I am in awe of the women I teach. These are women who I meet when their bellies are big, sometimes huge, babies inside. They come to my hypnobirthing classes, often with their partners; a room of possibility and excitement mixed with rawness and vulnerability.
Fast forward to the next time I see them. Instead of a bump, they have a baby in their arms and they are now a mother. They tell me their birth story and every time, every single time, I find myself amazed.
Whether it has gone smoothly or not, with medical intervention or without, I am always inspired by their honesty. Their strength. Their endurance. I am inspired by the love that surges through their words.
I want to celebrate these women – and every woman – who has been through the extraordinary transformation of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Because yes, it’s something women do every day all over the world. But for each of those women, it is nonetheless remarkable and life changing.
Here is an excerpt from one of those birth stories that make me catch my breath whenever I read them:
“It was extremely challenging getting out of the water, I was about 8cm dilated so moving into another room was really difficult but I remember looking at the sunset over the Thames (our room looked onto the river and Parliament) and feeling awed by the fact that the whole day had passed when time had stood still for me… I was shocked and awed when they put my baby on my chest, and despite the fact my whole body was throbbing I was just totally focused on her. The magnitude of what I'd been through was somehow cemented by holding this little creature.”
The myriad of emotions a woman will experience in labour is pretty mind-blowing. Exhaustion one moment, energy the next. Despair followed by elation. Strength and vulnerability. These emotions are what make us human, but so rarely are they experienced with such intensity or in such a short space of time. Some are emotions we think we shouldn’t have, the secrets we cover up with smiles and insta-filters.
We spend so much time trying to be strong, to seem sorted. We like to be in control, using apps to check the weather and plan our travel. But here’s the thing. Pregnancy, birth and parenthood is in so many ways beyond the realms of control, despite the apps and books you can buy. Getting pregnant can be filled with unexpected challenges or surprises. As for birth, the bottom line is that you can influence it, but you can’t control it (even a planned C-section can have its surprises).
In fact, too much control can get in the way of things, when really what’s needed is a letting go, acceptance and trust in the process.
This is a good lesson for life. For me, pregnancy can be a window of opportunity to learn how to listen to your body and tune into your intuition. To learn how to relax on demand whilst loosening your grip and letting go of needing things to be a certain way. What a gift in this fast paced busy life we lead. This is about shaking off pressure to be perfect and softening into the experience. To feel how you feel, without judgement.
This is a space where love and connection grows along with life and it’s best to come to it with an open heart and mind. This can be a time to try new things and be creative. It is also a time to slow down and practice kindness. To carve out the space for self-care and guided meditation, so that your body and mind feel good, ready for birth and beyond.
But so often, back in the room of that hypnobirthing class, there is a palpable sense of self-doubt in the women I see before me. That maybe they aren’t or can’t be strong enough, calm enough, resilient enough. I should know, I felt it myself. A niggling voice saying: ‘Who are you to think you deserve a positive birth? What if you’re setting yourself up for failure? What if you can’t do this?’.
These limiting beliefs can inhibit labour if left unchecked. Being tense is not a good way to help your body give birth and things go more smoothly when you are calm and relaxed. These doubts can also filter into parenthood, bringing guilt, worry and even shame too.
My job is not to empower women. It is to give them the tools to empower themselves. The magic happens when a woman starts to believe in herself and tunes into the innate resources she has inside.
There is liberation in tuning into your instincts and trusting that you can do things your way.
This is what I want to celebrate.
That letting go of worries is something we can all learn to do. But that even despite the doubts, these women all get on, dig deep and do it. They give birth.
Their partners may be there to support them, but the job is ultimately theirs and theirs alone. Time stands still, the world blurs, their body and their baby is all that matters.
And then like some kind of magic, there is new life. Along with the discovery of an inner strength they never knew they had.