able to bridge both worlds. Soon I realized that this was going to be a very hard path. My years of study would not be validated nor my apprenticeships; need alone all the births that I had attended as a ‘friend’. I had to make a choice, and that was to either return to university (yet again) to become registered or continue to deepen my path in this other paradigm and believe that I will be ‘protected’ along the way.

No doubt about it, when you choose a more radical path, there is always a looming fear of prosecution. Even if you believe that you are strong enough to handle it or that it would be worth it, because you knew you stood your truth; in the end, it is never worth it because in the end, no one really cares (not in the way you imagined they would). Again I reiterate, this is a hard lonely path. 

Without getting into the details of my story-the story about having been asked to attend the labor and birth of a young woman who wanted to have an ‘undisturbed free-birth’ which ended in a traumatic loss for all those involved-I will say this, I have learned a great deal and faced a great deal. We make choices. Every choice is a powerful choice, regardless of even being aware of the fact that you are making choices.

Choosing to birth unassisted or Free-Birth is a privileged choice. Accessing ‘care’ that supports this choice, is again a privilege and an honor. The amount of responsibility, accountability, intelligence, health, and internal power that a woman must have in order to make such a choice is huge. This is not a choice to be taken lightly, nor is a choice to flaunt or brag about-as if you are somehow better than another woman who is not ready to make such a choice. 

I am still angry about much, indeed. I also trust in birth more than anything, and I know this to be true because in my grief, as everything around me crumbled, I questioned everything. I came through understanding so much more than I could ever imagine, with room for everything and everyone.

The undisturbed birthing paradigm (aka Free-Birth) is NOT to be taken lightly. It is not something you ‘do’ because you are a rebel or afraid of the hospitals. You face those fears head on, and figure out why you are afraid and what you need to do about it. You seek counseling. The undisturbed paradigm is about:

  • Absolute responsibility for all your choices and outcomes
  • Dedication to a path of self knowledge, growth, inquiry, and challenge
  • Commitment to health and well being
  • Commitment to healing by facing your inner turmoil and demons, and seeking outside support when needed
  • Dropping all positions and accessing external care when needed
  • Understanding your body so intimately that you can ‘feel’ and ‘know’ when something doesn’t feel right
  • Authentic communication and collaboration
  • Understanding the magnitude of choosing to ‘take charge of your birth’
  • Preparing for all possible outcomes
  • Recognizing the privilege of hiring someone to support you in your choices
  • That you and your partner are the ones who make the decisions, this is huge power and responsibility. Again, a privilege to find someone who will support you in this way

There absolutely needs to be room for all paradigms of birth. Women need to be able to access the kind of caregiver that supports their needs and choices. Each choice is valid. Whether birthing at the hospital with doctors, at home with registered midwives, or witnessed by ‘friends of free-birth’. It is okay if a woman still fears birth and needs a medically supported birth. It is also okay if a women wants the ‘midwife’ to be in charge so that she can relax into her home birth.

Furthermore, it is okay if a woman wants to take charge of her birth and environment, and be the one who makes the choices. It is just incredibly crucial that both the mother (and family) and the caregiver, understand the differences and the responsibility of each. The caregiver is responsible to make this known and the parents are responsible to be aware of what their needs and comforts are. This is collaboration.

Clearly, there is much more that can and will be said about all that was written here. This is just the beginning, of a very deep message from the heart. I hope to continue to grow more, in courage, to keep on sharing. At this time, I am no longer attending births. My fire for birth work will still be alive within my heart and soul. However, my path is calling me another direction.

Upon closing, I want to bring my attention back to this midwife who is being prosecuted at this time. My deep condolences goes out to her and the family. I don’t need to know her story to decide who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. It is never this simple. Each will endure much pain and suffering through this process, this is inevitable. For one, the loss of the unborn child. For the other, the public scrutiny (and possible mental turmoil) associated with her choices and path of midwifery. Each will be in grief. In the grief, I pray that each will be given the hearts truth. And the heart, is truly one of compassion and deep understanding.It is here that forgiveness and acceptance happen.  

