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Natural Homebirth Tips, Spiritual Homebirth, Childbirth Education
Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 62, wherever you get your podcasts!
In the West, we view everything about birth as linear - 3 trimesters, 9 months, 40 weeks, measuring baby's growth, expecting it to move only one direction, measuring cervical dilation expecting it only to open, measuring the hours passing in labor, expecting a hard stop by 24 hours or less, counting heart beats, ticking off boxes, a record of every physiologic activity your body makes with the time stamps to prove it.
Despite these best attempts, time is an interesting concept and not at all straight forward or easy to understand. We have our normal everyday clock time, a linear framework of time, that’s pretty straight forward, 6:30 am get up, 7 am make breakfast, 8 am leave for work, 12 noon have lunch, and so on, the kind of time that helps us structure our day-to-day and maintain rhythm within the conventional day and in a social context. But real time, nature’s flow of time, the elemental flow of time, this is time worth focusing on too, and this is the time that should be the focus of the birth room, rather than linear clock time, although that’s rarely the case today, even for homebirth, because we have forgotten the elemental flow of time. Today you and I are going to excavate some old concepts of time, concepts as old as time itself, concepts that could shape the very way you experience life, and birth, and your preparation for birth as we reawaken our connection to elemental time.
I am going to start off today talking about time more generally, how it appears in our everyday life to help you get familiar with the concept of elemental time before I move into time as it relates more specifically to pregnancy and birth.
Time in Everyday Reality
The idea of time here I’m referring to is not our linear clock time, linear clock time is in many ways an attempt to put time into an organized box where we divide the day in half and then every so often we have to add in an extra day to make up for the fact that time just doesn’t fit into a linear framework, because time doesn’t actually work that way.
We view time as if it has boundaries and edges, as if it only goes forward, because that's how our Western linear thinking can make sense of time, but how many times in your life have you made a comment about how the flow of time felt fast or slow or somehow out of the ordinary? You know that feeling when a day can feel both long and short simultaneously? How you can look back on a year and feel like it flashed by, yet the first of the year feels so long ago. How is it possible we can view time as linear and regular and yet hold these simultaneous feelings and sensations about time about how time moves?
I would say it's because time isn't linear. Before we continue, please note, I am not a physicist, I think physics is fascinating, but for the most part, it's above my comprehension to understand time in the way a physicist would understand it, and I really don't have the time to study time from the science aspect. The discussion I am offering here is based on a couple of other perspectives, first, my own experience of time in living a cyclic-based life, and second, the reason I came to remember how to live cyclically, what really informs all of my understanding, is through my study of philosophy and ancient forms of medicine from ancient Chinese and Druidic studies, cultures that lived in tune with cycles the flow of nature and elemental time.
What one learns in living this way, in being attuned to nature and attuned to cycles is that not all time flows at the same pace, you come to understand the flow of time as a series of cycles or spirals and they don't all spin at the same rate, that's why time can move both fast and slow simultaneously. Another way to say that is that time is not the linear progression that we understand it to be in our day-to-day life, according to our clocks and calendars.
I might even say time is a living, breathing entity of it's own, after all, time has been referred to as Father Time in ancient traditions in association with the God of farming and harvest.
When you really feel into it, time pulses and breathes, it expands and contracts, like our lungs, like our heart, like our wombs, beating in a rhythm, but not the rhythm of the second hand of a clock, the rhythm of something ancient, of something wise, of something that knows the right time for everything and the right time for nothing. The time of the sun and moon, the planets and stars, of the plants blooming and insects hatching when the signals of time line up, the knowing of time by the birds who are flying to the right destination at the right time, not because of a clock ticking away or the date on the calendar, but because they feel elemental time.
Elemental time, is a flowing time, it is not the time of schedules and agendas, elemental time is the time in our bones, our cells, our deep knowing of time that we feel and read in the sky, in the rivers and oceans, in the seasons, but not the clock on our phone.
And this isn't to say we don't need clock time for some aspects of modern life, when one of my kids needs to be picked up after school or get to a baseball practice, I'm going to use clock time because that's our common language in the modern world and it makes us more accurate for those more mundane aspects of life. So it has a place and I use it too, nearly everyday. I also spend a great amount of time each day in elemental time.
