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Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 57, wherever you get your podcasts!
Pregnancy is a time to be wary of all the things entering your senses - of course what you taste when you eat is important, but that's not what we're talking about today, and what you smell can be tricky, especially in the first trimester, but also not what we're talking about today. Today we're focusing on the sounds and sights that you encounter and some tips to avoid being influenced by the words and images that might be surrounding you during your pregnancy. So if you're ready to discover how to support these less acknowledged senses in your pregnancy, read on!
What you hear and what you see in pregnancy and regarding birth is as important as what you eat and drink, I talk about the implications of this in the Natural Birth Compass approach because it's so important to be aware of, and I was inspired to bring this up because of a story I heard by journalists who were exploring the placenta, a very noble undertaking for sure and something that deserves more praise, so I was excited to see this story.
But like many things in regard to pregnancy and birth, it came across in a very negative light full of risk and fear, because they choose to view the placenta and the fetus as an assault on a mother's body.
I know this was in part a journalistic style to make a story have an edge, because the real physiology is maybe only fascinating to birth junkies, and they wanted it to be exciting so, like other media, they do that with intense, anxiety producing images. Plus, they're journalists, not scientist, or researchers, or doctors, so they probably don't really know the actual physiology, but the really sad truth is that the way they presented the placenta, the fetus and the mother baby connection in pregnancy is actually rooted in how most of western medicine views pregnancy, which was clear in this story because they interviewed doctors and researchers who all used the same negative language, and then laughed about it.
Here's just some of the phrases and words they used to describe this miraculous event of gestation:
Then they said, if the mom wins the war, the baby suffers; if they baby wins, the mom suffers; if neither win, then the pregnancy ends with the birth of a live baby.
Meanwhile, we wonder why a woman might be scared during her pregnancy, why she might harbor doubt in her body to safely grow her baby... in fact, I hesitated to even share these words and phrases because I think pregnancy is a delicate time for a woman's senses, the realms she is in, the brain wave states of pregnancy are so much more susceptible to influence and negativity. But, I also think it's important to talk about these events of gestation from a completely different perspective, one that looks at the positive side of the physiology underlying pregnancy and gestation, and the reason why it's important is because much of the way we structure prenatal care is around these ideas that pregnancy is a war with mother and baby at risk at any given moment, and when we look at it as a stress on a mother's body, are we more likely to induce anxiety or calm?
In fact, I have even heard other natural childbirth educators speak about pregnancy with this viewpoint - one of which I heard recently said it was important for a woman to increase her water intake because her baby takes all the water out of her body. I guess you could call this a glass half full perspective, but really, while it's often true that most women do find they need to increase their water intake during pregnancy, and there are physiologic reasons why, viewing it as a battle or a hijacking is not at all the nurturing experience that a mother and baby share during pregnancy, but when we phrase it this way, how can we expect anything but fear and anxiety about pregnancy?
What could it look like if we took the perspective that this event was a miraculous and an example of a mutual give and take between mother and child, an ultimate act of nurturing literally giving life to a new generation, because that is exactly what it is, at least in my humble opinion.
I find the idea that gestation is viewed as a battle of mother vs baby is often what happens when we choose to view pregnancy as the parts and not as the whole, a missing the forest for the trees kind of situation, missing the fact that there is a whole ecosystem, and a past, present and future at play. The real harm as I mentioned, is that this is commonly the perspective of more medically oriented birth practitioners, often OB's, sometimes labor nurses, even some midwives, the very people who we are told to trust during pregnancy. Instead of looking at the big picture of how a mother's whole body is communicating with her baby and her baby's placenta, they look at each activity separately and then it is easy to miss the beauty of the connection formed between mother and child, the perfect design of the physiology, instead being distracted by the chemistry happening at the physiologic level, and that chemistry appears harmful at first glance.
Let's look at another way to see this. You might say this is similar to how a someone might feel about finding weeds growing in their landscaping - they view these plants as something that shouldn’t be growing there, an invader that has implanted itself and is setting roots and consuming nutrients. But what is often happening with so called weeds is a nurturing of the earth. Many plants that we define as weeds - dandelions, dock, plantain, these plants actually repair the ecosystem, they send deep taproots and draw the resources sequestered far below the surface to where it's needed, the surface where the growing plants or the bare surface of the earth use it to nourish and sustain life where it was barren. These taproots also create structure in the earth where beneficial worms and insects can in turn create compost full of more nutrients, and when you start to look closely at everything happening below the surface of the weed, what you may have called an invader, acutally has a purpose, it has a place in the whole larger ecosystem, it's involved in the past, present and future of this piece of earth. When you see the whole picutre, you understand what it all means, at least the wise women do, those who look for the meaning and purpose in nature and understand that everything has a role to play.