 

 

 

 

Values of the Quantum Midwifery Paradigm

The paradigm of Quantum Midwifery, encompasses a different set of values (listed below) than those of the current Global Operating System. Therefore, it differs from other midwifery structures that are currently plugging into the modern health care systems; allowing Midwifery to be governed by these ‘systems’. Due to the differentiation of values, Quantum Midwifery cannot fit inside the already prevailing box, but rather must step outside of it. This action demands a massive shift in consciousness that will challenge the interior world (mind, heart, and soul) as much as our exterior realities.
Quantum Midwifery and those aligned with it, can no longer exist in both systems of operation, all the while embody enough energy to be an instrument of change for this planet.  Having said this, it is imperative that we recognize that the Midwifery that has been accepted and validated within our current governing systems, has worked very hard to be heard, seen, and respected as a ‘true’ profession. This has occurred because of pioneering passionate midwives who saw a need, and therefore wanted to bridge the gap of us versus them; the desire to no longer be marginalized, underground, ridiculed, or bullied by the dominating forces of the health industry. A truly important mark in herstory and one that needs to be acknowledged and honored.
Midwives, of all kinds, have always known that midwifery must become more publicly accessible and that in doing so, fear of birth would potentially decrease and power would be restored. We are now questioning whether or not this has indeed happened? Hopes were to reinforce the power of natural birth and thus decrease the need for standardized intervention and care. I believe this was accomplished, perhaps not to the extent that all midwives would like to have seen, but an accomplishment indeed. With this movement towards regulation, Midwives would be free to practice as ‘health professionals’ and no longer fear the scrutiny or prosecution of the ‘institution’ that has shunned them for eons (this was the desired outcome and hope).
Midwives have sought legislation with ambivalence. On one hand, midwifery regulation is viewed as being important for protecting the public through ensuring high standards of preparation and practice. Legislation and its ensuring regulation brings credibility, status, and a rightful place and voice within the healthcare system. Midwives regard legislation as a way of further developing the knowledge and practice base of midwifery, of ensuring greater accessibility for women, and of improving their own working conditions…While the general belief is that regulation protects the public, the structures that support regulations such as professional associations, colleges, and limited-access education programs, may make it difficult for the public to challenge the power of the professional group…[Furthermore] the regulation of midwifery practice must stay in the hands of midwives with a place for a strong consumer voice. Collaborative care with other professionals is essential to good, safe practice, but must maintain the spirit of collaboration and not become a form of control by another profession” (Shroff, Farah. The New Midwifery: Reflections on Renaissance and Regulation, 1997)
Professionalism in medicine is nothing more than the institutionalization of a male, upper class monopoly. We must never confuse professionalism with expertise. Expertise is something to work for and to share; professionalism is elitist and exclusive, sexist, racist and classist. (Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, 1983)

This recognized ‘need’, within birth and midwifery, absolutely made and makes sense; it is an important phase of our evolution as birth care providers and humans on this planet. The advancements that have occurred in many countries, states, and provinces due to this movement has been transformational for many with some incredibly positive outcomes such as: hospital privileges, collaborative care between midwife and Obgyn, government funded income for midwives, insurance companies paying for midwifery care, and an increase in global recognition for midwifery assisted birth as a positive and safe birth option. One might be bold enough to say that midwifery has become mainstream.

Along with this mainstream care, there are challenges that have arisen. The largest challenge that I have experienced and seen, is that of aligning Midwifery with our current medical governing system, institutions, and bodies. Although for many, this is the most logical and safe choice, it comes with a huge price tag-the loss of freedom, self-government, and autonomy as experts. For myself, these are huge consequences, for both my soul and my craft.

Plugging my energy into a system that uses fear and power over tactics (both overtly and invisibly) as tools to maintain control and ‘safety’ is not a system that I want to serve. Although my feminine loving spirit would like to believe, that indeed it is true, that this system really does ‘care’ about ‘midwifery’ and myself as a ‘professional’ in it, I must honestly recognize that this is an illusion. A system that values consumption, greed, patriarchy, repression, abuse, degradation, power over, inequality, intimidation, threats, pressure, and punishment; is not a system I want to be working for, aligned with, or even be supported by.

Our current global state is atrocious; environmental destruction and rape so huge we are losing species on a daily basis, we are destroying our planet so rapidly it is a violation to the soul, war is a common answer to power imbalances, economic flux and cost of living is unnerving, human suffering is disheartening, furthermore food and land control by corrupt corporations is disempowering and frightening. Need alone the amount of abuse, addictions, and violence we are exposed to on a daily basis, has become ‘normal’.

