Strengthening the Mind Body Connection Through Childbirth
I thought I knew the power of the mind body connection. However, it was through the recent birth of my second child that my understanding of it was strengthened tenfold. In the past, I used exercise (running, lifting, yoga) as a moving meditation, and I focused on how my physical actions effect my mental state. Exercise and deep breathing helped me to stay calm and centered. I was working from the outside in. When I labored with my first daughter Laylah I had a similar approach. I was sure that my physical actions would help shape my birth experience into something peaceful and easy.
Almost 3 years ago when Laylah was born I found that all the physical strength in the world could not combat the pain of labor. Giving birth sans epidural was important to me, so that’s what I did. During the labor I tried to fight the discomfort with different physical postures, massage, props, gyrations, and vocalizations… all to no avail. I was afraid, stressed, and in major PAIN. After all was said and done I came out of it feeling traumatized and a bit embarrassed by the whole experience. My poor baby came into the world hearing “F*#K! I am going to die!” It was all very dramatic.
When I got pregnant with Caia, I knew I had to take a different approach.
What would happen if I started from the inside and worked my way out?
That’s when I decided to read up on hypnobirthing. The goal of hypnobirthing is to practice deep relaxation, visualization techniques, and self-hypnosis to minimize the pain of childbirth. I studied hard. Along with practicing the techniques every night by listening to hypnobirthing tracks on my ipod, I read Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method
by Marie Mongan. I was skeptical when I read things like “childbirth can be a pain free experience,” but I was willing and open to the thought of it. I felt as if I was training for a race. The more I practiced the meditations the more confident I became in my ability to stay relaxed when the big day arrived.
Labor started. I was nervous, but I kept my cool. With each surge (Hypnobirthing lingo for contraction) I calmed my mind and allowed my body to relax completely. In my mind I told myself that I was not feeling pain, only “pressure.” This “pressure” concept really worked for me, and as labor progressed, I made sure to stay in the present moment. In the breaks between surges I savored the relaxation, and during the surges I repeated my “only pressure” mantra. The atmosphere was peaceful. I didn’t yell and scream. I didn’t waste mental energy anticipating the next surge. Time flew by, and all of a sudden my midwife told me it was time to push. I was shocked! I thought that I was just getting started. Where was the pain and suffering that I experienced with my first labor? Was it possible that it was almost over?! With 2 big pushes my little one was safe in my arms. I felt proud and amazed at the ease in which she entered the world.
It was truly a wonderful birth experience, and it gave me a deeper understanding of the power of the mind... and how it can affect our physical experience. What an awesome tool to use in all the challenges of life. With the right mental approach, obstacles can be overcome without too much suffering. Whether it is exercise, a frustrating work moment, a painful loss of a loved one, or a screaming toddler in the back seat of your car, one can relax and ride the surge to the next break.