Can natural childbirth truly empower us as women?
Can natural childbirth truly empower us as women?
Looking at the overriding assumption that giving birth naturally confers strength and mastery within the woman, Felicity and Liane ask the question: can natural childbirth truly empower us as women?
As Felicity writes: “I had obsessed about the birth, going to great lengths to have the best births ever…. and then wondered why I felt so lost and utterly unprepared for the challenges of parenthood in the times afterwards.”
From Liane’s perspective, she had spent her whole pregnancy planning for a natural home birth only to end up with a caesarean section: “At first when I was told that a caesarean was what was best for both me and the baby, I was shattered. Thoughts of failure and disappointment flooded into my mind because my picture of the birth I had planned had been shattered.”
Like many mothers-to-be, both of us had the experience when we were pregnant of meticulously and fervently planning for natural childbirth, believing this to be the ‘holy grail’ of womanhood. This involved reading widely on the subject, attending a range of childbirth classes, yoga/meditation classes and eagerly practising hypnobirthing style techniques. Through this we believed that we would be optimising the body’s hormonal flow to help us achieve a ‘natural’ childbirth which would ensure:
stronger foundations for bonding with the baby
empowerment by being far better set up for all the challenges that lay ahead due to both of these factors.
But in terms of deeply preparing ourselves for the birth of our children and the changes and challenges this may offer us, we were left wondering – is this all there is? And what does this ideal of a ‘natural childbirth’ actually guarantee us as women? While it all sounds great in theory, you can’t help but feel that something is missing… something that can deeply support women with what we truly need to help us prepare for such a journey.
From what we have both experienced, there was an overwhelming emphasis in these childbirth classes of how ‘empowering’ natural birth experiences are to women. Yet the focus was firmly fixed on the birth outcome, rather than about deepening a connection within us – to ourselves as women and most importantly to the wisdom held in our bodies – where our true confidence and power is found.
As Felicity says: “If I had my time again, I would have focused much more on connection for empowerment, building the true woman and yes of course preparing for the birth, but not needing to control it so desperately… and not allowing it to give me the illusion that I had ‘made it’, that there was nothing to work on, when the reality was I was utterly disconnected and so, so far from myself in truth.”
For Liane: “During the caesarean procedure I was able to come to a quality of acceptance and surrender I had never felt before and this came from letting go of all the ideals, beliefs and images I had taken on in the last nine months. This left me feeling very raw and vulnerable but it allowed me to release imprisoning ideals and in this way, helped to pave the way for true parenting.”
Our ability to deeply connect with our true selves, the love that we are and the knowing that comes from deep within us, is fostered by our ability and willingness to deeply accept and nurture ourselves as women.
Without this connection we desperately try to control the birth process in a vain attempt to adhere to a false standard of delivering ‘the perfect natural birth’ that we set for ourselves. This puts a lot of pressure on us as women to ‘get it right’ instead of simply living in a way that allows what is already within us to unfold out. By aiming to ‘get it right’ we rigidly, albeit unwittingly, align ourselves to a set ideal or picture we strive towards that creates a tension within us that we then carry with us, rather than deeply appreciating where we are at and letting our experience naturally unfold without comparing or measuring ourselves against other women and their experiences, or even our own previous births.
Without a focus on building and supporting our connection to ourselves during pregnancy, where does it leave women when the birth is over and what might this have to do with post-natal depression? Despite our best intentions, if the birth has not gone according to plan, and ended in an unplanned caesarean, popping the bubble of ‘natural childbirth’, how does a woman reconcile this outcome when she has not developed a solid foundation within herself that can support her through this process?
Worldwide we have 13% postnatal depression rate amongst our new mothers, occurring across different countries, social classes and races – and possibly many more un-reported cases. We need to look far more deeply at what is occurring, as women are slipping through the cracks of the systems we have created. It is essential we start to recognize that something must be missing in how we prepare ourselves for life after birth for a mental health condition such as postnatal depression to have such a high incidence. What does this reveal about what is sold to women as the ‘fairytale time’ of their lives?
When women come to know the simplicity of how to reconnect to themselves, via simple tools such as the Gentle Breath Meditation and how to trust and value that connection as being worthwhile, then anything that arises during the course of the birth, subsequent mothering and life in general, can be viewed as an opportunity for learning, growth and true empowerment instead of overwhelm, second-guessing, self-judgement and worry.
What is Connecting to Ourselves?
It was well after the birth of our first children that we both gradually learnt to re-connect and:
trust our own feelings over preset ideals and beliefs
reach deeply within for strength and stillness
choose to stay strongly connected to that quality in ourselves
start to glimpse the true power that comes with trusting this sense of stillness and knowing we women hold deep within our bodies.
There is much great work being done by dedicated professionals, particularly in childbirth classes, to help support women during pregnancy and birth that can be deepened by ensuring that women know how to be with themselves, in the fullest sense, during this time. The key to this is in the incredible power to be found in surrender: this is not about giving up or allowing others to dominate us, rather it is the willingness to let go of all the self-imposed ideals and beliefs that block the communication channels, the connection, between ourselves and our bodies.
"Women must rekindle their own rhythms within society and not let society demand of them what is not natural to their body."Serge Benhayon Esoteric Teachings & Revelations Volume I, ed 1, p 526
To answer the question, “Can natural childbirth truly empower us as women?”, when we allow ourselves to let go and surrender we can discover the true empowerment that pregnancy offers as a time for women to deeply nurture and connect with themselves. It is a time when our bodies are ready and primed by the rhythms of nature to support us to develop this deeper connection so that we can get to know ourselves and the wisdom and stillness of our bodies far more deeply. With this comes a great simplicity that takes the pressure off ‘getting it right’, a pressure that can be felt when trying to achieve the set outcome natural childbirth promises but cannot always deliver.
Therefore the ‘holy grail’ of womanhood is not how well a woman can birth or be the perfect ‘wife’, ‘mother’ ‘daughter’ etc. according to the pictures she has been sold, but more so the connection to herself, her body and the rhythm and cycles that govern her to be all that she is in a world not yet currently set up to support this.
We need not put our sense of self-worth and womanhood at the mercy of the kind of birth we have. We are far more than anything we do, including birth and beyond, and knowing this to our core is what truly empowers women.