Just spend a couple of days on Netflix and watch the plethora of documentaries available demonstrating the Truth of this above statement. We can no longer be ignorant to the fact that there is something devastatingly and hauntingly wrong with the way we, as humans, have chosen to live. There is something fundamentally wrong with investing our energy circuits (time, mind, heart, and soul) into projects that devalue our earth, people, and our souls.

The other day, my son watched a documentary on the ‘shark industry’ (which I must add, the majority of his class were in tears) and I asked him “why do you think humans choose to do this?” His answer was “to put food on the table” (meaning to earn money to live). Therefore, most humans (including myself) will choose to sacrifice, hurt, destroy, and degrade what ever is in the way of earning ‘money’; a currency humans have created. Again, there is something soulfully wrong with this mindset and yet, so hopelessly invades our psyches and way of existing.

It is for all of these reasons that a new way of co-existing on this planet must be co-created. The path and practice ofQuantum Midwifery is in the infancy stage of unplugging from this standardized accepted way of living and working, and plugging into something different (something whose values are completely different then our current set of values). Values are lived and enacted, they are not just words that are recited to yourself in the silence of your ‘safe’ home. We know what people value based on how they choose to live in the world. When one chooses to plug into a way of life whose values oppose her/his/their inner soul values, then she/he/they unwillingly, align with those ‘other’ values.

And so, Quantum Midwifery is choosing to align with the following values (lets keep expanding this list):

  • The healing of the earth
  • Living in harmony and relationship with the earth
  • Congruency in actions and words
  • Interconnection of Spirit and Soul, Mind, Heart, and Body
  • Collaborative relationship building
  • Self-responsibility and Soul-directed living
  • Non violent and compassionate communication
  • Soul-connections and interconnection
  • Gentle birth
  • Restorative justice and Circle work
  • Alternative paths of learning
  • Non intervention
  • Undisturbed birth
  • Protecting the environment
  • Holistic perspectives
  • Science, Spirituality, and Intuition
  • Healing, health, and wholeness
  • Equality, integration, and inclusiveness
  • Decrease in consumption
  • Increase in community living
  • Nourishment on all levels
  • Accessibility
  • Qualitative research & Quantitative research
  • Experiential knowledge
  • Cycles of life – birth & death
  • The sacred feminine and masculine
  • Integral health and wellness
  • Both energy and matter
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Adaptability and Change as constants
  • The Sacred and the Mystery
  • Altered states of consciousness as real experiences and ways of accessing information
  • All traditions and ancient wisdom
  • Innate wisdom and truth
If our current governing systems aligned with these values, then, perhaps change could occur from within. I am doubtful and skeptical that change can happen from ‘within’ anymore. What I have seen is that when one is ‘within’ the system they change, instead of the system changing. Therefore, what I am suggesting, is that those souls who are brave, courageous, and passionate enough to see change on this planet, will step outside of our current operating system and start to co create a new way. We need one another.

Blessings

Challenging the Present, Defining the Future

We must remember the past, define the future, and challenge the present – wherever and however we can. ~ Jane O’Reilly

It is asked of us to remember the past, the past that involved oppression and violence against women, midwives, home birth, sexuality, power, and freedom of choice. We are called to remember that midwives were burned alive and murdered, for serving women in childbirth, for knowing the mystery of our womanly bodies, for understanding the nature of life and death, for learning the wisdom of the plants and the sacred teachings that birth brought with every child born alive or dead.

These wise and wild Women, killed at the hands of church and country men, knew something so powerful, that I believe, it was woven into their DNA. This knowledge was never lost (as much as ‘they’ may have wanted it to be) it has been passed along in our blood and cells. Those of us who have heard the call, have the ancient wisdom deep within our souls. Those hu/mans, so frightened by the power that those women possessed, perhaps believed they could kill the knowledge; yet Truth (with a capital T) can never be destroyed.