Elemental time is experienced when we disconnect from our technological world, from the digital world, and turn to spending time in nature or meditation, it can even happen when we are focused on household tasks, like sweeping or dishes, or doing yard work, gardening, going for a walk or hike, sitting by a river or under a tree, watching the sunset or a thunderstorm, watching a meteor shower, or sharing songs and stories around a fire. All these scenarios can set us up to fall into the flow of elemental time. Often these are also times when we are drifting into slower brain wave states, a state which is extremely important to get comfortable with when it comes to birth and even pregnancy.
Much of our time today is spent in beta, fast brain wave states, this is where we can relate to clock time, when we are able to comprehend minutes and hours, and what that means for our current reality, so when it's noon, we connect that to lunch time, when it's Saturday, we connect that to the weekend. This is also the state of mind where we collect data, facts, process technical information, organize our day, and essentially use our critical thinking, which we need at times.
But the deeper, slower states of consciousness, which we are more likely to experience when we are in nature or doing tasks that don't require critical thinking and allow our mind to soften and sink down, this is where we fall into elemental time. This is the flow of time important to labor and birth. This is where time becomes multi-dimensional and we can experience it moving at different rates simultaneously, where hours can move fast, but the days pass slowly, or vice versa, because in elemental time, hours don't exist as equal 60 part fractions of the day.
Instead of a specific number of perfectly timed seconds and minutes marking the passage of time, which never exists in nature, it's our experience of the elements moving through and around us that are the indicator of the passage of time - the currents of a river, the shadows of the trees, the song of the frogs, the calls of the birds, the phases of the moon, the appearance of planets, the change of the seasons. If you really tune into it, you can feel the rhythm of the great Mother Earth, felt through your feet or your palms, felt through the trees, as they channel between Earth and the Heavens. This is elemental time, the ancient rhythms our ancestors lived and birthed by.
We can still attune to this flow if we choose to feel into the ancient connection with time. To do so, we have to go another step deeper into time and into changing our perspective of time as linear, something that has here and there, now and not now, past, present, and future, something that simply moves one dimensionally, always forward.
Think about it for a moment, can you find many examples of natural linear aspects of nature? Linear formulations and structures don't really exist in nature, it's not efficient to have one direction and one pace, but if we take that linear idea and curve it around into a circle, we can begin to see a new flow of time, a more natural flow of time, something that is endless, that neither begins nor ends, that doesn't move in one direction but many.
This is the first step to begin to understand elemental time, you can experience it easily without understanding it just by putting down the clocks and tuning into nature and her rhythms, but if you want to go deeper into understanding more about elemental time, we need to dig a bit more into Circle Magic. Where linear time has only one direction forward, circles have many directions, they spin any number of directions and they expand and contract, which means we can have multi-dimensional time with a circle that we cannot have in the linear expression of time.
We see the reflection of circular time, of spinning and cycles and expansion and contraction all over nature - the Earth is a spinning orb in space so we experience day and night , the seasonal cycles, the moon cycle, the menstrual cycle, the spiral of a whirlpool, the spiral of our own blood through our vessels, which doesn't flow in a straight continuous flow, but spirals through our vessels walls, the expansion and contraction of the uterus and cervix throughout the menstrual cycle and as my students know, the flow of pregnancy and the birth process, even the flow of contractions is a cycle.
There are so many examples of spirals and expanding-contracting cycles in nature, and almost no examples of linear patterns that occur naturally.
Time is a Spiral
As you start to explore the many, many layers of cycles you experience, you will gradually see that what you are moving through is actually spirals of time, spirals that have been in existence long before you were born and will exist long after this version of you walks the earth in this human experience. Sprials that connect through a long line of ancestors past and future.
Time in Birth
So let's look at bit deeper at how this relates to your birth, because giving birth is part of your spiral, part of the continuum of your lineage, of the nature and elements that created you and you are in turn creating.
Here in the West, we view everything about birth as linear to keep everything nice and tidy. We break pregnancy into 3 trimesters, 9 months, 40 weeks, and during that time you and your baby are being measured to assess if you're meeting growth expectations, expecting that it will move only one direction - growing. Labor is expected to start by an assigned due date on the calendar. During labor, most women experience the routine measuring of cervical dilation, and that's expected to only move in one direction - open, even though what can expand can also contract, and this does happen during labor under stress, even if your caregiver doesn't believe it can. Care providers are also measuring the hours passing in labor, generally expecting a hard stop by 24 hours, or whatever timeline they apply in the moment, after which the threats of prolonged labor are offered. There's counting heart beats, measuring fetal heart tones, listening for changes, even though change is normal, a normal response to contracting and expanding will show up in fetal heart tones as the heart beats in the multi-dimensions of elemental time, but that reflection of normal is often not tolerated by care providers who will be quick to transfer or recommend inductions or surgery. Essentially, all of this tracking and monitoring and record keeping is to create opportunity for ticking of boxes, a record of every physiologic activity your body makes with the time stamps to prove it.
