Being Transformed by Birth

Since moving on from Calmbirth, I have called my new birth program ‘Transform Your Birth.’

I love the word ‘transform’ because this word encompasses what I know is happening for the families preparing to bring a baby into the world. I’ve described birth as the doorway into parenting. The intense experience of giving birth is like a pressure cooker moment, forcing you to rise up to be bigger, to be resilient, to be resourceful and to transform in the face of the mystery of not knowing how things will go.

We cannot control birth and we cannot control our children. Birth is what it is and children are who they are. Birth can be seen as nature’s way of preparing us for the mystery of what lies ahead in getting to know this child we are bringing in. It is a key transformational moment, helping you to prepare for this child.

I always tell my families that it isn’t the type of birth you have or what happens on the day that matters, as much as what gets unlocked, or evoked, within the mother and her partner. What can she take from this experience into her own life as a new mother? The same can be said for partners. What can he or she learn to become the parent they need to be?

How is birth trying to transform us?

To have a voice.

When we enter our birth environment, we need to own our bodies and our babies. We need to cultivate our ability to be heard by asking questions and letting our caregivers know that we want to be involved in the decision-making that will have direct consequences on ourselves and our babies.

This isn’t always easy, and not always well-received by caregivers, but by respectfully understanding when we have choice, we are creating fertile ground to be advocates for our children before they can speak for themselves.

To have choice.

Making choices can be hard, and handing that responsibility over to your caregivers is a choice in itself – to not exercise choice.

We may have the belief that our caregivers know best, which is certainly true about medical knowledge related to birth. However, it isn’t true that they know what is best for you and your family. That requires communication, negotiation and asking lots of questions. There is no right or wrong choice. Each choice will lead to consequences, our job is to make choices as closely aligned to our values as we can, and to get our caregivers to engage with us to get the best possible outcome. It is a team effort.

Everyday with children you will be making choices on how to handle various situations. You will be negotiating these choices with doctors, teachers, coaches and other family members. You may as well practice during the birth.

The search for meaning

I have debriefed thousands of birth stories with women, in groups and on their own. You hear everything from the magical and mystical – to the really crazy, hard and complicated. How each woman experiences the events that unfold almost seems random. You just never know who will get what, and what the outcome will be.

Making sense of the mystery of birth is like trying to make sense of life and why things happen – it really is a waste of time and energy. My goal when women share their story with me is to support them to integrate it, to deal with their reality of what happened, and to excavate for the gold. What can we take from this experience to give it meaning and value to them as a new parent, and to transform them into the bigger, stronger, more resilient version of themselves? To transcend and transform from the experience? It’s not what happens that matters, it’s what we do with it.

To surrender to your new life.

There is no going back to who you were and how you lived. You have been transformed forever. This often comes with grief, where we experience a loss of self. This transformation is very real and often very scary.

I remember when it hit me after my first son was born – I will never be free of this child. It doesn’t matter how old he gets, his life will always have a profound effect on my own. For a woman who valued freedom above all else, this was quite a shock. At the same time, I also had feelings of “Everything before now feels like a dress rehearsal and this is the real thing.” Two powerful and paradoxical responses all at the same time.

Twenty fours years and four sons later, I wouldn’t change a thing and I credit my sons (and husband) with stripping me to the core of joy and pain, control and surrender, intense love and infuriating hatred, struggle and flow, wet towels on the floor, magical moments of laughter and the list goes on. I have collected so many magical and embarrassing stories of my life with kids and I tell them all. I wouldn’t change a thing.

So ultimately it’s a leap of faith, to be transformed into what? Who knows! It certainly is a wild ride.

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