Remember the past, we are told, of the women of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who trusted in the doctors to take care of them in labor and birth. The women who died because of ‘childbed fever’; the women who were knocked out cold because they were told it would be better for them and their babies; the women who were strapped down all arms and legs, while in labor and told to birth; the women who were so frightened because they did not understand what was happening to their bodies (the knowledge had been lost and the language of birth untold); and the women who knew not to question the ‘authority figures’ for fear of challenging the status quo.

Remember the past, when a small percentage of women began to hear the call within their souls. Those Women who said ‘no’ to those authority figures of doctors; those women who reclaimed childbirth as theirs; those women who risked jail to attend births; those women who fought for their child to be born at home; those women who challenged the status quo; those women who stood up and let their voices be heard and said ENOUGH… There is another way.

Remember the past, we are asked… What do you remember?

…………………………………………

Define the Future!

We are visionaries, scholars, activists, socialists, humanists, environmentalists, r/evolutionaries, birth keepers, birth workers, midwives, doulas, and birth attendants. We are coming together, joining voices, and re-defining our futures. A future no longer governed by medical authority figures (predominantly a patriarchal male fear based system) who are deciding the rules, regulations, laws, and liability around birth and midwifery.

We believe that birth belongs to the family, period; not a governing state or institution. We believe that true freedom of choice, occurs when a pregnant woman is self-directed, without fear, to choose where she gives birth and with whom. That she and her family claim responsibility for their choices, are fully informed, and work in collaboration with their chosen ‘care giver’ (if any).

A future that holds a vision for healing both birth and midwifery, must include a voice, pathway, and access to all paradigms of care. A vision of a future, in which Midwives appreciate one another (no matter what paradigm they choose to practice in) and learn to listen, support, and nurture one another as care givers of birth.

We are asked to define the future…what would you define as the future?

…………………………………………

Challenge the present!

Oh my god/dess, the work involved with doing such an arduous and often frightening task. You see, it is of no service to challenge the already established birth and midwifery communities, we are wasting vital energy in doing so. We must do more, if we are going to truly challenge the present.

This present includes global and enviornmental devastation, need alone, fear based tactics to maintain power over; liability insurance that has sky rocketed; laws that are restricting Midwives to practice within their communities; regulations that have made it challenging to become lisenced or registered; rules and ‘guidelines’ that tell us how we must give birth or serve as a care giver; authority figures that still only want to have power over; a midwifery that now belongs to the state/country and has taken on tones of patriarchy, fear, and lack of trust; not to mention, a high burnout rate amongst midwives. Of course, we must mention, that midwives are still under paid, under valued, and over demanded with high expectations and very little tolerance for mistake or error. Most of these care givers are women and mother’s themeselves.

Our present situation is that ‘midwifery’ has changed; of course it has and will continue to do so. We have seen some huge forward momentum (thanks to those midwives who have pioneered) such as coverage under health care in some countries. Numerous states and provinces now recognize a midwife as a ‘health care provider’; thus increasing popularity and demand.

However, within this current movement, an expected backlash has surfaced: Women no longer being able to access midwives, unassisted birth movement, women handing their power over to their midwives instead of OBGYN, midwives going underground and fearing prosecution, midwives fighting against one another or prosecuting another,  states threatening midwives to stop practicing, laws governing how to learn midwifery, fights between independent midwives vs registered midwives on a global scale, the medicalization of midwifery, and an increase in hospital transfers and fears amongst midwives. All of this and then some, has presented itself because the ‘governing bodies’, ‘insurance companies’, and ‘regulating institutions’ continue to want to have power and control over midwifery and birth-over humans.

There seems to be a similar theme here; power over during the ‘Inquisition’ or power over during the ‘Institutionalization’; not much as changed. The problem is, the essence of midwifery becomes lost. Let us challenge the present, and become self-directed Midwives, in the same way we want Women to have self-directed births.

This means we say no to the systems that dictate, say no to the institutions that govern how we learn, say no to the insurers who tell us how we are to practice (and how many of ‘them’ know anything about the sacredness of birth)! Let us join together, as  visionaries, scholars, activists, socialists, humanists, environmentalists, r/evolutionaries, birth keepers, birth workers, midwives, doulas, and birth attendants as we start to say NO to the powers that bind us. Let us collectively face the fears (both internally and externally) and stand up for one another, as courageous humans that we are.