This kind of linear thinking and linear measurements of stages and time brings so much stress to pregnancy and birth because it isn't the natural flow of nature. Linear record keeping was created to produce a nice and tidy chart of events with data that can be easily analyzed as part of the effort to create a "normal" linear timeline of birth that could give doctors and midwives a frame of reference for what should happen and an easily referenced and repeatable series of events for what to do if a woman's labor doesn't follow that pattern.
But you can't keep nature nice and tidy for long. Rivers will constantly carve away the rock, wind storms will blow down the trees, fires will consume a prairie and transform it to ash, and the Earth will shake it all up under Her will and no amount of time keeping or planning can stop these natural fluctuations, these natural variations of nature from happening.
What we can do is attune to nature, witness her cycles, notice the normal flow and then notice when the flow feels out of the ordinary, this way we anticipate the variation and we can be prepared to move with it. This is viewing the flow of nature, of the elements of nature in her time, in elemental time.
And if we first learn to work with the flow of nature, with her cycles rather than pretending we can control it with our charts and tools, only then do our charts and tools become empowered to serve when needed rather than used to severe us from the divine cycle of birth itself.
The Time Journey of Your Baby During Birth
I believe that babies, both in utero and after birth, for many years after birth as toddlers and young children, naturally experience elemental time, a baby plans his or her birth in elemental time, never expecting that his mother will be put "on the clock" given some arbitrary amount of minutes or hours to move on to the next stage. Healthy babies move through the transformation of birth at a rhythm that makes sense to them, a rhythm they feel, and that they communicate to your uterus for timing contractions and adjusting the variable intensity of contractions via the cord and placenta that connects you and your baby. For more on that connection between baby, placenta and uterus in birth, my friend and colleague Becky Purpur shared her deep wisdom about that on episode #46 of the Unschooled Homebirth podcast titled Rethinking Contraction Patterns in Labor: Why Variability May Be Wise & Intelligent. If you haven't listened to it, I highly, highly recommend putting that one on your playlist.
The key point here is your uterus doesn't read the clock to know when to contract, it follows the rhythm of your baby, and your baby is in deep states of conscious awareness. They don't experience beta brain activity in birth or as newborns, they are tapped into ancient elemental rhythms of life from the elements that literally form their body - minerals, water, air and energy, and these elements resonate with the elements as they exist in nature, they literally vibrate together in time and babies feel time in that sense, as can we if we choose to attune ourselves to it.
So when we attach clock time to a baby's birth, to a baby's journey through the threshold to become an earth dwelling being, we are disrupting the intuitive insight a baby has, the connection a baby has to the elemental world they are born into and we don't really know the extent of the damage that causes. Although I do think we see the results of it all around us today in a world of people who are disconnected from the natural world, who feel lost in their spirit, who are just following the path that society has told them to follow until one day maybe they wake up and look around and notice something feels missing, or maybe they never do find that connection in this lifetime. In that regard I can only speak from my experience in connecting with the cyclic nature of elemental time, and it's an awareness I cannot imagine living without.
But when it comes to birth, when a baby and mother are undisturbed and allowed to labor in their natural time, the physiology of birth supports all the elemental shifts that occur in the bodies and minds and spirits of mother and baby to support the transformation. The baby is ready to go from water to air, the baby's physical vessel is prepared to make the physical tissue changes in the vasculature to support the transition from the placenta to their own heart and lungs supporting blood flow and oxygenation, and the liver and kidney taking over metabolism and elimination, and all the miraculous changes that occur around birth. After the birth, mother and baby form a bond that penetrates the physical, emotional, and spirit levels of their being so they are in harmony with each other, and both with elemental time, so mother knows how to respond to her baby without feeling lost or incapable or overwhelmed as is so often the case today.
