Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tools for Change in Birth: Grace, Love, and Healing

"...{Grace} is energy infused with a force greater than our own, a divine intention. When it arrives-usually unannounced or unrequested 'out of the blue' - it fills you with a luminous awareness that is different from everyday consciousness; it makes you come alive with vision and determination and the strength to act." -Caroline Myss

If there is anything I love about attending births, it is being witness to an act of Grace. If we regularly looked at life in more symbolic terms, birth would be honoured as the sacred rite of passage it is. Rarely is there an event in life where someone has the opportunity to dance with a massive force which, if you choose to dance, will raise you incrementally into an altered state, make you lose your inhibitions as you surrender your regular self to its pull, swaying and chanting, beguiling your body and mind to lose your everyday control, opening your body in extreme vulnerability but at the same time coaxing your fullest strength, and lifting you ecstatic and triumphant, with a new life in your arms , your identity changed forever.

I think the main reason I love attending births so much is because of the hits of Grace I receive, which are healing for me as well as for the one who births. I get to connect with another human being in the deepest possible way, witnessing a sacred act of creation work through her. She doesn't need me to control anything at all about her experience, but I can help her to feel safe and good about what she's doing when she questions what it's all for. She usually has a safety net of a primary caregiver to keep her and her baby physically safe, and my role is tend to her emotional safety and comfort. Through my connection to her, I help her to forge connections with the presence of everything that's there, not just nursing the pain, exhaustion, and challenge that are inherent parts of the experience and the ones our culture focus on the most. I try to guide a connection to the pleasure, confidence, reassurance, sensuality, and ultimately, Love, as connection these qualities bring beauty and strength to the experience.

There is nothing easier to me than loving a lady in labour. Even if she and I have nothing at all in common in our everyday lives, when Birth comes calling her to dance, regardless of how she dances with it, be it openly, resistantly, loudly, grouchily, or meditatively, she is in the presence of something incredible, and is worthy of unconditional love and support. I want her to feel entirely safe about doing what she needs to do to get through the journey, and know that she can look into my eyes to check in to find grounding and validation for how wonderfully she's dancing. My intention is for her to learn the lessons about herself presented in her unique dance with Grace, apply them to her life as a mother, and hopefully, to have her enjoy her ride as much as possible.

Everyone who is on the path of being a birth attendant has a unique Medicine they bring to the experience. Some have the ability to use their hands to calm, reassure, and create relaxation. Others are really connected to plants and know intuitively how to apply that medicine most effectively. Others generate the most healing with word medicine, sensing the right words and tone to bring peace and guidance. Some are particularly talented with surgery or other physical manipulations to manage and heal challenges in birth. I truly believe that these medicines are at their most effective when they are inspired by and applied with love. We can read about the correct words to say (or not say) or learn about why homeopathic remedy A is best for symptom B, or practice delivery techniques until they can be done in one's sleep, but it is love, based on a profound understanding of the woman and her experience, which empowers and enlivens the medicines we apply. When the woman feels loved and that her supporters are working from a place of compassion, whatever the outcome, her experience of Grace,and the healing Grace bestows when everyone is aligned with it, is increased. We all become part of this very special experience, and we imprint upon it for life, as we ourselves are imprinted. We all get to carry home a little bit of that Grace with us too. Empathy, compassion, kindness, and giving of ourselves for another is probably really healthy for us physically and emotionally. I know that my work makes me thrive and touches every aspect of my life, making me stronger, smarter, and more loving.

When students of doula work choose to use me as a resource in the hopes of furthering their learning, I let them know I'm not as concerned about how much they know or how "perfectly" they may execute a double hip squeeze...it's the quality of their touch, the quality of their presence for another person that is more important...their willingness to open their hearts vulnerably in love. It's about their willingness to explore their own unique "medicines", and discover not only how they can bring healing to birth, but how attending births heals them. The more we commit to healing ourselves, the more clarity we bring to our work, and the more profoundly we open to birth's Grace, which in turn generates even more healing on many levels for everyone present for it...whether those present are aware of it or not.

Maybe, just maybe, love can be part of the momentum that generates enough power to shift the pendulum of our culture so that the experience of birth is owned again by the birthing woman herself, and those that care for her are there to honour and trust her power, intervening only when warranted. This in no way means we have to give birth in huts again (unless we want) or eschew all technology if that's what's wanted or necessary...that's a perfectionist sense of owning one's power in birth. It simply means making the woman and her physical/emotional/spiritual experience the focal centre of birth again. Because right now, our cultural idea of supporting birth seems to be much more about Machine (paperwork, insurance companies, fear based protocols, iatrogenic patterns that give us as a developed nation comparatively unimpressive birth outcome stats, intimate procedures done without bothering to inform or ask for consent, contempt for "demanding" or non complicit patients/clients who want to "endanger" their babies by having "natural" or "medicalized" births, supporters who believe their way is the best or only way and push personal agendas and behave combatively) than Medicine (healing, support, compassionately applied technology, understanding of the deeper aspects of the birth experience, honour for the importance of the birth experience to be as good as possible for the greater health of the new family, supporting what is present right now, love). There is much change to accomplish. I'm game. "There but for the grace of god, go I."