A Midwife's Point of View
Valerie Julia Taylor ... is an independent midwife with a thriving practice in Southern England.
Val began working with birth in England in 1976 during her studies in nursing. After qualifying as a Registered Nurse, Val received a post-graduate certificate in Intensive Care Nursing, became a Registered Midwife and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Health Studies. Val has also pursued independent study of personal and professional self-development in birth, pre and perinatal psychology and related fields. During 15 years of working with birth in hospitals she became aware, " there has got to be a better way to care for our mothers and support the birth of our children." In 1990 Val co-created an independent midwifery practice in London.
Currently, her Wise Woman Midwifery practice offers home birth support as an alternative to parents who want something more from the birth experience.
Valerie Taylor...on Ecstatic Birth.I think there are several things that are very important if you want to prepare for an ecstatic birth, especially at the moment, current consciousness is very much one of fear and distress around birth. Most women will have met their friends and family who have probably had a birth with quite a lot of intervention and possibly pain and distress, and after which they don't feel very satisfied. Obviously, when you have a nice newborn baby as the end result, you tend to forget what you went through to get there. For women who are going to try and do something differently and have an ecstatic birth, you really need to prepare, because you really need to change your mind. You need to realize that most people you come across will expect birth to be painful and unpleasant.
Therefore, one thing you can do is try to find information however you can. It is especially good to speak to people who have had an ecstatic birth or see images of women who have had an ecstatic birth. You may have a little germ of an idea in your mind that this is how you want it to be, but then doubts creep in, and you hear other people and your commitment is eroded. So it is very important to do things to support your commitment. It is very helpful if you hear from other women, who have had this experience, you think Yes, I can do that!
Reading inspirational material is another thing that you can do, and particularly talking to someone like a Breathwork practitioner who specializes in Ecstatic Birth so that you can really hear a completely different point of view. You can get tools to actually help yourself achieve this.
I think an ecstatic birth is a birth on all levels, physical, emotional and spiritual, so to start off it is important for you to eat well. Find a good nutritional program and find out if you need supplements or to improve your diet in any way. Exercise is supportive because you want your body to be in a good shape and you want to have the energy and the knowledge of how to support yourself in being active during labor and able to assume any position that you want. You need to have a life style where you are not running frantically out to work 12 hours a day and coming in and imagining that you can just spend one hour a week or something preparing for a birth. It's a commitment from when you find you are pregnant to the birth and after, really.
So your lifestyle bears consideration. You need to have enough sleep and rest and spend time with yourself and with the baby, connecting with the baby with the awareness that the baby is consciously aware of what's happening. That's the physical.
Emotionally and psychologically you can prepare by having support. Speak to people; surround yourself with people like birth preparation teachers, Breathwork practitioners, and friends. If you have doubts or your energy is low you can call upon them and feel positive again. So, whilst it is important to look after your physical body, eat a good diet, rest, take long walks in the country, and do things that you like to do, the real task of pregnancy and preparing for an ecstatic birth is the inner work. It's part of the transformation. Being a woman who is not pregnant, then becoming pregnant and moving toward giving birth is an inner transformation. Along the way you will undoubtedly find a lot of fear come up, and it is very important to be able to talk to other women and to people who have had an ecstatic birth and just share your feelings. Most pregnant women are frightened about the same sorts of things.
A really crucial part of having an ecstatic birth is the choice of where to give birth. That is very individual. It can be home or it can be hospital. That is not the crucial factor. The crucial factor is a place where the woman is going to feel safe. If at all possible, the woman needs to arrange a system of care whereby she can get to know her midwife and know that that midwife will be with her at the birth. That is possible to do. One of the key factors in being able to just let go and let the physiology and the process of birth just flow is that the woman feels safe, trusts the people around her and is totally comfortable in the environment she's in. For some women that's a hospital room. You can do things to personalize the room. Bring your own belongings in, your favorite pillow or throws or tapes. So long as that's your choice, and you have worked with the midwives that will be with you to get clear on how you want the birth to be, then you are really setting it up to work for you. Obviously, it is a little more difficult in some health authorities because you don't know the midwife that you are going to meet. In that case, it is that much more important for you and your partner to have clarified a plan of birth, so that when you first go in you can introduce yourself, and you can get clear with the midwife, "This is how I want it to be. This is what my priorities are." In an ideal world if you already know that midwife, it already makes that process a lot easier. So, I do think that setting up your organization of care is a crucial component of an ecstatic birth.
A major part of preparing for an ecstatic birth is, as I have said, the inner work. Tools that you can use for inner work include relaxation, visualization, creating affirmations, which are just positive statements about any subject. You can create affirmations about particularly how you want the birth to be. I think that women hear a lot of negative statements about birth, and I think it's very important to replace those with positive statements. Actually work with the affirmations, either repeat them or make a tape and listen to them.
Another useful tool is to visualize how you want your birth to be. You may say, "Oh, you're creating an ideal fantasy. It might not work out, so there's no point in doing it.” It is true that you are not sure how the birth will turn out, and it's equally useful, however the birth works out to have had a picture of how you wanted it to work out. That doesn't mean that you are going to become disappointed if you don't get this particular birth. The truth is, if you put the energy and the thought into visualizing and seeing how the birth will be, really creating it like a video, then you have a very high likelihood of creating that event. You must really get into it and see it, feel it and smell it. Imagine how the room looks and what is there, what the sounds are. Visualize every element. Nothing is achieved if you don't know where you are going. Obviously, you need to have the thought, AND, I'll change; however the circumstances develop.