Let’s teach one another what we have learned, so that our medicine bags become so filled with collective wisdom that no one could take it away from us; and let’s agree that we will protect this knowledge, the art of midwifery, and share it with only those who will take care of it with heart and soul.

For it is in my humble opinion, that no one deserves the right to own the term midwife, unless they have sat in the fire and transformation of birth and death. And although I cannot know for a fact, whether or not those who create laws and policy know the essence and sacredness of birth, based on the management of midwifery I would take an educated guess that they know NOTHING about it.

It is our right to reclaim midwifery, to own the term, and to choose a learning path that serves our heart and soul. This is how I would challenge the present so that we can define the future of birth and midwifery on this planet.

How would you challenge the present?

………….

We have decided to challenge the present by gathering information from those who have given birth or have been a witness to birth. We want to know how informed you were, whether or not you might be interested in a different paradigm of care, and if a birthing center that teaches and trains midwives outside of our current system is of interest to you… please answer a brief 10 question survey.

Thank you!

Becoming undone

Can you orgasm in front of strangers? Then, why should you be able to birth in front of strangers…

For some reason this statement makes sense to so many. when I am asked about birth and why it is safe to birth at home, I usually follow with this statement. If anything, it grabs their attention and something opens to be able to hear what I am about to say. We have forgotten that birth is incredibly intimate, sexual, erotic, intense, and totally about being undone… It is wild. We are wild creatures when we let physiology and instinct take over. And birth is instinctive and a physiological process – Just like sex and orgasm.

You know that feeling when you afraid that you will be seen? Especially in wild moments… like sex. It is true, that if we are too much in our mind, we will not be able to let go enough to fully express ourselves sexually and orgasmically. Orgasm is an instinctive response to sexual pleasure and build up, and so to is birth. So imagine that you are about to get wild, loose a sense of control, and let physiology take over in order for you to give birth. Now ask yourself, what environment do I need to be in, in order to allow this to happen?

If childbirth educators began their classes with opening statements such as: Birth is wild, you will become undone in the process, you will lose control, and you may not recognize yourself along the way – kind of like passionate sex – I imagine all would squirm a bit in their seats and perk up to hear a totally different perspective on giving birth.  It is true, birth is magical. So much is happening during this transformative time. In order to open in a way in which the body can release this new baby, you literally must ‘loose your mind’. Now, don’t worry you are not going crazy, but you (your ego/personality/waking mind) must get out of the way so that your body can perform magic.

I want you to think about this for a moment… Are you more concerned about ‘loosing your mind’ or with the pain of childbirth? We live in a culture where we must always have our shit together, and birth, well is about not having our shit together so that we can stop controlling the process. What does need to be tended too, is the prenatal period. For tending to this time with conscious healthy choices in all realms – Mental, Spiritual, Physical, and Emotional – will indeed transmit into a healthy labor and birth. So you can trust in your bodies ability to birth your baby.

However, what happens to your body when you get uptight, withhold sexual release, constrict in fear? You can’t let go, you clench, you resist, you tense up, you enter your mind, you withdraw… all things that, if happen during labor, will slow the process down, cause complications, resist dilation, create more pain and fear. Now the good news is this, you are equipped with magical hormones that know what they are doing. They will take over, if you let them, and guide the birthing process for you.

So how do you let go, trust in the flow of labor, and allow birth to just happen?

Think about what you need in order to let go in your sexual experiences. Do you need darkness? Do you need intimacy? Do you need trust? Do you need confidence? Do you need understanding about your body? Do you need love? Do you need support? Do you need to be controlled? Do you need to be told how to ‘do it? Do you need warmth? Do you need security? Do you need enjoyment? Do you need freedom to move? Freedom to express? Freedom to make what ever sounds you wish to make? Freedom to take your clothes of? Comfort in your body? A safe space? Your bedroom? Bathroom? You can add whatever you need here… this is just a minor list. But worth paying attention to, because, this way you can start to think differently about what you may need in order to create a birthing environment conducive to you becoming undone in the process.

I will leave you with this to ponder about 🙂

Happy Birthing

Jennifer

Holding Space for Personal Transformation & Change

An introduction to holding space and how I found my way…

Not too long ago, I was sitting at a gathering (a group of individuals holding council) and I found myself witnessing the dynamics of the group. I noticed all sorts of different interplays going on between all those present. Most of all, what I noticed was that the topic that was being discussed was stirring up some tension amongst the group and I pondered to myself, what is the contributing undercurrent that is causing all the tension?

