“The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.” —Gloria Steinem
The most constructive transformation I actually achieved in my life—becoming a mother —came from unlearning. Reassessing my birthing blueprint—the thoughts, feelings, and proscribed actions that my family, religious leaders, medical industry, and media had conditioned me to hear, see, and experience—helped me to birth my daughter naturally and painlessly. Here’s how I did it, and what I learned (and now teach) in the process.
Take a Stand and Break the Mold. The first element of all transformation is awareness. I began by writing down my birth-related programming, modeling, and the specific incidences I have witnessed in your family history. I became conscious and watched myself—observed my thoughts, beliefs, fears, habits, actions, and inactions. In essence, I put myself under a microscope.
Oral Programming. In order to stand by the right to have our birth wishes come true, we must first shed the skin we’ve inherited from our family of origin, environment, and culture. All the hand-me-downs we have heard represent the rules we have learned: what is right and what is wrong; what is accepted and what is not, what is the norm, and what is our truth. If we are not in charge of our own thoughts, decisions, and opinions, someone else is.
Imitation. What we have seen and learned to imitate will be our natural default behavior. Have you noticed how at times you think your mom’s thoughts, or have taken over your dad’s opinion or even mannerisms? Our default behaviors come from imitation, and in new or emotionally charged situations, our most primitive brain—the one responsible for our survival mechanisms—is activated and our behaviors become automatic. We then react the only way we know how to—namely, in the manner we have seen others react. If our mothers, sisters or friends had births that used interventions, were challenging or fueled by fear, we’re prone to follow the same path unless we stand on our own—unless we learn new behaviors and solutions.
Experience. In modern society, we are likely to have witnessed birth solely through the media. On TV, we commonly hear that birth is a long and painful event, that the hospital is the sane place to have our child, and that the use of drugs to numb our body during labor is truly the modern way to manage birth. Movies have shown us images of laboring women screaming in agony—insulting their husbands as they demand pain medication. The images of birth are routinely of a masked doctor who delivers the baby and shows him to the mother for a moment before he hands him off to a nurse. Regardless of how we want to feel about birth, the vividness of these images make us believe that this is the norm, and that this is what will happen to us.
Instinctively, women know what kind of birth they want, yet at times we fight ourselves and others over their right to achieve it. After examining each piece of our uniquely programmed puzzle, we must turn attention to our right to have the birthing experience we desire—and deserve. To have something new, we must let go of the old.
Here is the short version of a “letting go” visualization that I use in my life, and also offer in my classes.
Immerse yourself in a warm tub, and let go of all that no longer serves you. Close your eyes and imagine that long silver strands connect you to those people, places, and things that are no longer acceptable in your life. Ask your Higher Power to give you shears of light, and with loving thoughts, begin to sever all ties that bind you to each and every person, place, and thing that no longer works for you in your life. As you do this, send forgiveness, love, and good wishes, and let go peacefully.
You are protecting yourself and your child; you are making room. You might need to do this paring more than once before you can feel you have truly let go. Don’t fear. It is OK. Cutting ties with those who encumber you doesn’t mean you will never see these people again, never talk to them again. With this spiritual pruning, you begin to learn to release the negative hold they have on you. You are making room for your baby, clearing away knots that shadow your life.
Studies have shown that in the U.S. alone, 45,000 women experience a natural and painless childbirth each year. As long as one person can, we all can.