It may be that you are planning a home birth and you have to be transferred to hospital, but you can also include in your conscious awareness that, however the birth turns out is exactly how it should be, a success! You don't need to get into being disappointed because it didn't look this way. So if you create a visual picture of how you want it, it doesn't mean that it is the only way that equals success. It means that's how you would like it to be, and you have the awareness that there are two of you co-creating this experience and maybe the baby needs for it to be another way. That is absolutely OK. You can also transfer as many elements of exactly how you wanted it to be to the changed situation. And again, you can communicate to the people who are around you.
Say, "This is still important to me . . ." You may, for instance, want to hold the baby first, or prefer that they don't dry the baby with a towel. Things that were in your visualization can also be included in the sequence of events that, perhaps, happen in hospital. A Caesarean or forceps birth can be equally ecstatic as a normal birth at home. This is not about saying that there is any one way for it to look and for creating this rather mystical view of this spiritual event at home. Every birth can be ecstatic, is ecstatic, if the people have the conscious awareness of that, and accept the perfection of how the birth is working out. That baby can be born into an ecstatic world, can be an ecstatic being, if everyone in the room understands, "This is absolutely perfect". So, actually preparing for an Ecstatic Birth, you are guaranteed success if you hold that viewpoint. However it looks is an Ecstatic Birth. And, it is very supportive when you are in the process of labor and birth to have people around you who know what work you've done, know perhaps some of your doubts and fears, and when your commitment is wavering a little, can remind you that you can do it. They can reflect back to you positive statements, or affirmations, and really hold the vision, "You can do this! This birth is going to be ecstatic." Because no woman on the planet is going to go through a birth without some doubt or concern that she can't do it. So, having supportive people around is actually part of the process of achieving an Ecstatic Birth.
And the partner, trustfully he or she has been with the woman through the process, understands the work the pregnant woman has done to prepare for an ecstatic birth, and, also, understands this whole concept that, in general, the world view is that birth is not safe, it's dangerous. A lot of people who go to births can hold this view, so, in fact, if you are at birth and your partner is the only other person who has shared your preparation, then that can still make a difference. He can totally align with the pregnant woman and keep this attitude, this positive attitude to keep this positive commitment going, and act as an advocate, perhaps with the midwife and explain how she wants the birth to be, and what the priorities are. When a woman is in labor she's not going to want to be talking to midwives and saying, "This is important to me, this isn't".
So the partner can be very, very important in acting as an advocate between the laboring woman and the hospital personnel. If the partner is not fully supportive of your commitment to an Ecstatic Birth, although this may seem rather controversial, it is probably better that he is not at the birth. It has become a kind of orthodoxy now that the man has to be at the birth, and some men really, in their heart of hearts, don't want to be there, but they feel that they have to. It has to be done. If the partner is either in so much fear about birth that he cannot support you in an ecstatic birth, it is more supportive for him to stay at home or go to the pub or whatever he might like to do. You can have a close woman friend or a relative or your Breathwork practitioner, someone or ones who can really support you, and be totally committed. One thing that definitely happens if you work around birth, you do experience feelings from your own birth. If you have looked at those feelings and looked at your fears throughout the pregnancy and your partner has not, you can feel reflected back from him the negative feelings. This is not any kind of judgment. It's not to say that he is any less of a man or a partner than anyone else. It is true that the energy and the consciousness that is in the birthing room very much influences how the birth will proceed. Whether the partner is there or not is an individual choice for that couple.
I think one of the most important aspects of having an ecstatic birth is finding the right people to care for you and support you during the pregnancy and during the labor. One of the key supports for a woman who is going to have a baby is the midwife or doctor. World Health Organization statistics show that 85 to 90 % of women will have a problem free labor, and midwives are the expert practitioners in normal birth. So, if there are no problems then the midwife is fully qualified to look after the pregnant and the laboring woman. It's such a support for a woman preparing for an ecstatic birth to know the midwife who is looking after her, and to have worked with her antenatally. This might be an appropriate person that she's been discussing her hopes, her fears with. It is important to then have that midwife that you know when you ring up and you're in labor; this is the woman who is going to be looking after you. It already creates such a ground of safety and support that is the first foundation of then proceeding into the labor, and so that the woman can just let go and allow her body to work, to maximize all the hormones and optimize, really the ecstasy of the process.
I have been asked if it is safe to use Breathwork during pregnancy. One of the main reasons people have a doubt about it is the misconception that it is a form of hyperventilation, or breathing to rapidly. Certainly, breathing too rapidly over a prolonged period is not safe even when you are not pregnant, and particularly if you are pregnant. I can't stress enough that Breathwork, particularly with a qualified Breathwork practitioner, is safe and it does not involve over breathing. You will, with a qualified practitioner, be coached and if you started breathing too rapidly or anything like that, you would be coached on how to slow down and relax your breathing. It's safe to take a fuller breath than one would normally do and to connect that without a pause between the in breath and the out breath.
It is a slightly different way of breathing than in normal day-to-day life, but that in and of itself there is absolutely no danger in doing that. Now, during the process of consciously breathing, using the breath, a lot of emotions can come up and a lot of physical sensations, as well as emotional sensations. And sometimes that is why I have heard some people say "Is it alright to do if you are pregnant?" Well, in fact, in a Breathwork session nothing will happen outside of your control. You are still fully in control of yourself. And, it is useful to realize that using the breath, you actually have a tool to enable you to deal with sensations in the body, whether it's an emotional or a physical sensation. So, in that way it is very beneficial.
Val Taylor can be reached in the UK by phone on 44 (0) 1 273 308 885