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Natural Homebirth Tips, Spiritual Homebirth, Childbirth Education
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave one is not one who does not feel afraid, but one who conquers that fear. ~Nelson Mandela
Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 54, wherever you get your podcasts!
What are anxiety and fear about, why do we have them? Do anxiety and fear play a role in our everyday life and more specifically, in natural birth? Today I take a deeper look into the big picture of fears and anxieties, take a look at it from a few angles, and then, I will share with you one shift you can make to lessen your anxiety about your upcoming homebirth.
Anxiety as most of us experience it, at healthy levels, not clinical levels of anxiety, which are beyond my scope here, but anxiety in what we would generally consider as normal levels that don't disrupt daily living. This kind of anxiety is an interesting emotion or response to things in the environment, things that may be real or perceived and it comes up frequently in pregnancy and birth, even for the most courageous homebirther.
But why is it there, and what should you do about it, if anything?
For most people, normal anxiety as we're talking about here, usually stems out of the emotion of fear, it can be fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of a bad outcome, but regardless of what the fear is arising from, it doesn't mean it's a bad thing or an emotion you want to ignore or suppress. Quite the opposite really.
When we look deeper into the emotion of fear, there are a couple of ways human beings deal with it, as is true of most of our emotions. In the Natural Birth Compass Program, my students learn how fear is associated with the direction of north, this is the season of winter, midnight on the sun cycle, it is the element of water. When you think about these energetics, winter, midnight, and the power of water, these are immense energies, and yet difficult to grasp, think about the expanse of the night sky, the ocean or even trying to hold water in your hand, the energies that resonate with north, which is where fear originates and where anxiety originates. These energies and emotions can feel overwhelming if you loose yourself in it.
So when it comes to fear around birth, you can let it debilitate you, you can allow the anxiety overcome your ability to allow birth to unfold, and you literally become frozen in fear, unable to make a choice, unable to make a decision, unable to think rationally. If you find yourself in this state, your ability to take action, which should be the next phase in the cycle, but if you are stuck in fear, you cannot take the actions that move you from healthy fear into healthy decision.
One reason you might become frozen in fear and stuck with anxiety around birth, what is true for many people of today is a disconnection from nature's cycle, really a disconnection from nature itself, but the most debilitating and prominent of these disconnections is losing sight of nature's cycle.
Nature's cycle is the beating heart of life, every living thing follows this cycle, which is why so many ancient studies of philosophy of religion of spirituality have a version of this cycle, whether you understand it from the cycles of the year through the seasons or something that uses the seasonal cycle like farming or gardening, or through the monthly moon cycle or other astrological methods, or even looking at the cycle of a single day, sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moonset. Whichever way you most strongly connect with nature's cycle, it is the in and out motion that is the beat of life for every living being. This cycle has been honored and worshiped and celebrated at some point by every religion or spiritual practice that has been known to human beings. And it's one of the core pillars of the Natural Birth Compass approach that all my students learn and most of them find it becomes a part of them, living in this rhythm becomes second nature.
So the most common cause of being frozen in fear and overwhelmed with anxiety about birth is being disconnected from nature's cycle because this cycle is our constant guide, it's like the captain of a ship being at sea on a cloudy night without their navigational tools. When the stars are out, they might be just fine to navigate without any tools, but if the clouds come, they need another way to stay oriented.
When it comes to birth, if you become overwhelmed with anxiety, it's like sailing without direction and without tools, this is why it's so important to spend time connecting with nature's cycle everyday, so it becomes second nature, so you recognize when fear and anxiety come up right away before they are overwhelming, so you can be like a captain who has the tools of navigation ready before the clouds roll in, so there is no major stress, just a shift in how your orient yourself and your birth.
So how do you do this? How do you learn to recognize and manage anxiety around birth? One shift you can make is to start transforming anxiety and fear into a healthier emotion that helps you to navigate the birth cycle, and that emotion is curiosity. What I'm about to share here comes from the Emotion-Belief-Action Cycle that I teach my students and their birth partners in the Natural Birth Compass Program. This cycle is based on the fact that our emotions cause us to form beliefs, which then produce our actions and reactions, so if you feel the emotion of fear or anxiety and you believe you can't go on, you can't birth your baby, your action might be to give up and to allow your birth team to take over your choices and then your birth outcome is at the mercy of your team and what they believe, what emotions they have in regard to your birth.
Anxiety around birth is so commonplace today that it's expected without question, but if you think about it, anxiety is coming at everything with the "what if" mindset, what if something goes wrong in the birth, what if I'm doing this wrong, what if something's wrong with my baby, what if I'm making the wrong decision, what if I can't do this?
Now let's see what shifting to curiosity looks like, how that reframes "what if" to "what is" what is causing this anxiety, what is happening in the room, what is the state of other people in the room, what is something I can do to change the current state, what is it I know about myself and my birth, what is it I know about the natural cycle of birth, what is my Natural Birth Compass saying?
When you know how to shift from anxiety to curiosity, as you recognize the emotion of anxiety rising and you stop and get curious, you ask yourself where it's coming from, what does it mean, and what is it telling you, then you can have control over the Emotion-Belief-Action Cycle. This is powerful because when you have control from the point of the emotion, you choose your actions and reactions, then no one else makes decisions for you or takes control over you, then you navigate in your own power, with your own inner knowing guiding your choices, because you didn't get overwhelmed and lost in the immensity of fear. You can ask for advice or guidance from your team without worry about being influenced because you take their information and get curious with it and evaluate it practically rather than reacting from anxiety and fear.
