There's so much expectation surrounding the preparation for birth in our culture. Strangers will ask, "Have you signed up for your prenatal classes? Have you prepared your baby's room?" Friends and family can press all the wrong buttons, too. "You shouldn't even think of labouring without taking the Inner Barracuda Course," or whatever the prenatal class of the day is called.
I've had three phone calls in the past 36 hours from women whose hearts tell them that they shouldn't take any classes for this pregnancy. "I didn't need to read books before I made love for the first time, did I?" These clients are well-informed women who have chosen great teams for their birth. They are insightful, intuitive, and deeply trust their own bodies. They understand that birth is a triumph of the reptile brain over the analytical brain. And because of that, they are concerned that prenatal classes might hinder their reptile brain from being in charge on birth day. They've thought long and hard, and, for them, prenatal classes aren't the best option.
And I completely support them in their decisions.
A recent client laboured without any preparation for vaginal birth. She had chosen a cesarean for her first baby - a glorious breech baby girl. She had been anticipating a repeat cesarean for her second baby, until she decided that she would cancel her surgery, and just see what happened. After a slight panic over her lack of "vaginal birth training" ("Shouldn't I read some books?!" "Shouldn't I study up on birth?") she went into labour all on her own the next day. It was beautiful watching her labour without expectations, without the clutter of book knowledge. I talked her through each contraction, reminding her that this was something that she already knew on a deep level. She drew on her inner wisdom and breathed through each contraction. It was like watching a preschooler dive into a challenge without fear. She was strong, intuitive, capable.
When her baby was born into her arms (yes, it was a vaginal birth!) she looked awestruck by what she'd achieved. I don't think she'll ever question her own abilities ever again. And she'd done it all without studying books. But she had done a lot of inner work.
We're given 9 months to prepare for our baby's birth. In that time, we have to process so much. We have to consider our changing selves, our changing relationships with our partners and families and friends. We have to draw on our past life experiences, both physically and emotionally, to gain the strength and will-power required for the transition to motherhood. We have to examine our family boundaries, understanding that the birth of a child will turn us from being a daughter into a mother. We will weather the changing emotions of pregnancy, and watch our single girlfriends draw away from us. We will worry about our ability to maintain our core self, to maintain a loving intimate relationship with our partner. We may become overwhelmed by how we are now connected to all living things...to the entire world.
And add to that working a five-day week, organizing finances, perhaps moving, perhaps buying a new car, attending exercise classes, yoga classes, buying baby supplies, strollers, carseats, painting, and weekly prenatal classes...
I call on you, each of my clients, to slow down, take time to do nothing, take time to empty your brain. Walk on the beach. Sit on a log and meditate. Breathe in the wind. Connect with your baby. Connect with your partner.
If you need to do yoga, go when it pleases you. Or do it at home. Turn on music, sit still, and let it enter you and calm you.
Consider delegating jobs to your family and friends. Give them lists of things to do for you. Ask for help. Many families buy nothing until the baby is born, then have family members make all the purchases and organize the house. Think about how that could give you the joy of release - could you do that?
Read books that speak to you. Poetry, novels, essays. And, yes, it's wonderful if you read inspiring writing by Ina May (and those on my recommended list). Call me for talks on subjects close to your heart. But, don't forget to look at the big picture... for example, watch a TED talk each day and enjoy discussing it with your partner as you walk on the beach after dinner.
Throw away all lists. Follow your heart. Leave work as early in your pregnancy as you can. Allow your pregnancy to draw you into the reptile world, as it must do.
Rather than following the crowd and doing what everyone else tells you what you should do, think about what really matters to you, to you and your partner, then decide what you need and what you want. What is essential for your new family? Remember, "do nothing" is an option.
Be conscious and conscientious,
Meditatively knit a baby blanket,
Then you will know what you need.