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Natural Homebirth Tips, Spiritual Homebirth, Childbirth Education
She wanted peace. So she forgot all she was taught and remembered herself. ~Jaiya John, Fragrance After Rain
Prefer to Listen? Find the accompanying podcast episode on the Unschooled Homebirth podcast, Episode 65, wherever you get your podcasts!
The time of solstice is here and we have just gone through the transition of spring to summer in the northern hemisphere. Transitions are abundant in birth in so many ways. The most obvious is the stage of the physical labor process referred to as transition, which is a stage that preoccupies many mothers in their preparation for birth. But what isn't talked about, what women aren't taught is why this is normal, why they might feel this way, the significance of the intensity of what is happening here, and therefore how to be better prepared for the experience of the expansiveness of the cycles of life. So instead many women fear transition and the focus of birth today is on how we get women through the portal of transition, as if they can't do it on their own merit. So today I'm are going to give some attention to the truth of transitions in birth and life, the many transitions that are a part of life and birth as we see reflected in nature.
As you started learning about birth and what to expect in giving birth, one of the topics you probably came across was the stage of labor commonly called transition. This is a phenomenon in birth toward the end of the first stage of labor, usually around 7 or 8 centimeters of dilation, at a point where a woman can feel lost in her labor, where she might feel the labor process is so much bigger than her ability, she might say she can't do it or she might even feel like she is not going to make it through birth at all. Often birth keepers joke that when they hear this, they know the labor is progressing and the pushing stage will probably be here soon and they will reassure mother and birth partner that all is well and this is normal.
What our birth culture hasn't talked about and doesn't explain is why this is normal, why women feel this way, the significance of what is happening here, and why it has become so intense and is given so much focus. Since our birth culture doesn't talk about it, we don't know how to better prepare both mother and her partner for this experience of the expansion of the cycles of life.
I suppose the reason we don't teach about it today is that it's one of the lost traditions of the nature-based ways of our ancestors, the holistic wisdom they carried for generations that faded as science became the predominant voice for childbirth. In the ancient ways of living for nearly all cultures we are aware of, humans lived in harmony with the cycles of nature, they were raised within the cycles of nature, and lived according to the cycles that were such an influence over the ways of living, that everyone understood and everyone paid attention to.
They knew the nature and purpose of transitions by watching the phases of the moon and the movements of all celestial bodies, they felt it in the changing seasons, in the movement of the sun over the day, and they celebrated it in many ways, honoring the solstices and equinoxes, often with gatherings and offerings, maybe a devotional to a spirit, or god or goddess, or a significant aspect of nature that held a meaning for the transition in process.
Yet, while they celebrated a specific point of transition in the cycle, they would also be very aware that everything else in the cycle is always in existence too, because unlike thinking of life as a linear experience where there is a forward progression and things come and go, creating a clear past, present and future, when you shift your perspective to a cyclical flow, everything is still cycling around you even though there is a dominant energy that is more present to your awareness at that time. There are many cycles we know today that influence our life, occurring and overlapping simultaneously - the sun cycle happening in 24 hours overlapping the moon cycle many times over the course of her 28 days, and there's your personal cycles, like your hunger cycle, which may reawaken every few hours and overlaps the sun and moon cycles many times.
The wise women of our ancestry knew this cycle was the same guiding cycle of a mother and baby's passage through the portal that is birth, and the crossing through the portal is what we call transition. This is the moment of crossing from one spiral to the next in the great spin of life, when a new life chooses whether to come through the portal into existence, preparing to inspire the breath of air into lungs, ready to receive the heavenly exchange and commit to existing in this realm. Simultaneously, the mother enters the portal of maiden to mother as she prepares to accept responsibility for nurturing this new life.
In this portal, identities are formed, roles are chosen and accepted, and while it feels who you were is left behind and you are reborn as someone new, that your your maiden self is left on the other side of the portal when you as a mother comes through, this is only true if your perspective of who you are is formed from a linear perspective. What you must remember is that, the natural world is never linear, it is always in cycles and spirals, and while a mother is born through the portal of transition in birth, the maiden she was before was also already a mother, she was always a mother, but now it becomes her dominant energy. While her dominant energy is that of mother now, she is still also a maiden, and she is also the queen and the crone, all the stages of womanhood are already within each of us, all the time, always available.
This is one of the three cycles women attune with and experience in Circle Magic for Homebirth, my mini-course for homebirthers, and in the experiences of this course women learn how to connect with these different aspects of themselves and see how each shows up as a part of their life now. Once they have reconnected with their whole being, they know that when they go through the transition to mother, even if it's not their initiation into motherhood, if this is not their first child or their first time giving birth, they know they are not leaving their maiden self behind, and they reignite ways to connect with her and welcome her beauty and joy and magic into their life. They also learn to welcome other aspects of their being as well, your unapologetic queen who is especially important in regard to pregnancy and birth today, in making your own choices in your power, and your wise woman crone who holds the wisdom of the ancestors in your cells, the knowledge of lifetimes of experiences you inherited from your lineage. This wisdom is all within if you learn to call upon it and recognize it, if you remember who you are and become whole again.