Let's look at an example, not related to birth, but it might help you grasp this concept. Think about a child who is scared of monsters under the bed, maybe this was even you as a child, or is one of your children now. What happens when a child has a fear of monsters under the bed, what does a parent do? What did your parents do or what do you do for your children if you've dealt with this scenario?
As a parent, you sit and comfort your child, and then you get curious, right, you tell them, I will look under the bed and see if anything is there - you demonstrate to your child that there's no need to let fear overwhelm them, you can solve the concern right then and there by getting curious and taking the action of looking under the bed. And, you will find there's no monster, and because you were curious with your child, they feel less anxious, less fearful, and they can go to sleep. Over time, they get brave enough to get curious themselves and check under their own bed for monsters, and eventually, the fear dissolves completely because they trust the inner knowing they now have that monsters are not under the bed.
Fears about birth are more substantial than monsters under the bed, but if you've prepared in a way that teaches you to understand fears and beliefs, if you're prepared to use the Emotion-Belief-Action Cycle, and if you have an opportunity to learn true physiology of birth, not the diluted physiology of today based on decades of manipulated and managed birth practices, and if you get curious, you can form an Emotion-Belief-Action Cycle that's based on birth as nature intended.
Now let's take a common example that comes up in birth, like waiting for labor to start, a very common concern for homebirth as most homebirth midwives have a specific time limit to attend your birth, after which they have to transfer your care. So as the end of pregnancy nears, 39 weeks, becomes 40 weeks, maybe that becomes 41 weeks and the pressure is on for labor to start and that seeds anxiety about getting labor started, the flood of questions of what to do, will it start on time, and all the what if's - what if labor doesn't start, what if I'm not able to go into labor, and so on. The reality is nearly every time, with patience, babies will initiate labor and your body will respond exactly when the time is right for your baby and your pregnancy, not per a due date calendar or an ultrasound.
In homebirth midwifery, families are saturated with this message that they will have to transfer care after 41 or 42 weeks, maybe you have already been hearing this. This message often builds anxiety about something that hasn't even happened yet, and then you can become frozen in fear where you can't take actions, and that can leave you vulnerable to outsiders influencing your journey, recommending induction techniques that you maybe don't need or don't want like castor oil. If instead you're curious about the process, and you know it's your baby's choice to start birth, and you feel that castor oil might disrupt the timing of your baby's birth and could interfere with the unfolding of labor, if you're curious about what it means to let your baby's birth process and the timing of their birth be their choice, then you might decide it's not time to take castor oil. Or you might recognize that it is time to take action, maybe you know in your heart that you just need this jump start and that will open the way to your the journey you and your baby are ready for. There's not a universal right or wrong, only what is right or wrong for you in that moment. The choice has to be yours, not one that was put upon you, that triggered what if's and caused you to take someone else's action out of anxiety or fear.
Anxiety causes us to take improper actions because we feel better when we are doing something, but curiosity is about observing, just being in the moment, often being quiet, being observant, noticing what we are meant to notice on all levels, through our senses, through our heart, through our inner knowing, and this is what breaks you out of the cycle of anxiety or being frozen in fear.
Just like looking under the bed for monsters, if fear of something in birth arises and you take a moment to get curious and explore where the emotion is coming from, what you believe, you can find the answers you need to take the best action for you and your baby. Only you can do this for your birth. Often in homebirth, families think it's the role of their birth team to be like the parent looking under the bed, the birth team is the one who allays the fears and tells you what to do, but then your birth experience becomes their's, and you have no way to control the anxieties of other people who are now feeling responsible for your birth. You can only transform fear and anxiety into curiosity for yourself, and only if you are in control of the process, if you are in control of your transformation and your experience.
If you are a homebirth family who wants to be in control of your own birth, you have to commit to being responsible for identifying your fears, exploring your anxieties, and learning how to turn fear and anxiety into curiosity, this is what keeps your birth in your control, because you choose the actions you take and the choices you make. When you have done this and you know how to identify anxiety and transform it into curiosity, then you can use your birth team as advisors you can turn to for information and experiences and you take what is helpful and leave what isn't.
So to summarize, anxiety and fear are emotions that come up on the emotions cycle, associated with the north, with the expanse of midnight and the depths of winter, and if you let it overtake you, you can literally become lost, frozen in fear and lose control of your actions and decisions. The most common cause of this is the disconnection from nature and nature's cycle that is so common today as we have shifted from nature based living to technological based living. Nature's cycle is the guide to the birth cycle as they are one and the same, the one cycle that penetrates everything and has been celebrated and honored throughout human history.
Studying nature's cycle, reharmonizing with it and learning from it how to transform anxiety and fear into curiosity, transforming 'what if' to 'what is' underlying the cause of the anxiety is the most important shift to make to change your Emotion-Belief-Action Cycle from one based in fear to one based in curiosity. This leads to confident decision making so you can make decisions and take actions based on what is right for you and not just because someone told you what to do or because it's just the way it's been done for decades, because that's not the answers most holistic homebirthers are looking for today. The answers are in you if you get curious enough to search them out.
So start learning how to get curious, don't be afraid to explore your anxieties and claim your choices and actions in your birth and let me know what you find out when go from 'what if' to 'what is', find me @naturalbirthcompass.
If you would like to start to explore a new paradigm of homebirth preparation, download the free guide Three Cycles You Need to Know for a More Confident and Intuitive Homebirth, get your free copy by clicking here!
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