Saturday, March 13, 2010

Birth - The better way

Synopsis from Birth - The Better Way @ J-WHO's event "What you need to know about birth before you are pregnant".

What does a good birth look like? A good birth is a birth in which both mother and baby are treated with kindness, compassion and respect. A good birth is one where we can birth our babies with honor and dignity.

The truth is that every woman intuitively knows how to give birth safely. The word safely is very important here. When we feel safe and are unafraid of the process, our bodies and our babies do what they have to. We are able to submit to the rhythms of birth.

In order to feel safe, we need to be in an environment that we don’t perceive as threatening. Quiet, privacy, darkness or low lights are all conducive to a birth atmosphere. Soft voices and gentle music are helpful. We need to surround ourselves with people with whom we feel completely safe. The continuous presence of kind, supportive people help us feel safe throughout our births.

In order to not be fearful, it really helps to understand the physiological process of birth. What the uterus is doing, the role of the pelvis, what happens to the coccyx. When we understand the process we are able to work with it, and help the baby enter this world in a kind and gentle way.

What about pain? When I talk about a beautiful birth, I am not talking about a birth that is free of pain. When a woman feels confident in her body, when she is well supported and able to express herself without inhibition, the pain becomes just one part of the process. It is something that she can respond to instinctively with resources such as breath, sound and movement.

A beautiful, peaceful and undisturbed birth gives mother & baby physical, emotional, psychological & spiritual benefits.

Physically: Mothers and babies that have intervention free births are generally safer. There is less risk associated with their births. Women who have had beautiful births are left feeling physically exhilarated. They tend to have more energy and recover more rapidly. Why is this? They have not been subjected to the physical traumas that come with standard birth care. Mom did not have 14 vaginal exams, was not forced into a position that is not comfortable or out of one she loved. She was free of interventions and drugs. She ate and drank, was not cut, baby wasn’t yanked out, the cord wasn’t pulled – the placenta came out when the baby was ready. She was able to nurse the baby whenever she wanted.

Emotionally: Women who have beautiful births tend to feel strong, empowered, capable. They feel like they can take on the world. When a woman has had a beautiful birth she can do anything. Women are left feeling more connected and in tune with their babies.

Psychologically: Women who feel positively about their birth experience & are empowered, are more confident in their ability to parent and with decision-making in other areas of their lives. They are also less likely to experience postpartum depression.

Spiritually (This one is a little hard for me because I'm not so spiritual. Forgive the ramble.)
Birth is the culmination of conception. We are very aware of the tone that needs to be set at conception. We don’t conceive a child when we are drunk, angry or otherwise unhappy. We are supposed to be introspective; treat each other with kindness, respect and compassion. We should bring our babies into this world in the same way.

At the moment of birth, the soul is leaving its place under the heavenly throne, a place of light and holiness. It enters the body in our spiritually concealed world. Kabbala explains that this is a painful moment for the soul, and it cries out. A beautiful, dignified and spiritually aware birthing experience can be one way to give a new and pure soul a fitting welcome as it begins its mission here in this world.

The Rebbe emphasized the importance of the peace of mind of the birthing mother and the subsequent effect on her baby. Birth is the closest we come to G-dliness. Procreation is almost creation. A beautiful birth leaves a mother feeling grateful & connected to G-d.

Some things women have shared after they’ve experienced a beautiful birth:
(More of these on the way. I encourage you all to share your beautiful birth experiences and I will post  them on my blog, anonymously if you prefer, to encourage and inspire other women.)

Bracha waited for quite a few years before she was blessed with a baby. She read everything available, really understood the process. She was not afraid and her labor flowed gracefully from stage to stage. It wasn’t what you’d call easy, but she was able to work with her body the whole time. Her entire labor lasted about 4 hours. When it was over she said to me “it was better than I could have ever imagined. I never expected to feel so alive.”

Malka had a homebirth after 2 classic hospital births. Her hospital births were vaginal births, with some classic interventions. After her birth she said: "It was a beautiful, peaceful, and powerful birth. That was not the same birth. What I did in the hospital was not giving birth."

Dina had a baby in a hospital based birthing center. This is from a letter she wrote me after the birth. "...It really was amazing. I felt in control and strong throughout the experience. I felt so in touch with my baby."

Ruchel is a mother of 7, she lives up in the country. Her first 5 children were born in the hospital. When she was pregnant with her 6th, she decided to switch to a homebirth. I wasn't at her birth, but her midwife shared this with me. When she held her baby immediately after birth she turned to her midwife and said :"I didn’t know Hashem could give such a gift to a mother." Ruchel recently gave birth to her 7th child. This one - an at home water birth. Go Ruchel!

May we all have beautiful birth stories to share.


PS Thank you to my friend Leah Namdar and my aunt Brocha Sapochkinsky for their help on the spiritual benefits of a beautiful birth.

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