I felt, or rather intuited, that without first discovering what was causing the tension (the source of the conflict) that the group would have a difficult time finding resolution. In a sense, they were misusing their time spinning out stories about the presenting topic, which was only increasing the discomfort in the room.

A little internal nudge gently encouraged me to say what I was observing, with no attachment, no need for it to be the truth. Once this observation was spoken, you could feel the tension drop in the room and the group silenced itself for a bit. The groups facilitator was able to drop his guard and acknowledge that yes indeed there was an underlying source conflict that needed to be tended to.

The group stopped its cycle or holding pattern and decided to give space to the facilitator and the others involved to resolve the issue first, prior to returning to discuss the presented topic.  During which time, I was asked to be present for the discourse that was about to occur and ‘hold the space’ for the conflict to find resolution. It was noted afterwards that I had offered something that helped bring clarity to the group and create space for resolution to occur so that the ‘real’ work for the group could be continued without having this underlying conflict clouding the flow of the groups dynamic.

So what was it that was offered?

I pondered, silently. I am not trained in conflict resolution or circle work, but I do know how to be still for human transformation, I do know how to quiet my mind and open my heart, and I do know how to offer deep listening. Mostly, what I noticed is that in this incident, I was not attached to the group. I did not need approval, or need to be right, my ego was not invested.

I just noticed that something felt ‘off’, you might say the energy of the room was dull or stuck; like when I am sitting at a birth sometimes you notice that the mother is stuck and something is getting in the way of the flow of labor.

What is it that is getting in the way? What is causing the tension?

Usually, there is a deeper root cause for all of this and your work, as a facilitator/counselor/witness/attendant, is to assist the other to discover what is standing in their way. What are the fears? What is the internal conflict? What is the ‘thing’ that they are most terrified of addressing or exposing?

Soon after this group experience, I was asked to facilitate another circle and hold the space for resolution to occur. It seemed that what I was doing at a birth was very transferable and therefore, I was offering a form of midwifery for the group. A member of the group approached me and asked, “How do you do what you are doing?” and I thought to myself, I am not sure how to explain how to hold space. I am just doing what I do when I sit at a birth and ‘do nothing’. So I thought to myself, if you have not sat at a birth and just witnessed the process, than I do not know how to teach what it is that I offer.

I have since then, spent time practicing this skill, mediating conflict, listening to heart stories, and continuing to attend births, all the while, contemplating how it is that I could teach others how to ‘hold the space’ without needing to attend births!

So how do you hold space? 

The following are just my thoughts on this process and this experience of holding space, and I hope that it offers clarity to this way of relating with others and being present for transformation. It is a story, a journey that I have been on for over 6 years now, and therefore it is told from my perspective. Remembering that it is a way, but not the only way, take what resonates with you and leave the rest for others to hear.

When I attend a birth, I am still learning how to drop out of the ego mind and allow myself to be present as the birth unfolds as it is meant too. My role as a birth ‘guardian’ (as I am referred as) is to stay grounded, present, still, aware, always trusting, never wavering, knowing intimately the realms that women traverse in labor, and being prepared to tend to the mother if needed.

Through the art of ‘doing nothing’ at a birth, all that I can do is be still and aware and notice my fears etc as they arise and let them go. It truly is a meditation, an ultimate practice in presence. All the while knowing that everything that I bring to a birth affects and influences the experience. Therefore, it is my responsibility to empty my mind and drop into a state of total trust!

The thinking mind clouds the room and distracts my attention away from really being fully present (mind, body, heart, and spirit) with the woman. Really listening to her needs, following her labor, rather than making the labor flow the way I think it should, or interrupting with protocols and questioning the process to appease the mind.

This is no different for human transformation, where true deep listening is needed, and a trust in the process that never falters, all the while, bearing witnessing to another’s soul journey… in a sense, it is a test of faith that the other will find his/her way through the chaos.