Harmonizing with Elemental Time Begins in Prenatal Care
Recognizing the need to harmonize with elemental time starts in prenatal care, it starts the moment you are given a due date, if not earlier, when the linear model of prenatal care is enacted on your pregnancy. When a linear schedule of prenatal visits is arranged, based on arbitrary dates rather than your need for visits. What would your prenatal care schedule look like if it wasn't just put together because midwives generally schedule your appointments once a month, then increasing to twice a month in the third trimester, then weekly in the final month, just because that's routine? What would your prenatal care look like if it was built around your needs? What if we recognized that some women need more support with something other than routine prenatal screening, time to connect the fire of their soul with their birth attendant, or nurturing by a Wise Woman rather than simply being measured and told how her body is managing pregnancy. Or maybe you are an independent, highly attuned mother who prefers more space and doesn't need all those appointments but needs time for ritual or connecting deeply with herself to unfold into her new motherhood. Or maybe you are someone who would prefer meeting for a walk in the park instead of an office, who wants an intimate discussion about her emotions or her spirit as she's going through pregnancy and preparing for birth, preparing to step into a new state of being.
Awareness and respect of the different needs of each individual woman at the various states of pregnancy is prenatal care as viewed through elemental time, that follows the ebbs and flows of her needs or of her baby's needs, rather than what is routine or what is best for the midwife's office and schedule. That may not be a reality for all midwives in the current system of care where we run midwifery offices like a clinical space, where visits have to be coded and routine boxes checked for insurance and charting, but I think this is something we can work toward, something you as a the expecting family can ask for, or can look for outside the routine system of care, you can be the next step in the change we so desperately need in our model of healthcare on the whole.
Assess Your Prenatal Care
Assess if your prenatal care has been managed with a linear perspective, which you'll know because your pregnancy is charted on growth charts and defined by calendar dates and timelines with no regard for the many cycles we live within, without awareness of the importance of the seasons or the sun and moon, without turning to the wisdom of Earth and water, fire and air before applying tools so those tools are used without regard for the appropriateness of the time and place, they're used just because that's what is alwasy done to document and record the linear progress of birth. When this is the approach, tools can become a dangerous disruption to pregnancy and birth and this is a sign that it's time for you to look around and see the cycles, live with the cycles, embody the cycles, so you can birth with the cycles, so you can be a part of returning birth to it's rightful pattern, as a multi-dimensional cycle not a unilateral line of impossible expectations.
When you do this, you gain a whole new level of control because you learn to affect the spin of your cycles if they fall out of harmony, something we talk about in several ways in the Natural Birth Compass Program because with this knowledge the families I work with are empowered to support the proper timing of the cycle of birth because they know how to read the cycle and they can identify signs of when it's stalled or when it's speeding too fast and they learn how to bring it back into harmony. This comes naturally to them in birth because they are already doing this in their everyday life as soon as they start the Natural Birth Compass course, so when they get to birth, it's second nature to sync with the cycles and read the unfolding of the patterns. In this way, birth is under the control of the woman and her partner rather than the birth team. Most of the time, after going through the program and doing the work, which isn't easy, but when they do and when they are undisturbed, the cycle just flows in it's natural time without any need to correct anything, but because sometimes disruptions happen, families find it helpful to have these insights and these tools to reharmonize their birth if needed.
These are tools to move through brain wave states, to balance adrenaline and oxytocin, to balance the reactive and relaxation states of the nervous system. Rather than memorizing physiology and hormone cascades, all of this physiology is viewed simply and intuitively through the cycle so women and their birth partners don't have to remember which hormones activate which states and what actions release what hormones, as the act of having to think through that in birth has a negative effect on the birth process in and of itself. Instead, when they understand the birth cycle, they simply follow the cycle of contracting and expanding, spiraling around, every revolution an opportunity to harmonize. Just as a farmer naturally knows to plant in the spring and harvest in the fall, Natural Birth Compass families know how to harmonize their contracting and expanding pattern in harmony with their baby's movements through the passage of birth without getting overwhelmed with details because they naturally flow with elemental time in labor without needing clocks or measurements, or going in and out of thinking states of consciousness, and they certainly aren't worried about ticking the boxes on a health record.
They experience birth in its elemental flow, in its raw cycle, just as nature intended.
So spend time in nature experiencing elemental time, feel elemental time, and noticing the many patterns she displays around you and if you want to take this kind of prenatal and birth experience deeper I invite you to reach out to me @naturalbirthcompass or you can visit naturalbirthcompass.com/course to learn about the Natural Birth Compass Program for homebirth families, which follows the Triple Spiral of Birth Wisdom - the triad of Ancestral Wisdom, Nature-based Wisdom, and Alchemical Wisdom to unlock your own inner knowing for a birth in your own control.
Enjoy exploring your connection to elemental time and 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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