This relationship between the earth and the plants, what one might have called a weed, but is now an amazing part of the structure of earth, this is not unlike the relationship between mother and fetus, where the placenta that will be the conduit and communication between mother and child will send out taproots to reach into the thick endometrial layer of the mother to retrieve oxygen and essential nutrients and send away carbon dioxide and other metabolic wastes so her baby may grow and thrive and be prepared to separate away from the womb at just the right moment in time. This is a mutual give and take with a purpose, a mother gives a bit of herself, of her life to her child so her baby may thrive, so he or she may join her earth side and they may share a life together.
This is not the definition of war as I understand it, this isn’t like any boxing match I’ve seen, and I certainly haven’t seen what I would call claws on a placenta, although those are all references from that journalist's story. Gestation, carrying and growing a child, is an act of love not war - yes, it can be exhausting at times, it can be uncomfortable to have a foot in your rib cage, to have your bladder be treated as a trampoline, to feel nausea and heartburn, but nearly any mother you ask will tell you it was all worth it to meet her baby. What I have yet to hear a mother say is that being pregnant felt like a war with her baby or her baby’s placenta.
In war, someone wins and someone loses, that’s not the end game for pregnancy, for one to win means one has to perish, and in pregnancy, this means both perish, mother without child or child without mother is not the goal for the mother-baby dyad or for humanity, that is not a win, not for anyone.
If we look even deeper at the effect of words and sights on our psyche, on our hearts, we know they can have impact at the level of the subconscious, and the subconscious mind is often more sensitive during pregnancy, so this time in life is particularly sensitive to being altered or programmed with the predominant messages in your surroundings, which I hope are messages of support and love and positivity.
Ultimately, you can make a choice to see the normal physiology of your pregnancy as positive, life giving activities that are helping your baby grow and flourish thanks to the miracle and magic that is the female body, or you can see it as these journalists did, a battle of resources on the brink of failure, as many in the medical complex see it as well.
If you see pregnancy and birth holistically, then you are probably one of the wise women who knows that seeing the magic of the physiology of your body and how your body gives to your baby unconditionally because of love is part of the ancestral wisdom passed down from wise women of the past all the way through to today, and this wisdom is vitally important for having personal power over your pregnancy and your birth. Those who are students of the Natural Birth Compass Program or who attended one of the Wise Woman Traditions for Homebirth classes I taught recently know exactly what this means and you can use this reminder to check yourself and how you are doing in the three areas of the Wise Woman.
Are you harmonizing with nature's cycle? Are you seeing ancestral wisom come to life? Are you feeling the alchemy of your elements? Remember the steps and remember to breathe, and remember your inner knowing.
I just want to touch on some strategies to help you manage if you are in a situation where you are hearing a lot of negativity about pregnancy or birth or your birth choices, which I did cover quite extensively in a previous article, but when it comes to hearing negative speak - first is to point it out to people, when we speak negatively a lot it becomes a habit, because this is a result of programming of our subconscious so it's easy to get stuck in that state of mind. If you gently and encouragingly point it out, not with judgement or accusations, but if you find examples from nature where a similar action takes place and relate it to physiology, they might realize their perspective could be limited, I'm not saying you'll get an instant awakening, but it might slowly shift some of their mindset anyway.
Second, anyone's subconscious is open to suggestion, especially if you're hearing the same thing over and over, but the more you believe what you know to be true, the harder and longer it takes for your subconscious to shift to outside suggestion. So if you feel the positivity of your connection with your baby, than it will be a lot harder for someone to shift your subconscious into a negative state than it will be if you haven't connected inward with your baby, with your pregnancy, if you don't have the understanding of nature's cycle, of ancestral wisom, of your inner elemental alchemy, and all these aspects that reaffirm pregnancy is a positive and beneficial state for mother and child, than you could be at greater risk for your subconscious belief being shifted to the negative if you hear enough negative talk, which is certainly prolific out there in the prenatal world.
Finally, avoid listening to "experts" who say things like, your baby is robbing you of nutrients, your baby is taking all your water, your baby is going to damage your vagina beyond repair, and look to those who are speaking the truth as you know it in your heart, the truth that you are nourishing your baby, supporting your baby's health and growth, your body is perfectly formed to give birth without damage, but embodying this truth in our current birth culture takes commitment to seeing physiology through the lens of nature and not a textbook, because people probably won't stop saying it or writing about it yet, but you don't have to listen to it, and you certainly don't have to believe it.
So do the work, the internal work, learn the ancestral wisdom, connect with your baby and your physiology, see how nature has been showing you normal, healthy pregnancy and birth for your entire life and this will be your guide and your daily positive influence to give you the confidence that you and your baby are perfect just as you are and everything is going as it is meant to go.
And remember, pregnancy is not a war it's the ultimate expression of love and life, and may yours be always blessed.
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