Similar to that of a Shaman who stands on the sidelines, grounded in his awareness, wavering nothing, and in his center. He has the ability to go the edges, and has a deeply trusting inner knowing in the fact that we ALL FIND OUR WAY, because he too has traversed those terrains. When you hold space for human transformation, you are doing no different. In a sense, you are the shaman, the midwife, the healer, the guardian of the space.

Birth work, has been a practice, a meditation, a path to deeper understanding about human potential, the mysteries of our universe and a knowing of the Self. It is a privilege and an honor to attend a birth. I am delighted to be able to share this path and these teachings that I have gathering over the years, and most have been passed down through the ancient art of storytelling…


 

Part II

What does it mean to hold space? What is the art of it?

First, let’s contemplate what are he ingredients of an art form?

How does one describe an art? Is it an expressive creation of the soul? Some of the ingredients that I see in the creation of ‘art’ are as follows:

  • Flow
  • passion
  • altered states of consciousness
  • creation
  • expression
  • vision
  • soul’s work
  • ecstasy
  • losing oneself and becoming ‘one with’ the creation
  • being in the zone
  • fearing nothing
  • losing the Self
  • melting
  • dissolving
  • no-time, time ceases to exist
  • fullness
  • presence
  • passion
  • joy…

We can continue to add to this never-ending list of creative life force that is being expressed by the human!

What would ‘holding space’ as an art form look like, feel like, and be experienced as?

What I have personally experienced are as follows, however by no means, is this a completed list but rather one of constant flux, shift and movement:

  • One becomes one with the group/individual
  • loses herself in the flow of it all
  • The soul speaks through you, your mind quiets and becomes still
  • You hear nothing but the form of the experience
  • You have no hidden agendas but to be present
  • your only task is to show up and empty yourself
  • You allow yourself to sit in the altered state, fearing nothing, trusting everything
  • You see and feel, intuit, the level of the group /individual
  • You become the Witness, that grounds and holds his/her center
  • Chaos is exciting and breakdowns are encouraged – closer to the center, birth is near
  • You speak only when your soul speaks, not to take away from the experience, but to enhance the flow if needed.
  • Your ego is quiet and still, this becomes your practice.
  • You are doing nothing, just witnessing… in the end, s/he or the group, births herself/themselves, you only ‘held the space’
  • There is a power of the witness and holding the story is a sacred act.

How does one practice this art?

For me, discovering how to become comfortable with chaos, transition, fear, transformation, conflict, discomfort etc, within myself and within another (i.e. either through physical birthing or group dynamics or personal breakdowns) has helped me learn how to ‘hold space’ with more comfort and confidence. It has been a practice and a journey; it has become my spiritual path. Below is a small list of some thoughts that came to mind, when asked the above question – How does one learn/practice holding the space?

  • Let it become your spiritual path
  • Let the teachings permeate your soul
  • As any form of meditation, when you are in a space of deep listening, notice your attention, notice your hidden agendas, notice your fears, notice your ego, notice how you want to do something, say something and learn the art of discernment… when to come and when to stay still.
  • Notice how you feel in your body – at the beginning, the middle, and the end.
  • Pay attention to the feeling in the room, the smells in the air, the sounds of the voices, the depth of the cries, the patterns in the group, the little nuances, the intuition
  • Discover the stuckness and ask for clarity-both in the other and in the Self
  • Pay attention to any awareness’s arising within, any ‘keys’ being disclosed and place it in your heart, waiting for the time to present itself when you need to share
  • Let your heart be on fire, feel it burn and expand and let your mind quiet and follow
  • Have no attachments… you cannot be attached to wanting to say the right thing, wanting to be liked, wanting to not cause conflict or hurt another’s feelings. Sometimes you are guided to say shit that can disrupt the others comfort zone… the comfort zone needs to be challenged sometimes.
  • TRUST always, never wavering… you are the tree, the guardian of the space, the rooted one who fears nothing.
  • Learn about endurance, become a soul with stamina
  • Therefore, find a practice that challenges you to experience all of this! Birth work has been mine, and so, what is yours?
  • Know, deep in your soul, that we all find our way… and we are born anew, always!

The power of doing nothing

I have mentioned a few times now this art of ‘doing nothing’. So let us go into this statement in more depth.

How can you sit at a birth and ‘do nothing’?