This is the aspect of transitions that we have forgotten in teaching about birth, we have forgotten that transitions expand beyond the physical stage. We offer some services for women as they become mothers in regard to physical and mental support, especially as rates of postpartum mood challenges have become more recognized and supported, but I wonder if we included more preparation for the emotions and spirit, if we understood who we are when we are whole and if women were encouraged to go through the initiation of remembering who they are, if you remember who you are, then you can be open to ascending into who you are becoming with less challenge because it becomes a normal part of your cycle, the great spiral of life. When you feel secure in that transition, then the physical experience of the transition is received in your body, soul and spirit with a different energy, even with excitement of what is to come, knowing that you have reached the threshold of a wonderful portal into the next stage of being.
If we think about those in cultures who incorporated rites of passage ceremonies or challenges into the cycle of life, when they arrive at the moment of facing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual challenges at hand, the initiates have been prepared, they have heard the stories of their ancestors, they know the purpose of the evolution they will experience. With that knowledge in their whole being, they accept the challenge knowing they are going to transition, and knowing the significance of that transition so they have wisdom to help them transcend the physical as they enter the portal of transition. This is how people walk barefoot across hot coals, hang from chains and hooks, or go on weeks of solo journeys without food or water.
But in birth, even homebirth, women are sent into a portal of major transition without being fully prepared, they might know a lot about physiology, the science of birth, they might know about the ring of fire, and maybe they've done some hypnosis hoping it will get them through, or they're hoping their doula or midwife will have some techniques to alleviate the pressure, or maybe they just plan to will their way through transition. Even so, many times with this level of physical or mental preparation, transition catches women off guard, it definitely catches birth partners off guard, especially if they haven't witnessed natural birth before. Even for women who feel it wasn't too intense after their birth experience, there is still a rite of passage that is being bypassed, the deeper role of transition is overlooked and when that happens, women and babies don't receive the gifts of the portal, the connections are never made and families, especially women and children, are at risk of being further disconnected from the natural rhythms of life when the cycle of birth and the importance of the innate transitions of birth are overlooked and pass by without proper acknowledgement or honoring the significance of passing through the portal.
Going through labor and the many transitions of birth or any transition in life, it's not about how you'll get through or if you'll get through, it's who you are when you go through.
Would you expect someone entering a rite of passage challenge to be ready for the physical challenge, to have the mental stamina, or the spiritual guidance to fully embrace the transformation if they were just thrown into the ceremony only the physical journey that lay ahead? They would probably go to the task fearing the pain, afraid they couldn't endure, afraid they might fail and let other people down and themselves down, unaware of what the true transformation really is about. This is how so many women cross the threshold of birth, fearing transition, worrying about their ability to withstand the pain, hoping they don't fail their homebirth, while only carrying a box of physical comfort techniques and maybe some affirmations that someone else wrote, or some hypnosis techniques hoping they will be effective enough to help them relax through the difficult parts, and maybe it will, or maybe it won't, no one can predict which external tools and techniques will work in any given situation.
This is why it's so important to be internally prepared, to be connected to the cycles and spirals that guide the way through, that show the unfolding of the cycle of birth and the interconnectedness of maiden and mother, as well as queen and crone. This is the knowledge that shows you how you can transition between states and stay whole simultaneously, that you can have fear and courage simultaneously, when fear is healthy and motivates you to take action. Not fear that keeps you frozen and requires others to take action for you and make decisions for you.
When your perspective of birth and transitions is linear, it's hard to hold two juxtaposed positions at one time because one has to leave for the other to unfold, but when you live within cycles, you can expand, contract and spin as you like. When you look at your cycle, you are the center that ties all the aspects of your whole being together, you are the center of the great wheel of your life and it is in your power to choose how to spin your cycles at any moment in time. This is not an easy perspective to grasp in the beginning if you have been living life from a linear perspective, viewing time as linear, viewing pregnancy and your prenatal care as a series of metrics that follow a specific trajectory, which I will talk more about in a future article. If you've been mostly learning about birth through physiology and anticipating the process through the physiologic stages of labor and flows of hormones, then you might be missing out on the deeper importance of pregnancy and birth, the messages within and around you that will guide you through when you look deeper and remember who you are, all the phases of your being, all the elements you contain, all the ancestral wisdom within your cells.
Knowing the science, the physiology is only a small part of the process of birth, even though most everywhere you look in the natural birth communities, the focus is on knowing physiologic birth, but knowing yourself and learning to attune to your body and mind and spirit, learning to harmonize with the rhythms of nature, these are foundational to life, and anything foundational to life is foundational to natural birth.