Really, is it not dangerous? What if something goes wrong? Is it not the purpose of the attendant to do something, prevent something from happening, and deliver the baby? Is that not what hospitals are for, is that not why we, women, have been handing our power over to the ‘other’ so that they can do something and take away our pain, that which challenges us?

Well, for some it may be true, they may prefer to have another do the work for them, think for them, and deliver for them-and that is all good and right, for those who do not want to go into their experience and find their power and give birth to themselves or their baby.

However, for those who truly are invested in finding their power, finding their voice, finding their way through their pain, finding courage, finding joy, and love… For those who are committed to wanting to discover resolution, working through their ‘shit’ so to speak, and really releasing themselves from old stories that are no longer serving in their live; well for those people, having someone DO SOMETHING and interrupt your personal birthing journey will only be disempowering. Rather, by doing nothing, as a witness to ‘birth’ you create a container that holds space for the other to travel to the deep places within and come through the other side feeling elation knowing that they found their own way and no one did it for them! This is true empowerment.

Therefore, doing nothing means that the ego is not invested nor running the show, but rather the experience itself is guiding the process and you, who are holding the space, are following the ‘labor’ so to speak. Yet, by doing nothing you are actually doing something, you are choosing to do nothing. It is a a paradox indeed. And you are doing nothing, but from a place of knowing everything and understanding everything, therefore you can truly let go.

Zen teaching… the Tao of Midwifery

“And so…

The Midwife completes her work by doing nothing.

Things arise and she lets them come,

Things leave and she lets them go.

Creating, not processing,

Facilitating, yet laying no claim.

And when her work is done, she forgets about it, and so it lasts forever!”

Begin by contemplating this quote, replacing the word Midwife with whichever qualifier you relate to.

Each sentence could be a year of practice and contemplation. Then you think you understand, and another layer presents itself and you become undone again. This quote has been one of my most dedicated contemplations over the years, especially the concept, how to attend a birth and do nothing…

How do you sit with another person in transition or group in conflict and DO NOTHING?

I will end with this thought, the act of doing nothing is in fact doing something, and it is just an internal doing-ness, a deep profound letting go and trusting in all that is J

Some of the most powerful teachings/statements by Whapio that have helped me practice this art and find my way through my own chaos and heart’s transitions!

  • As we live we Midwife, and As we Midwife we Live
  • Do Nothing
  • Trust the process
  • Follow the labor
  • We all find our way
  • Presenting problem vs Source conflict
  • Politics of the Heart – let your enemy in
  • Love is all there is
  • Manage your energy, and use your power wisely
  • Know yourself – and then get out of the way
  • Live on the edge and at the center at the same time
  • Birthing women are masters of navigating the altered states – become a master at this and do not fear the altered state and that which is chaos.
  • Become un-conflicted, and only congruent and centered
  • The Wise women way of healing
  • Witness vs Observer/Participant
  • Have no hidden agendas
  • Know everything about the universe
  • Meet the other where they are at
  • Ideologies vs Ideas
  • T.E.A – Time Energy and Attention
  • Rank, Power, and Privilege

In closing, I would like to say that to be asked to hold space for another, whether it is for a birth of a baby or the birth of the group or soul, is a true privilege, and demands the deepest levels of respect and humility. It is a process of undoing, and an honor to be witness too.

If you are called to hold the space for a group and/or an individual’s transformation, know that you are about to embark upon a journey of great self-discovery, as are they, and it is your choice to show up for this calling.

One can continue to work as a facilitator, Counselor, Leader, and/or Healer following protocol, following the mind, following the ways to do things orderly and contained. They may continue to believe that they are in control of the process and really needed in the process. Maybe they are practicing like a care-giver who goes in and delivers the baby for the mother and therefore, in the end, always believes that without them, the mother would never be able to give birth. Recognize that this mindset is NOT about holding space, but rather about disrupting the space, disempowering the other, and laying claim to the birth.

This practice of holding space that I am speaking of is meant to push your boundaries and comfort zones as a facilitator or witness, otherwise, you will not bring the necessary depth to the experience and in the end, find ways to disrupt the process and take it over, due to your own internal fears, discomforts, and impatience. Again this is all perfect, if this is where you are at, and yet, I challenge you to claim this path of awakening so you too, can hold the space for human transformation in love, rather than fear.