You don't have to know the physiology of digestion to eat and digest your food, you don't have to know the physiology of sleep to take a nap, you don't have to know the physiology of birth to have a natural birth, but that is the environment our modern, medicalized birth culture has created in order for women to have the tools to advocate for themselves, to defend their birth choices. Our culture has created an environment in which natural birth, definitely homebirth, any birth that's not a "normal", medicated hospital birth has to be defended, and to do so, natural birth advocates have tried the 'fight fire with fire' approach, or in this case, fighting medicalized childbirth with physiologic childbirth, but in the end, both are an invention of science.
Perhaps we could begin to usher in a new birth culture where homebirthers, or any family choosing any type of natural birth, don't feel the need to defend or justify their choice, but rather they feel grounded in who they are in all aspects of their being and their birth choices are just innate in who they are, a natural unfolding. An experience where the mother within you is able to guide you, the queen within you is able to show up with confidence so there is no need to justify, the wise woman within you has the knowing of what is best for your birth, and the maiden within you will bring the magic and delight of the adventure, awaiting the possibility of all that can be in the transition to mother.
This is what could await you in your homebirth experience with the connectedness of your phases of being, all the holistic parts of you coming together in the circle so you are whole, so you are you, so you remember who you are even as you transition into a new dominant phase of life.
So how do you do that, how do you connect with all the phases of your being? It's actually a much more involved form of birth preparation than physiology or even something like hypnosis as it's not as simple as reading a book or listening to audio scripts. Forming these deep connections takes experiencing yourself in your phases of being and becoming aware of how you are in each of the phases of your being, looking around at the cycles in the environment around you, in different contexts, different environments, becoming aware of the world around you and within you.
When you view the unfolding of life as cycles or spirals rather than linear, you can see and feel the many cycles of life everywhere and then start to notice them in yourself. It does take time and practice crafting your awareness, but it becomes second nature in time, when you start living in a more consciously connected way within yourself and with the world around you. Learning to tune into this awareness is why I created the mini-course Circle Magic for Homebirth, because when families jump straight to physiology and comfort techniques, they do so without a foundation, without tuning into the natural rhythms that guide you through birth, and this leaves room for unhealthy fear or anxiety, and that can become an opening for your birth team to take over your birth.
I hear this so often in stories from families who aren't even aware of the consequences when they say, I couldn't have had my homebirth without my midwife or my doula, when the truth is, over 90% of families should be able to have a homebirth without anyone else doing anything. I can hear in these statements how these families still had fear in their head even though they were likely full of knowledge of physiology, maybe they had a wall of affirmations, the right music and a beautifully lit birth tub, but without the foundation of who you are, without your circle of your phases of being to hold you, and without the awareness of the true meaning of the transition you are about to go through, it's natural to lean on your birth team to carry you through.
And that's ok if that's what you want or need for your birth experience right now, if that's what feels right for you, but I know if you are the mother preparing for homebirth who feels there is something much deeper within yourself that you are trying to tune into, something that feels deep and expansive simultaneously, then I encourage you to look at the phases of your being, ask yourself who are you, who are all the phases of you?
Remember who you are, stand in the center of your circle, and see the phases of you that surround and support you. These are the ones who will assist your birth and after your birth I want to hear you say, I couldn't have had my homebirth without the phases of my being - my maiden to allow me to slip into altered realms of being, the states of higher consciousness where the magic of birth happens, my inner mother to encourage and support me, to nurture and comfort me, my inner queen to stand powerfully in my choices, and my inner wise woman to guide me through in full confidence of myself and my lineage. These are the women who should be active in your birth while your midwife and doula are in the distance should you or your partner have a need for their support.
So let's take a moment to recap the energy of transition, and transitions. Hopefully now you are expanding your idea of transition in regard to labor and birth beyond that of just the physical stage some women experience before the pushing stage of labor. Transitions are not something to fear, but something to welcome and receive as the you who is transitioning, your inner maiden, she is not lost, she is not left behind here, she is still within and you can call her whenever you need her joy and delight, whenever you need magic in your life, when you want to feel delighted with being alive, and she is ready for you to grow into a new dominant energy of mother now. This transition is not a good-bye, it is simply a shift in the cycle, the transition of one spiral to the next in the great cycle of life, but all the spirals, past, present and future are here simultaneously, while you are in the center controlling it all if you choose to take control of your life in that way.
So as we pass the summer solstice here in the Pacific Northwest, the transition of spring to summer, the expansive and open season of fire and connection and joy, I wish you a wonderful journey to your homebirth and if you want to go deeper into working with your cycles, download the free guide: Three Sacred Cycles You Need to Know for a More Confident and Intuitive Homebirth.
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